Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page:

From The Socialist newspaper, 4 April 2007


One Life: Ricky Tomlinson

Ricky Tomlinson speaks about the injustice against the Shrewsbury pickets at the Campaign for a New Workers Party  meeting in Liverpool, photo Harry Smith

Ricky Tomlinson speaks about the injustice against the Shrewsbury pickets at the Campaign for a New Workers Party meeting in Liverpool, photo Harry Smith

Injustice against Shrewsbury pickets exposed

Based on the events of the jailing of Ricky Tomlinson and Des Warren by the Heath government in 1972, this programme gripped you by the throat from the outset.

Tony Mulhearn

During the official national building workers' strike in 1972 a number of strikers were jailed. While the media trumpeted hysterically about the violence of the pickets, they were actually charged under the Conspiracies Act of 1875. 230 other charges were thrown out.

The programme focused on Ricky Tomlinson and his narration clearly reveals the role of the state and its complicity with the big construction companies in securing the conviction and jailing of six workers.

The two wings of the state, the government and the judiciary, clashed on how to handle the issue. Ricky revealed that just prior to sentencing, Downing Street, fearing an industrial movement in defence of the building workers, sent a message to the judge urging him not to jail them. However, this message was ignored.

The employers, the police and the Special Branch, were determined to make an example of the pickets. The Special Branch were particularly gung-ho, arguing that, in the language of the Cold War, the strike was inspired by the Communist Party as part of a revolutionary strategy. Ricky produced a Special Branch report of 1972 that 35 years on, still has key passages blacked out on the grounds of national security. It would be comical if it weren't so sinister.

As a testimony to the impartial, investigative nature of the programme, Ricky spoke to a strikebreaker based in Stoke at the time. "Five coach loads of scouse yobs came to Stoke to terrorise building workers into joining the strike," he declared. Rather humorously, Ricky told him that couldn't have happened as no Liverpool pickets went near Stoke during the strike.

In another incident, Ricky visits a self-confessed strikebreaker called Grocott to give him the opportunity to explain himself. In a clearly set-up situation, Grocott refused to shake hands with him on the grounds that it would prove he was wrong to scab and to give evidence on behalf of the employers. Ricky produced a photo that shows the scab looking very healthy at a meeting after allegedly been beaten up by the flying pickets!

The employers' propaganda machine constantly described the strikers as men of violence. Strange then that at the Shropshire building site which received the most publicity, with a squad of police in attendance, not one picket was arrested. Yet the police could not be accused of not being on the alert as the same evening, according to the local paper which Ricky read out, an ice-cream seller was arrested for sounding his bell after 7pm!

They were jailed under the Conservative government, led by Edward Heath, and kept in under a Labour government with future right-wing defector Roy Jenkins as Home Secretary rejecting every appeal for early release. Ricky spoke movingly about Des Warren, who later died from Parkinson's syndrome induced by his treatment while in prison.

The programme could have included much valuable footage, which had been assembled by the programme producers working with the Shrewsbury campaign team. Very little of the interview material with building workers involved in the strike was used.

Nevertheless, the impartial viewer would conclude that a real injustice was perpetrated. On that score the programme marks an important step in the campaign for justice for the Shrewsbury pickets.

One Life: Ricky Tomlinson BBC1 Tuesday 27 March 2007

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.

In The Socialist 4 April 2007:

Children suffer in low pay Britain

Socialist Party editorial

Iran - Sailors fall victim to imperialist policies

Socialist Party news and analysis

Brown's pension robbery

Blair: No solutions to crime or crowded prisons

Waltham Forest protest - more memorable than Prince Charles!

Commemorating the abolition of the slave trade

Socialist Party reviews

One Life: Ricky Tomlinson

In The Line of Fire

Days of Glory


Take national action to defend education

Labour's market policies damage education

Privilege and privation in our schools

NUS leadership abandon fees fight

PCS takes industrial action

London strikers close passport office

PCS members take industrial action

Anger on Newport picket line

Upbeat London rally

Campaign for a New Workers Party

How to stop the BNP: Build a political alternative

Campaign for a New Workers' Party

Socialist Party NHS campaign

Ammanford home care workers march

Frustration at demo delay

We shall not be moved!


Save Sadiq Abakar

Leicester protesters challenge Home Office

Workplace news and analysis

Trade union leaders heckled over inaction

Action needed as Ford bosses close Leamington plant

Celebs fail to save Burberry

Greenwich: "We've got to strike"

Burslem postal workers strike again

Northern Ireland

British government and local parties retreat on water charges

We Won't Pay Campaign


Home   |   The Socialist 4 April 2007   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate  

Related links:

Ricky Tomlinson:

triangleConference on state spies: who's watching who?

triangleWho's watching who?: The fight for justice, trade union and democratic rights

triangleNewcastle: Socialist Party defies ban to counter the far-right

triangleTheatre Review: United We Stand

triangleSupport the Shrewsbury pickets

Campaign for a New Workers Party:

triangleAfter RMT Conference: What Now for the Campaign for a New Workers Party?

triangleSocialism 2009 forum - can we build a party for working class people?

Reviews and comments

Reviews and comments



The Socialist inbox



Revolutionary physicist and champion of social causes



Gripping spy thriller exposes hypocrisy of Falklands/Malvinas war


The Socialist

International Women's Day


Sexual harassment

Fighting sexual harassment in entertainment



The Socialist inbox



The Socialist inbox: International Women's Day



Socialist anti-war exhibition opens in Kingston



The Socialist inbox



What's behind the surge in eating disorders?



The Socialist inbox



In Windsor none of us want to see homeless people on the street



I'm now a 'manager' and I can barely manage!



The Socialist inbox



Darkest Hour: Not the usual flattery of brutal Tory Churchill

triangleMore Reviews and comments articles...

Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube



Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777


Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 0798 202 1969

East Mids: 0773 797 8057

London: 020 8988 8786

North East: 0191 421 6230

North West 07769 611 320

South East: 020 8988 8777

South West: 07759 796 478

Southern: 07833 681910

Wales: 07935 391 947

West Mids: 02476 555 620

Yorkshire: 0114 264 6551



Alphabetical listing

March 2018

February 2018

January 2018