Merseyside Labour MPs accuse Keir Starmer of ‘betrayal’ over article in The Sun newspaper

Labour leader has previously said he would not give interview to newspaper

Joanna Taylor
Monday 04 October 2021 06:54
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Furious Labour MPs in Merseyside have turned on Keir Starmer after he wrote an article forThe Sun.

MPs accused the Labour leader of betraying Liverpool and said he was “not fit” to lead to party following the publication of an opinion piece in the tabloid, which is widely boycotted on Merseyside for its coverage of the aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster in 1989.

Sir Keir had promised not to give interviews to the paper during his leadership campaign at a hustings in the city in January 2020.

Ian Byrne, MP for Liverpool West Derby, said families of Hillsborough victims, survivors and the city itself "smeared by the rag" would feel "profoundly betrayed". Mr Byrne, himself a Reds supporter who attended the FA Cup semi-final with Nottingham Forest at which 97 Liverpool fans died, added anyone who wrote for the paper was "not fit" to be Labour leader.

Kim Johnson, the Labour MP for Liverpool Riverside, said she felt “deep anger” and had written to Sir Keir asking him to come to Liverpool to meet the families of those killed and survivors.

Paula Barker, Labour MP for Liverpool Wavertree, wrote on Twitter: “I do not subscribe to the view that we need to have a relationship with the rag in order to win an election - this is 2021 not 1997. He does not do this in my name.

“Nevertheless, I apologise to everyone in my city, especially Hillsborough families and survivors.”

Steve Rotheram, mayor of Liverpool City Region, added: “My position on that (supposed) newspaper and Labour politicians engaging with it has not changed.

“The piece published today has unsurprisingly upset a lot of people across my region. The S*n is not and never will be welcome here.

“I have been in touch with Keir to reiterate my position and express the disappointment that I and many others feel.”

Joanne Anderson, directly elected Mayor of Liverpool, said Labour “should never work with this paper.”

Liverpool supporters groups and Hillsborough survivors also spoke out over the article, which they described as a “kick in the teeth”.

“This is hard to take. The lies in the S*n are part of the reason survivors still struggle and we have lost so many over the years. We will never forgive and never forget,” said the Hillsborough Survivors Support Alliance.

Sir Keir has previously acknowledged the pain the newpaper caused with its coverage of the Hillsborough disaster.

“This city has been wounded by the media — The Sun [has] hurt this city,” he said in Liverpool during the Labour leadership campaign. “I certainly won’t be giving any interviews to The Sun during this campaign.”

But this week he wrote for the paper in a opinion piece criticising Boris Johnson over the “chaos” the shortage of HGV drivers has wreaked on Britain.

The Merseyside boycott of The Sun came after it published notorious falsehoods on a front page headlined “The Truth”, alleging blame for the disaster laid with drunken Liverpool fans.

After a justice campaign spanning three decades, victims’ families and survivors were vindicated in 2016, when a jury at the inquests unanimously ruled the fans were unlawfully killed and Liverpool supporters played no part in causing the fatal crushing at the Leppings Lane end of the Hillsborough ground on 15 April 1989.

The Sun made a front-page apology in 2012 in the wake of the report of the Hillsborough Independent Panel, which led to the 2016 inquests, and again at the conclusion of those inquests.

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