Above: Jerry Hicks
The following article from today’s Times requires little comment from me. I am by no means an uncritical supporter of Len McCluskey, but the developments described in the article (which, like previous pieces in the Murdoch press, has clearly been written with the full co-operation of Hicks) vindicate my assessment that Hicks was not worthy of support in last year’s Unite election and is entirely unfit to lead a trade union. If Hicks had any genuine concerns about the conduct of the election, he could have raised them within the union, which whatever its faults under McCluskey is at least a fairly open and democratic organisation. Those leftists (not just the SWP) who supported Hicks should now be hanging their heads in shame. Incidentally, anyone who knows anything about Unite will know that any “phantom voters” would have been, overwhelmingly, from the ex-Amicus side of the merged union – precisely the constituency that Hicks was appealing to in his campaign. A shameful indictment of a man (Hicks) who can no longer be considered even to be a misguided part of the left:
Union leader faces re-election inquiry after ‘ghost’ vote claim
-Laura Pitel Political Correspondent
The head of Britain’s biggest trade union is to face a formal hearing over claims that his re-election to his post was unfair.
Len McCluskey, general secretary of Unite, has been accused of a series of irregularities by Jerry Hicks, his sole rival in last year’s contest.
Most serious is the allegation that ballot papers were sent to 160,000 “phantom voters” who should not have been allowed to take part.
Unite is being investigated by the independent trade union watchdog over the claims. The Certification Office has the power to order a re-run of the race if Mr Hick’s concerns are upheld.
This week it announced a formal hearing into the claims, provisionally scheduled for July.
Mr Hicks, a former Rolls-Royce convenor who was backed by the Socialist Workers Party, believes that Unite’s decision to include 158,824 lapsed members in last year’s vote was in breach of the rules. The charge emerged after the discovery that there was a mismatch between the number of people granted a vote and the number of members cited in its annual report.
It has been claimed that some of those who were sent a ballot paper for the election, which took place in April 2013, had not paid their subscriptions for several years and even that some of them were no longer alive. The Times revealed in January that fewer than 10 per cent of the disputed members had renewed their subscriptions.
The hearing will listen to eight complaints, including allegations that Unite resources were used to campaign for Mr McCluskey and that it refused to allow Mr Hicks to make a complaint.
All the charges are rejected by Unite, which says that the rules were adhered to throughout the contest. It argued that it sought legal advice on sending ballot papers to those in arrears with their membership and was informed that excluding those who had fallen behind with their payments would be against the rules.
If the complaint about the disputed voters is upheld, Mr Hicks will have to persuade the watchdog that it could have had a significant impact on the outcome if he is to secure a re-run. Failing that, the ombudsman may instruct the union to take steps to ensure that the breach does not happen again.
The outcome of the vote was that Mr McCluskey won 144,570 votes compared with 79,819 for Mr Hicks.
Mr Hicks said he was “very buoyed up” by the news that he had been granted a hearing. He lamented the low turnout in the race, when only 15 per cent of Unites 1.4 million members voted and said he hoped that his complaints would lead to a more democratic union.
The last time a re-run of a general secretary contest was ordered was in 2011, when Ucatt, the construction union, was found to have sent ballot papers to only half of its 130,000 members.
* the use of alleged “extreme tactics” by trade unions is to become the sole focus of an official inquiry into industrial relations, ministers have revealed (Michael Savage writes).
The investigation, announced last year, was originally ordered to examine bad practices by employers as well as the controversial “leverage campaigns” wages by some unions. However, it will now only focus on the alleged intimidatory tactics used by unions.
Now The Sun (which, like the Mail, has a record of publishing pictures of young girls with little clothing on) joins in:
Look, the truth is that back in the seventies, the left (reformist and revolutionary) was all over the shop on this issue. I’m pleased to say that my comrades and I (in what’s now the AWL) took a firm line on the question of under-aged sex and supported the principle of an age of consent (gay and straight) of around 15 or 16 – but there were some on the left who didn’t. Even a candidate for leadership of the Labour Party (in 1992), Bryan Gould, expressed sympathy with PIE, in a letter politely declining their invitation to him to sponsor their campaign.
