Miners at a demonstration at Maerdy Lodge Colliery in Gwent, South Wales at the end of the miners' strike, 5th March 1985. Steve Eason/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Local Tory activists in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, have been accused of "rubbing salt in the wounds" of former pit communities after deciding to hold their annual celebratory dinner at the National Coal Mining Museum.

The Dewsbury County Conservative Association booked the venue in Overton for a drinks reception and three-course dinner on 10 March next year. Tory deputy chief whip Esther McVey is listed as guest speaker.

Those attending could be greeted by protesters after the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) complained that the decision was "provocative" given the controversial history between the Conservative party and mining communities.

The dinner also lands just two days after the anniversary marking the return to work of miners after their year-long strike in 1984-1985.

Chris Kitchen, general secretary of the NUM, called on museum bosses to cancel the booking.

"It is a matter of common knowledge that the Conservative party conspired to close and destroy the coal industry in the UK," he wrote in a letter to the museum.

"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?"

The Orgreave Truth and Justice group, which is campaigning for an inquiry into alleged police violence against miners in 1984, has also condemned the choice of venue.

It says it will picket the museum should the dinner go ahead.

The Dewsbury County Conservative Association's chairman, Mark Eastwood, confirmed the booking on the group's Facebook page. He promised a "fantastic evening at a venue with a difference".

Positive support

He told the Huddersfield Daily Examiner the mining museum had been chosen because it was the best available local venue for the dinner.

He added: "We felt it would be positive for us to support a local museum. It's a fantastic venue."

Eastwood also pointed out that Tory party chairman Sir Patrick McLoughlin was a former miner.

Museum bosses have changed their minds and defended hosting the event. They said that as a charity they had to maintain political independence.

"As a publicly and grant-funded national museum, the remit of the National Coal Mining Museum for England is to curate the heritage of this remarkable industry and its communities in an impartial manner," it said on Wednesday (6 December).

"The museum's mission is to keep stories of coal mining alive by collecting and preserving the industry's rich heritage and it is open to everyone in the community to access and use the galleries, collections, underground tour and wider facilities, as well as taking part in activities and events.

"The museum is also a registered charity and, as such, is required by the Charity Commission's rules to maintain political independence.

"In light of the above requirements of its funding and its charity status, the museum is not in a position to be able to refuse or to revoke the function booking in question."