It was once famously said of Arthur Scargill that when he became general secretary of the NUM, he had a large union and a small house.
When he stepped down as leader more than 20 years later, he had a small union and a large house.
Little did we know at the time, but Scargill, the proud communist, actually had two homes.
One – described as a ‘cottage in Barnsley’ – is, in fact, a substantial detached residence. The other is a £1.5m London flat funded by the union – and they want him out.
But Scargill has refused to budge – and legal action is imminent.
Meanwhile the NUM, which now has a membership of just 1,600 compared to the 400,000 it enjoyed in its heyday, has to continue to fork out £34,000 a year for the property in rent and other costs.
This means £20 from each member’s annual subscription goes to keeping their former leader in a style to which he intends to remain accustomed.
Scargill insists he has a legal right to use his weekend bolt-hole until the day he dies – and that may well be the case.
But his actions place him in a moral and hypocriticial wasteland. He stands exposed as the selfish, petulant little tyrant so many of us suspected him of being all along.
But this is not the first time Scargill has shafted his union, of course. He exploited the solidarity of its members to lead them into an overtly-political struggle against Margaret Thatcher which he could not win and for which she had been planning for years.
She was hell-bent on reforming the power of the unions – and what better way to achieve that than by taking on and effectively destroying the most powerful of the lot?
Scargill – fuelled by an all-consuming hubris and sustained by political dogma – flaunted his despotic instincts by refusing to hold a ballot on the strike and unashamedly announcing his intention to bring down a democratically-elected government.
But nobody can accuse Scargill of not possessing animal instincts.
He was the donkey who led the lions to a catastrophic defeat.
Now he is the dog in the manger when it comes to retaining occupancy of a home he doesn’t need and his union can’t afford.