Did UKIP leader use Hillsborough lie to promote himself?
Ukip leader Paul Nuttall did not lose “close personal friends” at Hillsborough. In 2011, a post under Mr Nuttall’s name on his official website featured a quote attributed to him. The post regarding efforts to block the publication of files concerning the Hillsborough Inquiry went:
“Without them being made public we will never get to the bottom of that appalling tragedy when 96 Liverpool fans including close personal friends of mine lost their lives.”
When challenged, Nuttall told Radio City News: “I haven’t lost a close, personal friend. I’ve lost someone who I know… Well, that’s not from me… This was an article that I did not write and did not see prior to it being posted by a member of my staff. Of course I take responsibility for those things that are put out under my name, but I was genuinely taken aback when this claim was brought to my attention and am both appalled and very sorry that an impression was given that was not accurate.”
UKIP leader Paul Nuttall admits that claims on his website that he lost a “close personal friend” at Hillsborough are false pic.twitter.com/bnNKm29IsU
— Radio City Talk (@RadioCityTalk) February 14, 2017
That radio interview followed his denial that he had, as the Guardian puts it, “lied about being a survivor of the disaster which claimed the lives of 96 Liverpool fans at the FA Cup semi-final in 1989”.
Nuttall, who is contesting the Stoke Central by election for Ukip on 23 February, features in a Guardian story that challenges his claim to have been at match. The paper notes:
Nuttall was 12 at the time of the disaster, and was a pupil at Savio high school in Bootle, Liverpool. One of his former teachers, a Roman Catholic priest, has told the Guardian that the school believed it had been aware of the identities of every boy who had been at Hillsborough in order to help them through a difficult period, and that Nuttall was not among them.
A fellow pupil at the school who says he has been a friend of Nuttall for decades said the Ukip leader had never mentioned being there. “I have been very good friends with Paul for over 25 years,” he said, adding that during that time they had “never spoken” about Hillsborough.
What does that prove? Nothing. The Guardian says so:
While the teacher and friend expressed surprise that Nuttall has said he was at Hillsborough, their comments do not prove that he was not present.
He said he was there. A UKIP statement tells us: “Paul was indeed at Hillsborough. He attended the match with his father and other family members. For political opponents to suggest otherwise and for left-wing media organisations to promote such claims constitutes a new low for the Labour party and its associates.”
Says Nuttall: “I just want to make it perfectly clear. I was there on that day. I’ve got witnesses, people who will stand up in court and back me 100 per cent. It’s cruel and it’s nasty. It’s making out as if my family are lying as well, which is just not fair or right.”
It’s all unedifying stuff.
The Daily Mail notes:
Today is not the first time Mr Nuttall has had to distance himself from claims on his own website. In November, he made embarrassing denial of a claim he played professional football for his local team.
The site has two references to Mr Nuttall’s past as a ‘professional footballer’ for Tranmere Rovers, just across the Mersey from his childhood home in Bootle.
But when MailOnline contacted the National League club to ask whether he had ever played for the first team, a spokesman said, ‘Definitely not’.
The New Statesman adds:
Last year he denied having been responsible for a post on his LinkedIn profile that inaccurately claimed he had received a PhD in History from Liverpool Hope University in 2004, blaming an “over-enthusiastic researcher” for the page’s contents.
Margaret Aspinall, the chair of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, whose 18-year-old son, James, was killed at the FA Cup semi-final in 1989, said: “There’s a lot of people who survived that day who did lose personal friends. It’s devastating for them because they’re still suffering and for the guy now to backtrack is appalling.”
The Guardian is supporting the Labour candidate at the Stoke by-election, and it surely relishes the chance to hasten the disintegration of UKIP, a pre-Brexit force and a post-Brexit non-entity. So what says the UKIP-supporting Daily Express? Can it spin the story? The paper reports:
…a source close to Mr Nuttall has said the “first time” the Ukip leader encountered the statement on his website was during the Radio City interview.
They added the website is edited by a member of the party’s staff and not Mr Nuttall, and while he didn’t lose a “close friend”, he certainly knew people who had died in the disaster.
Mr Nuttall is said to be “furious” with the error, which as a result of “two words” has thrown up another “bad headline” for Ukip in the run-up to the February 23 by-election.
Politicians have a long history of using football to reach and control the plebs. But this episode might well be the nadir.