Labour Will Overturn Tories’ Disgraceful Decision To Deny An Orgreave Inquiry
01 Nov 2016There are few things in politics that are truly shocking. But Home Secretary Amber Rudd’s decision to deny any Inquiry at all into the incidents at the Orgreave coking plant in 1984 and subsequent events definitely falls into that category. There was widespread disbelief and anger on the Opposition benches following the announcement. The obvious disappointment of the members of the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign (OTJC) was fully justified. The decision to deny an Inquiry is purely political. The truth is the current and former Home Secretaries Amber Rudd and Theresa May led the campaigners up the garden path. Theresa May’s principal policy adviser Nick Timothy previously argued in favour of an Orgreave Inquiry. The campaigners report that their discussions with the Home Secretaries centred on the form an Inquiry might take. There was no suggestion there would not be an Inquiry.
Amber Rudd argues that, as no-one died and there were no convictions then Orgreave does not merit any Inquiry. These are entirely novel criteria, newly created by this Government. Its immediate predecessor initiated the lengthy Leveson Inquiry whose importance was not diminished by the same absence of deaths and convictions. That there were no convictions arising from Orgreave is simply owing to the fact that the criminal trial against the picketing miners collapsed, some of them charged with riot which could carry a life sentence. This Government objection to an Inquiry is entirely spurious.
What happened at Orgreave was followed by a cover-up of deaths, at Hillsborough. The same police force, South Yorkshire police was led by the same chief constable Peter Wright. It has now been shown that at Hillsborough they withheld information on their own responsibility for the deaths of ninety-six football fans, and hundreds of serious injuries. They organised a smear campaign against the victims and mass produced false witness reports. The key allegation is that this is exactly what happened at Orgreave five years earlier. This is why the trial against the picketing miners collapsed. It is not unreasonable to conclude that by the time the avoidable deaths at Hillsborough occurred, South Yorkshire police chiefs had established a modus operandi at Orgreave which was revived in response to Hillsborough. So widespread is the mistrust that South Yorkshire referred itself to the Independent Police Complaints Commission to investigate the case and the force’s current police chief supports calls for an Inquiry.
The central claim is that Orgreave showed that under Thatcher policing had come a political weapon. Thatcher’s Cabinet was determined to crush the miners’ strike and found a willing instrument in the South Yorkshire force. The miners were seen as a challenge to the Tory government. They were the ‘enemy within’. An Inquiry would establish whether this is the case, and whether members of the Cabinet were responsible for directing political policing, or the cover-up.
This denial of truth and justice cannot stand. The OTJC will not simply go away. Trade unionists, the labour movement, and all those who believe the state should not be above the law will continue this fight. And Labour in Government will grant a full public Inquiry on day one in office.