What happened at Orgreave is felt to prefigure Hillsborough. That enquiry has thrown up many deeply uncomfortable facts, some in common with Orgreave. The depth of violence, the testimony of police officers require investigation and accountability. The IPCC’s decision not to investigate Orgreave calls its independence into question once again. The time lapse between now and then is no excuse.
It is the deeply political nature of Orgreave which sets it apart from Hillsborough. The Thatcher-led government was determined that what happened following the Battle of Saltley Gate in Birmingham in 1972 should not be repeated. To Thatcher this reached epic proportions with references to “the enemy within” comparing trades unionists as comparable with Argentina’s attempts to claim the Falkland Islands as theirs.
For a change the Labour Party, or some of its leadership, has exercised an independence by supporting an enquiry. While the Home Secretary has said that she would take requests into consideration it is hardly likely that the Conservative Government would want these events put under a microscope and invite extended media coverage, although they could rely on a right wing supine press to give them the kind of support they have enjoyed for foisting austerity on the people and recreating the deeply divided nation Thatcher presided over. The lesson of Saltley Gate showed that power need not necessarily be one-sided but the miners’ strike more than a decade later did not learn from this>. A divided Trades Union movement and Labour Party failed to give the support that had been witnessed in Birmingham in 1972.