Liverpool FC

Justice a Step Closer

It’s not often that I have much complimentary to say about David Cameron. But I always aspire to be fair on this blog, and there are some occasions that go beyond party politics. Today was one of those days.

The revelations contained in the Report of the Hillsborough Independent Panel make for shocking and heartbreaking reading. After twenty three long years — longer than I have been alive — the truth is finally emerging. It doesn’t make it easier, but it means that a healing process can finally begin.

David Cameron’s apology was full and sincere, and everything that we could have asked for from a British Prime Minister. And in recognising that, we have to appreciate that four previous Prime Ministers, both Labour and Conservative, have failed to make such a recognition and apology.

Mr Cameron said:

Mr Speaker, with the weight of the new evidence in this Report, it is right for me today as Prime Minister to make a proper apology to the families of the 96 for all they have suffered over the past 23 years.

Indeed, the new evidence that we are presented with today makes clear that these families have suffered a double injustice.

The injustice of the appalling events – the failure of the state to protect their loved ones and the indefensible wait to get to the truth.

And the injustice of the denigration of the deceased – that they were somehow at fault for their own deaths.

On behalf of the Government – and indeed our country – I am profoundly sorry for this double injustice that has been left uncorrected for so long.

Additionally, Ed Miliband made a much-needed apology. The previous Labour government should have dealt with it, and it didn’t. Ed, wearing a Justice for the 96 lapel pin, said:

The Prime Minister was right today to offer an unreserved official apology, but all governments during this period bear their share of responsibility for the failure to get to the truth.

So we on this side also apologise to the families that we didn’t do enough to help.

Hillsborough has been a stain on our national conscience for far too long. It has been clear for a long time that not only was the disaster and its scale avoidable, but there was a cover up of the problems which led to the death toll and a disgraceful smear campaign against the victims themselves.

The months and years to come are going to be very difficult, as we find out who is truly to blame for the tragedy. We need to know who in the police and the other emergency services was responsible for the cover-up. We need to know the involvement of the Thatcher government and its members. We need to know how this could have happened.

The most heartbreaking thing that I have heard today was this from Dr Bill Kirkup, a member of the panel, at the press conference:

In total, 41 people therefore had potential to survive after the period of 3:15. What I can’t say is how many of those could have been saved. But I can say is that the potential is of that order of magnitude.

There are 41 people who may had been alive today if the emergency services had done their jobs correctly. And it has taken over two decades for that simple and shameful fact to reach the light of day.

But for now, let me just say thank you. From a lifelong Liverpool fan, who cried when he read the court transcripts of the numerous post-Hillsborough court cases, to all of the people who made this happen, thank you. Thank you to the David Cameron and Ed Miliband for the apologies their forebears couldn’t muster. Thank you to Andy Burnham and the other MPs who have fought in the Commons for this, and the Hillsborough Justice Campaign who did the same outside Parliament.

15th April 1989 was a shameful day. 12th September 2012 is a day to be proud of.

Apologies – the Rights and Wrongs

The apologies from Luis Suarez and Kenny Daglish do what Aidan Burley's apology in the wake of his Nazi-themed party did not; namely accept responsibility

Apologies are tricky things. The admission of being in the wrong, and the facing of the consequences. It’s a humbling thing to have to do, but also a brave thing to do. Unfortunately, it’s much more common to see a weak, non-apology: the “I’m sorry if I caused any offence” line.

This afternoon, Liverpool Football Club have issued a couple of apologies. Having read them through, I’m rather impressed. They seem like full, sincere apologies, which is something of a breath of fresh air. Before I launch into an examination and explanation, I’ll declare a two-fold interest: firstly, I am a Liverpool fan; secondly, I don’t like Luis Suarez. He’s a good player, but ever since his cheating against Ghana in the World Cup, I haven’t cared for him.

Right, now that’s done with… Yesterday, ahead of the Premier League match between Liverpool and Manchester United, Suarez refused to shake hands with United player Patrice Evra. There’s history between the two, specifically that Suarez was punished for racially abusing Evra earlier in the season.

Below is the text of Suarez’s apology:

“I have spoken with the Manager since the game at Old Trafford and I realise I got things wrong. I’ve not only let him down, but also the Club and what it stands for and I’m sorry. I made a mistake and I regret what happened. I should have shaken Patrice Evra’s hand before the game and I want to apologise for my actions. I would like to put this whole issue behind me and concentrate on playing football.”

Note what Suarez says here. He identifies (correctly) what he did wrong, states what he should have done, and apologises for not doing that. He doesn’t apologise for the offence that people took at his actions, because it was the actions themselves that were wrong.

Kenny Daglish, Liverpool’s manager, has also apologised for his horribly misjudged defence of Suarez in a post-match interview:

“When I went on TV after yesterday’s game I hadn’t seen what had happened, but I did not conduct myself in a way befitting of a Liverpool manager during that interview and I’d like to apologise for that.”

Again, Kenny does the same thing. He identifies what he did wrong, and apologises for it. Neither man makes mention of the people who were offended, because to do so would shift the blame onto them, when it was the player and manager who were in the wrong.

For a bit of a comparison, take a look at this “apology” from Conservative MP Aidan Burley after he was revealed to have attended an extremely offensive Nazi-themed stag party, where attendees dressed up in SS uniforms and made toasts to the Third Reich:

“Deeply regret inappropriate behaviour by some guests at stag party I attended and I am extremely sorry for any offence that was caused.”

(Again, with the interest declaring: I am a Labour Party member and activist, and I am not at all a fan of Mr Burley)

Now, leaving aside for the moment that Burley’s version of events later turned out to be false, this is a textbook example of the “non-apology” I mentioned above. Look at what he’s apologising for: “any offence that was caused”. He’s not apologising for attending the party, for not stopping his fellow party-goers when their behaviour became unacceptable, or leaving when it did. He apologises that people were offended by his actions. He doesn’t believe that he did anything wrong, but he’s sorry that you do.

Yesterday I was ashamed of my football club. Today I am not. Kenny Daglish and Luis Suarez, whatever you may think of them or of Liverpool, have accepted that they were in the wrong, accepted responsibility, and have apologised for what they did. This doesn’t make everything magically okay, but it’s a first step.

If this sort of humility were replicated across our society, we could only be better for it.