I’ve had the privilege over the last couple of days of interviewing an eyewitness who had a ‘ringside seat’ for the infamous ‘Battle of Orgreave’.
This witness, who was not a miner, has shed light on events there that many readers may not be aware of and has underscored key facts about the real reasons for Home Secretary Amber Rudd’s decision on Monday not to allow a public inquiry into events at Orgreave.
The media are glossing over these facts and even most of the rightly-outraged politicians decrying Rudd’s decision are tending to fall into the trap of focusing on the behaviour of South Yorkshire police – when in fact the core of the matter is the arrogance and unaccountability of the Tory party about its readiness to co-opt the apparatus of the State for political ends. A readiness that extends even to illegality.
Read on to find out more. The witness prefers to remain anonymous ‘for the moment’, so he will be ‘X’ in the conversation that follows, while the SKWAWKBOX will be ‘S’ and for ease of reading, his portions are in brown text:
S: Thank you for taking the time to tell us what you witnessed at Orgreave that day in June 1984. You’re an HGV driver, not a miner – how did you come to be there?
X: I was supposed to be delivering some machinery to the colliery or rather I was supposed to go to a workshop nearby for the machine to be commissioned which I actually did. I was a TGWU member and there was never a chance in hell that I would have crossed the picket line, but the location of the workshop meant I didn’t have to.
The situation when I arrived was not as bad as we were led to believe. I was actually working as a bus driver at the time but was on holiday. I had an HGV licence so I used it.
S: So if you weren’t going to the picket line itself, how did you come to be there to see the events?
X: I made the delivery but I was not allowed to back the way I came. I parked up a little way down and joined others on a hill to watch what was going on. When I got there things were just about to kick off, although I didn’t know it at the time.
S: What did you expect to find when you got there?
X: I expected a picket line, men waving placards and all that. Not the army of police that I saw supervising the area.
S: On Monday when Amber Rudd’s decision was announced, Tory MPs stood to describe the striking miners as ‘yobs’, guilty of ‘bullying and intimidation’, as if it was the miners who instigated the violence – as many newspapers at the time claimed. Is that true?
X: Absolutely, categorically not. The police started the trouble and had come well armed – there were too many of them, equipped for battle, not just for policing a demonstration.
I noticed police waving papers at the miners but I and the others had no idea at the time what that was about at that moment. We now know they were waving payslips showing the overtime payments they were getting, to taunt the miners who were only scraping by on union support, but at the time we didn’t know what it was about.
S: Taunting and being prepared are one thing, but you’re saying the police initiated the aggression, too?
X: The miners were standing about, with nothing much really going on. Then police – or what was supposed to be police – rushed in on foot. They split the crowd of miners in two and then the police horses charged while other police continued the attack until the miners regrouped and repelled an attack from ‘police’ who did not have numbers on their shoulders, this was noticed and photographed by I suspect a reporter.
S: How did the miners react?
X: A few of the young lads picked up stones and threw them and some ran to try to help their mates who were getting a kicking, but the majority just turned and tried to get away from the charge.
S: You mentioned that other picketers who had arrived were kept surrounded and away from the main group, even before things had begun – what we’d call ‘kettling’ these days, which many would say shows they knew in advance what they’d be doing.
X: Yes. There were several coaches and minibuses lined up at the side of the road surrounded by police. The coaches were full of people with placards etc. You don’t bring placards to a fight, they just wanted to protest, but there was no way the police were going to let them swell the numbers.
S: You’ve also mentioned that a lot of the police – or not-police, as we’ll discuss in more detail in a moment – were armed with a lot more than standard-issue police gear.
X: Yes. The police with badge numbers had truncheons and the ones on horses had longer sticks. But I also saw a lot of police with no numbers on their uniforms, these were very aggressive and had metal pipes and rods, knuckle-dusters, that kind of thing. They were the first wave to go in to break up the crowd.
S: Pipes and knuckle-dusters?
X: Those without numbers on their shoulders were the main aggressors and as they ran in they were pulling pipes out of their sleeves. They were extremely well organised and disciplined and they went in first. The rest of the properly-identified police came in behind bent over like the TV Pictures showed later.
S: What about the mounted police?
X: Some of those were riding military horses.
S: Military? How do you know?
X: I’ve got mates who used to be in the military. Cavalry horses get tattooed on their rear right foot and I saw horses with those tattoos. Police horses don’t get them.
S: I don’t think you’d have military horses ridden by other than their usual, trained riders. There have long been rumours that the military were involved during the miners’ strike and Margaret Thatcher is now known to have been ‘prepared‘ to bring in the army to ensure government victory. So you believe she did more than ‘prepare’?
X: Yes, there were soldiers there that day.
S: How long were you there at the scene?
X: I was there about one and a half hours. Long enough.
S: Did you see any of the TV and press coverage afterwards?
X: I did. I was shocked to see the BBC news bulletins making it look like the miners attacked the police first, which simply did not happen in the way it was portrayed. It was a fit-up.
S: How did you feel as you watched events unfold and the coverage afterward?
X: I remember feeling very angry at the police, and at the working people who turned their backs on the miners in their hour of need. It was made out that the mines were exhausted and no longer economic, but Bickershaw, for example, had just spent a lot of money on sinking a new shaft and not long after the cables were cut and the shaft was back filled. I used to collect imported coal from Hull Docks take it to Liverpool drop it on the floor Weigh off, then reload the same coal and collect the delivery note, which was now stamped British Coal.
I went to Glasson dock some weeks later and was met by a picket line at which I stopped and turned around much to the disgust of the police. I was sickened more by the attitude of working people towards the miners and the bragging about how many hauliers started their business during the miners strike. the authorities looked the other way at the state of some of the wagons. It was obvious that Thatcher was determined to beat the miners, then she moved onto others. For Thatcher it was all about divide and rule – break the miners and set the pattern, so she could destroy all the other nationalised industries.
They charged some of those miners with riot, which could have seen them go to prison for life – when they were the ones attacked. Fortunately, the charges were thrown out but it shows how determined they were not just to win that battle but to blacken the name of anyone who tried to resist them.
S: Thank you for your time, ‘X’, I really appreciate your willingness to come forward and share what you saw.
X: My pleasure. If we don’t understand what they were up to then, we can’t understand what they’re doing now properly. Young people, especially, need to know what was going on and how low they’ll go.
It’s already known that the Tories were planning to use the police as essentially a private strike-breaking force in order to break up and privatise the nationalised industries long before Margaret Thatcher became PM.
That in itself is damning enough that Rudd and Theresa May would risk the contempt of MPs and public in order prevent an inquiry that would undoubtedly shine a bright light on that fact – especially since the ‘job’ is not finished until the Tories have completed the demise of the NHS.
Police officers have admitted that they were told to ‘use as much force as possible’ against the striking miners, which is hideously shameful. But if it is true that Thatcher’s government used troops masquerading as police officers against British citizens, on British soil, for party-political aims, the Tories very likely crossed the line into outright illegality.
If that’s the case, then Amber Rudd never had any intention of even giving serious consideration to the appeal for a public, independent inquiry. and the whole thing was a deeply cynical charade to cover vile acts.
Which is not exactly out of character for the Tories.
Either way, those claiming that Rudd denied an inquiry because she doesn’t want out-of-control police to be exposed are missing the point. They – and quite likely troops dressed as police – were not out of control. They were doing exactly as they were told, for a Tory plan that had been hatched at least 7 years earlier.
If you have further information that may be pertinent, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or place a note in the comments and I’ll be in touch.