It has sometimes been suggested that the government of Margaret Thatcher responded to the miners’ strike of 1984/5 with plans that had been conceived long in advance. This article argues that Conservatives certainly discussed the prospect of a strike from the mid-1970s. However, they did not have clearly worked-out plans or much confidence in their ability to win such a dispute, and they became even more cautious after their humiliating retreat when faced with the threat of a strike in February 1981. Stockpiling coal was, initially, designed to deter a strike rather than to defeat one. Only slowly did some Tories reconcile themselves to the prospect that there was likely to be a strike and that 1984 was the least bad time to face it. Furthermore, Margaret Thatcher herself was not always keen to confront the miners and many of those who did the most to prepare and execute government strategy were not Thatcherites; some were civil servants rather than politicians.