Tuesday, 1 November 2016
Orgreave: Proof That Labour is Stuck in the 80s
You would think, wouldn't you, judging from the apoplectic fury that Labour MPs directed at the Home Secretary yesterday, that the events of June 18, 1984 at Orgreave were some kind of massacre, a terrorist outrage or some such. It wasn't. It wasn't even just a strike. In fact it was an illegal gathering of several thousand miners intent on preventing people from going about their legal business. The only reason that the police were there in such numbers was to prevent miners from breaking the law and interfering with things that had nothing to do with them. They wanted it to have something to do with them of course, but the law of the land said that it didn't. Parliament had outlawed secondary picketing meaning that you could not picket - bully and forcibly coerce in other words - the employees and suppliers of businesses other than your own. The miners were furious about this and so did it anyway.
The anger of the likes of Andy Burnham in particular was entirely confected. Backing miners is a kind of rite of passage if you are a Labour politician. It's one of those things you have to say, a bit like when American politicians have to pretend that they believe in God. Labour MPs therefore felt the need to be angry about this yesterday. In truth Mr Burnham, who has probably never got his hands dirty in his life, overdid it yesterday. He may be in line for some kind of over acting award.
Labour MPs tend not to mention some of the inconvenient facts of the miners strike. Facts like Arthur Scargill's refusal to call a national ballot for strike action for fear of losing it. Facts like the Labour Party's refusal to back the strike as a consequence. Modern day MPs who claim to be fully supportive of that strike are doing more than their contemporaries at the time did. The Labour Party of Neil Kinnock preferred not to talk about it. It was all rather awkward.
The miners strike is one of those episodes in our history that is now being rewritten. They've been doing it for years. They makes films showing those doughty working class folk just standing up for their jobs and their communities, films like Billy Elliott and the execrable Brassed Off. What they don't mention is that the reason pits were being closed was that they were uneconomic: they were losing money. The miners strike was Scargill telling the country that he wanted pits kept open in perpetuity paid for by taxpayers money, no matter how absurd the cost and how little viable coal was left. They tend not to mention that.
What lefties hate about the miners strike is that they lost. They tried to do what the miners did in the 1970s and bring down the elected government through a series of strikes and secondary picketing designed to bring the nation to a halt. But Mrs Thatcher's government had learned the lessons of earlier disputes and was ready for them. She had plenty of coal stocks and had brought in laws to prevent secondary picketing.
What also tends to be glossed over is that many miners didn't want to join the strike. Many wanted to carry on working. Since Scargill had refused to call a ballot there was no imperative on them to join in the strikes. Lefties tend to ignore that too.
The so called Battle of Orgreave was a battle, but it was a battle declared by striking miners and not by the police who were there to keep the peace, protect those going about their lawful business and earn lots of overtime. There is good reason to suppose that some of the stories of heavy handedness by the police were true, but it was usually in response to provocation by miners who, it seems, do not have to be held answerable for their tactics and behaviour that day. Look at those mobs of miners intent on violence and compare them to the football hooligans of the time. Can you see the difference?
Ultimately though nobody died. The injuries were sufficiently minor for the most part that most went unreported. The miners left having been thoroughly outmanoeuvred and with their pride damaged. There were arrests it is true, but prosecutions failed. And so the justice system worked. So what is this injustice that needs correcting? Furthermore, if the injustice was so egregious, so in need of being corrected, if an inquiry was so necessary then how was it never called when Labour were in power for 13 years and with the benefit of massive majorities?
There has been an absurd campaign of revisionism over the miners strike in general and Orgreave in particular. This started on the day itself when Scargill started alleging police brutality. Because of course he and his shock troops were there to persuade and not to intimidate. And it cannot be mentioned more often that their very presence there was illegal. Thus the police presence. The police do not go to places in large numbers unless a crime has either been committed or is likely to be committed. The police went to Orgreave to prevent crime. This revisionism is an attempt by the criminals to blame those who went there to stop them.
The revisionism was given added momentum by the recent revelations concerning the same police force and their actions in regard to the Hillsborough disaster. But it is offensive in the extreme that these two events are being linked. There is no similarity. Hillsborough was a football match in which 96 blameless Liverpool fans lost their lives thanks to the actions of the police. The police then mounted a cover up. Their actions were disgusting and indefensible.
Orgreave on the other hand was a situation created by a union trying and failing to impose itself on a nation that had had enough of union extremism. Orgreave was the moment when the Thatcher revolution really began to gather steam. It is totemic. Talk about truth and justice is nonsense. If any of the supposed victims of that day really believe that then they have been led astray by others.
Calls for an inquiry are standard fare in politics of course and this was no different. They can often be used as a means of delaying decisions or of contracting out difficult issues. Sometimes they are even used to try and learn lessons and to establish the truth. This would not have been one of those. Had an inquiry happened it would have learned nothing and achieved nothing.
Amber Rudd and Theresa May are to be congratulated for saying no, for refusing to spend taxpayers money on a revisionist inquiry that would achieve nothing other than an opportunity for lefty grandstanding and finger pointing. The world has changed radically since 1984. Our police forces have changed radically too. The faux outrage of the left just shows that they are still stuck in the past we have all left behind.