Final negotiations began on 1 May, when an agreement was almost reached. However, one million miners were locked out, it being impossible to get them back to work without firm assurances concerning their wages. Last-minute negotiations failed to achieve this, leading to announcement by the TUC that a general strike “in defence of miners’ wages and hours” was to begin on 3 May, a Monday, at one minute to midnight. The leaders of the Labour Party were terrified by the revolutionary elements within the union movement or at least worried about the damage association with them would do to their newly established reputation as a more moderate party of government and were unhappy about the proposed general strike. During the next two days, frantic efforts were made to reach an agreement with the government and the mine owners.
However, these efforts failed, mainly owing to an eleventh-hour decision by printers of the Daily Mail to refuse to print an editorial (“For King and Country”) condemning the general strike. They objected to the following passage: “A general strike is not an industrial dispute. It is a revolutionary move which can only succeed by destroying the government and subverting the rights and liberties of the people”. When Baldwin heard of this, he called off the negotiations with the TUC, saying that the printers’ action was interfering with the liberty of the press.
King George V took exception to suggestions that the strikers were ‘revolutionaries’ saying, “Try living on their wages before you judge them.” The TUC feared that an all-out general strike would bring revolutionary elements to the fore and limited the participants to railwaymen, transport workers, printers, dockers, ironworkers and steelworkers, as these were regarded as pivotal in the dispute. The overwhelming, meantime, the government put in place a “militia” of special constables, called the Organisation for the Maintenance of Supplies (OMS).