13 Days Remaining

Friday 10th
posted by Morning Star in Editorial

HOW can a properly constituted public inquiry headed by a senior legal figure degenerate into a witch-hunt with an anti-police bias?

That would have been an appropriate question to pose to former home secretary Leon Brittan had he not popped his clogs already.

His comment from 1985 to be found in the latest 18 classified government files to be released to the National Archive is a strong argument in favour of holding a public inquiry, as the Orgreave Truth and Justice campaign continues to demand.

Picketing miners who were at the sharp end of systematic police brutality during the 1984-85 strike called by the National Union of Mineworkers knew exactly what they were up against.

Margaret Thatcher’s Tory government engineered the dispute by closing viable pits in breach of existing agreements and then mobilised the entirety of state forces to smash the NUM.

It was an act of class vengeance and a reminder of state power, for which the Tories had prepared carefully for a decade after Thatcher’s predecessor Edward Heath had orchestrated a “who rules Britain — the NUM or the government?” election in 1974 and been turfed out on his ear.

This NUM victory followed that of 1972, which was noteworthy for the police decision to order the closure of the Saltley coke depot on safety grounds, in response to a human blockade by Yorkshire miners aided by 30,000 Birmingham engineers who walked out in solidarity to join the picket. The NUM intended to close down Orgreave coking plant in 1984 using the same mass-pressure tactics, but government and police had other ideas.

Some fence-sitting liberals have portrayed the mayhem at Orgreave as six of one and half a dozen of the other, but images and video coverage of the day tell a different story.

Young miners were casually dressed and wore trainers while the other side came prepared for a riot with massed ranks of cossacks and solid phalanxes of tooled-up foot police under orders to be as violent as they could.

To portray the efforts of these brave workers to defend themselves against the organised thuggery of Thatcher’s boot-boys as “violence” is to demean the English language. Worse was to follow when almost a hundred miners were charged with riot — then punishable by imprisonment for life.

Charges were dropped after defence legal teams established that police witnesses had been gathered together to co-ordinate their lies, but miners, their families and communities went through hell before that happened. As befits a state conspiracy involving government, judiciary, security services and media, no charges of perjury or perverting the course of justice were preferred against bent police officers.

No wonder a couple of South Yorkshire Police senior officers and a police solicitor were involved five years later in the cover-up of police failings at Hillsborough where 96 Liverpool football fans were killed.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd’s spurious rejection of the public inquiry call last year on the grounds that the police didn’t kill anyone at Orgreave or bang anyone up for years cannot be allowed to stand.

Neither lucky escape was thanks to the top brass or their political masters who encouraged police to get stuck in and to fit up as many miners as possible.

The Tories’ ongoing refusal to allow victims of the state conspiracy to criminalise entire communities to have their day in court and to question those responsible is a criminal denial of legal and democratic accountability.

They don’t fear an anti-police witch-hunt. Their real nightmare is that the truth concerning an anti-working-class Establishment conspiracy will have to be acknowledged.