The Sun apologises for Hillsborough but it won't be forgiven

Suspicion persists that the paper's real motive is a commercial one.

The Sun was undoubtedly right to lead with Hillsborough on its front page this morning. It would have been hopelessly evasive to relegate the story to a later section.

Some have accused the paper of attempting to divert the blame for its smears onto the police, as Kelvin MacKenzie did yesterday ("I too was totally misled"). But its editorial, at least, offers something close to an unconditional apology.

[I]t is to the eternal discredit of The Sun that we reported as fact this misinformation which tarnished the reputation of Liverpool fans including the 96 victims.

Today we unreservedly apologise to the Hillsborough victims, their families, Liverpool supporters, the city of Liverpool and all our readers for that misjudgment.

The role of a newspaper is to uncover injustice. To forensically examine the claims made by those who are in positions of power.

In the aftermath of the Hillsborough tragedy we failed.

This isn't the first time that the title has attempted to make amends for its coverage of the deaths. In 2004 after Wayne Rooney was criticised for selling his life story to the tabloid, it ran a full-page editorial, stating that it had "committed the most terrible mistake in its history", and apologising "without reservation". Rooney, it said, should not be punished for its "past sins".

That apology was not accepted and, one expects, this one won't be received any differently. Merseyside's 23-year boycott of the paper, which led sales in the area to fall from around 55,000 a day to 12,000, will almost certainly continue (many newsagents refuse to stock it as a matter of principle), and suspicion will persist that the paper's real motive is a commercial one.

Hillsborough, unsurprisingly, is on the front of almost all of today's papers (the Mail's front page is particularly poignant), with the notable exception of the Daily Telegraph which, bizarrely, makes no reference to the story on its front page. The Daily Express, meanwhile, acknowledges a "shocking cover-up", but rather spoils the effect with its main headline, "Migrants blamed for surge in crime".

A poster urging people to boycott the Sun is pasted to a wall near Liverpool's Anfield stadium. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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“It was like a religious ceremony”: What happened at Big Ben’s final bong?

Both inside and outside Parliament, people gathered to hear the clock’s final midday chime before undergoing repairs.

“It’s just hacks everywhere,” a photographer sighs, jamming his lens through a gap in Parliament’s railings to try and get a closer look.

New Palace Yard, Parliament’s courtyard directly below Big Ben, is filling with amused-looking journalists, waiting for the MPs who have promised to hold a “silent vigil”, heads bowed, to mark Big Ben’s final chime before four years of silence while the tower’s repaired.

About four of them turn up. Two by accident.

It’s five minutes to twelve. Tourists are gathering outside Westminster Tube, as tourists do best. A bigger crowd fills Parliament Square. More people than expected congregate outside, even if it’s the opposite within the Palace. The world and his phone are gazing up at the sad, resigned clock face.


“It’s quite controversial, isn’t it?” one elderly woman in an anorak asks her friend. They shrug and walk off. “Do you know what is this?” an Italian tourist politely asks the tiny press pack, gesturing to the courtyard. No one replies. It’s a good question.

“This is the last time,” says another tourist, elated, Instagram-poised.

“DING DONG DING DONG,” the old bell begins.

Heads down, phones up.


It finishes the on-the-hour tune for the last time, and then gives its much-anticipated resignation statement:

“BONG. BONG. BONG. BONG. BONG. BONG. BONG. BONG. BONG. BONG. BONG. BONG.”

Applause, cheers, and even some tears.


But while the silly-seasoned journalists snigger, the crowd is enthusiastic.

“It’s quite emotional,” says David Lear, a 52-year-old carer from Essex, who came up to London today with his work and waited 45 minutes beneath Big Ben to hear it chime.

He feels “very, very sad” that the bell is falling silent, and finds the MPs’ vigil respectful. “I think lots of people feel quite strongly about it. I don’t know why they’re doing it. During the war it carries on, and then they turn it off for a health and safety reason.”

“I don’t know why they can’t have some speakers half way down it and just play the chime,” he adds. “So many tourists come especially to listen to the chime, they gather round here, getting ready for it to go – and they’re going to switch it off. It’s crazy.”

Indeed, most of the surrounding crowd appears to be made up of tourists. “I think that it was gorgeous, because I’ve never heard him,” smiles Cora, an 18-year-old German tourist. “It was a great experience.”

An Australian couple in their sixties called Jane and Gary are visiting London for a week. “It was like a religious ceremony, everybody went quiet,” laughs Gary. “I hope they don’t forget where they put the keys to start it again in four years’ time.”

“When we first got here, the first thing we did was come to see it,” adds Jane, who is also positive about the MPs who turned up to watch. “I think it’s good they showed a bit of respect. Because they don’t usually show much respect, do they?”

And, as MPs mouthing off about Big Ben are challenged on their contrasting reactions to Grenfell, that is precisely the problem with an otherwise innocent show of sentimentality.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.