Like a throbbing wound almost certain to leave a scar, Britain's bitter, violent and seemingly endless coal miners' strike seems to have begun transforming British politics in ways that may outlive the dispute.
What is probably, in the long run, the most important manifestation of this transformation was on display all week here at the annual convention of the Labor Party.
In numerous resolutions, the more militant factions, despite misgivings of some of the party's older and more moderate leaders, succeeded in driving Britain's main opposition party even further to the left.
They did so, in large measure, by using the miners' strike as a weapon to batter the policies of Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher that they despise.
The Laborites also took advantage of the charged atmosphere created by the festering dispute to lash out at her on other issues.
The speaker who stirred the most emotion and loudest applause here was Arthur Scargill, the militant Marxist leader of the National Union of Mineworkers, whose highly controversial strike will enter its eighth month next week.
After his speech, the 1,300 delegates here -- a handful of whom represent about 6 million trade union members, and the rest local constituencies within the party -- overwhelmingly passed resolutions that condemn only the British police, and not striking miners, for the "unlawful violence" on the picket lines that has made this strike so disturbing for the British public.
Furthermore, the conference passed a resolution that called for legislation, if Labor returns to power, that would ban the police from playing any role in industrial disputes.
The measures and the mood here provoked the chairman of the Police Federation, Leslie Curtis, to charge that the party had "indulged in an orgy of police-bashing, vilification and downright dishonesty" that called into question, for the first time, whether the strict political neutrality and nonpartisanship of the British police could survive a Labor victory.
Later, the chief of the Police Superintendents' Association, Stuart Anderson, toned down Curtis' remarks, reasserting that "we are not in the game of politics" and "owe allegiance to our sovereign and the law."
But anger and tensions between Britain's police and coal miners clearly remain and will not be easily forgotten.
The party convention here also took an unprecedented step in passing resolutions that support local metropolitan councils that "are forced to break the law as a result of the Tory government policies."
These resolutions, also opposed by more moderate leaders, were backed by the Marxist Militant Tendency, a Labor youth group.
The party supported breaking laws passed by the Conservative government to limit local spending and restrain unions, which the Laborites regard as unjust.
Similarly, while the conference chose not to comment directly on a high court order for contempt issued against Scargill, the union leader was given warm emotional backing for staying at the convention and defying what was viewed as an attack by a conservative judiciary.
On Tuesday, delegates here witnessed an extraordinary spectacle in a democracy with a centuries-old dedication to law. Labor Party chairman Neil Kinnock, in a rousing and eloquent keynote address, felt the need to remind delegates that it was only through dedication to the democratic and legal process that Labor could regain the power it lost in 1979.
In effect, Kinnock's speech was an effort to soften the image of the more militant actions here that could alienate voters and prevent Labor from recapturing the millions of supporters who deserted the party in 1979 and even more dramatically in last year's general election.
But Kinnock was not specific. He did not state publicly those concerns about the militants in his party, especially the younger ones, that privately frighten him.
While Scargill stirs emotions, his tactics and demands alienate a number of other union leaders and party officials. But, with some exceptions, they say so largely in private for fear of being considered disloyal to the Labor cause.
Scargill never called for a nationwide strike vote by coal miners. As a result, about 50,000 of Britain's 180,000 miners are still working, a situation that weakens the case for worker solidarity.
Picket-line violence and intimidation of some miners seeking to return to work have alienated many Britons, according to opinion polls.
Yet more and more, the Labor Party and Kinnock, both of whom have kept their distance from Scargill in the past, are either sensing that the miners' strike is becoming a more effective anti-Thatcher weapon or they are being forced into the controversy by political considerations.
Kinnock and many other moderate party officials have begun to drive home the theme that the strike is an outgrowth of "the violence of unemployment, of despair . . . the violence done to hope and security" by Thatcher's economic and industrial policies, as Kinnock now describes it.
What seems to be happening is that shifting political currents here are proving more potent than they appeared. Kinnock, for example, is a member of the far left of his own party on such issues as unilateral nuclear disarmament and getting U.S. and British nuclear weapons out of Britain.
But his speech here Tuesday was a call for the use of more moderate tactics to regain power. It was an effort, he said later in a brief interview, "to mobilize the majority." But Kinnock's call may be directed to a Labor Party that no longer exists.
The party "is now, in its soul, a party of the emphatic, determined, near-hard left. Blackpool has revealed more clearly than ever, that is now its natural state, the only one which makes it comfortable." That is the assessment of respected Manchester Guardian newspaper columnist Hugo Young.
The delegates to the annual conference usually are more militant than Labor Party members in Parliament. It is still at least three years before the next election. But as Young wrote this week, "It would save a lot of misunderstandings, and the spilling of much bad blood, if the illusion -- that there is an old-fashioned Labor Party waiting to be [reawakened] -- were finally laid to rest."