Prime minister Margaret Thatcher’s government was desperate to protect the cops in the wake of the 1984-5 Miners’ Strike. Newly released documents from 1985 show that then home secretary Leon Brittan wanted to avoid “any form of enquiry into the behaviour of the police”.
Brittan said an inquiry could “turn into a witch hunt” with an “anti-police bias”.
Joe Rollin is chair of the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign. He told Socialist Worker, “The papers show that there was huge concern that the behaviour of the police would harm ‘community relations’. It shows how unpopular the policing was.
“They also show that at any one time there were 2,000 Metropolitan police officers in mining communities—at a cost of £4.6 million. That’s a staggering amount in today’s money. It shows the lengths they were willing to go to in order to crush the strike.”
The documents were declassified after Tory home secretary Amber Rudd ruled out an inquiry into the Battle of Orgreave. Police attacked striking miners who were picketing the Orgreave coking plant in June 1984—and later framed 95 for riot.
The trials collapsed after it emerged that officers’ statements had been dictated to them and one officer’s signature had been forged.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has admitted there is evidence of cops committing assault, perjury and other offences. But it said it is “not necessary” to investigate them
The newly released papers show that then chief constable of South Yorkshire Police, Peter Wright, wanted new laws that could be used against strikers. Wright wanted “missile throwing” to become a new offence.
As Joe put it, “They wanted lower offences than riot to so they could make offences stick.” But he added that the police and Tory response shows the power that organised workers have.
“The Miners’ Strike showed that the Tories needed to up their game,” he said. “So since then we’ve had new policing tactics such as kettling and we’ve had the Trade Union Act.
“They are absolutely terrified about collective action. They were worried enough about the miners. If the action had spread, we would’ve won quite easily.”
The Home Office has 15 files still to be passed to the National Archive. And South Yorkshire Police reportedly has 65 files relating to policing during the strike still to publish.
“The policing plan for Orgreave is still missing—but at least 16 forces should’ve had a copy of it on the day,” said Joe.
“The policing plan for Hillsborough exposed police failings and helped crack open the truth about what happened during the disaster.
“Perhaps what’s more interesting is the files that haven’t been released.”