December 8, 2023

The 70s 80s 90s Blog

Three Decades of History with TV historian Tony McMahon

Crashing the National Grid in the miners strike

2 min read
During the 1984-85 miners strike, there was an idea that the national grid could be crashed if we all simultaneously used electrical appliances
miners strike

Seems a rather strange idea now but back in 1984 during the miners strike, we were told to fire up as many electrical appliances as possible between 6pm and 6.30pm to crash the national grid.

The intention was to force a peak in consumption that would make the CEGB (Central Electricity Generating Board) burn more coal. This would reduce the stocks built up by the government to try and beat the strike. And so victory for the strikers would be hastened.

This was at a time when coal was still hugely important as a source of energy in Britain. After the Second World War, up to 90% of the UK’s energy came from the country’s coal mines. Defending fossil fuels was a left-wing agenda because it meant defending mining jobs and the trade unions that represented those workers. As well as protecting the communities linked to the mines, which voted overwhelmingly Labour.

DISCOVER: Anti-Nazi League carnival in 1978

Decades later and coal has dwindled to a tiny percentage. And defending fossil fuels is now mostly associated with Donald Trump. However, back in 1984, socialists supported the miners and rallied around the National Union of Mineworkers during their year-long strike.

End of the miners strike and no victory

The defeat of the miners strike was the culmination of five years that saw a huge slide in the fortunes of manufacturing in the United Kingdom. A third of jobs had gone in a country that gave the world the Industrial Revolution. I don’t recall the National Grid crashing though curious to think we believed we had the power to do that.

Here was the postcard distributed at the time with instructions on what to do.

2 thoughts on “Crashing the National Grid in the miners strike

  1. My mum told me she did that.
    I think at the time the govt were urging people to switch things off, so it was a response to that.

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