"Daddy, What Did You Do In The Strike?" is a typically nasty Ewan MacColl composition. Written in 2/4 time, it is copyright 1984 by Ewan MacColl Ltd. According to The Essential Ewan MacColl Songbook: Sixty Years Of Songmaking
, "This song, which has since been adapted for other strikes in other industries, was written for the miners' strike that ran from March 1984 to February 1985."
It was indeed, and dovetails with the enigmatic John Lees composition "The Great 1974 Mining Disaster
," although unlike the Lees song, it is totally lacking in humor. In 1974, the protagonists were Prime Minister Edward Heath and National Union of Miners leader Joe Gormley. By the time of this later strike, Edward Heath had been replaced as leader of the Conservatives by Margaret Thatcher, who steered the Party back to power becoming Britain's first woman Prime Minister. In March 1982, the moderate Gormley was succeeded by Arthur Scargill
, who was anything but moderate, and who steered the NUM on a course to self-destruction, his protagonist though was not the new Conservative Prime Minister but Ian McGregor, who had courted controversy during his tenure as head honcho of the British Steel Corporation. Under his control the nationalised company had shed more than half its staff, an ill-omen for the coal industry.
While the miners had effectively brought down the Heath Government, there was no escaping the new realism a decade on, and by the time the coal industry was privatized in 1994, it had lost over 90% of its collieries.
Although the Government (and realism) won the day, this dispute was even more bitter and socially divisive than the previous one, the nadir was probably when a taxi driver who was driving a non-striking miner to work was killed by a concrete post that was dropped onto his vehicle from a road bridge. Two striking miners were convicted of his manslaughter.
For MacColl though, this is black and white. The workers (or strikers in this case) can do no wrong, and anyone who doesn't support them is a blackleg, scab, scum or worse. According to the American performer Andy Blue - who has recorded "Daddy, What Did You Do In The Strike?" - MacColl said 25,000 cassettes of this song had been handed out on the picket lines.
Alexander Baron - London, England