Readers may believe that ConservativeHome is obsessed by its former columnist, Nick Timothy. If so, we are not alone – as demonstrated today by David Aaronovitch, the Times columnist. “In May this year,” writes the latter, “In “[Timothy] wrote a piece for the ConservativeHome website headlined “As with Hillsborough, we must get to the bottom of what happened at Orgreave”. The Times also carries a report this morning claiming that “an official inquiry into police behaviour at the Battle of Orgreave, one of the worst clashes of the miners’ strike, is set to be announced by the home secretary”. Aaronovitch makes the point that “many of [Theresa May’s] early decisions in government, from Hinkley Point to grammar schools, have been spookily foreshadowed by her adviser’s previous writings”.
Now that we have begun by quoting Aaronovitch’s article, let’s continue. An inquiry will be, the headline above his piece declares, “a waste of time and money”. The violence at Orgreave “was a direct result of the way Arthur Scargill, president of the National Union of Mineworkers, decided to conduct the strike”; Margaret Thatcher’s declaration that “the rule of law must prevail over the rule of the mob” resonated with the public; “either side covered themselves in glory at the Battle of Orgreave…what matters is that the coking plant stayed open, the lights stayed on and the rest is history…Sometimes, as with Hillsborough, the scale of the tragedy and the cover-up makes a cathartic inquiry valuable. But in this case it seems better to throw open the archives and the files and leave it to the historians”.
Quite so. There is also, as it were, a family angle. Some of those who support the inquiry want to rewrite history – or perhaps we should say write it, since to write it is to make it. They want to delegitimise the governments of Margaret Thatcher and demonise her as a monster. Were an inquiry into Orgreave essential, this would be a risk that the Government would have to take. But, as Aaronovitch argues, it isn’t. What is said and written about the Conservative Party’s past matters, partly because it can have an impact on the Party’s present. Theresa May is more aware of this than some, having once claimed, rightly, that some people saw the Conservatives as “the Nasty Party”. It would be an irony were an Orgreave Inquiry to help bolster the impression of which she once complained.