Nowhere has the selective nature of the Fourth Estate been better highlighted than by the case being submitted to the Criminal Cases Review Commission on behalf of 24 construction workers put on trial in 1973 after the conclusion of a nationwide strike. And the media outlets that are covering the case are mainly doing so because one of those involved is a well known actor and campaigner.
The Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand
That man is Ricky Tomlinson, who was one of two sentenced to a jail term after refusing to plead guilty to charges of “conspiracy to intimidate”. He and Des Warren, who died in 2004, became known as the “Shrewsbury Two”. The case being presented on their behalf will allege political interference at the highest level, which may seem melodramatic until you consider the circumstances.
The building strike took place during the time of the Heath Government, which was plagued by increasing industrial unrest, most notoriously from miners and power workers, but also involving the Royal Mail and many parts of the manufacturing industries. In 1971, the Industrial Relations Act was passed, the motivation being that “something must be done” about that worsening unrest.
Moreover, it had been in the Tories’ 1970 manifesto. But the use of legal sanction, the ultimate manifestation of which was the National Industrial Relations Court, empowered to grant injunctions and prevent strikes, together with requiring Trade Unions to formally register as such, provoked stiff resistance from the TUC. In any case, it did nothing to improve industrial relations.
So it was with that background – not to mention that many construction firms were, and remain, keen Tory supporters – that the building strike took place. The action was pivotal in securing a big pay increase for the workers concerned. The institutionalised use of casual labour was ended. And then, six months after the action ended, came the arrests and trials.
That fact alone should cause anyone looking afresh at the case to pause and consider. And years of research has gone into the defence submission. So one might expect this to be reported across the media – but this has not been the case. Although the BBC in the North West broadcast a report yesterday evening, only the Mirror and Guardian have picked up on it today.
There is nothing in the Mail, Independent or Sun, nor in the Express – despite the paper running the story twice previously, and despite that story having potentially serious political ramifications. Zelo Street will monitor the case and post an update when there is a conclusion to the action.
It’s just a pity that much of the Fourth Estate won’t do the same.