Anorak | Hillsborough: When The Police And Media Colluded To Damn Liverpool’s 96 Innocent Victims

Hillsborough: When The Police And Media Colluded To Damn Liverpool’s 96 Innocent Victims

by | 19th, October 2011

THE Hillsborough Disaster continues to make news.Theresa May, the Home Secretary, says she will do her utmost to make it so that official documents relating to the deaths of 96 Liverpool fans in 1989 are published.

Sir Oliver Popplewell says the Hillborough families should move on. But how can you move on when justice has not been done? Popplewell chaired a public inquiry into deaths of 56 people in a fire at Bradford City’s Valley Parade stadium in May 1985. He writes a letter to the Times :

In the aftermath of other large tragedies, those affected have behaved with quiet dignity and great courage

Sir, Many years ago I had the responsibility of conducting a public inquiry into the fire at Bradford City FC. I was also concerned with the riot at Heysel Stadium, Belgium, caused by Liverpool football fans. Both these events were no less tragic than the events at Hillsborough (“ Hillsborough families say papers must be released ”, Oct 18).

The citizens of Bradford behaved with quiet dignity and great courage. They did not harbour conspiracy theories. They did not seek endless further inquiries. They buried their dead, comforted the bereaved and succoured the injured. They organised a sensible compensation scheme and moved on.

Is there, perhaps, a lesson there for the Hillsborough campaigners?

Sir Oliver Popplewell
London WC2

This smacks of the tone used by Broris Johnson in a comumn for The Spectator in which he said the police had been made a “ convenient scapegoat “. He observed the mawkish sentimentality of a society that has become hooked on grief and likes to wallow in a sense of vicarious victimhood “. As the current mayor of London wrote in  The Spectator on 16 Oct 2004:

The soccer international between England and Wales last Saturday managed to display in an instant two of the most unsavoury aspects of life in modern Britain. A request by the authorities for a minute’s silence in memory of Mr Ken Bigley, the news of whose murder by terrorists in Iraq had broken the previous day, was largely and ostentatiously ignored. Yet the fact that such a tribute was demanded in the first place emphasised the mawkish sentimentality of a society that has become hooked on grief and likes to wallow in a sense of vicarious victimhood. There had been a two-minute silence for Mr Bigley that same morning in Liverpool, according him the same respect offered annually to the million and a half British servicemen who have died for their country since 1914…

The extreme reaction to Mr Bigley’s murder is fed by the fact that he was a Liverpudlian. Liverpool is a handsome city with a tribal sense of community. A combination of economic misfortune – its docks were, fundamentally, on the wrong side of England when Britain entered what is now the European Union – and an excessive predilection for welfarism have created a peculiar, and deeply unattractive, psyche among many Liverpudlians. They see themselves whenever possible as victims, and resent their victim status; yet at the same time they wallow in it. Part of this flawed psychological state is that they cannot accept that they might have made any contribution to their misfortunes, but seek rather to blame someone else for it, thereby deepening their sense of shared tribal grievance against the rest of society. The deaths of more than 50 Liverpool football supporters at Hillsborough in 1989 was undeniably a greater tragedy than the single death, however horrible, of Mr Bigley; but that is no excuse for Liverpool’s failure to acknowledge, even to this day, the part played in the disaster by drunken fans at the back of the crowd who mindlessly tried to fight their way into the ground that Saturday afternoon. The police became a convenient scapegoat, and the Sun newspaper a whipping-boy for daring, albeit in a tasteless fashion, to hint at the wider causes of the incident…

Johnson would later apologise. But why say anything in the first place? The facts cannot be changed. Bruce Grobelaar was the Liverpool goalkeeper on that day in Sheffield. His testimony is chilling:

“Two minutes into the game, I was aware of a surge behind me. As I looked down into the front of those pens, I could see people pressed up against the mesh. The wire was digging into their faces and people were shouting: ‘Bruce, can you help us, please? We can’t breathe.’ ”

Steve Rotheram, Labour MP for Walton in Liverpool adressed Parliament last night. He read aloud the names of the 96 who died watching their team play football on a sunny April day. Was it wallowing? No. Was it mawkish? No. This was dignified. And it was almost unbearable. To anyone who has ever stood at the game and screamed their team on to glory, this was testing. If you are too cynical to empathise, then at least feel for yourself. It could have been you or yours.

But the police, MPs and media portrayed it as uniquely Liverpool disaster one made in the city.

Liverpool fans died. And Liverpool fans endured trial by media, sections of which told them that they alone were to blame. Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield had been

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Posted: 19th, October 2011 | In: Key Posts, Sports Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed: RSS 2.0 | TrackBack | Permalink

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