Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Hillsborough - Brought to Justice

David Cameron does have the ability to step up to the mark as a spokesman for the nation every so often.  His apology to the people of Northern Ireland for the events of Bloody Sunday, and his apology today for the injustices and cover-ups associated with the 1989 Hillsborough stadium disaster, chime effectively with a public mood and offer a proper response to those affected by such events.  I used to find Tony Blair's many apologies for all sorts of historical events, be it the Holocaust or the Irish Famine, a little lacking in sincerity given  the distance between him and the events he was apologising for, especially given his inability to make any apology for events under his direct control (Iraq, anyone?).  Of course, you could make the same charge against Cameron - both of his official apologies have possibly been easier given that, as a relative newcomer to government, he had no role in either and probably no personal knowledge of any of the government members involved.  Nevertheless, both events are relatively recent, and as the current head and representative of a government that is discernibly the same institution that presided over these things, it is right and proper that he has made his apologies.  Since the political class as a whole hardly covered itself in glory over the Hillsborough response (then Sheffield Hallam MP, Tory Irvine Patnick, was one of the sources for the notorious Sun story)it has also been appropriate for Opposition Leader to show unity in the current political classes and add his apology to the Prime Minister's.  Ed Miliband, like Cameron, has shown that he is able to step up to the mark in this regard.

Apologies are one thing, future action is another.  There is a need for families of victims to feel that justice has been done by some form of accountability for those who were involved, and as well as the police and judicial services there is no doubt that a particular section of the media is also covered by this.  Amongst the most shameful actions in the wake of Hillsborough was the malicious and callous coverage given to it by the Sun newspaper under its then editor Kelvin MacKenzie.  Mr. MacKenzie has since spent many profitable years acting as a media pundit for various outlets, including the BBC, and has expressed no remorse for his original stance and actions.  Yet news hurts.  It hurts when it's wrong, and it hurts especially when it is targeted at grieving families.  It is easy enough for a newspaper editor, unaffected directly by the events he is covering, to try and be controversial to boost his sales and his profile.  If Leveson has shown us anything, however, it is that news stories have clear, telling effects on the people they concern, and this can have been no greater than at Hillsborough.  The Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition have done their bit on behalf of the political classes.  Mr. MacKenzie and his former employers certainly need to do theirs.  The pity of it is, for all the calls that they should, no-one seriously expects such an outcome. 

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