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Saturday 15 September 2012
Letters: Why the Hillsborough cover-up? Pure prejudice
Jane Merrick's Hillsborough article (13 September) eloquently highlights why it has taken 23 years for the real truth to be revealed. The zeitgeist of the time was that of the football thug, the Liverpool thug, the work-shy dosser; it still exists, as many an exiled Scouser will tell you, and prejudice is still rife.
This suited, and was perpetuated by, the establishment, including much of the media, The Sun being an extreme example. Everyone in Liverpool had a connection to events at Hillsborough, such is the nature of the city, and everyone knew that there had been a cover-up.
No one could relate to the stories of pick-pocketing, urinating or drunkenness. What we saw on our screens and heard from our relations and friends was how it was: fans desperately trying to help the injured, and ineffective police and paramedic service.
What we could not understand was why others could not see what was right before their eyes, blinded by prejudice and happy to swallow the propaganda.
The country owes the campaigners and their thousands of supporters a huge debt of gratitude for yet another exposure of institutional corruption.
South Brent, Devon
It is time to consider what to do about the generic problem of the police automatically circling the wagons against accusations of incompetence and corruption and the government reflexively defending them.
Police forces have to have unit cohesion and mutual loyalty. We require them to go out and face rioters and people with deadly weapons and to deal with all the muck, disorder and misery that society churns out. If they didn't believe that their comrades were covering their backs they would be a lot worse at their jobs.
But it is in the overall interest of the state to have incompetence and corruption exposed as swiftly and completely as possible. I propose that police should not be promoted beyond, say, sergeant until they have satisfactorily completed a secondment (for six months to a year) to the internal affairs section of their force and shown that they are willing to put the interests of the community ahead of their loyalty to their comrades.
High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire
It is inconceivable that such failures by the police and ambulance service at Hillsborough could have been concealed for so long, unless a culture of such cover-ups was endemic within the police force, coroner service and judiciary, both then and since.
Jack Straw blamed Margaret Thatcher's government for creating "a culture of impunity" because it "needed the police to be a partisan force, particularly for the miners' strike and other industrial troubles", but this culture existed long before that.
It could be seen as far back as the Notting Hill riots of 1958 through the Brixton and Toxteth Riots (1981), in the handling of many Vietnam protests in the 1960s, in the disputes at Briant Colour Printing (1972), Grunwick (1976), through the miners' strike (1984), Wapping (1986-67) and police interceptions of coaches en route to a demonstration against the second war in Iraq (2003) and up to and since the G20 protests (2009) and the City of London protests (2011).
With a few notable exceptions, such as Scarman, government-appointed judicial inquiries have failed to satisfactorily investigate the police, security services and politicians.
Your report about the FA ignoring a warning about a crowd-crush the year before Hillsborough (Sport, 14 September) reminded me of a visit to the old Wembley stadium in the early 1980s. Standing in the corner section when a goal was scored I had to lift both feet off the ground and was physically carried by the crush, at least 20 yards.
The conditions were appalling and I'd suggest that these experiences were shared by many, week in week out. I grieve for the 96 and admire the resilience of the families.
I hope this marks the beginning of the end for their struggle but let me respectfully say that the 96 did not die in vain. Lives have been saved as a result of the changes implemented.
The box-ticking modular system is fatally flawed
Brian Dalton's argument for teaching in schools using the modular system (letters, 14 September) is based on the assumption that pupils are happy to have their modules assessed and returned to them for improvement, sometimes repeatedly.
Both of my kids were blessed with a powerful thirst for knowledge. Their desire to simply learn the subjects on offer was severely curtailed by their teachers' insistence on good grades, and having to repeat work.
One of my kids in particular became completely demoralised with the constant pressure to produce work that would get the grades his teachers thought he ought to achieve.
It not only put him off school, but crushed any chance of going to university due to his fear that it might be too much like school. He was expelled just before his A-levels due to his eventual lack of co-operation, but he has done very well for himself by getting a job almost immediately, using knowledge he taught himself out of school hours. I know of several other bright children who became similarly alienated by our local school's assessment system. I believe this uninspiring box-ticking modular system is very much to blame.
