Orgreave: Will campaigners be told to like it or lump it?

Barbara Jackson, Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign.
Barbara Jackson, Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign.
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CAMPAIGNERS have claimed they have been “sidelined and patronised” by the Government and fear they will be told to “like it or lump it” when Home Secretary Amber Rudd finally makes a decision on long drawn-out plans for an inquiry into the infamous Battle of Orgreave during the Miners’ Strike.

Ms Rudd is due to announce a decision by Monday on an inquiry into alleged police brutality and a subsequent cover-up of what happened during and after the violent clashes with miners, but campaigners have revealed relations with the Home Office have deteriorated since what they believed was a positive meeting with the Home Secretary last month.

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Barbara Jackson, secretary of the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign (OTJC), said communication had become increasingly limited and it had taken six weeks to obtain minutes of the meeting which took place on September 13. Despite pressing to be given 48 hours notice of a decision on an inquiry, the campaign had still heard nothing about an imminent announcement yesterday.

“We are very concerned and feel we have been sidelined and patronised,” she said. “It’s not in the spirit of what we thought was a constructive meeting on the day.”

The Home Office reiterated that Ms Rudd intended to make a decision by the end of October but declined to respond to the criticisms levelled by the OTJC, which were backed by Labour’s Shadow Home and Justice Secretaries, Diane Abbott and Richard Burgon.

Ms Jackson questioned whether Ms Rudd might have under-estimated the degree to which the 1984/85 miners’ strike and ultimate victory over the National Union of Mineworkers was viewed as a “totemic” event by the Conservative Party and one some influential figures may not wish to see undermined by a new inquiry.

She said: “Because the meeting was so positive we were hopeful of at least getting an independent panel hearing but as time has gone on we feel as if we will still get something but it will be the least they can get away with offering us.

“We thought we were in a relationship with the Home Office and there would be some scope for negotiation and our views would be taken notice of. But we increasingly feel we will be told what we’re getting – told ‘this is what’s happening and you can like it or lump it. You can co-operate or not, as you choose fit.’”

It has also emerged that Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott and Shadow Justice Secretary and Leeds East MP Richard Burgon wrote a joint letter to Ms Rudd and Justice Secretary Liz Truss on Monday to complain about how campaigners were being treated. The letter pressed for delivery of the minutes from the meeting, which then arrived on Wednesday, and said emails were not being responded to.

It added: “We are also particularly concerned that you have not kept them informed on the timing of your imminent announcement about the form of any Inquiry into the policing of Orgreave. It is unacceptable to treat families and victims in this way.

“Relatives in both the cases of the Bloody Sunday report and the announcement of the Hillsborough Inquiry were informed in advance of any public announcement, which is only right and proper. To date your office has not done this.”

About 6,000 officers drawn from forces across the country, with riot gear, horses and dogs, policed a miners’ picket at Orgreave coking works in June 1984, with some alleged to have carried out unprovoked attacks. A total of 95 miners were charged following the clashes at the plant between Sheffield and Rotherham, but their trial collapsed amid allegations officers colluded to write court statements.

The OTJC said they want a full public inquiry but would accept something similar to the Hillsborough Independent Panel inquiry which uncovered a raft of information.