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

Share

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

SEN Teaching Assistant needed for long term assignment

£45 - £55 per day: Randstad Education Preston: We are looking for an experienc...

Primary Teachers Required in King's Lynn

Negotiable: Randstad Education Cambridge: Primary Teachers needed in King's Ly...

Primary Teachers needed in Ely

Negotiable: Randstad Education Cambridge: Primary Teacher needed in the Ely ar...

Teaching Assistant to work with Autistic students

£60 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Leicester: Randstad Education Leicester ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The appearance of Miguel Arias Canete at a Brussels hearing last Wednesday caused 100,000 people to sign a petition to prevent his appointment  

TTIP is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the EU's suspect relationships with corporations

Lee Williams
 

Being catcalled, groped and masturbated at is a common part of the female experience

Bryony Beynon
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes
Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs:

Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs

"I have never regarded anything I have done in "the media" as a proper job"
Lyricist Richard Thomas shares his 11-step recipe for creating a hit West End musical

11-step recipe for creating a West End hit

Richard Thomas, the lyricist behind the Jerry Springer and Anna Nicole Smith operas, explains how Bob Dylan, 'Breaking Bad' and even Noam Chomsky inspired his songbook for the new musical 'Made in Dagenham'
Tonke Dragt's The Letter for the King has finally been translated into English ... 50 years on

Buried treasure: The Letter for the King

The coming-of-age tale about a boy and his mission to save a mythical kingdom has sold a million copies since it was written by an eccentric Dutchwoman in 1962. Yet until last year, no one had read it in English
Can instilling a sense of entrepreneurship in pupils have a positive effect on their learning?

The school that means business

Richard Garner heads to Lancashire, where developing the 'dragons' of the future is also helping one community academy to achieve its educational goals
10 best tablets

The world in your pocket: 10 best tablets

They’re thin, they’re light, you can use them for work on the move or keeping entertained
Lutz Pfannenstiel: The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents

Lutz Pfannenstiel interview

The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents
Pete Jenson: Popular Jürgen Klopp can reignite Borussia Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern Munich

Pete Jenson's a Different League

Popular Klopp can reignite Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern
John Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

The use of the British hostage demonstrates once again the militants' skill and originality in conducting a propaganda war, says Patrick Cockburn
The killer instinct: The man who helps students spot potential murderers

The killer instinct

Phil Chalmers travels the US warning students how to spot possible future murderers, but can his contentious methods really stop the bloodshed?
Clothing the gap: A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd

Clothing the gap

A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd
Fall of the Berlin Wall: Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain

The Fall of the Berlin Wall

Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain