Hillsborough was about political manipulation. And it’s still happening today

There will be a noisy consensus that Hillsborough was a terrible tragedy. We’ve moved on, lessons have been learned. But that is dangerous’ [Image: BPI/Rex Features].

There will be a noisy consensus that Hillsborough was a terrible tragedy. We’ve moved on, lessons have been learned. But that is dangerous’ [Image: BPI/Rex Features].


Owen Jones has written a decent article here, but it doesn’t go far enough, in This Writer’s opinion.

Take this practice of “othering”. We know that it still happens today – the most obvious example being the way people are encouraged to view people on long-term sickness and/or disability benefits as scroungers, skivers and so on.

Result: Crimes against the sick and disabled have increased – including offences that are not currently listed as crimes, but which may be viewed as criminal just the same.

I mean the way the Conservative Government treats the same sick and disabled people, with an inhuman assessment regime, ever-diminishing payments and sanctions.

These are justified by arguments that are, in effect, “the stripping away of humanity from a group of people”.

We see further evidence for this in the way the Conservative Government has treated the police.

Uniformed law officers were useful political tools in the 1980s. The argument was that they were simply keeping the peace, but the evidence shows clearly that they went far beyond this – on orders from the Home Office.

Now, police are no longer needed in the same way. They were useful for a while, but times have moved on. So they are starved of resources, their numbers cut, along with their pay and perks.

With so many people on benefits – many in-work – the Tories have a new stick with which to beat them – and a new army to carry out that work, based at Job Centre Plus.

You see what this means?

You were told the police were there to keep law and order. You are told that workers for the Department for Work and Pensions are there to provide the correct state benefits. Neither is accurate.

Under a Conservative government, both the police and the civil service exist to suppress the population.

You are made to live in fear because of the way the Tories use them against you – and they are allowed to believe they can do anything they like without repercussions, because that’s what the Tories promise them: Unaccountability.

Until they stop being useful, of course.

And then who gets the blame? The police. The civil servants.

Never the Tories.

You see how this works?

Yes, there will be a noisy consensus that the unlawful deaths of 96 Liverpool fans was a terrible tragedy, but it will be treated as a throwback to a bygone era: we’ve moved on; lessons have been learned; the families have truth and justice; let prosecutions follow; let no more be said.

That is dangerous. Hillsborough was a story of two things: unaccountable power colliding with “othering”: the stripping away of humanity from a group of people. Both continue to scar our society, and both cause injustice.

A Hillsborough-style tragedy certainly does seem a lot less likely. Health and safety at football stadiums has been dramatically improved, and football has been upgraded to a “respectable” sport (alongside ticket price rises that leave the game unaffordable for too many).

Today, with the trade union movement no longer deemed a threat by government, the police are not as indispensable as they once were. The Tories have reduced their number, frozen their pay, and undermined their terms and conditions: basically, what they have done to other workers, but once did not dare when it came to the police.

And yet. Take the “othering”. If officers at Hillsborough had seen their families – or even well-to-do football fans from the home counties – pressed against those fences, their response would undoubtedly have been different. As humans, we have a huge potential capacity for empathy; but when we dehumanise a group of people, we can accept (or indeed inflict) cruelty.

A proper response to the Hillsborough inquest isn’t a complacent sigh of relief, a sense of putting injustice behind us. Instead it must surely mean a renewed determination to challenge unaccountable power and dehumanisation. If we fail to do so, many more families will be forced to spend years of their lives fighting for truth and justice.

Source: Think Hillsborough couldn’t happen today? Think again | Owen Jones | Opinion | The Guardian

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10 thoughts on “Hillsborough was about political manipulation. And it’s still happening today

  1. Nick

    slightly off topic mike in that it will be interesting to see if any sick or disabled people from Liverpool that have died in going through welfare reform ‘if their relatives have had any help from the community like the Hillsborough victims in getting truth and justice from the DWP as to how their loved one had died

    or is just being a united community only revolve around football only ?

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Let’s not be divisive – perhaps a better approach would be to suggest that the spirit of solidarity enjoyed by the community of football fans could be extended to those who are united by their physical infirmity.

  2. Terry Davies

    police had their right to strike taken away. Army personnel in police uniform were then used to make costs of policing demos cheaper.
    during recent years
    PCSO s were accepted and funding cut for emergency services. the money saved was used to reduce online privacy and to pay for more security to protect MPs and the like who are lining the pockets of tory funders and their cronies. Army personnel are used during protests and large rallies although they are in police uniform for media to take photoshots and misrepresent the truth in reports at these events.
    police cant strike this right is taken away. Tories will try to use same strategies to inhibit doctors from striking in the future. watch this space. hope the doctors dont sign away their rights to withdraw labour, should this happen say goodbye to the NHS .

    1. mrmarcpc

      The police should strike when they feel like it, what is the government going to do, arrest you, with who, you all on strike, the army, they won’t interfere and will most likely be on the police’s side, get some of them to scab, brilliant, divide the police force of the country which will cause more unrest, remember, the government needs you, the police don’t need them!

      1. Mike Sivier Post author

        It is illegal for the police to go on strike.
        Yes, I know. Who’d arrest them?

  3. mrmarcpc

    The tories, the press and the police are all guilty, have all got blood on their hands and all should be held accountable, no getting away with it, all should be done for murder!

  4. Brian

    There is a clear dichotomy between the remit of public service organisations and their actions. We can not suppose these actions are controlled by the employees, but rather are an order of their controllers, nevertheless, this collusion and perhaps sympathy with their controllers policies does not let them of the hook or absolve them of responsibility for their actions. It is quite correct to hold all those responsible for the Hillsborough deaths to account, including those that were ordered to change statements.

    It was only by the tenacity of those affected that the cover up was proven; and yes, there is a direct link to the political manipulation to disenfranchise the disabled community in the same way. Perhaps a ‘Victims of Welfare Reform’ group will take up this mantle, but with a more understanding system as a result of the Hillsborough inquest.

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