Mark Miners' Full Nelson
Daily Mirror: 1 July 2005
THE thrill, pomp and theatre of the re-enactment this week of the Battle of Trafalgar, Nelson's finest hour, cannot be denied. So why not restage another conflict of more recent history - the Battle of Orgreave in the summer of 1986 - between striking miners and the state?
But this time the miners should have the riot shields, the visors, the truncheons and the horses.
And the police should have the T-shirts, jeans and trainers. In this replay, the law would be on the side of the miners defending their pits, jobs and communities by picketing primary coal products - in this case coke, destined for Scunthorpe steelworks.
The outcome would be very different.
Orgreave was deliberately chosen by the authorities as a set-piece confrontation to smash the National Union of Mineworkers. And it succeeded. The authorities were desperate to kill the myth of the 1972 Battle of Saltley Gate, when striking miners led by Arthur Scargill and sympathetic workers in Birmingham closed down a coke depot despite powerful police protection.
That success, exploited by ambitious Arthur, sent shock waves through the British establishment, and led directly to the laws against sympathetic industrial action.
Scaggsie was no Nelson. But Horatio had the government, the aristocracy and the media of the day on his side.
The mineworkers boasted no such friends.
That's why their communities were crushed and are now prey to drug fiends worse than Moss Side or Peckham.
Celebrate the victors at Trafalgar, but let us never forget the losers at Orgreave and their families.
No royal parade for them. Only decades of struggle to rebuild their lives.