Campaigners for an inquiry into the “Battle of Orgreave” have declared that the gloves are off as they step up calls for a judge-led investigation into brutal clashes between police and mineworkers during the 1984 miners’ strike.
In a defiant press conference at the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) hall in Barnsley, campaigners said they were considering mounting a crowdfunded bid for a judicial review of Amber Rudd’s decision not to hold any kind of inquiry into the episode.
Barbara Jackson, secretary of the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign, was close to tears as she described feeling “shocked and devastated” by the home secretary’s decision.
Addressing the crowd of former pitworkers, their relatives, supporters and union activists in the South Yorkshire town, Jackson said: “As you can all tell this is very difficult and very disappointing but there are options for the future, some of them we will be discussing with the legal people about the possibility of a judicial review.
“We have focused on police violence because we thought that was the best way to get our inquiry – now we’re going to focus as well as that on the political side of the strike and the involvement of Margaret Thatcher’s government of the time … We regard the gloves as off on our side.”
Jackson told the gathering that she had struggled to contain her emotion when she received the “very calculated and very cold” phone call from Rudd informing her of the government’s decision on Monday afternoon.
“When she rang she was completely matter of fact, she said, ‘Listen to me say what I’ve got to say, then you can ask any questions.’ It was all very calculated and very cold. She read me – I didn’t know at the time – but she read me what was her ministerial statement she was going to read to parliament. I was shocked and devastated to find out we were not going to be offered anything.”
Jackson said the campaign had received a flood of support and donations since the announcement, as she revealed that its lawyers were considering a crowdfunded bid for a judicial review.
She said Jeremy Corbyn had promised an Orgreave inquiry if Labour were elected at the next general election, and that the campaign was also looking at a possible “peoples’ inquiry”.
The South Yorkshire police and crime commissioner, Dr Alan Billings, is also exploring ways of opening up the South Yorkshire police archives from the episode.
“There’s still lots of mileage to cover but we need you with us, like we’ve always needed you with us, because we can’t do this on our own. The campaign will keep going,” Jackson added.
Andy Burnham, the former shadow home secretary who campaigned for an inquiry into both Orgreave and the Hillsborough disaster, raised an urgent question in the House of Commons on Tuesday afternoon. He described Rudd’s decision as an “establishment stitch-up” and “a purely political act”.
Explaining her decision on Monday, Rudd said very few lessons for policing could be learned from a review of the events 30 years ago. She said there had been no deaths and no miscarriages of justice to investigate – claims that prompted jeers of “shame” when mentioned at the NUM rally on Tuesday.
Chris Hockney, deputy chair of the Orgreave Truth and Justice campaign, said an inquiry would have helped heal the wounds of the 1984 clashes, which he said continued to affect the region today. “There’s a lot of mistrust and bitterness about what they did in 1984 and an inquiry would help get to the bottom of that,” he said. “There’s certainly none or very little trust in a lot of the police, but it’s not against the day-to-day officers – it’s the hierarchy.”