Justice for the Shrewsbury 24

Ian Ilett reports from Labour Party Conference on a potential breakthrough in the Shrewsbury 24 campaign.

Forty years on, the Shrewsbury 24 Campaign continues the fight to overturn the convictions of building workers charged under the 1875 Conspiracy Act. Access to government documents of the time has made it increasingly clear that the only conspiracy was by government and state. An application has been made to refer the case to the Court of Appeal.

Tom Watson MP, who played the leading parliamentary role in exposing phone hacking and incurred the wrath of the Murdoch empire said at Labour Party Conference, “These were ordinary trade unionists fighting for their rights in an industry which was out of control. Three building workers were losing their lives every week because of the state of health and safety on sites. Big business was thick as thieves with the Tory Party and a great injustice was done.”

Speaking at the campaign’s fringe meeting he said that when first entering Parliament a decade ago, he would have denounced as a conspiracy nut anybody who suggested a media empire could be involved in corrupting journalists, police and politicians. It was quite a political journey that brought him to share, for the first time, a platform with John McDonnell – but John had always been ahead of him. He added he was now reading the paperwork and was committed to supporting the campaign.

John McDonnell MP linked the experience of the Shrewsbury pickets to recent exposures of blacklisting and the current battle against victimisation of trade unionists at Crossrail. He argued this was not just a historical miscarriage of justice but a campaign with vital lessons for the present.

Actor Ricky Tomlinson talked movingly about his sectarian, working class upbringing, the journey which took him through the 1972 strike and the lies and deceptions of the criminal justice system involved in his and Des Warren’s imprisonment. Emotionally he told how Warren’s health was destroyed in prison, leading to a split in their relationship and eventually to Warren’s death, while he had been lucky to go on to have a successful career.

Terry Renshaw, the youngest of the 24 pickets arrested, was on the UCATT delegation. Speaking in Conference he called for Labour to support the campaign to right this miscarriage of justice.

Put pressure on your MP to support John McDonnell’s Early Day Motion calling for the release of government documents relating to the strike that have been withheld despite the thirty year rule. Go to http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2012-13/170

Ricky Tomlinson has created a Downing Street petition for the same purpose. Please sign and publicise this to encourage signatures – 100,000 will trigger a parliamentary debate. This is at http://epetitions.gov.uk/petitions/35394

Contact the campaign through its website at http://www.shrewsbury24campaign.org.uk

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