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AN EX-MINER confronted Labour leadership pretender Owen Smith yesterday and accused him of exploiting the tragedy of Orgreave by choosing to stage a media conference there in his bid to oust Jeremy Corbyn.
Orgreave campaigner John Dunn also accused Mr Smith of shamelessly copying policies put forward by Jeremy Corbyn and claiming them as his own.
The event included an announcement by Mr Smith that he would introduce a Ministry of Labour if he led a Labour government — a proposal put forward by Jeremy Corbyn and reported in the Morning Star last year.
Orgreave, where the police brutally attacked miners during the 1984-5 strike against pit closures, is now an industrial estate.
But as Mr Smith left Mr Dunn confronted him and scolded him for using the tragedy as part of his leadership bid.
Mr Dunn worked at Markham colliery in Derbyshire before being sacked in 1990.
He told the Morning Star: “Owen Smith was staging a publicity stunt.
“I went up as an individual and politely asked him as a former striking miner to stop exploiting our struggle.
“He talked about his own mining heritage and tried to pass that off on me, so I told him that while he was making a pharmaceutical company rich we were struggling after the strike.”
Mr Dunn said he also asked Mr Smith why he had not signed a Commons early day motion calling for a public inquiry into what happened at Orgreave.
“His aides hustled him into his car and he wound the window up,” said Mr Dunn.
Earlier, in his address, Mr Smith shamelessly copied a series of policies which had been declared months earlier by Jeremy Corbyn and his team — and others from progressive group the Institute of Employment Rights (IER).
Mr Corbyn’s office graciously welcomed Mr Smith’s conversion to the Labour leader’s socialist policies.
A spokesperson said: “We are delighted that he has echoed John McDonnell’s call for the reinstatement of a Ministry of Labour, made last month at the IER, and Jeremy Corbyn’s call for a ban on exclusive workforce recruitment from abroad, made during the referendum campaign, among other policies.
“Owen’s speech shows the leadership that Jeremy Corbyn has demonstrated in placing economic justice and fairness back at the heart of Labour politics.”
IER director Carolyn Jones said: “We are pleased yet another Labour MP has adopted some of our ideas.”
IER chairman John Hendy QC added: “Our proposals for a Ministry of Labour will provide a voice for 31 million workers at the heart of government.”
When challenged, Mr Smith said that Mr McDonnell’s call for a Ministry of Labour had “passed [him] by.”
Fire Brigades Union general secretary Matt Wrack said: “We welcome Owen Smith’s decision to speak out for working people, but this Damascene conversion must be greeted with caution given that just one year ago he supported the public-sector pay freeze, which is now affecting our firefighter members for the sixth consecutive year.”
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