Hillsborough: Families' fury at spin operation
Senior Labour MPs worked to dampen criticism when second inquiry was denied in 1998
Details of a spin operation by the government in the late 1990s, set up to suppress media criticism and pressure from campaigners angry at its decision not to hold a second public inquiry into Hillsborough, emerged this weekend. It became clear that senior Home Office civil servants had agreed a plan to "neutralise the local media" before the publication of Lord Justice Stuart-Smith's much criticised 1998 report in which the judge concluded that there was no case for a new inquiry. They also briefed Liverpool MPs to ensure they were "on message" ahead of Jack Straw's announcement on Stuart-Smith's report. Ninety-six Liverpool fans died in the stadium disaster during the 1989 FA Cup semi-final.
Memos prepared for senior ministers indicated that the then Home Office minister George Howarth, the defence minister Peter Kilfoyle, and the Labour whip Jane Kennedy – all Liverpool MPs – agreed at a meeting to try to ensure "all local MPs were on message (ie, would support the government's position once the report is published)".
The memos were unearthed by the Hillsborough Independent Panel, whose report was released earlier this month. It concluded that football fans were wrongly blamed for the disaster, in part to deflect blame from police failures.
The first public inquiry into the disaster, under Lord Justice Taylor, reported in 1990. Seven years later, Jack Straw, then home secretary, ordered an investigation into whether there should be another inquiry in the light of new evidence. Lord Justice Stuart-Smith's review determined in 1998 that there was insufficient evidence to warrant another inquiry. His conclusions were greeted with fury, despite the spin operation that had been put in place behind the scenes.
Details of that operation came to light this weekend among hundreds of thousands of documents published earlier this month by the Hillsborough Independent Panel, which found evidence of a widespread cover-up by emergency services and that no Liverpool fans were responsible for the disaster.
Victims' families reacted angrily yesterday to the latest revelations. Sheila Coleman, of the Hillsborough Justice Campaign, said: "This is a great example of how the establishment closes ranks," she said. "Advice given to Mr Straw that a line needed to be drawn under Hillsborough further points to the Stuart-Smith report being an exercise in going through the motions. To state that it would be doing a disservice to families to hold out the hope of an inquiry is incredible when they had at their finger tips the evidence of cover-up."
All three MPs involved yesterday denied attempting to stage-manage the publication of the Stuart-Smith report. Mr Howarth said: "The terms 'on message' and 'neutralise the local media' were her [the Home Office official's] words and not words we would have used. Our overriding concern was to ensure that the feelings of the families were dealt with respectfully and sensitively."
Ms Kennedy, now Labour's candidate for Merseyside's police commissioner, said: "This wasn't a formal meeting; it was probably a conversation. The language that is attributed [in the memo] is completely alien to anything any of us would have used."
Last week, The Independent on Sunday revealed how Jack Straw had made up his mind within five weeks of coming to power in 1997 that there was no need for a new public inquiry.
elephant appealThe first 23 lots in our charity auction have now gone. But there are 22 more still up for grabs
The magicians using online collaboration to push boundaries
lifeIt takes year-long dedication to get Selfridges ready for 25 December. And they're already working on plans for 2015...
Jennifer Lawrence attacks mass media again over body image
Exclusive: Young people ‘want UK to stay in Europe’: Four in 10 adults aged 18 to 24 are ‘firmly in favour’ of membership, poll shows
You can STILL be jailed for being a republican, government confirms, and it remains illegal to even 'imagine' overthrowing the Queen
Kiss and yell: Italian protester charged with sexual assault after kissing riot police officer
Fighting back: the woman giving a voice (and 49,999 others) to the victims of sexism - by giving an airing to their horror stories
PM denies two child limit for benefits is part of Tory welfare policy
Ethan Couch: Texas quadruple murderer – or a victim of ‘affluenza’?
- 1 America's 'virgin births'? One in 200 mothers 'became pregnant without having sex'
- 2 Sun will 'flip upside down' within weeks, says Nasa
- 3 Ian Watkins: Paedophile Lostprophets singer sentenced to 35 years for child sex offences, as judge labels him a 'dangerous sexual predator'
- 4 Christmas comes early: Justin Bieber announces he's 'retiring from music'
- 5 Children evacuated from swimming pool after prosthetic leg mistaken for paedophile
- < Previous
- Next >
£25000 - £32000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Business Analyst - Banking...
£21999 - £27001 per annum + Benefits: Pro-Recruitment Group: Do you have exten...
£25000 - £35000 per annum + benefits + bonus: Harrington Starr: Business Analy...
£42000 - £51000 per annum + Benefits: Pro-Recruitment Group: Are You Receiving...