Forty years after the Battle of Orgreave there is fresh impetus behind the demand for a public inquiry into the brutality and subsequent police fabrication surrounding the most violent confrontation in the year-long miners’ strike.

Labour have promised that if elected a new Home Secretary would ensure there is “an investigation or inquiry” – a commitment that could rise further up the political agenda following the release of a new film Strike: An Uncivil War.

Just as Mr Bates vs The Post Office galvanised – a long last – the push to secure compensation for sub postmasters wrongly convicted in the Horizon fraud scandal, this new film chronicles with compelling authority the lies and malpractice of Mrs Thatcher’s government and her compliant police forces.

For once a sequence of events has worked to the advantage of the dogged Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign – culminating with the delivery of a new dossier of fresh information.

Their 40th anniversary march and rally – addressed by Arthur Scargill – attracted a record number of trade unionists with miners’ banners taking centre stage in Sheffield city centre.

Next morning was the premiere at The Crucible of Strike: An Uncivil War and a standing ovation for award-winning producer and director Daniel Gordon and his team at VeryMuchSo.

Their one hour 50 minute-documentary tells with chilling impact the hidden story of how under government instruction the paramilitary tactics adopted at Orgreave went far beyond accepted police standards.

In the decade since he won a BAFTA for his highly acclaimed documentary Hillsborough about the football stadium disaster, Daniel Gordon has made it a personal mission to do the same for Orgreave and explain how and why the government was able to change the rules on policing in order to crush the pickets.

Judging by the reaction of the audience to his new documentary, Gordon had well and truly “nailed it” – a response confirmed next day when the film won the audience award at the 2024 Sheffield DocFest.

Release of the documentary midway through the general election campaign is another stroke of good fortune for the Orgreave campaigners.

Events commemorating the 40th anniversary of the 1984-85 strike have fuelled an upsurge in sympathy for the continuing plight of former mining communities, some of which are in constituencies which Labour hope to win back from the Conservatives.

At the heart of the documentary is a step-by-step account of how the government and chief constables drew up a secret public order manual for deploying officers with close shields, truncheons and dogs – co-ordinated tactics for a level of riot policing not previously seen in the UK.

Pickets injured at Orgreave recalled how they ended up bruised and battered before being taken away in handcuffs.

Fifty were charged with riot which carried a maximum sentence of life imprisonment – offences from which they were later acquitted when their trial collapsed, but it was an experience that haunts them to this day.

They remain as angry as they were then – angered by the failure after 40 years to find out the truth about how they ended up being chased by mounted and baton-wielding police.

The square in the front of Sheffield City Hall was packed for the start of the Orgreave march – a chance for truth and justice campaigners from around the coalfields to renew their plea for an independent inquiry.

There were cheers and applause for every mention this might finally be established by a future Labour government.

In 2016, the then Conservative Home Secretary Amber Rudd rejected calls for an inquiry. She told MPs there would be “very few lessons to learn” from a new review and it would not be in the “public interest”.

Labour’s manifesto promises that if elected the new government would “ensure, through an investigation or inquiry, that the truth about the events at Orgreave comes to light.”

This is the third Labour manifesto to give this undertaking and in recent days it has attracted statements expressing support from the Liberal Democrats, Greens and Reform UK.

There was no mistaking the sense of optimism. In his address to the rally, John Dunn, who was arrested during the strike, was pleased that the campaign was at long last “making some progress”.

His concern was that Labour had not committed a future government to meeting their demand for a “full and independent public inquiry”.

Their determination to get justice had never wavered.

“For a full year on strike we never bowed or faltered. We are not here today to mourn a defeat but to celebrate standing tall and proud.

“I want revenge for what happened to me, for the abandonment of our communities.”

Taj Ali, co-editor of Tribune, described how 40 years ago the Asian Youth Movement had supported the strikers.

He warned that the continuing challenge for the Truth and Justice Campaign would be to ensure that any inquiry did deliver some meaningful results.

Arthur Scargill’s support for the rally – at the age of 86 – was warmly applauded. He described his sense of pride in standing together with fellow pickets injured at Orgreave.

“You marched into history that day, entering a pantheon of working-class heroes.”

He was anxious – as he had been at previous events commemorating the 40th anniversary of the strike – to set the record straight about what happened that on June the 18th 1984.

“I am sick and tired of hearing that we walked into a trap that day. We didn’t. We had been picketing Orgreave since May 22nd.”

