Five things we learned from Cameron's Hillsborough statement

Could some of the victims have been saved?

David Cameron's statement on the Hillsborough tragedy has rightly been praised by all sides for its dignified and heartfelt character. As when the Bloody Sunday report was published, the Prime Minister spoke for the nation, declaring that he was "profoundly sorry" that this injustice had been "uncorrected for so long".

You can read the 395 page report in full here, but here are five of the key points from Cameron's statement.

1. Crowd safety was "compromised at every level"

A series of new documents reveal the extent to which the disaster was foreseeable. As Cameron said,"The turnstiles were inadequate. The ground capacity had been significantly over-calculated. The crush barriers failed to meet safety standards. There had been a crush at exactly the same match the year before. And today’s report shows clearly that lessons had not been learnt."

2. 164 police statements were doctored

In an attempt to divert the blame onto the fans, 164 police statements were "significantly amended", while 116 explicitly removed negative comments about the policing operation, including its leadership.

3. Police carried out computer checks on the dead

Perhaps most shockingly, police officers carried out national computer checks on those who had died in an attempt, as the report puts it, "to impugn the reputations of the deceased." In addition, the Coroner took blood alcohol levels from all of the deceased including children, a decision for which there was no reasonable justification. The attempt of the original inquest to draw a link between blood alcohol and late arrival was "fundamentally flawed".

4. The original inquest was wrong

The original coroner's inquest was wrong to suggest that beyond 3.15pm there were no actions that could have changed the fate of the 96 victims. Cameron announced that the independent panel found that "28 did not have obstruction of blood circulation and 31 had evidence of heart and lungs continuing to function after the crush." Individuals in those groups could have had potentially reversible asphyxia beyond 3.15pm.

5. A new inquest?

Cameron announced that the Attorney General would examine the new evidence immediately and "reach a decision as fast as possible", although it was ultimately for the High Court to decide. The Commons will have the opportunity to debate the report in full when it returns after the party conference season in October.

Members of the public view the Hillsborough memorial at Liverpool's Anfield Stadium. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
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Seven things we learnt from the Battle for Number 10

Jeremy Corbyn emerged the better as he and Theresa May faced a live studio audience and Jeremy Paxman. 

1. Jeremy Corbyn is a natural performer

The Labour leader put in a bravura performance in both the audience Q&A and in his tussle with Jeremy Paxman. He is often uncomfortable at Prime Minister’s Questions but outside of the Commons chamber he has the confidence of a veteran of countless panels, televised discussions and hustings.

If, like me, you watched him at more hustings in the Labour leadership contests of 2015 and 2016 than you care to count, this performance wasn’t a surprise. Corbyn has been doing this for a long time and it showed.

2. And he’s improving all the time

Jeremy Corbyn isn’t quite perfect in this format, however. He has a temper and is prone to the odd flash of irritation that looks bad on television in particular. None of the four candidates he has faced for the Labour leadership – not Yvette Cooper, not Andy Burnham, not Liz Kendall and not Owen Smith – have managed to get under his skin, but when an interviewer has done so, the results have never been pretty for the Labour leader.

The big fear going into tonight for Corbyn was that his temper would get the better of him. But he remained serene in the fact of Paxman’s attempts to rile him until quite close to the end. By that point, Paxman’s frequent interruptions meant that the studio audience, at least, was firmly on Corbyn’s side.

3. Theresa May was wise to swerve the debates

On Jeremy Corbyn’s performance, this validated Theresa May’s decision not to face him directly. He was fluent and assured, she was nervous and warbly.  It was a misstep even to agree to this event. Anyone who decides their vote as far as TV performances tonight will opt for Jeremy Corbyn, there’s no doubt of that.

But if she does make it back to Downing Street it will, in part, be because in one of the few good moves of her campaign she chose to avoid debating Corbyn directly.

4.…but she found a way to survive

Theresa May’s social care U-Turn and her misfiring campaign mean that the voters don’t love her as they once did. But she found an alternate route through the audience Q&A, smothering the audience with grimly dull answers that mostly bored the dissent out of listeners.

5. Theresa May’s manifesto has damaged her. The only question is how badly

It’s undeniable now that Theresa May’s election campaign has been a failure, but we still don’t know the extent of the failure. It may be that she manages to win a big majority by running against Jeremy Corbyn. She will be powerful as far as votes in the House of Commons but she will never again be seen as the electoral asset she once was at Westminster.

It could be that she ends up with a small majority in which case she may not last very much longer at Downing Street. And it could be that Jeremy Corbyn ends up defeating her on 8 June.

That the audience openly laughed when she talked of costings in her manifesto felt like the creaking of a rope bridge over a perilous ravine. Her path may well hold until 8 June, but you wouldn’t want to be in her shoes yourself and no-one would bet on the Conservative Party risking a repeat of the trip in 2022, no matter what happens in two weeks’ time.

6. Jeremy Paxman had a patchy night but can still pack a punch

If Jeremy Paxman ever does produce a collected Greatest Hits, this performance is unlikely to make the boxset. He tried and failed to rouse Jeremy Corbyn into anger and succeeded only in making the audience side with the Labour leader. So committed was he to cutting across Theresa May that he interrupted her while making a mistake.

He did, however, do a better job of damaging Theresa May than he did Jeremy Corbyn.  But not much better.

7. Theresa May may have opposed Brexit, but now she needs it to save her

It’s not a good sign for the sitting Prime Minister that the audience laughed at many of her statements. She had only one reliable set of applause lines: her commitment to getting the best Brexit deal.

In a supreme irony, the woman who opposed a Leave vote now needs the election to be a referendum re-run if she is to secure the big majority she dreams of. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.

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