Unless Ricky Tomlinson is working for al-Qa'ida, 'national security' is an odd reason for secrecy

The Government would like the 1972 building workers strike to stay buried. Bad luck for them that one of the strikers went on to become a household name


Everyone knows that in the 1970s the unions ran the country. For example, every television clip of the decade, probably by law, has to include a bit that goes “it was a time when the unions wouldn’t even let the dead be buried”, so there must be millions who think that’s what unions did. They went into the manager’s office and said “give us a rise or we’ll chuck another corpse on your desk”, and some newspapers probably claim the dead bodies became so confused that they woke up, threatening major disruption on behalf of the National Union of Zombies, Undead and Allied Flesh-Eating Trades (NUZUAFET) until Margaret Thatcher destroyed them all with a shovel.

So it’s peculiar that the Government has decided to keep documents about the 1972 building workers’ strike secret for another 10 years. The strike was for increased pay, and 24 of the strikers were charged under the Conspiracy Act, with two of them jailed as a matter of “national security”. Presumably, their demands were for a 10 per cent rise, double-time for Sundays, and the handing over of state power to Colonel Gaddafi, with all plastering to be under the control of an alliance of Angolan guerrillas.

One piece of evidence that has emerged to back the Government’s case was a 1973 letter from the Attorney-General, who supported the jail sentences because the strikers had used “intimidation, consisting of threatening words”. What sort of threatening words can breach national security, I wonder? Maybe they were shouting “ Give us a pay rise”, which by coincidence was the Ministry of Defence password for finding the precise location of our nuclear submarines.

But it was bad luck for the Government that one of the jailed strikers was Ricky Tomlinson, who then became one of our best-loved actors. So the case has continued to attract attention ever since. It seems there was a conspiracy between the construction companies, the police and the Conservative government, who wanted the strikers jailed to break the unions so they concocted the charges between them. The papers which could settle this issue were due to be released this week, but the current Government has now said they can’t be seen until 2021 “due to national security”.

There was a conspiracy between the government, police and construction companies.

If this was a strange argument at the time, it’s even more baffling 40 years later. Maybe these papers contain building workers’ prose so potent we’ll all surrender power to bricklayers and agree to become their hod-carrying slaves. Perhaps Tomlinson has been secretly working for the North Koreans, and his lines in The Royle Family were coded signals to Kim Jong-Il revealing the whereabouts of every unit of the SAS. “Denise love, put the kettle on will yer” almost cost us an entire regiment.

Campaigners demand that the papers be released, but you can see the Government’s point. Because if al-Qa’ida were to become aware of the details of a 40-year-old building workers’ dispute, there’s no telling what havoc they might create.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Commercial Litigation NQ+

Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: NORTH HAMPSHIRE NQ to MID LEVEL - An e...


Highly Attractive Pakage: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - A highly attractive oppor...

Senior Marketing Manager - Central London - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (Campaigns, Offlin...

Head of Marketing - Acquisition & Direct Reponse Marketing

£90000 - £135000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Marketing (B2C, Acquisition...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Norovirus the food poisoning bug that causes violent stomach flu  

A flu pandemic could decide next year’s election

Matthew Norman
J. Jayalalithaa gestures to her party supporters while standing on the balcony of her residence in Chennai. Former film star Jayalalithaa Jayaram is one of India's most colourful and controversial politicians  

The jailing of former film star Jayalalithaa Jayaram is a drama even Bollywood couldn’t produce

Andrew Buncombe
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?