Former Labour leader Lord Kinnock today hit back at mineworkers' leader Arthur Scargill over his allegation that he "betrayed" the miners in the 1984 strike.

In a rally last week to mark the 25th anniversary of the strike, Mr Scargill claimed that the Labour leader - then Neil Kinnock - could have changed the course of the dispute and forced Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher out of office if he had given the miners his full support.

But Lord Kinnock today dismissed the charge as "sheer fantasy" and accused Mr Scargill of betrayal in the "madness" of his handling of the strike.

Speaking last week, Mr Scargill, who led the National Union of Mineworkers from 1981 to 2000, said: "If Kinnock had given his full support and called on workers to support the strike - as the party did in 1981 - Thatcher would have been out of office, in my view, within a year.

"Neil Kinnock, by his failure to call on workers to not cross picket lines, betrayed the miners."

But Lord Kinnock this morning told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "On all the objective facts of the day and everything that has transpired since, there can only be one accusation about who has betrayed the miners."

Looking back to the start of the year-long strike against pit closures, Lord Kinnock said: "The reality was that the Thatcher Government had organised its forces over some years previously in order to seek a confrontation.

"What they couldn't have anticipated was the madness with which the miners were led into the jaws of defeat."

Asked whether he was upset by the accusation of betrayal, Lord Kinnock said: "Coming from Scargill, it doesn't matter a damn, frankly.

"I was then the leader of a political party with a reduced base, being further undermined by the very action which Scargill was undertaking.

"The idea that I could have transformed the conditions of the strike by calling on workers to come out in support of the miners is sheer fantasy. That is the kindest word that I can use."

Lord Kinnock was highly critical of Mr Scargill's refusal to hold a national strike ballot, which he said was "the one weapon that could have changed the whole nature and destiny of the strike".

He said: "If Scargill had had a national ballot of the miners three things would have resulted: There would have been unity amongst all the miners in all the coalfields...; there would have been active support from the trade unions and trade unionists which would have changed the whole environment of the strike; and the miners would have had the unalloyed respect of the great majority of the public, because it would have been understood that the strike was on a strictly democratic basis and the men were struggling to save the pits.

"All of that would have come from a democratic ballot and I shall to my dying day bitterly regret that I didn't publicly call for that in the way that I put it to Scargill (privately)."