No truth and justice as decision on Orgreave investigation stays secret

This article originally appeared in Left Futures.

I have written to the chair of the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) requesting an explanation of the continuing delays in determining how they will proceed in the investigation of the events at Orgreave during the miners’ strike, 30 years ago. The miners that were there, their families, campaigners and the local communities are not primarily pushing for compensation for what happened, or even an apology. They simply want the truth.

Last week the Wakefield Express newspaper reported that the IPCC had made a decision as to whether there will be a full investigation into what happened at Orgreave in 1984. However, this decision has been kept secret.

I am troubled, as indeed many people are, about the IPCC’s position. That is why I have written to them for clarification. We need to know why the decision hasn’t been made public. After all, the police force concerned – the South Yorkshire Police – are already under investigation for their involvement in the Hillsborough disaster.

No matter what the reasons, this further delay is grounds for serious concern and frustration.

Some people – mainly members of the Tory party – have challenged me on why we keep going on about what happened in the Miners’ strike, including at Orgeave. It was 30 years ago after all. And of course, the most pressing issue facing the former coalfield communities is the ongoing need for regeneration, a task which Labour in office started but which the Conservatives and Lib Dems have failed to pursue.

But the scars still run deep. The full might of government was used to decimate entire communities and wage a war on the miners. The government lied. We know that they deceived the House of Commons and the wider public about the way in which the dispute was handled. We know it because recently published secret papers have revealed the truth.

And even now the former coalfield communities still haven’t recovered from what Mrs Thatcher did to them.

These mining communities were not just a couple of small towns comprising of a few thousand people. Five million people live in areas which were affected, from Kent through the Midlands, to Wales, Yorkshire, the North and to Scotland.

The Thatcher legacy, continued by the Tory government today, in areas such as the constituency I have represented for the past twenty years is one of deprivation, lack of investment, poor health and unemployment. This has only been intensified by David Cameron’s government.

Bigger even than the impact on coalfield communities, the Thatcher government changed our country fundamentally, and not for the better. The events in the miners’ strike were a key turning point in bringing about those changes.

There are women in my constituency today who worked in the soup kitchens in the Miners’ Strike and now they are back, this time in food banks.

This is why the injustices at Orgeave and in the miners’ strike as a whole are still so relevant today.

Now that the IPCC has come to a decision there is no reason why progress on Orgreave cannot be made. If the IPCC can’t or won’t undertake a proper investigation, then Labour has said the Government should consider initiating a swift, independent review along the lines of the Ellison Review.

Barbara Jackson, Secretary of the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign said, “the campaign is still pushing for a full public enquiry.  We are grateful for Jon’s support and deep understanding of the issues involved and want to work with him to achieve what the majority of miners say they want, transparency, accountability and justice.”

We also wish to see that all information about government-police communications during the strike and especially at Orgreave made public.

Beyond the specific issues surrounding Orgreave, Labour acknowledges the economic legacy of the pit closure programme in coalfield communities across the UK and backs continued regeneration and much needed support for coalfield communities as part of a wider programme to boost growth in Britain’s regions.

Oblong Cinema

Next screening will be on Thursday May 14th as apparently there is some sort of election or something on the first Thursday of May.

But May 14th will be a special screening as we will be doing our bit to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the miners strike by showing two documentary films by Judi Alston – ‘Bands & Banners’ from 1992 and her latest film ‘With Banners Held High’.
Also a short poetry film about miners by Steven Corton, ‘Proud of my Dad I am’.

There will also be a fundraising stall for the Orgreave Truth & Justice campaign.

Police watchdog accused of gagging order

From Big Issue in the North magazine. Please buy a copy if you see a seller.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission should publish its completed report into the policing of events at Orgreave during the Miners’ Strike in 1984, says South Yorkshire’s police and crime commissioner.

Alan Billings’ call for publication comes after the IPCC offered interested parties the chance to examine the report but only if they were bound by strict terms of confidentiality.

The Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign (OTJC) and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) are campaigning for a public inquiry into Orgreave, which occurred in the middle of the year-long national strike by over 100,000 miners.

Losing control

Ninety-five miners were charged with riot and assembly when 4,500 police, many in riot gear, clashed with 8,000 striking miners at the Orgreave coking works. All charges were dropped in 1985 due to the unreliability of police evidence. Compensation was paid to some pickets in out-of- court settlements. But no police officers were disciplined or charged for their actions, which left many miners injured.

The events of Orgreave came under the spotlight once more after Liverpool football fans established in 2012 that the deaths of 96 supporters at Hillsborough in April 1989 were caused by the police losing control of events. In the aftermath, South Yorkshire Police (SYP) referred itself to the IPCC.

When the press pointed out the same force had been in charge of operations at Orgreave SYP referred itself once more to the IPCC over events there. The police watchdog’s report contains its decision on whether or not to conduct a full investigation.

Campaigners expected a decision earlier this year but the IPCC said it was “awaiting the result of our consultation with our Hillsborough investigation team and legal advice from our barrister before we can proceed further”.

