First the truth. Now justice for the 96


On Saturday, April 15, 1989, I was home alone nursing a monstrous hangover – the night before had been my sister’s 16th birthday and I’d hosted a mad teenage party to celebrate her big day.

My brothers went for a hair of the dog to the local pub and I went for an afternoon nap.

Just after 4pm, my brothers rushed back in and told me to get up because “there’s a disaster happening at the Liverpool game”.

What unfolded at Hillsborough that afternoon has been the defining injustice of my generation.

96 fans who went to watch Liverpool play a game of football never went home. And 96 families who have spent the last 27 years battling every intransigent, arrogant cog of the British Establishment today finally began to get the truth and justice for their loved ones.

I admit that Hillsborough has always pained me more, affected me more deeply because my first thought, from the instant I switched on to see the horror unfold live on Grandstand, was “this could have been us.”

That applies to anyone who went to football matches anywhere in the UK in the 1970s and 80s.

Dilapidated stadiums, metal barriers, heavy-handed policing, clubs who only cared about soaking fans for their cash and were prepared to cram in as many as possible for big matches with scant regard for safety.

How there weren’t more disasters on a similar scale is a minor miracle.

On Sunday, April 16, 1989, I had a ticket to see Celtic take on Hibs in the semi-final of the Scottish Cup at Hampden Park. My siblings and I gathered at my parents the day after Hillsborough to prepare to travel to the game together.

My mum, still red-eyed and reeling from the scale of the tragedy, grasped our hands as we sat at the kitchen table: “I could lose all of you. I could lose all of you.” She wasn’t just referring to me, my sister and brothers but to our extended family, cousins and all, who regularly met inside the ground at the same spot.

Today going to a football match is a much safer, infinitely more comfortable experience.

But there are still too many examples of how football fans are treated as second-class citizens and considered lesser by politicians, by the police and by the game’s rulers.

That attitude is what led to the horrific events at Hillsborough and the easily-accepted claims (in fact, downright lies), in the immediate aftermath that, of course, these were just drunken yobs whose own reckless behaviour caused the disaster in the first place.

Look at the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act brought in by the SNP government in Scotland, an Act that deliberately criminalises football fans.

Look at the cost of going to a game – fans in England have organised protests against spiralling ticket prices in the Premier League that price them out of supporting their team.

Look at how television dictates when games kick off, even when that means travelling fans can’t get home from the game.

The beautiful game is a lot more tarnished than it used to be.

Today’s verdict isn’t going to restore football’s lustre any time soon. But it should – it must – make the authorities pause and remember football fans deserve as much care and consideration as any other section of society.

And the game’s bigwigs should heed the words of the great Jock Stein: Football is nothing without fans.


Things that make me go hmmmm – and aarrgghh!

Yeah yeah yeah, been away for ages but now I’m back, baby, and you’re getting it with both barrels.

Because, quite frankly, in the words of the late, great Peter Finch in Network, I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore. And neither, quite frankly, should you.

So here are 3 things that have my blood boiling right now.

1. The privatisation of the Royal Mail

My Facebook status the day Vince Cable announced the Royal Mail is to be sold off read: “The privatisation of the Royal Mail is the dumbest of dumbass ideas from the dumbest government in Christendom. Once again an asset OWNED by us all is to be flogged off for peanuts. We learned nothing from the 80s.”

Will Hutton demolishes the Coalition rationale for the sell-off here. And it is as plain as the nose on George Osborne’s over-privileged face that ideology is the only driving force for this. And in a couple of years’ time when the price of a stamp is 5 or 6 times what it is today, when the universal service that guarantees 6-day delivery and collection even to the most remote parts of these islands has been dumped, when staff jobs have been decimated and new starts are on zero contract hours, when every money-making part of the business has been pimped to the nth degree – then and only then it seems will the majority of us waken from our slumber and say “bloody hell, how could we let this happen?”

