Fury as Conservatives organise party at coal mining museum

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A Tory party branch has been accused of “rubbing salt in the wounds” of former pit communities after booking its annual dinner at the National Coal Mining Museum.

Dewsbury County Conservative Association is planning to celebrate at the museum on March 10, two days after the anniversary of the return to work at end of the bitter 1984-5 miners’ strike.

A protest could be held at the event, set to include a drinks reception and three-course dinner at the museum at the former Caphouse Colliery on New Road, Overton.

In the mid-1980s miners went on strike for a year in a dispute over pit closures under the Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher.

Chris Kitchen, general secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), has complained in a letter to museum bosses.

Mr Kitchen wrote: “It is a matter of common knowledge that the Conservative Party conspired to close and destroy the coal industry in the UK.

“I think it is wrong to allow the museum to be used by a political party that is clearly determined to keep rubbing salt in the wounds it created wherever it can.

“Are the board of trustees for the National Coal Mining Museum for England satisfied that the strategic direction of the museum is to enter the field of party politics?”

On its Facebook page the Conservative association said Esther McVey, the Tory deputy chief whip, would be guest speaker at the annual dinner.

They said: “The event will start with a drinks reception in the museum itself, followed by a three course set dinner in the Caphouse Suite.

“We hope you will join us for what should be a fantastic evening at a venue with a difference.”

The Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign, formed to get to the truth behind an infamous clash between police and miners during the 1984-5 strike, called on the museum not to allow the dinner to go ahead.

A complaint letter by group said: “March 10 is only days after the anniversary of the proud return to work for the miners, families and communities after the 12-month strike of 1984-85. The choice of venue is extremely insensitive and I feel it is provocative.”

The National Coal Mining Museum for England and Dewsbury Conservatives have been asked for a comment.