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24 January 2013

Shrewsbury 24: What is the government hiding?

Bob Severn

On 23 January, a packed press conference in Whitehall heard the Shrewsbury 24 campaign's response to the government's refusal to publish documents relating to the Shrewsbury 24 case on the grounds of national security.

"National security - my arse!" said Ucatt building union general secretary Steve Murphy. The conference was held on the same day as blacklisting was raised in parliament.

Steve said it was the same construction firms involved in 1972 that blacklist workers today.

1972 saw the first building workers' national strike, over pay and health and safety. Five months after the successful strike ended, 24 trade union members were charged over picketing in Shrewsbury. Two - Ricky Tomlinson and Des Warren - were imprisoned.

Brookside and Royale Family actor Ricky said that, after the papers have been kept secret for 40 years, the justice secretary decided last year that the embargo would continue for another ten years.

Ricky and other speakers believed that Des Warren's death from Parkinson's Disease in 2004 was linked to drugs used to control inmates in the 1970s.

Campaign researcher Eileen Turnbull said how reams of material were being kept hidden. She appealed for everyone to sign the petition to Downing Street to release all related documents, which can be accessed via

The campaign also appeals for supporters to write to their MP urging them to support the early day motion of MP John McDonnell, who was chairing the press conference. Phone hacking campaigner Tom Watson was among the Labour MPs who spoke.

TUC leader Frances O'Grady paid tribute to the determination of the campaign. She said the Shrewsbury 24's case was one of the worst attacks on workers' right to organise.

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said the campaign was vital for trade union rights today. He pointed out that the 1974-79 and 1997-2010 Labour governments betrayed the 24 by not exonerating them - one of the greatest miscarriages of justice.

Film director Ken Loach urged the trade union leaders present to not just rely on parliament but to organise workers' action.

This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 24 January 2013 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.