Because we ARE letting it happen. Just as with the wholesale privatisation of the NHS in England, the Conservatives (and it’s their gig really, the LibDems are just along for the ride) are going much further than even their great idol Thatcher would have dared because there is no OPPOSITION. Not in Parliament, not in the streets, certainly not in the workplace.

Are we really going to let them get away with this?

2. Welfare reform and the BBC

Last Thursday night marked a new low for the BBC. Not content with wearing the softest of kid gloves when it comes to reporting or analysing Government policy (and providing a regular platform for UKIP, a party with a miniscule amount of voters and no MPs), Auntie hitched up her drawers and came over all righteous and indignant about welfare. Once upon a time we used to refer to this as social security, a term that explained better how a system of state payments helped keep an individual part of the fabric of society and provided security in times of need. Now we’ve not only imported the use of the term “welfare” from the US, we’ve also adopted their sneering regard for its recipients.

The first of 2 hours of jaw-dropping telly was The Great British Budget Menu, which addressed the emotive subject of food poverty by teaming 3 celebrity chefs with 3 people living on the tightest of budgets and had them compete to produce a meal for a celebrity judging panel. When you express its premise as starkly as that, it fair takes the breath away. How on earth did this get commissioned? And then broadcast at primetime? Human suffering as entertainment – go, Auntie.

Twitter was divided between the morally upright who passed judgment on the participants’ lifestyles and intelligence etc and their  inability to feed themselves and their families on fresh air and those who could not quite believe what they were seeing. Dozens of tweets sent me to the blogger A Girl Called Jack. Go read her blog for the reality of life on a budget or surviving (and that’s what it is for most) on welfare, when a food bank or a spoonful of pasta is all that stands between your child and starvation.

Divide and rule. It’s such a blatant trick that it’s actually laughable how well it’s working in modern, sophisticated 21st-century Britain

Having seen dozens of trailers for We All Pay Your Benefits – fronted  by The Apprentice pairing of Nick and Margaret for no obvious reason – I had resolved not to watch. This was supposedly an examination of the benefits system, pitting “hard-working taxpayers” (dear God, if I never see that phrase again, it will be too soon) against benefit recipients so the “strivers” could assess whether the “skivers” were getting too much dosh in their giros (yeah I know giros no longer exist but humour me). Again Twitter kept me fully abreast of developments without me having to fear for my blood pressure any longer.

Here we go again. Divide and rule. For centuries the UK ruling classes have  always managed to keep the great unwashed down by pitching them against each other. If you’ve got a little bit more than your neighbour, it’s in your best interests to keep your little bit more by ensuring they get a little bit less. It’s such a blatant trick that it’s actually laughable how well it’s working in modern, sophisticated 21st-century Britain. Hey, people, hard-working or not, we’re getting shafted again and the culprits are openly mocking you. Talk about hiding in plain sight.

3. The return of sexism (like it ever went away)

Judy Murray’s got a hatchet face. Cathy Jamieson MP is a “stupid woman”. Marion Bartoli is a great tennis player and Wimbledon champion but she’s no Sharapova and must therefore be diminished in our eyes. Andy Murray magnificently won Wimbledon but the 4 British women who had taken the title since Fred Perry in 1936 were wilfully ignored by many, most shamefully by the ludicrously sexist and increasingly pointless David Cameron. Do not adjust your sets, do not check your calendars. This really is 2013 and yet the attitudes are still resolutely Victorian.

Thank the lord then for Grace Dent and for Barbara Ellen and for everydaysexism,com among the many others for calling out the dinosaurs caught in their  time warp of misogyny and chauvinism. And I know it isn’t only women who are offended by this sort of crap because I hear and read enough from men who wish their peers would wise up. If your blood pressure can handle it, read this on Storify, a Twitter conversation between Guardian Comment is Free writer Ally Fogg and a man who really doesn’t like anyone who isn’t him.

Gotta love a Sunday rant. Anyway, today is July 14 – this is Bastille Day. For those who don’t know, this marks the day 224 years when the oppressed people of France rose up against a ruling elite to grab the justice and democracy long denied them #justsaying

Vive la revolution! Liberté, égalité, fraternité pour tout!