Justice For The 96

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - APRIL 15: (THE SUN OUT) (NO SALES) In this handout image provided by Liverpool FC, The Bill Shankley gate is seen covered with scarves and floral tributes to remember those killed in the Hillsborough disaster at Anfield on April 15, 2011 in Liverpool, England. The Hillsborough Independent Panel was set up over a year ago by then Home Secretary Alan Johnson to gather and scrutinise information relating to the tragedy, including previously undisclosed documents, in an attempt to provide maximum disclosure of events that took on April 15, 1989. (Photo by John Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)

22 years ago 96 people died trying to get into a football match. This week their names were read out in parliament.

In April 1989, an FA Cup semi-final replay between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest was abandoned after six minutes after a crush outside Sheffield Wednesday's Hillsborough stadium. The crush claimed the lives of 96 Liverpool fans. Although it led directly to the Taylor Report, which with its outlawing of, in the Premier League and Championship, standing areas, has literally changed the landscape of top-level English football, 'Hillsborough' caused discomfort for a political class that hadn't yet learned how to respond to football culture and was hushed up or, as in the case of the Sun newspaper, lied about. This second, blatant, injustice percolated under the first and Liverpool fans have campaigned against these, under the banner 'Justice for the 96', for 22 years.

On Monday night the House of Commons finally heard a motion to have the documents associated with the disaster released into the public domain and made available for the families of the 96 victims. Justice (or at least significant progress in that direction), at last, for the 96.

This is, undeniably, a good thing and Steve Rotheram MP's oration, he read out each of the 96 names individually, was extremely poignant.

The truth, as opposed to ‘The Truth' as printed by the Sun in the aftermath, is, as David Conn wrote in the Guardian, becoming increasingly widely known and its overdue release into the public domain will hopefully cement its acceptance.

The individuals associated with the ‘Justice for the 96' campaign have themselves done justice to the memories of the 96 and it is right that their efforts be vindicated by the parliamentary actions of their elected representatives.

This last is of especial significance. MPs Rotherham and Burnham did the campaign justice; they also did the people of Liverpool justice. This is, as I said, a good thing.

It is also their job.

It has been forgotten amidst the collectivist rhetoric of modern politics - a rhetoric which predates this particular sham of an in-this-together government - but local representation is the object of our democratic system. Steve Rotherham (who was at Hillsborough) is the Member of Parliament FOR Liverpool, Walton. The people of Walton elected him to represent them in parliament precisely in order that he speak FOR them. He did this on Monday and he did it as a Liverpool man. His speech is a striking reminder that there remain politicians prepared to do their jobs and speak up for their people - in their people's language.

This reminder is welcome and, against a backdrop of closing hospitals, collapsing schools and bankrupt businesses, necessary. The United Kingdom's needs are being increasingly subordinated to those of the mile wide money vacuum that is ‘the city' of London - into which people's pensions, operations and salaries are being poured - and the north of England is, again, suffering worst than most other areas.

The reasons for this are historical and this is not the place nor am I the person to outline them in detail. It is pertinent, though, that Sir Alex Ferguson spoke in advance of last weekend's Manchester United-Liverpool game of the influence the opening of the Manchester Canal had in creating that rivalry. The rivalry has outlasted the great shipping industry supported by the canal system and the northwest is still the figurative centre of English football.

Monday's motion, the first ever to be initiated by an online petition, was an (unaccountably belated) answering back on behalf of that centre against the self-interest of a London based parliament. That it was football, and not industry, that was the instigator and the beneficiary is perhaps unfortunate. But 96 football fans gave their lives and if their names can remind us of what we have the right to expect from our politicians, then football will have done them justice.

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