What had most troubled and frightened Mrs Thatcher at the start of the strike was the threat of disruption at coke works like Orgreave because the steel plants depended on their output.

“I had been passed information at the highest level they had only three weeks’ supply but even then, the national executive (of the NUM) believed the real targets were power stations and pickets in Nottinghamshire and South Derbyshire.”

Picketing finally started at Orgreave on May 22nd after he had persuaded the executive committee to provide support from the areas.

“The fundamental difference between (the Battle of) Saltley (Gate) in 1972 and 1984 was that in 1972 workers in other industries joined the picket line and we closed the plant.  I described it as the greatest day in my life.”

Despite the events on the day of the Battle of Orgreave, Scargill believed there was still every reason to increase – and not decrease – the picketing at the coke works.

“I urged all area leaders to increase picketing on June 19th and pull in people from engineering works in Sheffield, as we did at Saltley.

“For some reason picketing at Orgreave was withdrawn, for reasons I have never understood.”

His view was confirmed in Mrs Thatcher’s biography where she admitted her government would not have been able to withstand the loss of coke supplies to the steel plants for any longer than three to five weeks.

“Had we picketed the steel plants and coke works on an on-going basis it might have been different...we were doing the right thing at Orgreave.”

Scargill remained as frustrated – and was still as puzzled to this day – at the refusal of the decision of the pit managers’ union NACODS to accept a deal with the National Coal Board after receiving an 82 per cent mandate for strike action.

If NACODS had stayed with the NUM, the strike could have been won. Again, Mrs Thatcher had recognised this: a minister in her government had told him that if the two unions had been together on the strike, there would have had to be a settlement on terms agreed by the conciliation service ACAS.

“For the first time in its history the TUC called on NACODS to take action...but NACODS pulled away and as a result we lost that battle.

“For all those bloodied at Orgreave, I demand an explanation from NACODS. It was sabotage, a betrayal, something I will never understand.”

He felt privileged to attend the rally and express his continuing solidarity, despite the 1985 vote by a delegate conference to return to work.

“I am proud 40 years on that we – Peter Heathfield, Mick McGahey and Arthur Scargill – voted that day to continue the strike...I am proud of that. (Applause).  The 1984-85 miners strike remains an inspiration.”

“I am privileged to be here today with you who marched on that day, who fought on that marched into history, entering a pantheon of working- class heroes.

“I told you the truth that took years for people to understand that...I want to salute you in the name of the greatest trade union leaders, Jim...”

(At this point Mr Scargill faltered for a moment – for the very first time in his address -- appearing to forget the name. Someone in the crowd shouted out “Larkin” - Jim Larkin, the Irish republican, socialist and trade union leader.)

“I have been a socialist since I was 16 and I will be a socialist until I die. I salute you. I was proud to be one of you.” (Renewed applause).

In a discussion after the premiere of Strike: An Uncivil War, the producer and director Daniel Gordon introduced David Conn, investigations correspondent for The Guardian, who was the first journalist to highlight the link between the policing of Orgreave and the Hillsborough disaster – revelations that led on, after the Hillsborough inquiry, to the formation of the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign.

Conn said he had been shocked by the realisation that the South Yorkshire Police had been behind false statements four years before Hillsborough, but no-one had ever been held to account for the excessive brutality of Orgreave.

Just as at Orgreave, the police had flipped the story at Hillsborough and said it was the people who attended the match who were to blame.

Kate Flannery, the campaign secretary, said that after the strike trade unions and MPs asked without success for an inquiry into what happened at Orgreave, but it was not until after the Hillsborough inquiry that the campaign was formed and demanded a full investigation to establish the truth.

“We want a full authoritative inquiry into what happened at Orgreave...and it is important we get that now because we are all of a certain age and time is short.”

The campaign submitted a dossier of information in 2015, but the government rejected that request in 2016.

Their documentation has now been updated and a new dossier has been issued:  Orgreave Truth and Justice: 40 years on, the case for an inquiry.

On they anniversary day copies were delivered to the Home Office and the main political parties.

The campaign’s press statement emphasised the urgency of their request:

“Due to the age and health of many miners impacted we need to quickly secure an inquiry and a public acknowledgement of why and what the state did to the miners and their communities.

“An inquiry of full disclosure can help to right the wrongs of the past and influence the future behaviour of public officials.”