Justice for the Orgreave miners 30 years on: But from Theresa May?

Theresa May, home sercretary, could granjt an inquiry into the Orgreave  dispute 30 yaers after it happened. Pic Credit: conservatives.com

Theresa May, home secretary, could grant an inquiry into the Orgreave dispute 30 years after it happened. Pic Credit: conservatives.com


UPDATE: Since this post was written the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign  submitted their findings today (Tuesday 15 December)

An extraordinary decision may soon be made by one of the most right ring of Tory ministers, Theresa May, to set up either an independent panel or public inquiry into the police handling of the 1984 miners strike.

The epic battle between the Arthur Scargill led National Union of Mineworkers and the Thatcher government  over pit closures was one of the most iconic events of its time. It divided miners  and  led to pitch battles between the police and miners, notably at Orgreave coking plant in South Yorkshire but also in Wales, Scotland and Kent.

The role of the police in handling the strike has left a bitter residue between mining communities and the police which still exists today long after the pits were closed and communities were left without work.

As I wrote in Exaro News last week Theresa May agreed to meet an extraordinary delegation of Labour MPs, lawyers, ex miners through the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign ( see their website here) at the end of July and has agreed to accept  a detailed legal submission from Mike Mansfield and three other distinguished barristers arguing for the case to set up an independent inquiry.

Barbara Jackson, secretary of the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign, said that May seemed receptive to the idea of an inquiry, said: “As a first step, we would like to see an independent panel set up that would gather together all the documents and search for others that have not come to light, before we have a public inquiry.”

“We would want Theresa May to examine the submission, which will be a very substantial document.”

Louise Haigh, newly-elected MP for Sheffield Heeley and shadow minister for the Cabinet Office and another Labour MP, Ian Lavery, a newly-appointed shadow civil service minister and former president of the National Union of Mineworkers, attended the meeting with May. So far, 65 MPs back the inquiry call.

Haigh, whose uncle took part in the miners’ strike, said: “Serious questions – which have undermined trust in the police in those communities affected and more widely – remain unanswered. Perjury, perverting the course of justice, misconduct in a public office, and whether actions were influenced by the highest levels of government are just some of the allegations levelled at the police.”

This is all the more interesting as the Independent Police Complaints Commission had thrown out  re-opening the issue claiming that most of the documents would no longer exist because of the passage of time.

There seems to be me to be a rather unusual move by May, who would have sided with Thatcher over the dispute. However I have noticed that she is very independently minded – setting up the Goddard Inquiry into child sexual abuse despite a spate of problems – and also wanting an inquiry into the use of undercover police infiltrating  protest movements.

This is happening because of a rather extraordinary confluence of events – May is seen to be increasingly wanting to question police methods while those fighting for justice for the Orgreave miners show no sign of going away.

The two could well combine to create an independent panel inquiry which could at last get to the roots of one of the biggest festering sores in trade union history. It is just ironic that it could take a Tory home secretary to do something that a Blair and Brown government did nothing about for 13 years.

Miner’s Strike: A raw and bitter issue 25 years on

March 3rd at  the Forum Theatre in The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery , Stoke on Trent marked a  raw and bloody rematch of the one of the most traumatic events of the last century – the 1984 miner’s strike.

The dispute still bitterly divided people 25 years after the event with an emotional audience still resenting  the outcome that marked the defining moment when capitalism triumphed over labour in British society.

Then Arthur  Scargill was pitched against Margaret Thatcher – and neither side was willing to give any quarter. But the defeat of the miners gave the green light for the Conservatives to turn the screw on the trade unions and laid open the opportunity for unbridled capitalism then ended in the credit crunch collapse in 2009..

This month  former Tory MP and Thatcher government minister Edwina Currie  fought with Respect MP George Galloway and neither gave any quarter over the dispute or its legacy. Quietly spoken Ken Loach, one of the country’s foremost film directors, also weighed on the side of the miners and their leaders and alongside Galloway was sharply critical of the failure of other unions and Labour to back Arthur Scargill .

 As joint author of a new book on the miner’s strike, Marching to the Fault Line, I found myself a bit of a ” piggy in the middle” trying to point out some facts – against Galloway and Currie. Galloway portrayed me as  some of sort of revisionist historian. Sadly again Arthur Scargill was not present as he has not replied to the organisers – a similar experience I had when I wrote the book with co-author Francis Beckett when he would not co-operate or be interviewed.

A DVD will be produced soon.

The organisers Alan Gerrard and Cheryl Artbay deserve to be congratulated for staging it.- they had to turn people away it was so popular. Pity it was not more widely picked up but that is sadly a fact in ther instant 24/7 news round.. Other events are on http://www.creativestoke.co.uk/80430/info.php?p=3.