Truth, it is said, is stranger than fiction. Who could have imagined that in a mature and, until recently, a reasonably successful capitalist democracy, it would take 23 years for the truth to triumph over the most appalling of fictions?
The Hillsborough Independent Panel has spent a very long time going through an awful lot of documents that an awful lot of people wanted to remain secret. Led by the Bishop of Liverpool the Right Reverend James Jones, the panel have delivered a report that goes way beyond the truth that the victims of Hillsborough have demanded to know for so long. It gives our nation and the world an insight into just how our mature democracy functions. The sad fact is that government and the instruments of government operate on fiction. For any buyers of The Sun that might be reading this humble blog unable to fathom that statement, here is a translation: “HILLS BILLS ARE LIARS – SEE HILLARY`S BREASTS ON PAGE THREE.”
Some people might be offended that weak attempts at satire might impugn the memory of those that died but the offence and the offences finally exposed by the Hillsborough Independent Panel are beyond satire. The report is frightening. It is frightening because we can glimpse the truth that lies behind the motives of those that seek to govern us. Cowardice, self-interest, corruption and a denial of responsibility are the bed-fellows of the blind ambition of the greedy who seek power and wealth at any cost. It comes as no surprise that the so called “establishment” lied about Hillsborough. What is a surprise is that the usual deception has been made public and the number of the good and the great offering profuse apologies which, unsurprisingly, were veiled by attempts to divert blame. Sadly, the ensuing collective grief of those responsible and those who defamed the dead comes too late. It is difficult to decide which is the most insulting; the shrieking of outrage from politicians and media types who stayed silent for so many years, senior police officers insisting that times have changed and it is time to move on or the revolting hollow apology from a certain Kelvin MacKenzie who continues to masquerade as something other than pond life.
As the full horror of that dreadful day finally unfolds and the demand for criminal prosecutions become louder, the “establishment” of the powerful becomes more apologetic and are closing ranks. For the first time, David Cameron actually appeared dignified at the dispatch box but blotted his copy by refusing to quash the previous inquests claiming that the decision could only be made by the Attorney General, a man appointed by David Cameron. The distancing from blame became more apparent as he repeatedly talked of “new” evidence. Sadly for him, and for Thatcher, Major, Blair and Brown, the evidence was always there. It took the courage, tenacity and outrage of the families of the 96 to establish the truth. If they lied about Hillsborough, what other lies have been peddled?
The people that we elect to represent us and the people we trust to protect us have some very serious questions to answer. To hear the likes of David Mellor, a Home Office minister at the time of the disaster, screaming outrage on the radio and watching Jack Straw who sat in implacable silence during the Hillsborough statement is stomach churning enough, but then to read a statement from a senior police officer that still suggests that the dead were the cause of the of their own deaths is breathtakingly offensive. The dead who had their breath squeezed out of them and left unattended are in no position to listen to grovelling apologies 23 years later.
It would be wrong and inappropriate to name the guilty in the way that The Sun named the victims and survivors of Hillsborough. Instead, let`s just say that any witch hunt and vilification of individuals has to be avoided at all costs.
So for the sake of clarity;
Chief Superintendent David Duckinfield and senior officer Bernard Murray are completely exonerated for their actions.
The current Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police, Sir Norman Bettison and senior officers from West Midlands police did not alter witness statements including statements from police officers who were actually there.
The local MP at the time, a lovely old man call Sir Irvine Patnic who did not attend the game, did not tell the press that drunken fans urinated on the dead and sexually assaulted corpses.
The Sheffield Coroner Dr Stefan Popper was correct in saying that the 41 people still alive at 3-15 were actually dead.
The current mayor of London was only joking when he wrote an article in the Spectator and our current health secretary Jeremy Hunt was obviously misinformed by comparing Heysel to Hillsborough.
Rupert Murdoch made an excellent decision by appointing Kelvin MacKenzie as editor of The Sun. Who else but Kelvin could report the truth?
It is for others within the “establishment” to decide if these people deserve to call themselves “Sir” or doctor or Baroness. If a state funeral is to take place, then the body that should be buried is Murdoch`s Sun.
By complete coincidence, I had a gig in Liverpool on the Monday following the Hillsborough disaster. Approaching the western end of the M62 there was a hand painted banner festooned across a motorway bridge. In big, red letters it said: “You`ll Never Walk Alone”. At the end of the motorway there were signs displaying telephone numbers for returning fans who might need stress counselling.
With two or three hour to kill, I went to Anfield. The city of Liverpool was in complete shock and I saw grown men weeping in the street. Near the ground, flower sellers had set up stalls with signs that said that the flowers were being sold at cost price and that no profit would be made. I paid for my 50p bunch of daffs with a fiver and refused the change as did most of the other buyers. The stall holder gave out bunches of flowers to children and we made our way through the Shankly Gate. The silence inside a football stadium was astonishing. By the time I walked out the floral tributes had gone beyond the half way line and scarves illuminated the kop. I placed my flowers and rejoined the column that trudged silently around the pitch. Then something wonderful happened.
As we got to the other side of the pitch, a father holding hands with his young son had managed to smuggle a football into the ground. The Dad produced the ball from under his coat and threw it towards the Stanley Road end. The lad, in full Liverpool FC kit chase after it, dribbled a bit and then planted a beautiful swerving shot into the top corner of the net. The procession of mourners cheered and applauded. This little boy had scored a goal at Anfield.
That little boy, probably now in his 30`s, will never walk alone.