Politically Speaking in the Wakefield Express

On 21st March 1973, disaster struck at Lofthouse pit. Seven miners were trapped below ground. The national media swarmed to Wakefield to follow the 6-day rescue mission. Sadly, all the men died – and only one body was ever recovered.

A few weeks ago, I joined the families, friends and colleagues of those who died to commemorate the disaster on its fortieth anniversary. After a short service at the Memorial on Batley Road, we walked up to St Paul’s Church at Alverthorpe where we heard emotional stories from the men who’d been part of the rescue team, and from others who’d worked alongside those who died.

Four decades have passed, but for the families, the Lofthouse disaster still seems like yesterday. Speaking to many of those there, it was clear that memories of the tragedy are still powerful and vivid.

One man had swapped shifts with a mate, who then lost his life. His widow bore no bitterness, only sorrow. Because those men and women were truly all in it together.

What shone through at the Lofthouse commemoration was the strength and solidarity which still binds our local communities. And now that the local pits are closed it’s more important than ever to ensure we commemorate and remember the bravery of the men who took part in miners rescue missions and those who paid such a heavy price for their work in our local pits.

It was welcome news to hear that Heritage Lottery funding has recently been secured to create a heritage trail on the site of the old pit at Lofthouse, making a more permanent and lasting memorial for generations to come. I want us to do more to honour the work of the rescue service too.

Readers of this newspaper don’t need me to tell them how much a proud mining heritage is integral to our local communities in this area – and how angry people felt at the way they were treated by the Government in the 1980s, and the terrible impact that pit closures had on our area.

Which makes it no surprise that the sad death of Margaret Thatcher this week has stirred many memories, some of very them painful. For me, it was the tragic waste of mass youth unemployment in the early 1980s that inspired me to study economics and get active in politics.

But whatever your politics, the passing of a former prime minister is an occasion to put politics aside for a short time. While many of us profoundly disagreed with her ideas and policies, she was a leading figure in British political life for decades. We should mark her passing with respect and acknowledge her undoubted achievement in becoming Britain’s first ever woman Prime Minister.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Add to favorites
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Technorati
  • email
  • Facebook
  • MySpace
  • Reddit
  • RSS
  • Twitter
Posted April 12th, 2013 by Ed