Tony Garnett • Blog Posts

Battle of Orgreave


Orgreave? Never heard of it, sorry. Under 40, why would you? Here’s why you need to know. It’s your fight too.
At Orgreave, in the Yorkshire coalfield, 1984 saw a battle between striking miners and police. It was a blood bath of nastily injured men. Police from all over the country, some on horse back and others in para military uniforms, gave the miners a terrible beating. Then the South Yorkshire Police, made infamous this week for its foul lies about the Liverpool fans at Hillsborough, cooly invented evidence to ensure convictions. The beaten up miners were judged to be the violent criminals.

The police knew they had Thatcher’s Tory government on their side; indeed had been ordered to defeat the miners by any means. No problem. They were in the habit of fitting innocent people up, doctoring evidence and lying in court. That was routine. The media throughout the strike and its aftermath obediently peddled the anti-miner narrative. Most newspapers, those owned by billionaires like Murdoch and Rothermere, hated and feared organised workers as much as Thatcher did. The broadcast media, with the exception of Ch4, were required by law to be balance and unbiased, but each day they smeared the miners and toed the government line.

For month after month the miners, isolated and hungry, fought on. Their Union was infiltrated and phone tapped by Special Branch. Freedom of movement was curtailed and arbitrary arrests were common and violent. Basic civil rights, fought for over centuries, were cast off. The police appeared with truncheons and riot shields. It resembled a police state.

The miners were eventually and humiliatingly defeated, as they had been in 1926. All the pits were closed and the communities were devastated. Other working people got the message. There has been little opposition since, even in the face of unemployment, welfare cuts, food banks, homelessness and shattered communities where the only growth industry is drugs.

Look at what happened to the miners, people thought, the strongest group of workers in the country, solid and tough to the end. So how do you think you’d do? How are you doing?

It’s important that the Orgreave fight goes on, thirty years later. Forty years, if that’s what it will take; continuing until justice is won. The miners and their families were wronged by the police and the courts. Innocent people were punished and criminalised. Just as the bereaved in Liverpool could not rest until justice was done and the guilty exposed, so we must fight for justice for the miners.

That fight will be part of our remembering, our writing of OUR history, giving the lie to their lies. It will shame the BBC for being Thatcher’s poodle. Because part of our weaponry to protect our future is our understanding of the past. If we want justice now we must learn from the injustices of yesterday.


Recommended article: ‘Battle of Orgreave: Hillsborough verdict gives hope to campaigners