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.