Tory minister claims that football hooliganism was to blame for Hillsborough Stadium disaster

Jeremy Hunt is forced to apologise after suggesting on Sky that hooligans caused the event.

The new Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has come under fire today after casually suggesting that football hooliganism was responsible for the Hillsborough disaster.

In an interview with Sky News, he said:

[A]s a minister, I was incredibly encouraged by the example set by the England fans, I mean not a single arrest for a football-related offensive, and the terrible problems that we had in Heysel and Hillsborough in the 1980s seem now to be behind us. And I think, you know, there is small grounds for encouragement there even though obviously we are very disappointed about the result.

Hunt's ignorant comments are at odds with the conclusions of the 1990 Taylor report, which ruled that poor crowd control, not the behaviour of Liverpool fans, was to blame for the disaster.

The Tory minister's remarks will revive memories of the claims made by Kelvin MacKenize's Sun newspaper, which, on the Wednesday after the disaster, alleged that Liverpool fans had picked the pockets of the dead, urinated on police officers and attacked rescue workers.

To this day, many Liverpool newsagents refuse to stock the Sun; the tabloid lost more than three-quarters of its sales in the city.

Hunt has since apologised for his comments, but it's troubling that the minister responsible for sport was apparently unaware that claims of hooliganism were disproved long ago.

For a more enlightened take on the subject, read Andrew Hussey's essay from our special issue on 1989 -- "the year of the crowd".

UPDATE: Andy Burnham, who memorably represented the government at Anfield on the 20th anniversary of the disaster, has tweeted: "How sad 2 hear Cab Min echo old slurs on Hboro. Need more than apology -- he must give full support 2 discl panel. Full truth & nothing less."

Special subscription offer: Get 12 issues for £12 plus a free copy of Andy Beckett's "When the Lights Went Out".

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

Gordon Brown contemplated making Alastair Campbell a minister

The move is revealed in Ed Balls' new book.

Gordon Brown contemplated making Alastair Campbell, a sports minister. Campbell had served as Tony Blair’s press chief from 1994 to 2003, Ed Balls has revealed.

Although the move fell through, Campbell would have been one of a number of high-profile ministerial appointments, usually through the Lords, made by Brown during his tenure at 10 Downing Street.

Other unusual appointments included the so-called “Goats” appointed in 2007, part of what Brown dubbed “the government of all the talents”, in which Ara Darzi, a respected surgeon, Mark Malloch-Brown, formerly a United Nations diplomat,  Alan West, a former admiral, Paul Myners, a  successful businessman, and Digby Jones, former director-general of the CBI, took ministerial posts and seats in the Lords. While Darzi, West and Myners were seen as successes on Whitehall, Jones quit the government after a year and became a vocal critic of both Brown’s successors as Labour leader, Ed Miliband and Jeremy Corbyn.

The story is revealed in Ed Balls’ new book, Speaking Out, a record of his time as a backroom adviser and later Cabinet and shadow cabinet minister until the loss of his seat in May 2015. It is published 6 September.