The fact that some now-respectable figures in the Labour Party didn’t regard this as a particularly worrying issue, and didn’t protest about the PIE’s affiliation to the NCCL at the time, is symptomatic of the way things were then. That doesn’t make it OK, but it’s how it was, as the left struggled to come to terms with sexual politics, and sophisticated paedophiles cynically utilised the gay rights/sexual liberation agenda to legitimise their cause in the eyes of naïve idiots on sections of the left at the time.
It’s significant that amongst the loudest voices raising the alarm about the PIE at the time were gay activists, who didn’t want to be associated with paedophilia.
The far left, with one or two exceptions (the IMG and the pre-fusion WSL, neither of which now exist) was hostile to the PIE.
I know it’s what old gropers and their apologists always say, but on this matter it’s true: the past is another country. That doesn’t excuse those who were negligent and/or indifferent at the time, but it is the context.
And, certainly, the Sun and the Mail have no right to witch-hunt anyone over this .
By Anne Field
Another Sunday. Another issue of the Sunday Times. Another attack on Unite (on pages 1, 4, 16, 17 and 33).
But this time Jerry Hicks – the founder, leader and mouthpiece of the “Grass Roots Left” in Unite – has given a helping hand. According to the front-page article:
“Hicks said this weekend: ‘Was Falkirk an aberration or a modus operandi? There are serious questions that need to be answered about these tens of thousands of non-members of the union who were sent ballot papers.’”
The reference to “tens of thousands of non-members” receiving ballot papers relates to Hick’s complaint to the Certification Officer , alleging that in the Unite general secretary election held earlier this year 160,000 ballot papers were sent to former members not entitled to vote.
Unite’s response is that the members’ subscriptions had lapsed but they were still entitled to vote. Under rule 4.1 of the union’s rulebook members can be up to 26 weeks in arrears before being removed from the membership lists.
“Hicks says that it is not credible that nearly 160,000 members were in recent arrears of membership,” continues the Sunday Times article. But in a union with 1.4 million members it is entirely credible. Annual membership turnover in a union is 25%.
(See para. 9 of the recent government report: “Amendment to the TULRCA 1992: Trade Unions’ Registers of Members: Impact Assessment”.)
But the issue here is not – yet another – complaint by Hicks to the Certification Officer. It is his statement: “Was Falkirk an aberration or a modus operandi?”
The starting point for that statement can only be that Unite committed vote-rigging abuses in recruiting its members to the Labour Party in Falkirk. The sole question for Hicks is whether it was “an aberration or a modus operandi.”
This was no slip of the tongue by Hicks. In an earlier statement about Grangemouth Hicks wrote on his website of Unite’s “infantile, unfunny comic capers of infiltration through recruiting members to the Labour Party.”
Hicks’ line of argument is: Unite engaged in vote-rigging in Falkirk – isn’t it credible, therefore, that it engaged in the same malpractices in this year’s general secretary elections?
In fact, one of the comments on Hicks’ website is much more straightforward and makes explicit was Hicks merely insinuates:
“An investigation should have been launched to establish who in Unite cheated which resulted in McCluskey winning. Another investigation should be launched by the police into data protection issues over the use of Unite membership lists.”
(Clearly, one must assume that Hicks and his supporters were 100% supportive of Labour Party officials handing over the dodgy ‘Falkirk dossier’ to the police.)
Hicks is very proud of the Sunday Times coverage of his complaint to the Certification Officer. On his website he boasts:
“Jerry Hlcks (sic) challenge to validity of Unite General Secretary election makes ‘Sunday Times’ front page. The ‘Sunday Times’ (01/11/13) (sic) front page article ‘Union Boss Len McCluskey Elected by Phantoms’ carries my complaint to the Certification Officer.”
Hicks is either too thick or too callous, to be quite blunt about it, not to recognise that the Sunday Times front page article is nothing but another vicious witch-hunting attack on Unite, drawing parallels between supposed malpractices in Falkirk and supposed malpractices in Len McCluskey’s re-election.
