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.