Granville Williams, of the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom reports.
ON JANUARY 29, at the end of a month which saw the Cabinet papers on the miners’ strike released, Justice for the Coalfields was launched by Barnsley East MP Michael Dugher, Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office “to begin to put right the wrongs with coalfield communities”.
The campaign is well-timed, as we approach the 30th anniversary of the yearlong 1984-85 miners’ strike.
Contained in the newly released papers is evidence that despite the Thatcher Government’s secret plan to close 75 pits with the loss of 65,000 jobs; the Government and the awful NCB chairman, Ian MacGregor, persistently lied to the media.
In the papers there is also clear evidence of collusion between the Government and police, particularly over the use of tactics to escalate the dispute. At one stage the Government even considered declaring a state of emergency and deploying the army to defeat the miners.
“Ministers may want to sweep these events under the carpet, but the scars of the dispute and the subsequent closure programme remain in the memories, communities and landscapes of all coalfield communities,” Michael Dugher said.
The Justice for the Coalfields campaign is asking the Government to do three things: a formal apology for the lies by the then Government and its plans about pit closures; publication of all the details of the links between the Government and police at the time; and a proper investigation into the events at Orgreave in June 1984 and the prosecution of miners afterwards.
This initiative will also be a powerful boost to the work of the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign (OJTC) which in just over a year has gone from an idea to being a very well organised, high-profile national campaign. Ten people met in Sheffield in November 2012 to discuss what could be done after the revelations in a regional BBC TV programme Inside Out that the South Yorkshire police (SYP) had colluded to fabricate their statements. Barbara Jackson, OJTC secretary, remembers, “I had no idea at that stage what the campaign might do…I thought we might have a demonstration outside the police headquarters in Sheffield.”
Joe Rollin, a Unite Community co-ordinator in Barnsley and a key member of OJTC, says, “I’ve been to numerous meetings over the years but the difference between that first OTJC meeting and ones I normally get invited to is that everyone took a task away from that meeting and within a week all the tasks had been done. So I realised that this group meant business and wasn’t just a talking shop. The last 12 or 13 months have proved that.”
After the Inside Out programme on Orgreave the SYP self-referred the case to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC). Since then this has been one focus of the OJTC’s work. Progress by the IPCC has, however, been painfully slow so in November 2013 a protest demonstration was held outside the IPCC offices in Wakefield, West Yorkshire. It had an impact with extensive media coverage, a meeting with the IPCC by a delegation, and an apology for the slow pace of progress by the IPCC commissioner, Cindy Butts.
2014 will be a crucial year for both OTJC and the Justice for the Coalfields campaign as media coverage focuses on the huge amount of activity associated with the 30th anniversary of the miners’ strike. On June 14 the OJTC is organising what promises to be a stunning Orgreave picnic and in July 2014 another batch of Cabinet papers will be released. This issue will not fade away. » The OTJC can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org » Granville Williams edited Shafted: The Media, the Miners’ Strike and the Aftermath for the 25th anniversary of the strike and is a founder member of the OJTC.