It is also another disgraceful attack on Stevie Deans. The article makes a ‘linkage’ of Stevie-Deans-Unite-convenor (nearly lost everyone their jobs), Stevie-Deans-Falkirk-Labour–chair (vote-rigging) and Stevie-Deans-election-campaigner-for-McCluskey (vote-rigging).
Solidarity with his own union in the face of this witch-hunt? Solidarity with a fellow union member who has been hounded out of his job and his union and Labour Party positions?
Of such solidarity there is not a word in Hicks’ piece. Instead, narcissism trumps solidarity. “The media are responding to our (sic – should read: my) press release of 9th September,” claims Hicks.
No. The Sunday Times was not responding on 10th November to a press release issued by Hicks on 9th September. It was engaged in an ongoing witch-hunt.
And Hicks’ complaint to the Certification Officer, backed up by Hicks’ allegations about Unite’s role in Falkirk Labour Party, was just another ‘peg’ on which to hang the ongoing witch-hunt.
If there is hard evidence of vote-rigging in this year’s Unite general secretary elections, Hicks is perfectly entitled to raise it. Socialists would defend him for doing so, even if the right-wing media were to exploit such a complaint for its own ends.
But that is not the case here.
Hicks is endorsing gutter-level accusations about vote-rigging by Unite in Falkirk Labour Party in order to try to lend some credibility to allegations about vote-rigging in the Unite general secretary elections.
The Sunday Times picks up on these allegations. In three articles on five pages it attacks Unite and its links to the Labour Party. Hicks’ response is not to condemn the witch-hunt but to say: “Hey look, they’re talking about me!”
(Footnote: Hicks makes allegations about Unite’s recruitment practices in Falkirk Labour Party and about non-members of Unite being given a vote in the general secretary elections.
But according to Hicks’ website, the Grass Roots left national conference, held the day before the appearance of the Sunday Times article, was open to “members of Unite the union, their families and friends.”)
Ross Harper adds:
Well, just fancy that!
Enter Jerry Hicks, stage right, furiously backpedalling.
It’s all been a terrible mistake, he now claims in a new post on his website. See: http://www.jerryhicks4gs.org/
He has made no linkage, he says between events in Falkirk and his complaint to the Certification Officer. Good heavens, no!
And brother Hicks piously stresses that he is “opposed to any attempt to use my complaint in any witch hunt against my union.” Good to hear it, Jerry!
Mind you, there’s still a few things that Hicks needs to explain:
1) The article which he posted on his website this morning made NO criticism of the Sunday Times article. So why did he not say this morning what he is saying now? Could it be that he is saying it only now because of the flak he’s received, because of people ‘unfriending’ him, and because of the nasty things that have been written about him?
2) Hicks does not deny having said “Was Falkirk an aberration or a modus operandi?” This quote is, in any case, entirely consistent with what he has said elsewhere on his website about Falkirk, i.e. that Unite was engaged in “infiltration” of Falkirk Labour Party.
3) Hicks says that he has made no linkage between events in Falkirk and his complaint to the Certification Officer. Problem, for him, is that he claims that Unite was involved in “infiltration” in Falkirk (which the average person would consider to be vote-rigging) and that people who were not members of Unite received ballot papers during the general secretary election earlier this year, presumably in order to help Len McCluskey win (which the average person would consider to be vote-rigging). So it’s pretty pathetic for Hicks to claim that he is making no linkage between the two.
4) Hicks does not deny having said what the Sunday Times says that he said. Let us be charitable and suppose that the Sunday Times has run two different statements together from Hicks into a single quote. But what did Hicks think the Sunday Times was going to do? And this is someone who wants to be a union general secretary (where you need to know how to deal with the media)!
5) Hicks now writes: “I am opposed to any attempt to use my complaint in any witch hunt against my union.” But what about his allegation of “infiltration” into Falkirk Labour Party (and his rhetorical question about whether it was a one-off or established practice)? How can such allegations be used for anything other than a witch-hunt against Unite?
