Home Secretary Amber Rudd - not a description to inspire confidence, nor justify deprecation of her Labour shadow Diane Abbott - had been considering calls from the Orgreave Truth And Justice Campaign for some kind of Inquiry into the events of June 1984, when a stand-off between Police and pickets outside the Orgreave coking plant near Sheffield was swiftly escalated and transformed into a violent conflict.
Amber Rudd - lamentable excuses
This took place before the back-drop of the UK mining strike of 1984-5, where most - but not all - members of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) took strike action over the National Coal Board (NCB) proposals to close as many as 75 pits. The use of mass picketing was a feature of the dispute, as was a Police response that extended to preventing striking miners from travelling to other coalfields to picket.
Despite the strength of the petitioning of Parliament by campaigners, when Ms Rudd stood before the Commons yesterday afternoon, it was to tell “This has been a difficult decision to make, and one which I have thought about very carefully. I have now concluded that there is not a sufficient basis for me to instigate either a statutory inquiry or an independent review”. There were gasps of disbelief and anger from Labour MPs.
The reasoning she gave was less than convincing: “Despite the forceful accounts and arguments provided by the campaigners and former miners who were present that day, about the effect that these events have had on them, ultimately there were no deaths or wrongful convictions”. That does not mean there was no injustice perpetrated, and many of those arrested were deprived of their liberty until after their trials later collapsed.
Ms Rudd blundered on: “The Campaigners say that had the consequences of the events at Orgreave been addressed properly at the time, the tragic events at Hillsborough would never have happened five years later. That is not a conclusion which I believe can be reached with any certainty”. That conclusion cannot be reached because an Inquiry will now not be held. We need the Inquiry to demonstrate the link.
Justice denied - a legacy preserved
Nor does she score ant Brownie points by asserting “there have been very significant changes in the oversight of policing since 1984, at every level, including major reforms to criminal procedure, changes to public order policing and practice, stronger external scrutiny and greater local accountability”. That’s as may be, but is effectively irrelevant. We are talking about what happened at the time, on the day.
So let me put Ms Rudd straight about the events of 18 June 1984, and the wider issues, and why she is plain flat wrong to deny justice to those involved, and their families.
The link between Orgreave and Hillsborough is all too obvious. Both were in the area overseen by South Yorkshire Police (SYP). In both cases, Police statements were effectively specified to those making them. In both case, there was institutional lying, up to the highest level. The charge is that the systematic dishonesty and attempted cover-up perpetrated at Orgreave, and subsequently unchecked, resurfaced after Hillsborough.
There are rights and liberties issues needing addressing. Throughout the miners’ strike, freedom of movement was restricted by several Police forces - including SYP. This Inquiry would have been able to investigate how this decision - clearly made above the level of individual Chief Constables - was made, and who made it.
The conduct of Metropolitan Police officers was frequently controversial. At Orgreave and elsewhere, many officers from the Met were drafted in to reinforce Police numbers. The propensity of those officers to, shall we say, deviate from working by the book caused great concern to their colleagues from provincial forces, especially the tendency to dispense violent and sometimes unprovoked retribution.
Political involvement laid bare
The involvement of the Army was suspected. It was noted by many observers that, at the largest gatherings of Police and pickets, many Police officers did not display any identity markings - their number, for instance, at the time shown on shoulder epaulettes. It was speculated that these were in fact serving soldiers who had been drafted in to augment Police numbers. This, too, was a feature of Orgreave.
The sudden escalation of the Orgreave confrontation has never been explained. At first, the 18 June 1984 stand-off was just that - Police and pickets lined up against one another. This was very quickly escalated by the appearance of officers in riot gear with short shields, and of course mounted Police, also brandishing weapons. Only after this were most arrests of picketing miners, on trumped-up charges, made.
The direct involvement of the Government. Andy Burnham, who has championed the cause of the Orgreave campaigners as he did the Hillsborough families earlier, has revealed that the Home Secretary at the time, Leon Brittan, was “seeking to persuade” Police forces “to increase the rate of prosecutions and to give priority to the most serious cases”. That level of control is by itself disturbing. But there is more.
The Certainty of Margaret Thatcher. After the Orgreave confrontation, Mrs T stated “We had to fight the enemy without in the Falklands. We always have to be aware of the enemy within, which is much more difficult to fight and more dangerous to liberty”. What was her part in the “fight” she described, and specifically the escalation at Orgreave?
