Within the last hour or so, Home Secretary Amber Rudd has created outrage by refusing to allow a public inquiry into the police assault on striking miners commonly known as the Battle of Orgreave.
Ms Rudd’s stated reasons for the refusal are wafer-thin:
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…
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
As if the mere fact that nobody died or was imprisoned means that an attack in which police have admitted they were told to use maximum violence, and following which they concocted co-ordinated statements in an attempt to shift the blame by convicting striking miners of riot, should not be exposed to public scrutiny.
Rudd also denied similarities with Hillsborough and MPs such as Andy Burnham, who campaigned diligently for justice for the Hillsborough victims and their families, has publicly expressed outrage at Rudd’s dismissal of the comparison.
But he’s missing the point and Rudd is being deliberately disingenuous. (Though Dave Anderson nailed it in his comments to BBC News outside Westminster)
The Orgreave scandal, at its heart, is not a scandal into a criminal police force, even though the same force was involved in both Orgreave and Hillsborough.
It is a scandal that exposes the black heart of the Tory party going back decades and continuing right through to the present, which they and their backers have spent billions of pounds hiding.
And that is why Rudd and her party had no intention of allowing public scrutiny.
The key to the matter goes back even before the unmissed Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister, to a policy paper on nationalised industries that was prepared by Nicholas Ridley for the Tories in 1977, two years before Thatcher’s election victory.
In this paper, which talks frankly of strategies, tactics and deliberate fragmentation to achieve the Tories’ goal of putting the UK’s industries into private hands, the Tories’ arrogance and contempt for working people is as plain as day. Ridley refers to miners as a ‘mob’.
The bandits-in-waiting also talk openly (to each other, this paper was restricted at the time) of starving strikers and breaking unions by cutting off strikers from funding and forcing unions to deplete their funds to support them.
And, most pertinently, 2 years before they were in power (can you say ‘entitled’?), the Tories were planning to use the nation’s police force as a weapon against any who dared to resist their determination to put the nation’s treasure into private pockets.
On the penultimate and final pages of the report, Ridley talks of creating ‘mobile police squads’ in readiness for what he had already termed a ‘battle’ to force through their plans – and for preparing teams of non-union drivers in advance who could breach picket lines under police protection:
The police were not in any sense ‘rogue’. They were acting under instructions that were already in preparation fully 7 years before the Battle of Orgreave. The police were simply a weapon in the hands of the real culprits: self-entitled Tories who felt no compunction whatever about using the police and other state apparatus against ordinary citizens simply trying to defend their livelihoods and the communities that depended on them from the predations of arrogant politicians in the pockets of private interests.
But all that was over 30 years ago. The majority of the miscreants are dead and beyond the reach of justice or inquiry.
Simple: because they’ve never stopped doing what they were doing then.
The assault on the miners was just phase one in a battle that Ridley’s paper laid out years in advance. The means have evolved but the aims have not – and an inquiry into Orgreave would lay bare all the arrogance, venality and cynical plans to mislead about their real motives and intentions that the Tory party has worked so hard to obscure.
The rest of the paper talks about other targets for privatisation:
- transport of various types
- nuclear power
- car manufacture
The Tories carried out their plans assiduously. All of these – even those the paper considers so hard as to be almost impossible – have been handed to private capital, enriching those behind it even further at the expense of the wealth of all of us.
And, after just a few years of government, the Tories were already talking about the greatest prize of all: the NHS.
In a 1982 Cabinet paper, the Tories talked – frankly and shamelessly, among themselves at least – of the dismantling of the NHS.
That paper – it and the 1977 document are provided in full at the end of this article – was a step too far and Mrs Thatcher canned plans because she sensed that the British public could not be fooled into acquiescence.
Thatcher – who had no qualms at all about sending mounted police charging into a crowd of people under orders to do maximum violence – considered the NHS a step too far at that time.
But her political descendants are more ambitious. The attack on the NHS – no less violent in its way than the Orgreave assault – was being planned even before the Tories came to power in 2010 on a promise that the NHS was ‘safe in our hands’.
And it has been underway since the moment they took power, with formal plans of action drawn up by consultants within months of the 2010 General Election.
It has consisted of chronic underfunding disguised by lies, of pay freezes and understaffing to brutalise NHS staff and of a relentless campaign in the right-wing media to chip away at the public’s affection and esteem for our National Health Service.
The 2010 consultants’ reports recommended closure of A&E departments, reductions in funding and staffing, rationing of services, greater involvement or private companies and the introduction of charging. All of these are underway or under discussion and a huge wave of A&E closures is expected to start within months.
Amber Rudd is not denying a public inquiry into events and actions at Orgreave because she’s worried that South Yorkshire Police will be shown to have been corrupt and too in thrall to the Tory party. That’s already well established by the findings of the Hillsborough inquiry.
But Hillsborough was a cover-up of a finished tragedy. A public inquiry into Orgreave will expose a tragedy that is still unfolding – or rather, being deliberately imposed.
As far as the Tories are concerned, the ‘disinfectant of sunlight’ can’t be allowed anywhere near Orgreave – not until the job is done.
And those who have been denied justice for themselves and their relatives today are not the only victims.
Every ordinary person is a victim of the robbery-writ-large that is still ongoing, of which Orgreave was the opening salvo. That’s why there should be no surprise at all that Rudd and May have today refused the inquiry.
Much outrage. Much communication and planning. Much action. But no surprise.
Ridley’s 1977 denationalisation report: fabea1f4bfa64cb398dfa20d8b8b6c98
1982 Cabinet report recommending the end of the NHS: cab-129-215-6