6) Even now Hicks cannot bring himself to utter a single word of support for Stevie Deans (although I very much doubt that Stevie would welcome support from such a source).
The next time Hicks throws his hat into the ring in another general secretary election, Unite members should remember this scurrilous fiasco.
According to the front page of today’s Sunday Times
“THE boss of Britain’s biggest union, involved in a vote-rigging inquiry in Falkirk, faces investigation over alleged irregularities in his own election.
“The allegations over the election of Len McCluskey as general secretary of the Unite union centre on claims that almost 160,000 of those balloted were not members.
“His rival for the job, Jerry Hicks, has complained that the election was unlawful because people who had left the union were included in the ballot. Hicks said dead former members were among those who were sent voting papers.
“The Certification Office — the union regulator, which has the power to order McCluskey’s election to be rerun — confirmed this weekend that it has launched an investigation. An official complaint is expected to be submitted to Unite in the next few weeks.
“Hicks said this weekend: ‘Was Falkirk an aberration or a modus operandi?’ There are serious questions that need to be answered about these tens of thousands of non-members of the union who were sent ballot papers.”
So it appears that the SWP-supported Hicks (who lost the last general secretary election to McCluskey by 80,000 votes earlier this year) has not only reported the union to the Certification Officer, but is now co-operating with the Murdoch press (and so, with the Tories and Blairites) in the witch-hunt against Unite in the wake of Falkirk and Grangemouth.
By the way, I’d put money on the fact that if there were any significant membership irregularities at the time of the general secretary election, they came from the old Amicus side of the merged union – precisely the constituency Hicks was appealing to in his campaign.
But for now, Mr Hicks has some ‘serious questions that need answering’ – like what the hell does he think he’s doing going to the Certification Officer and the Murdoch press instead of raising any legitimate concerns he might have within the union itself? Unite under McCluskey has many faults, but it is a relatively open and democratic organisation, where any such concerns would be taken seriously and investigated. But it would appear that Mr Hicks is more interested in attacking McCluskey, even by means of joining in the right-wing witch-hunt against the union itself.
There’s a name for people who do that. It’s “scab.”
P.S: As Anne Field and Andrew Coates note in BTL comments below, Hicks seems very proud of his coverage in the Murdoch press: http://www.jerryhicks4gs.org/
Steve Bell’s ‘If’ strip in the Graun has recently been concerning itself with imagery about Murdoch, Netanyahu and a glove puppet, plus references to a so-called “Aunty Semitic” “Trope.” Guardian readers who are unaware of the background to this will have been mystified as to the meaning of it all – but then that’s not unusual with a Bell cartoon. Regular readers of Shiraz should be aware of what lies behind it: a Bell cartoon back in November was was widely criticised for reproducing the long-standing antisemitic “trope” (ie: “stereotype”; in this case, that of the puppet-master, as widely used in Nazi and contemporary Middle Eastern propaganda). Eventually, the Guardian‘s reader’s editor agreed (to a very limited degree) with the criticism. Bell refused acknowledge even the possibility that his cartoon was ill-judged and seems to have been smarting ever since.
dropped in and sensitivities are talked up .. the very word
‘antisemitic’ becomes devalued…
“.. they throw it around with such abandon. If there really is
antisemitism it’s actually getting ignored…”
I wasn’t going to comment on the Gerald Scarfe cartoon published in the last Sunday Times, especially as Rupert Murdoch has apologised for it and Scarfe himself has stated that he hadn’t realised it would be published on Holocaust Memorial Day.
My personal view is that, on balance, the cartoon cannot fairly be considered antisemtic, but it certainly sails close to the wind, and its publication on Holocaust Memorial Day was a very serious misjudgement.
Political cartoonists frequently depict political leaders as blood-smeared, and they (the cartoonists, that is) sometimes seem unaware of, or indifferent to, the significance of the “blood libel” in the history of antisemitism.