So it can be seen that when Burnham responded to Ms Rudd by stating “Given that the IPCC found evidence of perjury and perverting the course of justice, and given that in the last month new evidence has emerged from former police officers who were at Orgreave of orchestrated violence and the mass manufacture of police statements, aren't we right in concluding that the establishment stitch-up that she has just announced today is nothing more than a naked political act?” he was dead right.
When Amber Rudd responded by accusing Burnham of “Politicising” the decision, she had it the wrong way round. It was her decision that will shield the legacy of Margaret Thatcher from the kind of analysis that would lay bare her involvement in the affair. Hers was indeed a naked political act, and the reasons for making the decision are all too clear.
Yesterday was a day of shame not merely for the causes of truth and justice, but for the Tory Party. As ever, the party of the Establishment looks after its own - and their legacy.
Mr Burnham's party was in office from 1997 to 2010, so why didn't they have an inquiry of their own? I like Andy but to see him pontificating in the House yesterday was unbelievable.
Much of the material now available for consideration was not visible to the past Labour Government - think 30 year rule. That's why.
Chapeau - one of your best.
Another reason why St Theresa met Murdoch in the US being the close affiliations between the News International newspapers and various police forces and possible ramifications if the Government came clean?
Yes but there have been questions about and witnesses to Orgreave from the 1980s onwards.
Also the Hillsborough Panel report in 2012 made the parallels between Hillborough and Orgreave,at all levels,much clearer.
@Ann Kelly - Questions and witness statements, yes, but no access to official documents until 2014, when the 30 year rule expired. Labour could have held an inquiry between 1997 and 2010, but it would have been stymied by sealed documents.
Oh dear, I bet there were a few political churnalists hoping an inquiry would feed them cheap copy for the next god knows how many years? And how many activists were depending on a cut from the money go round that passes for a public inquiry? What will they do for the next three years? What will happen to the £xxx million pounds of public money that would have been spent, please don't tell me it will have to be used for something useful instead?
Now we'll never get the chance to not-read the 20 volume report, and will never get to know that all the main people involved are long retired or even dead, and we'll never hear the stories of the people who weren't killed or wrongly convicted, and we'll never get to learn the lessons from studying policies and processes that were long-ago replaced out because we already studied them and identified the flaws. I'm going to have to put the old rope back on the shelf and that makes me mildly annoyed.
You'd think that a government Should hold Murdoch and his big family accountable.
Our current lot still house those who may have affiliations not yet exposed.
A whole New government Would be the answer.
There's UKIP but you only have to see some of them happy to retweet the stuff Staines puts out. He'd Never do it to them. He'd Never corrupt any of them.
So, who else?
Looks like its up to the hugger echelons. Namely the spooks.
Who, of course still remain to be seen to do their job and not serve the likes of those who either run abroad or have no real nationality or identity to UK.
What are they waiting for?
The apparent closing of RT banking was nothing to do with media moguling.
Yet a week or so later Russia kicked off Human Rights council.
Some things can be a well dressed lie and Dont fool some.
The army bit may be a bit stretched, go back another couple of years to the Brixton riots and you'll find reports and photos of Met police removing numbers and badges to avoid future comebacks. Ex-Squaddies with relatively small army pensions are a lot harder to keep quiet than retired police with 30 year pensions.
The complaints from other forces about Met behaviour was legendary. There was one allegation that so much equipment had been stolen from another force sharing barracks with the Met that the Met buses home were stopped and searched on the M1.
There is angle to the non-inquiry which hasn't been considered. Did SYP ask for "mutual aid" and then find that they had let the genie out of the bottle when the Met arrived? Did the Chief Constable find that control had been taken off him in his own county? Whilst it would be a sort of defence it would also be a loss of face and professionally difficult to admit.
@ Anon 12:58
Given the appointment of B list (at best) and formerly disgraced politicians into the current government's cabinet, with the retention of the overpromoted and underperforming hider behind trees, plus the meetings with the Murdoch mafioso at No 10 and in the USA one wonders exactly what hold NewsCorp have over successive British governments including this one?
As for the spooks they missed out on phonehacking on Cabinet Ministers, although Glen Mulcaire is alleged to have had links with them, and the inquiry into child sexual abuse seems to be running into problems. Another area of public life available for use of blackmailers if they so desire but seems to have passed our expert spooks by. The three wise monkeys Brooks defence seems to apply in their case too.
The whole system has been corrupted. One only has to look at who benefits to see who it has been corupted by.
One could surmise that the Tory Party "entryists" that Tim has reported on in previous blogs are not the only organisation that another organisation with cash rich pockets would like to infiltrate. By fair means or foul.
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