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End of the Battle... (1985)

Courtesy of Channel Four Television

Main image of End of the Battle... (1985)
End of the Battle... Not the End of the War, (aka We Should Have Known)
For Diverse Reports, Diverse Productions for Channel 4, tx. 27/3/1985
30 minutes, colour
DirectorKen Loach
Executive ProducerDavid Graham
ProducerKen Loach

Documentary view from the miner's rank and file on the miners' strike of 1984/85 dispute, exploring the Conservative Party's pre-planned strategy and the failure of the Trade Unions' Congress to counter it.

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'End of the Battle... Not the End of the War?' (also known as We Should Have Won) was transmitted in Channel 4's Diverse Reports strand (1984-87) only three weeks after the 1984-85 miners' strike formally ended. The need for this rapid transmission, according to director Ken Loach, was to "keep the politics of the strike alive and show the mechanism by which the miners lost, because history was being rewritten". To this end, Loach features members of various trade unions recounting their memories of the recent strike, and their contributions work alongside a tightly argued narrative which explains how the Conservative government's tactics during the dispute were the result of long-term planning stretching back to the 1970s.

Loach's film deftly outlines the important pre-history of the strike, essentially arguing that following the Conservative election defeats in 1974 - in which the National Union of Mineworkers played a significant part - the party made plans to take on the unions. Tory MP Nicholas Ridley, later a key ally of Margaret Thatcher, wrote a paper (known as the 'Ridley report' and leaked to The Economist in 1978) setting out a number of recommendations for once the Tories regained power. The film runs through Ridley's main proposals and demonstrates how they were put into practice during the strike. Examples include the use of imported coal to keep up supplies during a dispute, equipping power stations with dual oil-coal capacity and maintaining a non-unionised supply of haulage drivers. However, Loach's real ire is directed less at the Conservatives than at the Trades Union Congress, which, the film argues, had seven years to arm itself against the Ridley report but in the end did nothing.

'End of the Battle...' emerged from a period in which Loach worked closely with rank and file union members, resulting in such controversial documentaries as Which Side Are You On? (Channel 4, tx. 9/1/1985) and the untransmitted Questions of Leadership, which explored the relationship between union members and their leadership. Although it was a direct reaction to the miners' strike, 'End of the Battle...' can also be seen as another manifestation of Loach's preoccupation with the betrayal of the workers by their nominal representatives, as expressed in his drama Days of Hope (BBC, 1975).

John Williams

Click titles to see or read more

Video Clips
1. The coal that broke the strike (3:44)
2. 'A golden opportunity missed' (3:57)
3. What the TUC should have done (4:14)
Arthur Legend, The (1991)
Diverse Reports (1984-87)
Which Side Are You On? (1984)
Loach, Ken (1936-)
King Coal
Ken Loach: Documentaries