It’s hard to take the current Labour Party at Westminster seriously. Apart from the fact that eighty per cent of Labour MPs have no confidence in their Leader, they seem to lurch from one bandwagon to another.
This week, their main campaigning activity was to call loudly and aggressively for the establishment of a public inquiry into the so-called “battle” of Orgreave in June 1984, a violent confrontation between South Yorkshire (and other) police and the National Union of Mineworkers. It’s part of a “core vote” process of trying to demonise the late Baroness Thatcher (who actually hasn’t been Prime Minister for 26 years) and playing to the extremist hard Left gallery, which is now in the ascendant in their party. They have no vision for the future merely un-costed and incredible policies and frankly no one seriously believes that they are a credible future government.
Such campaigns are often based on myth: Just one example is that the Thatcher Government “destroyed” the mining industry but in fact Harold Wilson’s governments closed twice as many coalmines than did Mrs Thatcher’s.
Orgreave was a terrible example of civil unrest but we should remember that it was 32 years ago and mercifully no one was killed and the principle cause was the actions of militant miners and others from across the UK whose aim via secondary picketing to use violence and brute force to close the Orgreave coking works in Yorkshire. There was violence on both sides to be sure but it was the culmination of an attempt by NUM President Arthur Scargill and the thuggish elements of the trades union movement to overthrow the democratically elected Conservative Government, which gave rise to such chaos. In addition, those miners who opposed Scargill were threatened and characterised as “scabs” but they quite rightly opposed a strike which was called without a ballot.
Policing is different now: We have laws in place to ensure police behave properly and proportionately, even when faced with terrible provocation and they are accountable via Police and Crime Commissioners and policing by consent is still a central tenet of our British system.
Jeremy Corbyn has failed to explain why Labour never called for an inquiry despite being in 13 years in office and in any case, a new inquiry, where many people are now dead or whose evidence might be unreliable, would be terribly divisive, cause great upset and be hugely expensive, only making cynical and loathsome human rights lawyers wealthy.
Some things are best left in the past. The miner’s strike of 1984/5 was a regrettable episode in post war history. Reigniting the passions of that period would not be good for those communities in the former coalfields, the country as a whole or taxpayers. The past is another country.