by Chris Haws
Before you read the rest of my words, I have this to say:
I have the utmost respect for the families who campaigned for justice over Hillsborough, and an equal amount of contempt for the authorities who caused it and tried to cover it up.
I know people who were there. I know people who knew the dead. Most Scousers do. I cried in work when I heard the victims’ families’ statements on the radio.
I also knew a feller who was there, he helped to save some of the lads escaping the crush. He hates Thatcher for her complicity in the aftermath of Hillsborough. But he also has political beliefs that, if Hillsborough hadn’t happened, would make him a Thatcherite. He is an individualist “as long as you earn a scratch” is his mantra. He argues against trade unionism, “just get on with it” he says. He doesn’t realise that the reason he doesn’t run a pub anymore is because of the high taxes on alcohol and the punitive rents on small businesses. All caused by a system that doesn’t care about anyone other than those who benefit the most and care the least. I actually like him, by the way.
Another lad I know, he’d be a Liverpool season ticket holder but for the waiting list. He goes to every away game he can. I asked him about the Hillsborough annual memorial, the year the families said they weren’t going to do it anymore. He said “Loads of tourists just go to geg in.” It isn’t a tribute to the families any more. It’s a tourist attraction. A quirky ritual.
Like Auschwitz, it has not just become a tacky tourist trap, but also an excuse to avoid engaging with politics. It’s almost like a comfort blanket. The Scouser saying “Don’t Buy the Sun” who has no other political beliefs is no different from those who say “Six Million Died” whenever questioned about unequivocal support for Israel.
Me and a fellow party member were at Crosby Plaza in July, in the audience for Radio 4s Any Questions. Our questions weren’t asked. Or answered. On the same day Keir Starmer was in town and he was harangued by Audrey White (of the Merseyside Pensioners Group) for his lack of support for trade unions and industrial action, his expulsion of socialists and anti-Zionists from the Labour party and for writing an article in the Sun. The next day, many callers on Radio Merseyside criticised him. Not for his lack of support for Unions, not for his cosiness to the establishment, but for the fact that he wrote for the Sun. Adolf Hitler never wrote for the Sun. What if he did? Would you hate him any more?
People in Merseyside: Scousers, Bucks, Two Dogs, whoever, overwhelmingly vote Labour. We need to change this, but not by slagging off a useless politician for writing for the wrong paper.
We Scousers, from the only city where the fucking police went on strike, should be wiser and more engaged with politics instead of following trends or memes that are becoming archaic rituals. This fetishizing of Hillsborough and the obsessive hatred of the Sun is distracting people from relevant politics. We’re better than this. We’re the city where a poor woman set up the first public laundry.
I’m not an apologist for the Sun. As a source of journalism the Sun is no worse than the Star, though. Or for that matter any of the mainstream newspapers, no matter how big their pages are or how long their words are.
I have seen this attitude repeated when there was booing of the minute’s silence for the Queen at the recent Ajax game. It was brought up that “those fans wouldn’t like it if we booed a Hillsborough minute’s silence” It was stated on Radio Merseyside that members of the Hillsborough Justice Campaign told people not to boo. Kenny Dalglish told people not to boo. Republican sentiment was being suppressed by people with MBEs and a Knighthood. I have spoken with a woman from HJC at the protest against the Liverpool Arms Fair. She told me that those who accepted MBEs had given in; they’d just been given a pat on the head for trying.
Our greatest tribute to the victims of Hillsborough would not be to have an apology, or a couple of bizzies jailed. It would be to change the system that allowed it to happen and to remove the system of media that spreads lies and chooses our leaders.
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