Now we have the truth about Hillsborough, it is time for justice

The report proves that it was the fans who were the real heroes on the day.

A national tragedy requires a national response. At such a time, it is the responsibility of the Prime Minister to speak to Britain, for Britain. It is a task that only the Prime Minister can fulfil and its symbolism has a profound effect on those directly and indirectly associated with the tragedy. Today, the Prime Minister delivered, for the families, survivors, and the city of Liverpool.

Hillsborough will always be synonymous with one of the biggest losses of British life in any one day since the end of the Second World War. In the 23 years that have passed, two very different stories have emerged about that day, and three key elements have haunted those associated with it. The failure of the authorities to help protect people. The attempt to blame the fans. And the doubt cast on the original Coroner's Inquest.

The real version of events was told today and I am confident it will become known simply as ‘the truth’. It is a version of events that depicts the carnage at Hillsborough through the eyes of the survivors and the families of the victims. It makes clear that whilst the police froze and did nothing, the fans reacted and saved many more lives.

The second version, which has now been proven to be false, was told through the eyes of a warped media. The Sun newspaper despicably produced a headline that suggested Liverpool fans had stolen money from the dead, had urinated on the "brave cops" who were trying to save lives and had been drunk and ticketless. As the Prime Minister said, "This was clearly wrong."

Today's report has shocked the nation. 96 deaths, of which 41 could and should have survived if those responsible for our safety had done their jobs. 164 police officer statements amended, 116 negative comments removed from witness statements, and a 23 year campaign for truth and justice.

It proved, once and for all, that it was the fans who were the real heroes on the day and that the police, press and politicians, conspired to instigate a cover up that would smear a city and its people, whilst allowing the guilty to evade responsibility for their deadly mistakes. Liverpool has been exonerated. The guilt for the deaths lies squarely at the door of South Yorkshire Police, who made catastrophic mistakes and unashamedly sought to deflect the blame onto the fans.

The Hillsborough families cannot accept the Coroner’s verdict of "accidental death" and some have never even picked up the death certificates for their loved ones. It has been proved that some victims were alive well past the 3.15pm cut off and that if the authorities had acted quicker, more people would have survived.  After today’s publication, the families will be appealing for the Attorney General to make an application to the High Court for the inquests to be reopened and a new cause of death to be determined.

Hillsborough was a tragedy that transcends party politics and unites parliament and the country. So whilst the overwhelming majority of Merseyside fundamentally disagrees with the Prime Minister’s politics and the direction he is taking the country, today we are eternally grateful.

His apology will not be met with celebrations on Merseyside. Instead, there will simply be dignified remembrance from a city that will no longer be a lone voice in a sea of ignorance and scepticism. Whilst for some, the true horror of 15 April 1989 has been eclipsed by the passage of time. For others, today’s news will see the conclusion of half our 23 year cause. Now that the truth has been ascertained, it is time for justice to be delivered.

Steve Rotheram is Labour MP for Liverpool Walton.

A Liverpool Football Club shirt with 'The Truth Now Justice At Last, RIP The 96' is tied to the Shankly gates at Anfield stadium. Photograph: Getty Images.

Steve Rotheram is Labour MP for Liverpool Walton.

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The NS leader: Cold Britannia

Twenty years after the election of New Labour, for the left, it seems, things can only get worse. 

Twenty years after the election of New Labour, for the left, it seems, things can only get worse. The polls suggest a series of grim election defeats across Britain: Labour is 10 points behind the Conservatives even in Wales, putting Theresa May’s party on course to win a majority of seats there for the first time in a century. Meanwhile, in Scotland, the psephologist John Curtice expects the resurgent Tories, under the “centrist” leadership of Ruth Davidson, to gain seats while Labour struggles to cling on to its single MP.

Where did it all go wrong? In this week’s cover essay, beginning on page 26, John Harris traces the roots of Labour’s present troubles back to the scene of one of its greatest triumphs, on 1 May 1997, when it returned 418 MPs to the Commons and ended 18 years of Conservative rule. “Most pop-culture waves turn out to have been the advance party for a new mutation of capitalism, and so it proved with this one,” Mr Harris, one of the contributors to our New Times series, writes. “If Cool Britannia boiled down to anything, it was the birth of a London that by the early Noughties was becoming stupidly expensive and far too full of itself.”

Jump forward two decades and London is indeed now far too dominant in the British economy, sucking in a disproportionate number of graduates and immigrants and then expecting them to pay £4 for a milky coffee and £636,777 for an average house. Tackling the resentment caused by London’s dominance must be an urgent project for the Labour Party. It is one that Mr Corbyn and his key allies, John McDonnell, Emily Thornberry and Diane Abbott, are not well placed to do (all four are ultra-liberals who represent
London constituencies).

Labour must also find a happy relationship with patriotism, which lies beneath many of the other gripes made against Mr Corbyn: his discomfort with the institutions of the British state, his peacenik tendencies, his dislike of Nato and military alliances, his natural inclination towards transnational or foreign liberation movements, rather than seeking to evolve a popular national politics.

New Labour certainly knew how to wave the flag, even if the results made many on the left uncomfortable: on page 33, we republish our Leader from 2 May 1997, which complained about the “bulldog imagery” of Labour’s election campaign. Yet those heady weeks that followed Labour’s landslide victory were a time of optimism and renewal, when it was possible for people on the left to feel proud of their country and to celebrate its achievements, rather than just apologise for its mistakes. Today, Labour has become too reliant on misty invocations of the NHS to demonstrate that it likes or even understands the country it seeks to govern. A new patriotism, distinct from nationalism, is vital to any Labour revival.

That Tony Blair and his government have many detractors hardly needs to be said. The mistakes were grave: the catastrophic invasion of Iraq, a lax attitude to regulating the financial sector, a too-eager embrace of free-market globalisation, and the failure to impose transitional controls on immigration when eastern European states joined the EU. All contributed to the anger and disillusionment that led to the election as Labour leader of first the hapless Ed Miliband and then Jeremy Corbyn, a long-time rebel backbencher.

However, 20 years after the victory of the New Labour government, we should also acknowledge its successes, not least the minimum wage, education reform, Sure Start, a huge fall in pensioner poverty and investment in public services. Things did get better. They can do so again.

The far right halted

For once, the polls were correct. On 23 April, the centrist Emmanuel Macron triumphed in the first round of the French election with 24 per cent of the vote. The Front National’s Marine Le Pen came second with 21.3 per cent in an election in which the two main parties were routed. The two candidates will now face off on 7 May, and with the mainstream candidates of both left and right falling in behind Mr Macron, he will surely be France’s next president.

“There’s a clear distinction to be made between a political adversary and an enemy of the republic,” said Benoît Hamon, the candidate of the governing Parti Socialiste, who had strongly criticised Mr Macron during the campaign. “This is deadly serious now.” He is correct. Mr Macron may be a centrist rather than of the left but he is a democratic politician. Ms Le Pen is a borderline fascist and a victory for her would herald a dark future not just for France but for all of Europe. It is to Donald Trump’s deep shame that he appeared to endorse her on the eve of the vote.

This article first appeared in the 27 April 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Cool Britannia 20 Years On

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