[Editor’s Note: It was claimed by a speaker at a recent civil liberties meeting [https://soundcloud.com/ian-curr/q-a#t=31:30] that investigative journalism of the ABC’s Kerry O’Brien stopped Abbott from wining the 2009 federal election and that papers like The Guardian brought down Margaret Thatcher. Well here’s a story about the British Miners Strike. Unfortunately this piece is 30 years too late for the miners that were beaten, bashed and who never got their jobs back. ]
Move follows release of Whitehall papers showing deployment of troops was considered at height of mid-80s dispute
The Labour party is to call on the government to issue an apology for the conduct of Margaret Thatcher’s administration during the miners’ strike of 1984-85, after recently released Whitehall papers showed a secret plan to close 75 pits.
In a sign of how Ed Miliband is returning the Labour party to its traditional roots, the shadow cabinet office minister Michael Dugher will say that the “shocking” conduct of the Conservative government warranted an apology.
Dugher will challenge the cabinet office minister Francis Maude to apologise in the House of Commons after Whitehall papers released under the 30-year rule showed that the Thatcher government considered deploying troops at the height of the strike, which lasted from March 1984 to March 1985.
The move by Labour will be seen as one of the most controversial attempts by the party to distance itself from its recent past under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown because the high court ruled in 1984 that the National Union of Mineworkers broke its own constitution by failing to hold a ballot. Arthur Scargill, the NUM president, was fined and the union’s assets were sequestered.
Neil Kinnock, the Labour leader during the strike who criticised the “suicidal vanity” of Scargill, said in 2009 that he regretted not calling publicly for a national strike ballot.
Lord Tebbit, the trade and industry secretary during the strike who featured in the recent Whitehall papers, said on Tuesday night: “This is plain absurd. Next they’ll want an apology for freeing the Falklands. I presume Ed Miliband is doing this in order to get some more money from Unite.
“My recollection is that the police were principally used to protect miners who wanted to go to work but who were being prevented from doing so by Arthur Scargill’s hate mob. Neither Labour nor Scargill has ever apologised for that. I trust the government will merely laugh at this ridiculous campaign.”
Dugher is demanding an apology after the papers shed new light on the conduct of the Thatcher government.
Labour is highlighting:
• A note of a meeting in Downing Street in September 1983, attended by Thatcher, which showed that Ian MacGregor, the chairman of the National Coal Board, “had it in mind” that a further 75 pits would be closed between 1983-85. The document, which said that the closures would lead to the loss of 64,000 jobs, is marked: “Not to be photocopied or circulated outside the private office.”
• Evidence that Thatcher intervened to put pressure on police during the strike. Thatcher told MacGregor in March 1984, according to the documents: “It was essential to stiffen the resolve of chief constables to ensure that they fulfilled their duty to uphold the law.”
• Secret preparations to use troops to move coal stocks and to declare a state of emergency. Thatcher’s own handwritten notes for a meeting in July 1984, a month after the clashes at the Orgreave coking plant, outlined plans to deploy 2,800 troops to unload coal at docks in the event of a dockers’ strike.
Dugher, the MP for Barnsley East, will also call for a full investigation into the actions of the police and government at the Battle of Orgreave on 18 June 1984.
The shadow cabinet office minister, who is launching a Justice for the Coalfields campaign, said: “For those of us who lived through the strike and who saw the events and impact they had firsthand, what was revealed in the cabinet papers may not come as a surprise. But it is no less shocking to consider that, far from being neutral as was claimed at the time, it is clear that the government took a deliberately calculated political approach guided by a complete hostility to the coalfield communities.
“That is why I am calling for justice for the coalfields. Ministers may want to sweep these events under the carpet, but the scars of the dispute and the subsequent closure programme remain on the memories, communities and landscapes of all coalfield communities. They must now apologise and deliver transparency to begin to foster reconciliation with the coalfield communities.”
Nicholas Watt, chief political correspondent
Wednesday 29 January 2014
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