‘Unhappy’

Billings, South Yorkshire’s police and crime commissioner, said he was concerned about the delay. “The IPCC should publish. The former miners have been waiting too long. South Yorkshire needs closure,” he said.

Chris Kitchen, NUM general secretary, said: “The IPCC took over two years to investigate and having finally made a decision it can’t say what it is or even when it will publicly announce what it is. That’s wrong.”

The IPCC has offered to allow the OTJC and NUM to read the decision. The latter has sent its legal representative to do so but Kitchen, who has not been informed of the decision, is “unhappy that it can’t be shared with all those that are concerned about justice”.

The OTJC has refused the IPCC’s offer. In a statement it said the conditions are “effectively a gagging order where a small number of our members would obtain information they cannot discuss with other members and more widely with the many other people who support our work”.

It added: “OTJC strongly condemns this situation and reiterates its demand for a full public inquiry into police actions at Orgreave in June 1984.”

Durham Miners’ Banners On Display in Central London

A Packed Programme of Activity on the Miners’ Strike.

Four floors of an underground car park in the centre of London will be the dramatic setting for 50 of the Durham Miners’ Association banners. The venue is Leicester Square Car Park, 39-41 Whitcomb St, London WC2H 7DT.

The banners will be on display from 18 June (the 31st anniversary of the infamous display of police brutality at the battle of Orgreave) through to the 4 July. The banners will be on one floor. On another a dramatic art exhibition on the theme of the miners’ strike, Ashes and
Diamonds, will be on display.

Another floor will have videos projecting onto the walls of the car park. On the fourth floor will be a bar run by the Workers’ Beer Company, exhibitions and a series of talks, debates and films on the miners’ strike.

The event is free and is being organised by the Durham Miners’ Association with the support of a number of unions, including Unite and the GMB.  Watch out for further details about the programme of events or go to www.durhamminers.org.

IPCC Conditions on access to its Orgreave report effectively a ‘gagging order’

The Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign (OTJC) believes the police watchdog, the IPCC, has put the organisation in an impossible position as a result of its recent decision on access to its report on policing at Orgreave in June 1984. At its monthly meeting on Tuesday 14 April it agreed this statement.

IPCC  Conditions on access to its Orgreave report effectively a ‘gagging order’
The IPCC report setting out its decision on whether there should be an investigation into the policing at Orgreave on 18 June 1984 was completed earlier this year.
However the IPCC has decided that access to the report, and the documents providing the rationale for the decision, should be severely limited, and the people who read it bound by strict terms of confidentiality. Some interested parties, and an individual complainant, have read the decision and rationale documents and complied with the IPCC conditions.
For the OTJC this would have meant that a small number of its members would have access to information but effectively they would have signed a ‘gagging order’ preventing them discussing it with other interested OTJC members and more widely.
The OTJC has therefore decided not to comply with these onerous conditions.
The OTJC strongly condemns this situation and reiterates its demand for a full transparent public inquiry into police actions at Orgreave in June 1984.
In addition the IPCC decision means that not only OTJC members but the media and the wider public will be also kept in the dark. As a strong Yorkshire Post editorial (13/04/15) commented: “Given that it is difficult to think of a more serious possible misconduct by police officers…it is inconceivable that this approach should be taken.”

 

How mining communities inspired Paul Heaton

Paul Heaton, former singer in the Housemartins and the Beautiful South, tells how the Miners’ Strike influenced him.

The Miners’ Strike taught me a lot about politics, about class and solidarity. The people at Hatfield Main, the men and the women on the picket line, inspired me. I took their politics and took their dignity with me wherever I went.

Read more on page 4 of Hope Not Hate here: Rotherham-TABLOID-2015-04

With Banners Held High (2015)

With Banners Held High is a short documentary film (31 minutes) that celebrates the resilience and humour of miners and women who went through the 1984/5 Miners’ Strike.

The yearlong strike was one of the most defining industrial actions in recent history. A Conservative government who labelled the miners ‘the enemy within’ planned to undermine the trade union movement and cripple an industry, decimating not only the collieries but the whole infrastructure and culture of mining communities.

The solidarity of striking miners and the emergence of a new feminist movement ‘Women Against Pit Closures’ inspired a humour and camaraderie which is apparent still today. This strength of spirit and resilience now forms an important place in the living heritage of mining communities some 30 years after the Strike.

In a series of personal interviews with ordinary people from the Strike and with the use of music, photographs, and archive material, With Banners Held High is an insightful, moving film that brings the experience of the Strike into perspective 30 years on.

You can buy the film price £12.50 inc P&P from the Campaign for Press & Broadcasting Freedom at www.cpbf.org.uk/withbannersheldhigh or by cheque made out to ‘CPBF’ from CPBF 29 Orford Road London E17
9NL.

Also, this is the piece just published in the latest issue of Cold Type, on With Banners Held High.

The Davy Jones and Joe Green Lecture

The Davy Jones, Joe Green Lecture on Saturday (14 March) at the NUM Headquarters in Barnsley. Another excellent event in commemoration of the 30th Anniversary of the Miners Strike.