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Labour would launch an investigation into the Battle of Orgreave, McDonnell says

The shadow chancellor delivered a blistering speech at an event in memory of the two miners killed on the picket lines

JOHN McDONNELL delivered a blistering speech at the weekend in memory of two Yorkshire miners killed on the picket lines during the 1984-85 strike against pit closures.

The shadow chancellor promised that a Labour government would launch an investigation into the Battle of Orgreave in June 1984, when massed ranks of police rioted and attacked striking miners.

Mr McDonnell delivered his speech to a packed audience in the historic 200-seat council chamber at the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) headquarters in Barnsley, South Yorkshire.

The annual memorial event marks the deaths of 24-year-old David Jones, who was struck by a hurled missile while picketing Ollerton colliery in Nottinghamshire, and Joe Green, 55, who was run down by a lorry while picketing Ferrybridge power station in Yorkshire.

No-one was ever prosecuted over the two deaths.

Mr McDonnell said yesterday that the Tories drew up plans in the 1970s to destroy the trade union movement.

“They wanted to do it not just through legislation,” he said. “They wanted to smash the unions. They targeted the NUM as an example to every other union. They did not care if they smashed a whole industry.

“They wanted to make the point to every trade unionist that they could break us. But they never did it and they never will.”

He pledged that a Labour government would scrap all anti-union laws and introduce a minimum wage of £10 an hour within 100 days of taking office.

Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM) secretary Mike Jackson told the meeting that friendships forged between gay communities and striking miners and their families during the strike were still strong today.

He said that, while LGSM had raised tens of thousands of pounds for striking mining communities, a group of gay Tory MPs had launched their own campaign.

“They raised money for scabs,” Mr Jackson said. “It was £25.”

He paid tribute to the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign and said there was evidence that members of the armed forces were deployed alongside police at the coking depot at Orgreave, near Rotherham, South Yorkshire, when police attacked striking miners.

“If the miners’ strike was a fight to preserve trade unionism, then Orgreave was the most disgraceful oppression – the day the ruling class closed ranks and declared war,” Mr Jackson said.

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