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Minister under fire for criticising violence of miners during strike
A CONSERVATIVE minister is under fire for criticising the “violence” of miners during the strike, while ruling out an inquiry into police misbehaviour.
Labour MPs reacted with anger after Francis Maude refused to release documents or apologise for the Thatcher Government, which is suspected of escalating police tactics.
There is particular controversy over the ‘Battle of Orgreave’, likened to the Hillsborough scandal because of the involvement of the same police force, South Yorkshire.
But, instead, the Cabinet Office minister lashed out at the behaviour of the miners, which he remembered as a Warwickshire MP during the 1984-85 conflict.
Mr Maude said: “I was representing a coal mining constituency during the miners’ strike and saw at first hand the violence, intimidation and divided communities in a dispute that took place without a proper national ballot being held.
“The honourable gentleman asks for an apology - no.”
Both Mr Maude – and, later, David Cameron – insisted any documents could only be made public under the 30-year rule, which triggered releases earlier this month.
And the Prime Minister added: “If anyone needs to make an apology for their role in the miners’ strike, it should be Arthur Scargill for the appalling way in which he led that union.
“If we want to ask about other people’s roles, there was the role of the then leader of the Labour party, who at the time never condemned the fact that they would not hold a ballot.
“So I think there are lessons for Labour to learn, and judging by their performance today, they have not learned any of them.”
The attitude was condemned by Sharon Hodgson, Labour MP for Washington and Sunderland West, who described it as “shocking”.
She said: “Most people who were around at the time saw how the police provoked picket lines and ministers provoked union leaders.
“Tory ministers are still peddling the myth of miners as thugs, rather than as men and women fighting for their future.
“Even if there was bad behaviour on the miners’ side, that doesn’t excuse the fact that the Government has serious questions to answer about political interference in policing and preparing to deploy the military against their own people.”
Labour’s call follows the evidence, in official papers, that senior cabinet ministers micromanaged the strike - while claiming to be “innocent bystanders”.
They were aware that the National Coal Board (NCB) was plotting to close 75 pits, at the cost of 65,000 jobs – not the 20 that ministers and the NCB claimed.
The papers showed that Margaret Thatcher considered deploying troops during the strike, by declaring a state of emergency.
At Orgreave, TV footage and photographs showed miners being beaten with truncheons by police, some on horses, who – the miners claimed - attacked them first.
A year later, 95 miners who had been prosecuted for alleged riot and lawful assembly were all acquitted.
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