Growing up under a Thatcher government on a council estate, living two miles from Orgreave; the daughter of a Steel worker and grand-daughter of a Liverpool Docker, was always going to determine my politics. But as a teenager at the time of the Miner’s Strike, I couldn’t have foreseen how the outcome or the words of Arthur Scargill, who predicted what would happen next if Thatcher got her way, would really impact on my class.
Aspects of the states orchestrated attack on the Miners’, at that time were unprecedented and part of the start of a change in our way of living since the Tories were elected in 1979, meaning we saw the further decline and attacks on other industries for years to come. All propped up by a brutal Police force and scathing media, which is still with us today.
The result of a Tory Government getting away with attacking Britain’s workforce, would mean that in time our rights would be eroded into what we now have; zero-hour contracts and insecure work – whole industrial landscapes flattened and those spaces now taken up, with contact centres or retail parks with little or no union organisation. All this was to uphold the Thatcher rhetoric that “there’s no such thing as society” and the Tory thirst to smash our class.
That history and how I’ve seen a toll taken on my home city of Sheffield, with its proud industrial heritage, now the low pay capital of the UK – is why I believe the Orgreave injustice; the 95 miners that were arrested, on trumped up charges, of unlawful assembly and riot that day, was the green light for further hardening of Tory policies. Policies that would strip us of even more job security and cause a breakdown of our communities.
The events of 18th June 1984 were a pivotal point in the year long strike. Police violence was common place in mining villages before that date, including at the Orgreave coke plant. However the scale in police numbers and the precision military organisation of the 13 police forces present on that day was unprecedented. The state directed a police rout against workers. People sustained serious, life changing physical and emotional injuries that they and their families still live with. My dad experienced the same Tory attitude as a striking steel worker in Sheffield. But not this scale of organised violence. This was a Tory government sending out a message that the voice and solidarity of workers, however strong and loud, could be crushed. The mainstream press and broadcast media did not hold the government to account about that day. In fact they were willing to help bolster the Thatcher government’s narrative that miners were “thugs” and police were “upholders of the peace”.
After 18th June 1984 the state directed policing of the miners’ strike did not dispel. It got worse. The mass violence at Orgreave was displaced into occupation of many villages across the country’s mining communities and police roadblocks restricting freedom of movement. At the time this got little or no national media reporting.
The “Ridley Plan”, the Tories’ 1970s plan to destroy the trade union movement and the voice of workers back then is utilised as a blueprint today. If you attack the state you are a dangerous enemy. Johnson and Trump are benefitting from the spoils of their likeminded predecessors and manipulating the same narrative again. School staff, hospitality, construction and transport workers asking to be safe at work in the midst of the Covid-19 virus are vilified. People rightly appalled by the brutal killing of George Floyd who choose to protest are being labelled as state aggressors, even terrorists, because they stand up to inherent prejudices.
Supporting the fight for truth and justice is international. In 1984-85 it brought together people to shout out in solidarity against oppression. We need to remember and take inspiration from this.
So, supporting the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign is so important to me. I’ve lived the effects of a Government determined to smash industries and working class communities. Hearing from some of the Miner’s involved, at that time, and how raw it still is for so many of them today, is heart-breaking, but makes me more determined to support their fight for a public inquiry into the police riot at Orgreave on 18th June 1984.
This year’s Annual Orgreave Rally, due to the Covid-19 restrictions, will be conducted as a virtual online rally at 1pm on Saturday 20th June 2020. We have a fantastic line up of speakers, so please make sure you join us.
After 36 years we have to support the Miner’s struggle for justice, just as we will have to fight many other working class injustices – the Tories’ hostile environment – the Windrush and Grenfell Scandals are testament to that. Those families shouldn’t have to wait so long for justice, against a malevolent system, set up to disadvantage people, just because of their race or class.
We will get justice if we fight for it. Never forget, never forgive! Solidarity.