It’s my blog and I reserve the right to go ‘off piste’ if I want to. The may fly interest of the media in the aftermath of the independent inquiry is busily trying to create a new narrative of deception around the Hillsborough events, this time based on the familiar line of authorities caught with their trousers down – ‘we’ve learned the lessons,, changes have been made, it was a long time ago, it couldn’t happen now’. I doubt the relatives of Ian Tomlinson would see it that way.
Mr Tomlinson’s death in 2009 is Hillsborough in microcosm and demonstrates that twenty years on, not much has changed beneath the PR spin. Following Mr Tomlinson’s death an almost identical pattern of distortion and cover-up was set in train. We were told about his drinking. his apparent defiance of police authority, his killing was linked to a wider picture of a ‘disorderly crowd’, the initial official version of events was false, a pathologist (subsequently discredited, but not before the damage was done) corroborated the police version of events and an initial trial found the perpetrator ‘not guilty’ (although we did learn that the police had closed ranks to conceal earlier violent misconduct). Like the Hillsborough families, Mr Tomlinson’s continue to campaign for justice.
Amidst all the State hand-wringing, the most nauseating (apart from Kelvin Mackenzie’s) is that of New Labour politicians who had the authority to find the truth about Hillsborough, but did nothing. No doubt their carefully rehearsed lines of regret will be repeated if/when future abuses of power (the biggest of them being Iraq) are exposed.
The common truth of Hillsborough, Ian Tomlinson and Iraq is that the lives of working class people are held cheap by the establishment. I don’t hold the ‘all cops are bastards’ view of the police that is common on the left, but the institutional culture of ‘doing what you’re told’ in the service of the State has once again been exposed.
I was in Sheffield on 15th April 1989 which I mention only because it provided an insight on what at the time I thought was like lifting a curtain on a more humane, tolerant, caring and loving society. In the midst of tragedy, there was a profound sense of solidarity that I’m not sure I’ve seen since and has been re-kindled in the last 24 hours.