Mark Gardner, of the Community Security Trust, very sensibly comments that the artist’s subjective intention is not necessarily the crucial consideration:
“As ever, we are immediately drawn into the old ‘is it antisemitic, isn’t it antisemitic’ routine – as if anybody could ever prove what actually goes on in Gerald Scarfe’s head; and as if what goes on in his head is the most important thing in all of this.
“For sure, Gerald Scarfe has ‘a thing’ about blood. It is a theme that repeats in his cartoons. For example, his Sunday Times cartoon of 26th February 2012, literally shows Syria’s President Assad guzzling blood from a cup that has “children’s blood” written on it. So, he has not singled out Benjamin Netanyahu for the blood treatment and he is perfectly capable of drawing a full-on blood libel should the mood take him. Neither has Scarfe singled out Netanyahu for physical disfigurement. This is how he draws people, regardless of their nationality or religion.
“Unfortunately for Jews – and for satirists – antisemites and antisemitism also have ‘a thing’ about blood; and especially about the allegation that Jews murder others (children in particular) in order to use their blood or organs for heinous purpose. It is a harsh fact that blood has long played a profoundly disturbing part in the history of antisemitism, and this has obvious consequences for Jews and antisemites today. The actual intentions of Gerald Scarfe and the Sunday Times count for very little within this broader context of history, and its contemporary emotional and racist impacts.”
But, as I said, I wasn’t going to comment until I heard Steve Bell “defending” the cartoon on the Today Programme this morning. Bell’s rant (against Stephen Pollard of the Jewish Chronicle who didn’t, in fact, want such cartoons banned) was vile, full of stuff about “you people,” the “Zionist lobby,” how strange that even Murdoch has been forced to apologise (the “Zionist lobby” you see), an extraordinarliy ignorant claim that the blood libel is never used these days, and the alleged “fact” that the root cause of the problem is the foundation of Israel itself, based as it is (according to Bell) on “ethnic cleansing.”
This quote from Bell, in the course of this morning’s discussion, must never be forgotten:
“Extraneous notions like blood libel are
dropped in and sensitivities are talked up .. the very word
‘antisemitic’ becomes devalued…
“.. they throw it around with such abandon. If there really is
antisemitism it’s actually getting ignored…”
When the Guardian published this much-criticised cartoon by Bell last year,
I was inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt against charges of antisemitism. I wouldn’t anymore.
The present crisis at the BBC is probably more serious than any in its history. Even the “honourable” departure of “Incurious George” Enwistle has turned into a fiasco, what with the indefensible £450,000 payoff after 53 days in the job. More heads seem certain to roll, including the scratch team at Newsnight responsible for elementary journalistic errors that would have embarrassed a student newspaper, and (if the gloating Murdoch press has its way) the Corporation’s chairman Chris Patton.
In this febrile atmosphere, two essential points need to be constantly bourne in mind:
1/ It was John Humphrys’ merciless interrogation of Entwistle on the Today programme that played a big part in bringing matters to a head and effectively forced the wretched man’s resignation. What other media organisation would allow one of its jounalists to publicly humiliate the boss in that way? Can you imagine such a thing happening in, say, News Corp?
2/ The crucial matter remains child abuse, and the large number of victims who dare not come forward, or who are not believed when they do. The loathsome David Mellor’s description of Steve Messham (an unreliable witness, for sure, but most certainly a genuine victim) as a “weirdo” shows the degree of prejudice and ruling-class closing of ranks, that victims are often up against. It’s come to something when it takes another Tory, the former children’s minister Tim Loughton, to point out (in today’s Guardian) what should be obvious: “We’re forgetting that this whole issue is not about management of the BBC, it’s not about the Leveson inquiry, and it’s not about celebrities and politicians. It’s about the fact that a lot of children have been abused over many years and many of them have never had their stories believed or investigated.”
Hear, bloody hear.
Tonight at 10.35 something extraordinary will happen: a TV programme will call into question the competence and integrity of its own Chief Editor.
