Sedgefield's Conservative MP Paul Howell had no political leanings when the Miners' Strike broke out in 1984 -  but he firmly believed, and still does, that this was a fight over who governed the country.

Reflecting on the divisive industrial conflict that wracked communities, he said: "It felt to me, and I would still say this even looking back now, that at that time the unions were trying to run the country and that's what the governments are there for.

"The miners' union likes Scargill and his mates were trying to do that job - that was wrong.

"It was said to be the big fight was between the government and unions over final closures of the mines, but mines had been closing since 67 - and before.

The Northern Echo: Paul Howell, Sedgefield MP

"Mines were closing under the Harold Wilson Labour Government, as well.  It wasn't just a Tory agenda to close the mines, but it became a very symbolic fight at that point in time.

Mr Howell was born in the mining community of Ferryhill, which lost its Dean and Chapter mine in 1966. His grandfather and then his father had been down the pit.

He then moved to Newton Aycliffe at the age of seven and was 24 years old and was working in a manufacturing company during the Miners' Strike.

He said: "We weren't affected by the impact of the mining strike any more than anybody else who wasn't in a mining community.The Northern Echo:

"We were geographically very close but in some ways detached in terms of what the impact had on your life.

"I wasn't a politician at that time. My perception at that time would have been that this was a fight between the union and the government.

"It felt to me as though there was a need to control what the unions were doing and, my perception was that the leaders of the mining union were, unfortunately, scrapping for a fight and got one."The Northern Echo: Miners' Strike

"When Thatcher spoke about the 'enemy within', I don't for one minute interpret that as the enemy within being the miners.

"I interpret that as being the mining officials who, from my perspective, were trying to undermine the government and using the miners to do that."

Reflecting on the policing of the strike, Mr Howell said: "The way that some of the imported police, particularly from the Met, were seen to act at the time, nobody could try and defend that.

"The problems that left local police officers trying to support their communities - it would have been intolerable for years. Hopefully, we have come through that."

On the impact of the strike on communities, he said: "I have the privilege of representing Ferryhill, Trimdons, Cornforths, Fishburns, Wingate, Wheatley Hill, Station Town and the like - all of which are mining communities.

"If you looked at the work that people were doing then, in terms of going down the mine I don't think anybody would want to go back and do that again.

“It was an awful existence and life in terms of the work and what you were doing and the environment you were in.

"But - and this is the same for the number of big industries whether be it be the mining, cement or steel industry - the size and scale of the business,was such that communities were built into that.The Northern Echo: Miners' Strike

“The social and sports clubs and things like that, everything became part of the business because everybody went there. That is what was good in terms of looking back at that time.

“That is where the community was ingrained, for want of a better phrase. And clearly, talking about the coal mining industry, as that pulled out it left a gap and that gap has never really been filled.

"That to me is the root cause of why we have, I hate the phrase, but everyone knows what we mean by it when I say left behind neighbourhoods."

Mr Howell chairs the all-party parliamentary group which is about left-behind neighbourhoods that are trying to get some community resources back into them.

He said: "That situation still exists where we need to do things, in my opinion, to help those communities recover from being left behind.

"It is still the case now and that to me is one of the worst legacies of that time. I'm not just talking the story I'm trying to do something about it."The Northern Echo:

He added: "I can go into any of the mining villages and find lovely people trying to do their damnedest for their piece of the world.

"They weren't involved at that time it wasn't their world in terms of that.

"It's just that they are the legacy of it and they are trying to do their best for it and I will do my damnedest in the job that I have got for as long as I have got it  to represent their interests - that's why I am involved in the left behind neigbhourhood initiative. "

"It feels like at times the whole argument comes down to politics, but it's just about people and communities.

"I can say without fear of contradiction that I've met many people of those mining communities of those villages and get on very well with them and will continue to do so.

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"I think time has moved on to the extent - there are still some raw edges, of course for some people who were particularly close to the miners' strike or their family that had issues.

"But I've been heartened by the fact that the of villages where I have engaged with people, there's nobody given me grief because of what happened back in 1984.

"People that I'm talking to, even as a Conservative MP in the North East of England, they know that I come from their world and they know, I hope, that I care, and therefore I'm able to talk to them and relate with them. That is a delight for me."