Maybe I wrote too soon. No sooner had we heard an MP use the example of the Hillsborough Disaster to make an intelligent and reasoned comment about the media coverage of such tragedies then we had a couple of examples that dragged us right back into the gutter.
If Liverpool fans and others who take an interest in such things were feeling like congratulations were in order for the way the debate has been altered in the last 21 years, along came a couple of Jamie Reed’s fellow politicians to assure us that there is still a very long way to go. First we had Sports Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s misinformed comments linking the disaster with hooliganism in a live TV interview, for which he has rightly apologised.
This was closely followed by Russell Hawker, Independent Councillor for Westbury West in Wiltshire, who waded in with his alternative take on what happened at Hillsborough, this time on Twitter. He has since deleted the comments, but here is a screenshot:
Now we could be charitable here, as Liverpool fans so often are. Perhaps hailing from another part of the country, especially one so far away from Merseyside as Wiltshire, means that Cllr Hawker could be forgiven for a lack in-depth knowledge of the topic. So the Liverpool Echo got in touch with him to clarify. He claimed to have read the Taylor Report, which unequivocally laid the blame for the disaster on the police. Yet, as he told the Echo, he has his own view.
It is clear that Cllr Hawker is now using his original comments to prove that old adage about ‘no publicity’, having repeated them to the Echo and appeared on Radio 5 this morning to defend his right to make them. ten minutes hate would never seek to deny anyone the right to make an absolute fool out of themselves and believes that the best way to deal with those who hold stupid beliefs is to give them the widest possible platform for broadcasting their stupidity to the world.
Of course, the danger is that, just as with that S*n headline, there will always be those who believe that they know the real ‘Truth’ of what happened that day. Regardless of Lord Taylor’s efforts in his report, despite the fact that many of the dead were children and without concern for how it hurts the feelings of those still mourning and still fighting for justice. This is why it is so vital to know the facts and to be prepared to counter alternative versions of the events of 15 April 1989. Here it is:
The police were reckless about crowd safety, to the extent that their tactics had not taken into account a large concentration of late arrivals. When a crowd built up outside the turnstiles, following a serious accident on the M62 which had caused traffic delays, the police decided to open an exit gate that should never have been opened. They failed to monitor the numbers of fans gaining access to the central pens of the Leppings Lane stand. There was no numerical control of fans entering, nor visual monitoring of the crowd’s density.
This is the only truth you need. Those are the reasons why 96 football fans who would have been alive to see the scenes in Istanbul, cheer on Torres and all the other fun and heartache that comes from supporting our team, instead never came home from the match.
And until there is an end to people trying to advance any alternative reality, the fight continues. Get involved.
Justice for the 96.