IF you google the words “government conspiracy”, you’ll taste every variety of gonzo delight, from lizard men and faked moon landings to men in black and what “really happened” on 9/11. This explains why the words “conspiracy theorist” are almost always an insult. If you’re called one then, believe me, someone aims to discredit you. That’s a pity, because conspiracies happen. Powerful people really do work secretly to cause or cover up evil events. In rare cases, they are brought to justice, but I emphasise, in rare cases.

Hillsborough, for example, is one of these rare cases. Here is a classic case of a “real” conspiracy, where elites in politics, media and most of all the police worked together to blame their mistakes on working-class football fans. Thanks to tireless, draining efforts, Liverpool has a sense of justice and closure now. That’s brilliant, a wonderful victory. And more than that: it highlights how rarely communities get justice when they are the victims of collusion by powerful interest groups.

Take another example: the Battle of Orgreave, the central confrontation in the 1984-5 miners' strike, which again involves South Yorkshire Police. Here, outside a Yorkshire coking plant, 6,000 police with horses, dogs and riot gear used medieval-style battle charges to attack 5,000, often young, pickets in T-shirts and plimsolls. Essentially, this was a trained standing army used to crush a civilian protest in an unprecedented act of government-backed barbarism.

The surface events here are bad enough. First, absurdly, 95 pickets were charged for starting a riot that had been deliberately initiated by the police. At the time, rioting was potentially subject to life imprisonment, so the consequences were severe. Michael Mansfield QC has called it “the worst example of a mass frame-up” in 20th-century Britain. Those behind the frame-up, the South Yorkshire Police leaders, perjured themselves in court, but were allowed to continue serving; later, some of the same men led the cover-up at Hillsborough.

Then there’s the media. Worst of all, perhaps, the BBC, the state broadcaster, used some outrageous backwards editing to suggest that pickets had started the riot rather than the cops. ITN, also filming, showed a policeman striking a protestor on the head with a baton; the BBC showed the same shot, but cut before the incriminating bit. Later, denying any conspiratorial intent, the BBC said, “It was a mistake made in the haste of putting the news together.” Cock-up, not conspiracy? You decide.

Fortunately, Orgreave protesters never ended up spending life in jail. Indeed, South Yorkshire Police paid damages, although no officers have ever faced justice for one of the most brutal events in British industrial relations.

However, for me, that’s only the surface of the conspiracy. South Yorkshire Police were pawns – brutal and reactionary pawns, but still pawns in a greater game. The forces involved in crushing the miners' strike are mind-blowing. As documented in Seumas Milne’s excellent The Enemy Within, there’s evidence of webs of collusion between MI5, the Thatcher government, the police, most of the media, and even the CIA.

The conspiracy ultimately aimed to shut the coal industry and destroy the miners, the scourge of previous Tory governments. Thatcher and the media, of course, denied the claims of miners’ leader Arthur Scargill that they intended to shut the whole industry down. For merely suggesting it, he was called a demagogue and, of course, a paranoid conspiracy theorist. But nobody can deny Scargill’s claims today. He was right: Thatcher was out to destroy this totemic symbol of British industry, and she had the security forces behind her.

Try visiting somewhere like New Cumnock today and the consequences are clear. Liverpool’s communities suffered a great deal from the collusion of elite forces around Hillsborough, being held under a cloud, while justice evaded the people. Former mining communities, too, have been royally, totally torn apart by the conspiracies perpetrated against them. Many are among the most deprived in Britain. Unemployment is rampant, as are its symptoms: addiction and alienation.

For me, that goes back to Orgreave, the defining dispute of 1984. If the security services, in flagrant violation of civil liberties, hadn’t colluded with the government and the police, then perhaps the dispute could have taken another direction. If the British media hadn’t printed extraordinary and absurd lies about Scargill and the miners – much of them planted by MI5 – then public sympathy could have forced Thatcher into retreat.

I don’t want to experiment too much with counter-factual history. But somehow, if Thatcher had retreated from her plans, I can see a very different Britain. Maybe we’d still have industries, rather than a muscle-bound financial services sector surrounded by a sea of crap jobs. Maybe pit communities would be viable and prosperous rather than recipients of Carbuncle Awards for outstanding dismalness. Maybe we’d go to work every day feeling righteous and confident rather than cowed and apologetic.

And, returning to my original point, that’s the tragedy of conspiracy theories. All the talk of little green men and smoke-filled rooms can hide the everyday reality, where powerful people really do collude and profit from the misery of others.

When security chiefs and government ministers conspired with senior policemen in 1984, pit communities were the immediate victims. But since then, our unions have been suffocated. Bosses ran rampant in workplaces that are a world away from coking plants. Try working at any call centre, for example, with their rationed toilet breaks, bullying bosses, vulnerable staff and competitive atmospheres. Our work lives lack dignity.

For me, you can trace that back to a 1980s conspiracy to break the back of Britain’s most dignified workforce. I’d love to see the men responsible in chains. Bringing justice to those affected by

Orgreave won’t reverse decades of economic chaos: but it will lift a cloud that hangs over every working person today.