Something missing

Anyone watching the Commons doings today should have noticed a missing name, and a quickly-finessed problem.

The second item, the problem, was voiced by Jim Pickard on the Financial Times Westminster Blog:

Whether by design or by chance, (probably the latter), the one issue David Cameron would prefer not to talk about today will have slipped many people’s minds by the time of the evening headlines: Britain’s debt mountain…

Somewhere along the way, the main focus was lost: is the austerity drive for nought and will it be abandoned, or partially abandoned, in the autumn?

The key moment could be when the independent Office for Budget Responsibility issues new forecasts, when it will say whether chancellor George Osborne is likely to hit his debt target.

That is when the chancellor might have to make the biggest decision yet of his time in power: whether to make further spending cuts or cast his targets to the four winds.

In other words, “a good day to bury bad news”.

And the bad news was predictable, but horrendous.

The name missing in all the revelations and debate on the Hillsborough disaster  is “Thatcher”. This could be, in popular terms, the more explosive.

Consider Brian Reade in the Mirror, a year since:

A few years ago I asked Trevor Hicks [of the Hillsborough Family Support Group] if he thought he’d ever establish the truth about why he lost his two beautiful teenage daughters that day.

He told me he already had. He was in no doubt that they died through police incompetence, inadequate safety procedures, a non-existant emergency service response and a culture that had allowed society to view all football fans as dangerous scum and stick them in metal cages.

He sought another truth. Why the Establishment had wriggled out of all blame, smeared the fans as killers, lied about their actions and refused to take any responsibility for the deaths, thus denying the deceased justice and the bereaved closure.

And he said if he could be granted one wish before he died it would be to find out what was said between Margaret Thatcher and police chiefs when she visited the Leppings Lane terrace the day after the disaster.

Because someone in high places had told him that Thatcher decided it was imperative that the police were exonerated. That the consequences for a force she treated almost as her private army, would be immense if (as Lord Justice Taylor’s report later demanded) they took the rap for 96 deaths in their care.

And so the cover-up began with her press adviser Bernard Ingham briefing the media that the disaster had been caused by a “tanked-up mob”.

Three days later the Thatcher-supporting Sun’s infamous front-page about fans urinating on the dead and stealing from their pockets appeared after collusion between the Police Federation and a Tory MP. The story went round the world that drunken fans killed their own. And the truth was buried.

What Cameron admitted in the Commons today was that every aspect of that interpretation has been proven correct — except that the directive for the cover-up came from the top, from Westminster, from Downing Street, from Thatcher.

Who carries the can for the deceit and the cover-up?

Was all the deceit spawned by South Yorkshire Police? Or did it come, in whole or in part, from Thatcher and her inner circle?

What we know is that Thatcher went visiting Hillsborough on the Sunday. It was only on the Monday that the South Yorkshire Police “weeded” the individual policemen’s reports:

“It is evident from the disclosed documents that from the outset SYP sought to establish a case emphasising exceptional levels of drunkenness and aggression among Liverpool fans, alleging that many arrived at the stadium late, without tickets and determined to force entry.

“Eight years after the disaster it was revealed publicly for the first time that statements made by SYP officers were initially handwritten as ‘recollections’, then subjected to a process of ‘review and alteration’ involving SYP solicitors and a team of SYP officers.

“Some 116 of the 164 statements identified for substantive amendment were amended to remove or alter comments unfavourable to SYP.”

 Consider one last piece of “evidence”, again and today from the Mirror, reading Cameron’s lips:

Mr Cameron said that the Hillsborough families were “right” in their belief that some of the authorities “attempted to create a completely unjust account of events that sought to blame the fans for what happened”.

But he said that the report had found “no evidence of any government trying to conceal the truth”.

Mr Cameron said: “At the time of the Taylor Report the then prime minister (Margaret Thatcher) was briefed by her private secretary that the defensive and  — I quote — ‘close to deceitful’ behaviour of senior South Yorkshire officers was ‘depressingly familiar’.

In other words, even if Thatcher was deceived, it was because she wanted to be so.

Which is no exculpation.

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Filed under Britain, Conservative family values, crime, History, sleaze., smut peddlers, Sport, Tories., Yorkshire

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