BBC Panorama will air the fact that BBC Newsnight journalists (notably reporter Liz MacKean and producer Meirion Jones) do not accept the explanation given by the Corporation’s top brass for having pulled Newsnight‘s Savile exposé in December of last year. The clear implication will be that pressure was brought to bear from the very top of the Corporation to pull the film.
Those who heard Newsnight editor Peter Rippon trying to explain away the decision, or who read his original blog account (now amended) of the reasoning behind the decision, already know that his ‘explanation’ stinks. But for nearly three weeks the Beeb’s official line on the matter held firm in its denial and compacency – which makes Rippon’s “decision” (allegedly forced on him by the new director general George Entwistle) to “stand aside” today and the admission that his account was “inaccurate or incomplete” all the more remarkable.
In tonight’s Panorama, Liz MacKean will state that she knew at the time the Newsnight report was nearing completion on 30th November of last year, that the previously supportive Rippon had changed his mind and would not be prepared to see the film aired. She does not, it seems, offer any explanation as to why Rippon backed down, and Panorama has no proof that any pressure was brought to bear on Rippon.
It’s hard to escape the obvious explanation: the BBC had a number of grovelling “tribute” shows scheduled to celebrate the national treasure, tireless charity worker and serial paedophile Savile over the Christmas period. The Newsnight exposé would have been, to say the least, a bit embarrassing.
But now comes the most interesting bit: what did the new BBC director general (at the time head of BBC TV) George Entwistle, know about the allegations against Savile and the Newsnight report in the period immediately before the film was pulled?
According to Panorama, Helen Boaden (head of BBC news), warned Entwistle in December that something was about to be broadcast on Newsnight, that might cause him to have to re-think his planned Savile tributes over Christmas. Entwistle acknowledges that this conversation happened, but insists that he didn’t ask Boaden for further details – something that I am not alone in finding difficult to believe.
What we know for sure is that shortly after that convesation, Rippon pulled the programme and later gave reasons for doing so that have now been withdrawn as untrue (sorry: “inaccurate or incomplete”).
Naturally, the Murdoch press, the Mail and the Tories are having a field-day at the Beeb’s expense over the Savile affair as a whole, the Newsnight business in particular, and the BBC’s monumental mishandling of the whole fiasco. And it has to be admitted that the Corporation’s compacency, dishonesty and ineptitude has played into the hands of its enemies. If today’s reports that BBC has been briefing against its own Newsnight journalists are true, then heads will have to roll, starting with Enwistle’s.
But it must be borne in mind that tonights’s Panorama will be something that no commercial broadcaster would ever allow: a devastating and potentially career-threatening attack upon its own senior management. It was encroaching commercialism (ie: the imperative to protect Savile’s reputation during and after his life) within the BBC that got it into this mess in the first place. It’s the public service ethos (to be demonstrated by Panorama tonight) that may yet save it.
He didn’t like it up ‘im (-self):
From Alex Thompson’s Channel 4 blog:
Mr MacKenzie has not given any interviews at all since the publication of last week’s Hillsborough report.
Channel 4 News repeatedly called him requesting an interview. We called yesterday in person to relay that message to him via his family at his large house in a private development in Surrey.
This morning I arrived there. I went straight to his house without any camera or recording equipment and asked Mr Mackenzie if he would kindly put on camera the remarks in his statement last week and generally give his side of the story.
Mr Mackenzie explained he was in the middle of writing an article for The Spectator and did not wish to do a TV interview with me. He then added: “F*** off.”
So I did. But not far. Just around the corner in fact to meet our cameraman and put on a radio microphone.
We called again. And you can see what happened on the next two meetings at his house. This time, Kelvin MacKenzie had changed rapidly from the shorts and t-shirt of the earlier visit into a smart shirt and trousers.
I sensed he was going out. In fact he went in. He again said he did not wish to be interviewed and that he was ‘not going to let (Channel 4 News) set the agenda’. He slammed the door in my face.
What the camera doesn’t pick up is that, from within the house he said: “I’m not afraid” when I ask him why he’s afraid of speaking to us.
Equally, when we returned a second time, what you don’t quite hear is Kelvin Mackenzie emerging from his house to leave.
