Far better to live in a nanny state than one where authorities behave like they did at Hillsborough

We have come a very long way as a nation since the 1989 disaster

Share

While watching the poor, flooded residents of the Thames Valley being interviewed on the news in recent days, a rather uncharitable thought came into my head. Listening to their impassioned pleas for immediate and effective state aid, I wondered whether these are exactly the same people, from the truest, bluest constituencies, who you hear complaining bitterly about government interference in their lives. It's true the whole world over: we rail against an overweening government, or the nanny state, and yet... And yet. When something truly awful happens, who is it we turn to for help?

Similarly, what about those who bellyache about being inconvenienced by health and safety legislation? You know, the people who will tell you about the madness of banning yo-yos from school playgrounds, or about mums' coffee mornings where hot drinks were prohibited. Health and Safety gone mad, they'll say. They would do well to remember how it used to be, when the care of individuals was of very little interest to the authorities. And this week, we have good reason to recall that age with the news that one football club is bringing back standing enclosures, and others - including some Premier League clubs - are considering following their lead.

 It serves only to remind of us of the low water mark in the state's contract to protect the individual, that spring afternoon in 1989 when 96 Liverpool fans went to a football match and never came back. We should be very pleased that we have created a culture which makes it impossible for another Hillsborough to happen.

When the history of 20th Century Britain is studied in years to come, what happened that day at Hillsborough Stadium and its aftermath will surely be considered the most shameful episode in our nation's modern life and times. In Liverpool, the scars haven't healed, possibly never will do, and the wider society owe a debt of gratitude to those campaigners who have kept this issue alive.

Hillsborough changed a lot of things in our lives, and for our national game in particular. For one, all-seater stadiums were made compulsory in football's top leagues. Fans still like to stand at games - a bizarre ritual at most Premier League games is that the away fans stand, while the home fans sit down - and, from time to time, there is a call to re-introduce terracing to the grounds.

The benefit of standing on the terraces is that you can choose your neighbour (with seats, you have no choice, and you can spend 90 minutes effectively being chained to a lunatic), but that's about it. Bristol City announced this week that they are experimenting with a “safe standing” area, a system of rail-like barriers which works in Germany.

This comes at a time when football is becoming ever more corporate and distanced from its natural constituency, and many seek a return to the “good old days” of Bovril, dubbin and standing room only.  In the nostalgic haze, they may have failed to spot the stretchers taking the stricken Liverpool fans off to a makeshift mortuary. We don't want to go back to how things used to be, in oh so many ways.        

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: Outgunned by a lack of military knowledge

Guy Keleny
Ukip leader Nigel Farage in Tiny Tim’s tea shop while canvassing in Rochester this week  

General Election 2015: What on earth happened to Ukip?

Matthew Norman
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions