Rumours of ‘rent-a-mobs’ and miners taking over – the policing of the Grunwick strike

The 40th anniversary of the Grunwick strike offers an opportunity to look back, not just at the dispute itself, but also at how the authorities responded. The ‘Special Branch Files Project’ has put online a unique collection of files: police reports on the strike and correspondence with the Home Office on how to deal with it.

© Phil McCowan
© Phil McCowan

The files were released to investigative reporter Solomon Hughes, who wrote about them in the Morning Star, but never before were the files themselves accessible. At the website, you can read the story on the policing of the Grunwick strike to find out just how scared the authorities were of what would happen during the week of action in June 1977. See for instance the hand written note by then-PM Callaghan when the miners were coming to town in support of the strike, telling officials Scargill ‘may have to be warned off’.

Another document shows that the PM was afraid people would die, and that the strike would bring down the government.

The Special Branch Files Project is a live-archive of declassified files focussing on the surveillance of political activists and campaigners.

In the early years of the Freedom of Information Act, journalists obtained various Special Branch documents from the Metropolitan Police and the Home Office. Unfortunately this openness was short-lived. The authorities now routinely refuse to disclose Special Branch files, including information which they previously released.

As the Met’s Disclosure Log states, a disclosure to one is a disclosure to all. The Met may want to prevent further access to this information but they can’t turn back the clock.

Launched in January 2016, the Special Branch Files Project aims to expand its collection and invites anyone who wishes to share further files, analysis or to support the project in any other way, to get in touch.


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