Some thirty years ago the British coal miners went on strike.
The miners were a large group of workers admired by the general public for their courage working in dangerous conditions miles underground, their backbreaking hard work in foul gruelling environments, their contribution to our Country in providing a main source of energy, their generosity of spirit, and not least for their wonderful singing as Welsh colliery choirs and indeed in many communities their village brass band contributions to local based society music.
But there was a problem wasn’t there? They were a stroppy powerful lot of b’s, well unionised, who every now and again flexed their muscles, demanding better pay and conditions, and the public generally supported them. The bad old days of the evil private mine owners, who didn’t give a hoot about safety or the welfare of their workers and families, had been finally brought to an end by our national government.
A devious master plan was hatched by Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government to finally bring the miners to heel, to destroy their livelihoods, to neutralise their power, and for once and all to bring defeat to all Union interference across the British workplace. The preparation was detailed, intense, thorough, widespread, and worthy of any military campaign – and indeed that is what it became.
The miners suffered from ignorant, arrogant, and incompetent leadership, so it was relatively easy for the trap to be sprung on an unexpecting unprepared prey. The bait was the further closure of pits, a substantial number indeed, which was designed to be a provocative red rag to a bull and it worked a treat; as everyone knows, in a bullfight the bull always gets killed at the end, however courageous, however strong, however good a fight it puts up, doesn’t it? So that’s exactly what happened to the miners when they lost the fight miserably, benefits stopped so they with their children starved into submission, and the Tories end game was eventually achieved – all the pits closed, the mining communities annihilated, anti-Union legislation enacted, and UK Union power dissipated forever. That’s what you call a successful result eh?
However, this wasn’t achieved by fair means was it? No, there was a massive abuse of power and due process that emulates the worse oppressive regimes, dictators, and counties around the world. Places that blatantly and openly abuse human rights, opponents, and the rule of law.
In supposedly civilised Britain, we experienced then the widespread misuse of government resources, the legal process, the courts, the civil service, the armed forces, and most disgustingly of all the police – the body setup to protect our citizens and keep them safe, but instead turned into a violent powerful tool, an arm of oppression, and indeed a set of violent thugs evidently acting in cahoots with the Thatcher government of the day
Probably the most glaring case against the police concerns their claimed illegal behaviours in a violent clash with the miners in what has become known as the Battle of Orgreave (near Rotherham, Yorkshire). It happened thirty-one years ago today (18th June) and there still has been no official investigation into the police violence, alleged corruption, and generation of false statements, despite campaigns and senior level criticism of the complaints authority’s dogged feet dragging which has taken nearly three years, failed to timely or visibly investigate, and has just now cynically concluded that it was all too late and that they didn’t have the capability either! No surprise there then to any of us wating?
Miners were corralled (kettled in modern terms) by the police in a field, and it is said they were unprovokedly attacked. It is claimed officers had not only used excessive force, but then trumped-up criminal charges, and gave false evidence in court – as indicated by the fact that the trial collapsed after a lengthy sixteen weeks when it became clear police evidence was ‘unreliable’. Lawsuits were subsequently brought against South Yorkshire police for assault, unlawful arrest and malicious prosecution; and the force subsequently paid nearly forty miners some half a million pounds total compensation.
We saw from the same Yorkshire police’s successful quarter decade cover-up of their foul-up in causing the Hillsborough football disaster (96 fans dead 766 injured) the difficulty in outing the truth, despite a number of so called Official Reports that exonerated the guilty. That dreadful incident came only five years after Orgreave, whence apparently some Liverpool officers claimed they had witnessed a riot there when actually they had never left Merseyside!
Oh yes, the Orgreave campaigners will without doubt continue their long never-ending struggle to have the police’s confrontation and their aftermath behaviour properly investigated – they know moreover that only a Hillsborough-style public inquiry can eventually get to the truth. It has taken a similar amount of time on Hillsborough, but the families pushing for that though had the deaths of their loved ones as a powerful driver and force to be reckoned-with against the Establishment – it will be easier for the powers-that-be to dismiss the miners, won’t it?
No, what is really required now is a full public enquiry into the whole miners’ strike of 1984, including Government manipulations, state oppression, misuse of machinery of power, abuse of resources, loss forever of an innate national energy source, police misconduct, and of course possible Union exercised irresponsibility (not just Police involvement). Undoubtedly, this strike has left a profound legacy for our society as well as industrial relations in Britain, and surely the public have a right to know exactly what went on and who acted immorally or illegally?. It is a disgrace that the Labour Party in all their years in power and all the opportunity, have consistently let the miners and the Country down – and the Unions can also hold their heads in shame to boot, cant they?
[Nothing will be done though, as we are all a gutless bunch in the twenty-first century, so no one will dare challenge the Establishment anymore over past misdemeanours – all for a quiet life, eh?]