Support the heroes of Orgreave

OrgreaveThe pictures will be forever ingrained on our minds. They were so powerful that in 1984 the late Jo Richardson MP held up one of them in front of the Labour Party Conference, and the World’s media.  It showed a mounted policeman, baton raised, charging a woman whose only defence was to raise her arm across her head.  Looking back now at those black and white shots of nearly thirty years, it is still impossible not to be shocked at the organised violence meted out against young miners, dressed only in jeans and T shorts. The Battle of Orgreave came to represent the virtual civil war being played out across Britain’s coalfields, as all of the power and resources of the State were mobilised against pit communities fighting for their very right of existence.

We now know – because the BBC finally admitted it – that the corporation quite deliberately reversed their footage for their news bulletins. The BBC News showed miners pickets attacking the police as opposed to what really happened — the police, many on horse-back, attacking the miners.  That unforgiveable distortion of the truth frankly puts the BBC up there with those members of the police who have sought to cover up what happened at Orgreave and subsequently at Sheffield Hillsborough. For Orgreave, as we know, witnessed a police force out of control, given carte blanche to act to achieve – by any means possible – the breaking of the year long strike.

It is absolutely right that what happened at Orgreave that hot summer’s day in 1984 is a live issue again.  For there is a very real sense that the British Establishment has attempted to bury Orgreave along with the British mining industry.

So it is good news that recently former Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, has called for a full public inquiry into Orgreave.  He did so at the time of course, when he and former Home Secretary, Merlyn Rees were asked to compile a report into Orgreave by the Labour Party leader. Back in 1985, Brown was calling for an inquiry and probe into the role of then Tory Home Secretary, Leon Brittan, in the events leading up to Orgreave and after.

This is good news also for the Orgreave Truth & Justice Campaign, which has bravely campaigned for the truth and for individuals to be held to account for the actions they took on that hot summer’s day nearly thirty years ago. Many miners were not only injured, but often lost their jobs on quite spurious grounds, some never to regain them – although the National Justice for Mineworkers Justice for Mineworkers campaign deserves all of our community’s thanks for what the campaigning work it has carried out over the years, constantly seeking redress. Constantly seeking justice.

I know from my own work in supporting the GMB’s national campaign against blacklisting that the truth always has to be prised from the grasp of the authorities, even with a Freedom of Information Act.  Part of an Early Day Motion I submitted recently supporting the GMB’s campaign against named companies was blocked by the Parliamentary authorities, on the grounds that it could undermine the court case underway. But then, as I have also discovered from my questions relating to that other running sore of injustice, the Shrewsbury 24, even with a Freedom of Information Act, vital information can be withheld.  Despite that Act, despite the 30 years rule, the names of various construction companies active in blacklisting building workers such as Ricky Tomlinson are still secret on grounds of ‘national security’.  The only ‘national security’ being compromised here, is that their publication would link them to senior political figures in the Tory Party at the time.

Today, we are once again witnessing fundamental attacks on working people. We already live in a country with one of the most restrictive anti union legislation, legislation that sadly was not repealed by the last Labour Government. We are seeing further and deeper attacks on collective bargaining and trade union rights with a full intention – if the Tories can get their way, to ban industrial action in the public sector. Cuts in legal aid, restrictions over access to employment tribunals and much more is throwing added costs on to the trade unions.  The anti union culture of so deeply embedded in our media and political system, that many people seem to forget that so much that is good in life, has come through struggles of trades unionists, whether it is the shorter working week, maternity rights, the living wage or pension rights.

The young miners who went to Orgreave thirty years ago in an attempt to stop coal cheap coal being imported and to save their jobs and their communities were selfless heroes. We salute them now, as we did then.  And we should honour them and their colleagues who were either injured or criminalised, by giving our wholehearted support to the Orgreave Truth & Justice Campaign.

  1. I lost four front teeth when a police office lost it and charged us with a pickaxe handle, I got hit smack in the mouth and ended up being treated by a doctor at the road side.

    But look we all know what the BBC are like it controlled by whom ever is in power, labour came out with green papers on welfare the same day or the next day the BBC had programs about benefits cheats and scroungers not once not twice but three times.

    That’s life for god sake.

    look at the football disasters it was those evil pesky supporters, the Sun News paper saw fans robbing the dead bodies, what did the BBC do prove it or ignore it, ignored it.

    We even heard people urinating on the dead or Police officer what did I see Police officers using batons. Now look at the lad walking home doing nothing wrong gets attacked by a Sargent who record was appalling, what did they state he was looking for trouble.

    The police are known as the tools of the state, are they wrong.

  2. I campaigned for Jo Richardson twice. Age 13 and 18 respectively,i was too young to recall the miners strike,And I can’t fault the appaling record of what happened, but, they didnt go to Orgreave to stop imported coal, they went there to block the entry to pits of those not on strike,

  3. From Wikipedia:
    “The Orgreave coking works, where coal was turned into coke for use in steel production, was regarded by Arthur Scargill as crucial. Early in the strike, British Steel plants had been receiving “dispensations”, picket-permitted movements of coal to prevent damage to their furnaces. However it was found that more than the permitted amount of coal had been delivered, so action was taken.”

  4. The Coal Board Chief at the time of the strike, Ian MacGregor, claimed afterwards that Orgreave was a set up that worked brilliantly (attracting miners who otherwise might have stopped the Nottingham mines working). Even Seamus Milne in his defence of the NUM (in his The Enemy Within) says that even though this is not the whole story there may well be something in it. What is the truth? The strike has now receded far enough into history to allow us to ask and discuss such questions on the basis of the facts and without questioning each other’s motives. If the NUM allowed itself to be drawn into a set up then that is surely something worth reflecting on. If it wasn’t then a case needs to be made to that effect. Has anything been published to that effect? The only books I have seen that discuss the issue are the one by Milne and Marching To The Fault Line by Beckett and Hencke.