So, there will be no public inquiry into the Battle of Orgreave in 1984, and no left-wing lawyers making a fortune. Maybe Andy Burnham, who seems to have appointed himself as Shadow Minister for Ancient Grievances, would have got further had he demanded an inquiry that was less overtly political, and looked at the violence of striking miners as well as misconduct by the police, but do we really have to trawl back through all of that? No-one died at Orgreave, unlike in South Wales where taxi driver David Wilkie was killed when a concrete block was dropped on his car while taking a ‘scab’ to work. The striking miners responsible ended up serving just four years in jail, their murder sentence reduced to manslaughter on appeal. After all this time, Orgreave can surely be left to the historians – unless we are going to hold belated public inquiries into everything from the Sidney Street siege to the ground nut scheme.
The reason the left has become so fixated on Orgreave is because it has become embarrassed about its wider role in the 1984/85 miners’ strike. At the time, the left thought it was standing up for a great British industry, which Thatcher was out to destroy for her own selfish political ends. It accused her of short-sightedness in her preference for less dirty forms of energy, such as natural gas and nuclear. It was irresponsible, it said, not to husband our coal resources into the 21st century.
In the thirty years since, the left has steadily drifted towards Mrs Thatcher on energy policy. The coal industry, it now believes, is environmental vandalism, responsible for harming the planet and killing off the world’s poor through rising sea levels, tempest and drought. Nowadays, activists try to close mines, not keep them open. You can just imagine what reaction you would have received had you spouted ‘leave it in the ground’ on the picket lines in 1984.
Trouble is, how do you continue to bash Mrs Thatcher when, to use a favourite expression of the left, you have been caught on the ‘wrong side of history’ and she was on the right? The answer, of course, is to keep banging on about Orgreave, and try to turn the miners’ strike into an issue of police brutality rather than pit closures. Sorry, but it doesn’t wash.