Tell a kid a good story, get them engaged, and they'll happily listen through to the end. If you stop at the end of every paragraph to check their understanding they are likely to lose the plot. It is time to stop this continual assessment and the crazy obsession with grades. Give the teachers a much freer hand to simply teach children what they know.
Mr Gove has made a regrettable, and to me incomprehensible decision to abolish the modular form of GCSE in favour of a final exam.
Modular GCSEs are a better reflection of the world of work. In most walks of life, what is required is a consistently decent standard of work, rather than some big performance on a fixed date.
If there is only a final exam at the end of a GCSE course, some pupils will decide to coast in year 10, in the mistaken belief that they will be able to "mug up" before the exam at the end of year 11. Usually, these pupils are boys, who in any case tend to be outshone by girls at this level. It would be a shame if Mr Gove's decision widened this gap.
Fashion must protect workers
The horrific fires that killed so many workers in Pakistan this week are a stark reminder of the real cost of the cheap, disposable fashion we have become accustomed to. These fires are not isolated incidents; every day, lives are at risk producing our clothes.
Press reports from the scene have stated that poor building safety was responsible for the large death toll. Government inspectors had not visited any factories in the industrial zone where the fire broke out.
It is not enough for big fashion brands, governments or industry bodies to simply wring their hands every time workers die. They must take steps to improve health and safety conditions. Until the fashion industry takes responsibility for the safety of its workforce, fires like that witnessed in Karachi are not merely tragic accidents.
How a rumour became a 'fact'
Editor Chris Blackhurst wrote (8 September) "We have to fight our corner, to make it plain that we've done nothing bad". Then on Monday in the article "Would you like your hospitals run by Virgin?" the phrase in the article, "It is even rumoured he [Jeremy Hunt] attempted to remove the moving tribute from the Olympics Opening Ceremony" was turned into the headline "Jeremy Hunt even wanted to remove the NHS tribute from the Olympics ceremony".
I think for most people, turning a rumour into a statement of fact is doing something bad and I hope Leveson treats this sort of deceit with the same severity as he is apparently doing to most other practices of newspapers.
Salen, Isle of Mull
When the Leveson report is published, and whatever its tenor, it will be important for those with influence to bear in mind that it is one man's interpretation of testimony we have all heard. This seemed to be overlooked with the Hutton Report into the BBC.
Halifax, West Yorkshire
Outrage over topless duchess
I am outraged. There is absolutely no public interest defence to justify the obsessive media coverage of the indignation because someone photographed the Duchess's chest and sold them to a French rag. This is the most preposterous waste of newsprint since the earth-shattering revelation that her brother-in-law owns his own penis. But isn't it good to know that all that other news, the double-dip recession, the high unemployment, the Syrian war, the Eurozone crisis, climate change, the forthcoming US election, the banking crisis, etc, etc, has been rightfully relegated to secondary importance.
After a glorious summer of Olympic and Paralympic sport we're pitched back to the depressingly familiar world of English football with overpaid, underperforming prima donnas making lame excuses for their abysmal performances. After thrilling to real heroics it's time we kicked these underachievers into touch and demanded far higher standards of performance and far lower pay.
I was thinking about Lords reform and whether some bishops of the Church of England should continue to sit there. Then I thought about the three inquiries into the tragic events at Hillsborough. Two were headed by judges and one by the Bishop of Liverpool. Which of the three produced the most democratic report?
The Reverend David Cleugh
Tim Cowen puts great faith in CCTV in the DWP mail-room (letter, 13 September). It didn't help 18 months ago when the original of our marriage certificate was lost. The financial compensation didn't replace a unique document.
St Albans, Hertfordshire
Blank out Boris
Now that the Olympics are over could we please have fewer pictures, preferably none, of Boris Johnson. If that awful person ever becomes prime minister there will be no need for the last person leaving Britain to turn the lights out. They would have already gone out long before.
J W Wright
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