Dave Smith was always going to be builder – all the men in his family worked in the construction industry – but suddenly, and in the middle of a building boom, his worked dried up. His name appeared on the ‘blacklist’ – an unofficial and illegal checklist of workers involved trade union or other activism. In the second episode of The Justice Gap Podcast, Dave Smith tells Calum McCrae that, though his blacklisting was shocking, it wasn’t unexpected. Finding out that undercover police were colluding with the illegal practice, definitely was.
‘If you’re spying on trade unionists and passing information to big businesses, then you’re not defending democracy, you’re defending capitalism,’ Dave Smith, blacklisted construction worker and secretary of the Blacklist Support Group, tells us.
He has little time for the explanation given by the lawyers acting for the Metropolitan Police in the ongoing ‘Spycops’ inquiry. ‘They’ve spied on labour MPs, anti apartheid campaigners, the Women’s liberation movement,’ he says. This isn’t spying on terrorists, this is political policing.’
For over 40 years, and unbeknown to the public, the police deployed undercover police to spy on private citizens and political groups. As Home Secretary, Theresa May, commissioned an inquiry into the so-called ‘spycops’ scandal. Dave Smith, along with last week’s guest Sukhdev Reel, is a core participant of that inquiry and delivered a powerful statement which you can read in full here.
‘If the purpose of this police spying operation was genuinely to detect serious criminality or public disorder, why were none of us ever charged or prosecuted with a serious criminal offence?’
Dave Smith says of the activities of the Met’s now disbanded undercover Special Demonstration Squad’s unit: ‘If this was going on in any other country around the world, the BBC would be talking about secret political policing units spying on dissidents.’ He likens their actions to the Stasi.
The unjustified spying and blacklisting has had a profoundly damaging effect on those targeted workers and their families leading to long term unemployment, financial hardship, depression and even suicide. He has little faith in the inquiry delivering any kind of justice. Instead, he wants to ‘shake the tree and see what falls out’. ‘We know it happens, we are just trying to expose it to public scrutiny,’ he adds.
Next we talk to the radical human rights lawyer Michael Mansfield – also a core participant in the SpyCopy inquiry.
Listen to the powerful conversation above, or wherever you get your podcasts.
You can read Dave’s story on the Justice Gap here and in depth in Blacklisted: The Secret War between Big Business and Union Activists, a book he co-authored with investigative journalist Phil Chamberlain (here).