March 3, 1985: Miners return to work as year-long strike comes to an end

Almost a year after they’d walked out of the pits and begun a bitter strike, Britain’s miners returned to work, triggering the beginning of the end for the UK's mining industry.

On this day in 1985, Britain's miners voted to return to work after an ultimately fruitless strike that dragged on for almost a full year.

The longest-running industrial dispute in British history was a direct response to a series of proposals laid out by Margaret Thatcher’s government.

The strike began in March 1984 over plans to close up to 20 pits at the loss of around 200,000 jobs. A further 75 pits were earmarked for closure over a three-year period.

The bitter industrial dispute played out across TV and newspaper as a war of words between the government and the leader of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), Arthur Scargill.

The former miner believed the NUM was in a strong position - and for very good reason. His representatives had been instrumental in organising the strikes that precipitated the 'three-day weeks' which ultimately brought down Edward Heath's government.

But times had changed.

[June 18, 1984: Battle of Orgreave sees violent clashes between striking miners and police]

The government had prepared against a repeat of the crippling repercussions of the early 1970s by stockpiling coal and converting some power stations to burn the fruits of the booming North Sea oil industry.

Moreover, Thatcher was not afraid to get her hands dirty.

The covert might of MI5 was just one of the weapons deployed against strike leaders - a group that the Prime Minister had privately labelled as "the enemy within".  

With the government sticking to its guns and divisions appearing within the miners' movement over a failure to call a proper ballot, a vote was called by the NUM national executive on this day in 1985.

It was close: 91 were in favour of continuing the strike, but 98 voted to return to work.

The announcement, made by Scargill on the steps of the Trades Union Congress (TUC) building in London, was greeted by jeers from his own ranks.

"We have decided to go back for a whole range of reasons," he said.

"One of the reasons is that the trade union movement of Britain with a few notable exceptions has left this union isolated.

"Another reason is that we face not an employer but a government aided and abetted by the judiciary, the police and you people in the media and at the end of this time our people are suffering tremendous hardship."

[March 31, 1990 - Poll tax demonstration sparks worst London riots for a century]

[November 22, 1990: Margaret Thatcher quits as Prime Minister after 11 years]