Remembering Orgreave

One thing I’ve noticed about this government is that they seem incapable of working out what might happen more than three hours in advance.

Last year someone called Cameron promised that all tax rates would be frozen until 2020. The fallout from this will probably be disastrous, but he needed to fill a blank paragraph in the 2015 manifesto. What else? Oh yes, the referendum.

Theresa seems to have absorbed the Cameronian mentality with her announcement on Heathrow. Several people who know about these things are predicting that this will be a decade-long millstone for the tories, and who am I to argue ?

What a charming contrast it is with the way they used to behave.

When Thatcher took over one of the first things she did was to get her gang together in the bunker and meticulously plan out the destruction of the welfare state and the removal of workers’ rights and protections. They called such things ‘red-tape’ and referred to their programme as ‘de-regulation.’

Job One was obviously to destroy the unions and who better to start with than the NUM. They were owed one from the previous strikes. Coal reserves were piled high. Police were warned they might be called on to go anywhere. Then the planned pit closures were announced. The inevitable confrontation began in March 1984.

After three months, despite all the victimisation and vitriol thrown at them by the government and their mates in the media, the miners showed no signs of weakening. Something stronger was needed. At Orgreave on June 18th we saw mounted baton-swinging riot police attack a crowd of strikers. Scores were arrested and charged with riot. They spent a year on bail before having their cases thrown out. Police had fabricated ‘evidence’ against them.

And now Amber Rudd has decided that no inquiry will take place. She thinks that such behaviour does not constitute a miscarriage of justice.

There is a 75-year embargo on some cabinet papers relating the strike. By then, and long after schmaltzy ‘feel-good’ plays and movies have sanitised the whole thing, we might hear some truth about the whole sorry episode, particularly about the illegal use of troops disguised as coppers.

When we’re remembering, and setting our faces in solemn stillness this weekend, let’s spare a thought for all the occasions when one class felt it had such a sure ascendancy over another that it could threaten, beat, convict and even kill its members without fear of exposure and punishment; Peterloo, Tolpuddle, Tonypandy, the Somme, Derry, The Birmingham Six, Hillsborough.


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