Saturday, 7 March 2009

Miners Strike Redux: David Jenkins & The People

If it's more recall and analysis of the Miners Strike you're after, then there's plenty to read this morning. The Daily Mail is jumping up and down on the corpse of Scargill's 'legacy', assisted by reference to a new book from Francis Beckett and David Hencke, though the sneering eventually winds round to a few critical comments about the Government of the day.

The Guardian have given Scargill space to claim once more that he actually won the thing, at least on principle, and that his hitherto unheralded efforts to reach consensus were spurned. In an editorial far too drab too link to, the Guardian asserts that neither side deserved to win the Strike - this presumably a conscious echo of the famous enthronement sermon of 1984 delivered by David Jenkins as he was became Bishop of Durham, his point being that neither side should lose.

Jenkins was interviewed the other day by the Northern Echo and sounded much like his old self: “I was a friend of the miners and a champion of their families, but I was by no means an uncritical supporter of the NUM. I’d been landed with this, so I had to do something about it. I’m a simple believer and I think God is in favour of people.” If only that last bit were true in any respect, then we'd all be a lot better off, I daresay.

I don't think anybody wanted Crusaders to be longer than it is, even those critics who liked it (though the man at the TLS rather kindly seemed to fancy a few more chapters.) But it does make people laugh (or else groan) when I say that the last few months' work I did on the book was to cut 35,000 words out of it... Among the non-vital stuff that I snipped a good deal sooner, from the midst of the book's revisiting of the Miners Strike, was a bit about the figure of Jenkins, who is the kind of priest that the young John Gore really aspires to be. This is his reaction to hearing that enthronement speech:

"It was good as cracking open a book of an evening to find one's inchoate thoughts of that very afternoon emblazoned on a page in best prose. ‘We are all concerned’, Durham had stressed. He had spoken of communities. He had been most specific about affluence, material gain, how the fortunes of some should not inflict misery on many. And he had lashed the government for its intransigence. For his troubles he had been pelted with calumny ever since... But he seemed to be a fellow ready to stand up in the market square and suffer a stoning. And that, John respected."

Jenkins' own book The Calling of a Cuckoo is worth a read for any interested parties.

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