UKIP hope to replace the outgoing South Yorkshire Police & Crime Commissioner (SYPCC), Shaun Wright, after his resignation over the disgraceful scale of child abuse in Rotherham. The UKIP nomination, Jack Clarkson, has recently caused controversy by resisting calls for a public enquiry into police behaviour at the Orgreave mining strikes. Mr Clarkson was a senior police officer at the time of Orgreave, something that brings his motivations into question.
Unfunded, unclear and distant, the PCC elections have not inspired many of us to leave the house. It is not even common knowledge that the candidates are party political or what powers the elected PCC has. But with the recent and historic scandals of the miners’ strikes, Hillsborough and now the case of an estimated 1,400 child abuse cases, it can be argued that the role of the PCC is more important within South Yorkshire.
John Dunn, ex-miner and branch official of Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign, gives a taste of the horrific events during the miners’ strike of 1984-85. “On 9 April 1984 at Cresswell colliery, I was walking alone towards the picket line. With no warning I felt my head explode. When I came around I was bleeding heavily inside a police van. A police officer told me they could let me bleed to death if they wanted to.”
“We were protesting our right to work. That is all we wanted. For so many of us to have been hit with criminal records and armed riot police for protecting our livelihoods is a disgrace. They have already admitted their wrongdoing, but there has not been an inquiry to get to the bottom of it 30 years later.”
Organised, state-sponsored violence and judicial abuse of any scale cannot be tolerated in a just society, regardless of cost. It is unusual, then, to hear Jack Clarkson, UKIP police and crime commissioner candidate, at the Sheffield Hustings debate, rule out an enquiry into Orgreave on the basis of expense. His argument that the cost would stop more bobbies being on the beat makes little sense because public inquiries are funded entirely separately. Mr Clarkson undoubtedly knows this. In his role as councillor and leader of the UKIP group on Sheffield City Council, he has already tried to block an enquiry into Orgreave. It would seem that the former police officer, serving a senior role at the time of the Battle of Orgreave, is firmly against an inquiry. As PCC, will he hold South Yorkshire Police to account over Hillsborough or over the recent widespread abuse of young girls?
All candidates for the SYPCC role have placed the horrific abuse in Rotherham at the heart of their campaigns, but it is UKIP and Jack Clarkson, proclaiming their new commitment to the plight of the vulnerable, who are making the biggest noise about the issue. It remains to be seen whether this abrupt policy change will manifest nationally. UKIP have been quiet on the plight of disadvantaged Northern girls until very recently. Other media sources have called UKIP’s ‘1,400 reasons why you should not trust Labour again’ billboards campaign out as exploitative. In a wider sense, the party’s policies are often criticised as racist. Jack Clarkson says he doesn’t “believe in political correctness”. Judging by comments shared on social media, it would seem that he does believe in making racist jokes.
Words: Jason Brown
Details of how you can make your voice heard this Thursday (30 October). You do not need to have a polling card.