As he does so he says jauntily: “Ah Alex – you still here? And still employed?”
I confirm on the tape that I am, still, employed and the rest is all there for you. And needs no words from me.
But as a postscript, consider this from Chris Horrie and Peter Chippindale’s fascinating account of life under Kelvin Mackenzie at The Sun – “Stick It Up Your Punter: Rise and Fall of The Sun”:
“As MacKenzie’s layout was seen by more and more people, a collective shudder ran through the office but MacKenzie’s dominance was so total there was nobody left in the organisation who could rein him in except Murdoch.”
“The error staring them in the face was too glaring. It obviously wasn’t a silly mistake; nor was it a simple oversight. Nobody really had any comment on it, they just took one look and went away shaking their heads in wonder at the enormity of it. It was a classic smear.”
A smear for which Kelvin Mackenzie adamantly refused to apologise for many years. He still refuses to explain why he came to over-rule his staff and set in train a smear that hurts many to this day.
By David Kirk (Workers Liberty)
After 23 years of struggle the Justice for 96 Campaign have forced out the truth about the 1989 Hillsborough disaster and the deliberate cover up and smear campaign by the ruling class to shift the blame to the fans. The report of the investigation by the Hillsborough Independent Panel has not only vindicated the campaign by the victims’ families: it has made plain the cover up was much more widespread and calculated then even they realised.
This was a entirely avoidable and also entirely predictable illegal killing. From the 70s onwards fans, journalists and managers had been pointing out the dangers of tightly penning in fans on crumbling terraces. There had been plenty of previous disaster and near disasters that should have been heeded. However most football club owners were more bothered about maximising paying customers and spending the least possible money on safety or renovation. The police and the government treated fans with contempt; they were a “public order issue” to be penned in and treated as cattle.
Just before 3pm on 15 April 1989 South Yorkshire Police started forcing far too many Liverpool fans into one particular section of the Lepping’s Lane end of the Sheffield football ground. Because of the cages and barriers a crush quickly developed. Instead of responding to the fans cries for help the police treated the crush as “crowd trouble” and literally beat back fans trying to climb out.
Ambulances were kept out of the ground by the police who were still insisted it was hooliganism even as the fatalities became apparent. Only one ambulance crew defied the order and drove on to the pitch.
This latest Hillsborough investigation argues that up to 41 of the deaths may have been avoided if the police response to the crush had been prompt.
Within hours of the disaster the cover up and smear campaign began. The local leader of the Police Federation, senior police officers and a local Tory MP met to decide the official line. That line was to blame the Liverpool fans themselves.
Rupert Murdoch’s Sun newspaper repeated these lies saying fans had urinated on the dead and dying, that ambulance workers had been attacked, the dead people had been looted. They also said fans had been drunk and violent. The lies were printed under the headline, “The Truth”. The Hillsborough Panel have proved these stories to be sick fabrications.
The campaign for justice and truth throughout has had to take on the police, the rightwing press and both Labour and Tory governments. Even though an earler inquiry and report, the Taylor Report, led to vastly improved safety in football grounds, the police made sure that the real truth did not come out. Over 100 police officers statements were changed to avoid evidence of police culpability.
The Tory press and party’s contempt for the people of Liverpool was well known. Liverpool’s trade unionists were too militant, their politics too socialist. So when the Labour government was elected in 1997 there was hope for justice. However these hopes like so many others were dashed by New Labour.
Through years of demonstrations, campaigning in the press, through the unions and through Labour Party branches the campaigners kept the issue to the fore. This still did not stop the smears and accusations of self pity coming from the right, including from Boris Johnson.
Now the apologies are coming thick and fast. The campaign will continue to demand police officers are brought to account and that the inquest be re-opened.
Hillsborough, along with the cases of Stephen Lawrence, John Charles De Menzenies and Iain Tomlinson, remind us how far the ruling class will go to cover up police brutality and incompetence. The families’ campaign also remind us how vital it is despite all the smears and obstacles to continue the struggle for truth and justice.
Justice for the 96!