Jack Straw blames Thatcher for Hillsborough police cover-up
Former Labour Home Secretary says Margaret Thatcher created a ‘culture of impunity’ in the police
COLUMN LAST UPDATED AT 08:56 ON THU 13 SEP 2012
JACK STRAW, the former Home Secretary, sought to turn the Hillsborough disaster into a party political issue this morning by claiming that the outrageous cover-up by the police had been encouraged by a culture of impunity for the police under the Thatcher Government.
Until Straw entered the debate with an appearance on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, all the attention had been on naming and shaming the police who were directly involved in the cover-up over police failures at the Hillsborough stadium 23 years ago.
But Straw blamed Margaret Thatcher and her Government for setting the police culture that contributed to the scandal. “The Thatcher Government, because they needed the police to be a partisan force, particularly for the miners’ strike and other industrial troubles, created a culture of impunity in the police service.
“They really were immune from outside influences and they could rule the roost. That is what we saw in South Yorkshire,” he told the Today programme.
The independent panel whose report revealed the damning truth about the police cover-up gives some weight to Straw’s argument. It revealed that Thatcher penned a note questioning Home Secretary Douglas Hurd’s intention that the government should accept the broad thrust of the Taylor report into the disaster which included criticism of the police.
She wrote: “What do we mean by ‘Welcoming the broad thrust of the report’?
“The broad thrust is devastating criticism of the police. Is that for us to welcome? Surely we welcome the thoroughness of the report and its conclusions. MT.”
And that is closer, by the minute, to what Malcolm — and the dogs in the street — know, feel, and are saying.
Meanwhile, the other conspiracy, the one of silence — lest we harm the feelings of a coddled, cosseted, doddery, addled old lady — is maintained. This is the BBC summary, in full, of that same BBC radio interview:
When New Labour came to power in 1997, Tony Blair’s government appointed Lord Justice Stuart-Smith to head a new judicial scrutiny into the Hillsborough disaster, but it was to become yet another failure.
Jack Straw, who was the incoming home secretary who ordered the report and accepted its findings, said that it is “a matter of great regret” to him that the report was not as thorough as it had been.
He said that the South Yorkshire police were “dragging their feet” in providing all the necessary files on the disaster to Lord Justice Stuart-Smith.
Speaking on the Today programme, he said that Margaret Thatcher’s government had created a “culture of impunity” in the police force at the time, making them feel “immune to the outside world”.