” The Miners’ Strike: 1984, like the summer of the 1926 General Strike, was, in the words of Welsh poet Idris Davies, “A Long Hot Summer.”
140,000 NUM members, including hundreds of women clerical and canteen staff, were having the fight of their lives, to stop the Margaret Thatcher-inspired decimation of their workplaces, towns and villages.
Picketing, especially in the Nottinghamshire pit villages, where a majority stayed at work, was subject to an astonishing and illegal level of state-inspired police control. Miners-and their friends-on public highways on the way to Nottinghamshire pits were stopped,searched, and, if they refused to turn back, arrested.
However, there was one exception to this police roadblock repression.
The huge coking plant at Orgreave near Scunthorpe was working far in excess of the limited capacity agreed between the NUM and unions in the plant. Hundreds of lorries full of Nottinghamshire and imported coal were driving past a small picket. As a result, the NUM ordered a mass picket and put the call out to every coalfield for miners to come over to Orgreave on 18th June.
There were no roadblocks that morning. Miners, when stopped on their journey to Orgreave, were astonished to hear police telling them directions to the coking plant. Every effort, it seemed, was made by the police to get as many pickets there as possible and help the NUM!
Of course, the truth, as we now know, was the opposite: Orgreave on 18th June was a national police anti-NUM operation, under direct government control, to smash all hopes of an NUM victory through the use of the mass picket.
Thousands of police in full riot gear, backed up by scores of horse-mounted men, blocked the way to the plant gates. Hundreds of miners, many stripped to the waist in the heat of the day, held their traditional pushes against the front police lines, many others, waiting their turn, sat or stood around enjoying the sunshine.
Then the police attached: first the riot men, running at unarmed pickets with their truncheons and shields, then a mounted police charge, terrifying, scattering, or injuring at full gallop.
In response to that attack, miners grabbed anything they could find, including sticks and stones, and hurled them at their attackers.
On the evening news, the BBC, “due to an innocent mistake”, reversed the film sequence and had the miners throwing stones first!
3. Barbara Jackson was a young NUM member on strike for the whole of the 1984/5 strike. Barbara was a clerical officer at the National Coal Board Sheffield Regional Office, (COSA Section of the NUM) and was one of only 9 COSA members on strike on that building.
Thirty years on, and, like thousands of other NUM veterans, supporters of the fight of Hillsborough victims’ families to bring the South Yorkshire Police to face justice, Barbara Jackson is a leader of Orgreave veterans to themselves receive some belated justice.
No NUM picket was ever found guilty of any offence at Orgreave.
In 2017, 33 years later, the case for justice, and, initially, a full government-supported public inquiry, is unanswerable:
For example, in June 2015 the Independent Police Complaints Commission report on Orgreave said there was:
” Evidence of excessive violence by police officers, a false narrative from police exaggerating violence by miners, perjury by officers giving evidence to prosecute the arrested men, and an apparent cover-up of that perjury by senior officers.”
Amber Rudd the Home Secretary has flatly refused an inquiry, citing the “fact” that ” No one was killed”!