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Protest Ex-miners to picket Tories' Christmas dinner in coal museum

A CONSERVATIVE association in Yorkshire will face mass picketing after it infuriated former miners and their families by arranging to hold its annual Christmas dinner at a museum of the coal industry.

The Tories were accused of “blatant provocation” by Joe Rollin, chairman of the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign (OTJC), after they booked the National Coal Mining Museum for England (NCMM) as the venue for the celebration.

Mr Rollin, a full-time officer at the Unite union, warned: “They have until the weekend to cancel it. Otherwise we will organise a picket of the event — and we can get plenty of people out.”

Tory deputy chief whip Esther McVey will be the guest speaker at the Dewsbury County Conservative Association dinner.

The museum, which is dedicated to the history and culture of the coalmining industry, was inundated with telephone calls and e-mails protesting at the booking, and calling for it to be cancelled.

“It’s a blatant act of provocation,” Mr Rollin said, “and the Conservative association involved has got form for this. They’ve advertised it as ‘a venue with a difference.'

“Since we found out, we have being doing a phone and email blockade of the museum.”

National Union of Mineworkers general secretary Chris Kitchen was equally furious, saying: “They knew exactly what they were doing when they chose the coalmining museum for their annual dinner.

Choosing the museum as the venue showed Conservative “contempt” for miners, he said.

“This can only be seen as rubbing salt in the wounds caused to miners and their families during and after the strike.”

OTJC secretary Kate Flannery has sent a letter of protest to the museum’s management, saying she is “devastated.”

She wrote: “I urge you not to allow this booking to go ahead. 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 provocative and insensitive. It is insulting that the Conservative Party plans to hold a celebratory meal in a museum dedicated to an industry that the Conservative Party systematically destroyed.

“The NCMM is an amazing and valuable asset. It is important that the NCMM acknowledges the proud heritage and social history of our mining past and in doing so does not risk its reputation by allowing this Conservative dinner to go ahead.”

The museum stands on the site of the former Caphouse colliery, near Wakefield in West Yorkshire.

One of the pit shafts and an underground roadway have been preserved, and former miners act as guides for visits underground.

Thousands of children visit the museum every year to learn the history of the coalmining industry and its workers, communities and culture.

Britain's last deep coal mine, Kellingley in Yorkshire, shut in December 2015, destroying the jobs of its 400 workers.

The Conservative association and the museum did not respond to the Star’s requests for comment.

The museum can be contacted on (01924) 848-806 or by email to info@ncm.org.uk.

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