Tag Archives: Margaret Thatcher

Hold your head up high

Everyone who knows even a little about the Hillsborough Disaster knows the name Jon-Paul Gilhooley. Whether because he was the youngest victim, aged only 10 years old, or because of his younger cousin, another little Huyton lad who didn’t die young and grew up to be Steven Gerrard. The Liverpool captain has spoken of the effect of losing Jon-Paul on his life and that of his family:

It was a difficult time to know that one of your cousins had been at the game and had been tragically crushed. Seeing the reactions of his mum, dad and family helped me drive on to become the player I have developed into today.

For me, Jon-Paul Gilhooley’s name always stands out on the Hillsborough memorial, not because he is more important than any of the other 96 people who were killed, but because I was one year older than him on that sunny day in April when Liverpool fans came from all over the country to watch a football match and not all made the return journey. For a city and many beyond it, life would never return to how it was.

As children at the time of Hillsborough, we saw our fathers and mothers – always so together and in control – left grief-stricken and powerless in the face of police and politicians’ lies. We learnt to hide our anger at playground taunts and jokes because we had to prove we were better, weren’t hooligans in embryo as they said we were. Even young Liverpool fans knew not to trust what it said in the papers, years before the Leveson Inquiry.

We saw inquests run in a way to bring shame on the worst totalitarian regime, witnessed a report by a senior judge confirming what we all knew, ignored by those that had called for it. Watched private prosecutions falter, allowing the senior police officer on duty at the ground that day to retire and spend more time with his pension. Through it all, we heard the chants from the ignorant at the other end of the ground, telling us: you did it, if it wasn’t for you we could stand, more of you should have died, you killed them.

The high-profile idiots get the media attention: the unrepentant ex-editor, the Prime Ministerial wannabe, the quiz show panel member. All prepared to use the hidden evidence and official obstructions to sound controversial and elevate their own notoriety. But actually, far worse are the everyday morons who say it to your face. One of the first conversations I had on arrival in Japan was with a fan of some no-mark club who told me ‘there were hooligans at Hillsborough though, weren’t there.’

Now imagine hearing that, hearing that you are wrong, to blame, paranoid or mawkish for 23 years, even as you try to mourn. As you try to recover from the loss of your child, parent, cousin or friend. That has been life for the Hillsborough families since the day of the tragedy.

So emotions on Tuesday were heightened. By midway through the morning here, with the Hillsborough Independent Panel’s report still hours away from release, a number of news reports had already brought tears, especially this one telling of a family coping with the treatment of their seriously ill son, injured at the disaster. It seemed incredible that the families were moving closer to getting the answers they deserved, after so many setbacks.

It was afternoon in Japan when the first reports began to come through, at first shocking news – worse than even imagined – about blood alcohol tests done on Jon-Paul Gilhooley and the other child victims. Then it all followed swiftly, the Prime Minister apologised, then Sheffield Wednesday Football Club, South Yorkshire Police, so many apologies that after 23 years with none, the head began to spin. Even the S*n and its ex-editor tried to get in on the remorse,  offering too little too late.

If in fact it ever resided in Wapping, ‘The Truth’ belongs to us now.

Too many years have passed for this to really count as a victory. The Prime Minister spoke of new evidence but later amended his statement to acknowledge that all of this information had been known at the time, but deliberately concealed. It didn’t feel like a day for vindictiveness, but I felt glad that the PM at the time, Margaret Thatcher, was alive to see the scheming she must have approved fall so completely apart. I hope someone showed her the headlines.

Of course, the campaign doesn’t end here. Now the evidence is revealed, there must be reviews, reopened inquests, amended death certificates, fairer inquiries and hopefully, prosecutions to come.

But they did it. They did it for you: for all of the 96. Your mums and dads, brothers and sisters, cousins, wives, husbands, loved ones, friends – even your children – some of whom were only tiny when you were killed. They fought for you and never gave in, these ordinary yet somehow superhuman people took on the whole establishment and got them to admit what we all knew. They lied.

As our song tells us: at the end of the storm, there’s a golden sky. So long cherished as an idea and a shared goal, on Tuesday 11 September 2012, the clouds finally parted.

Justice for the 96.

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As Nasty As They Wanna Be

Well, they managed it.  Cameron’s Conservatives – no doubt already wearying of the compassionate bit – have their ‘stealing the milk‘ moment.

Since Maggie snatched the white stuff from millions of schoolchildren way back when, condemning them to easily snapped arms and legs when they fell onto the rock-hard concrete in their playgrounds (youth of today, don’t know yer born!) her disciples have been on the lookout for their own really nasty moment.

Closing libraries, flogging forests and cutting benefits will only give you so much of a kick, after all, these are the kinds of things that most of us expect the Conservatives to do.  Where’s the buzz when you do something everyone has been anticipating since the election last May?  Nowhere, that’s where.  So you have to raise your game a little.

This should do it.  Removing benefits from cancer survivors after one year.  Simply put, if you are not on the mend after 12 months, the government thinks we can probably do without you and your weak-assed immune system malingering around.  Although perhaps, following this story, they are betting that the number of people reaching that milestone is going to be dramatically reduced anyway.  I wonder what the cancer survival rates were in the 1930s?  And isn’t it just as well TB isn’t on the rise, eh?  Oh.

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The Clegg and Compo show

Here we all are then, the Dave ‘n’ Nick show opens with the release of the initial and snappily titled ‘Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition negotiations agreements’ on how we are to be governed.  You can read the whole thing here.

The agreement does demand close inspection, because there are at least a couple of hopeful messages for the future directed at those who may be feeling concerned.  Here is one such commitment that initially caught my attention, something which you might have hoped would never need to be carved into tablets of stone in a civilised country, had recent events not so manifestly demonstrated otherwise:

We will end the detention of children for immigration purposes

Almost gives you hope, doesn’t it.  Add to that:

  • a commission charged with separating retail and investment banking
  • action to tackle unacceptable banking bonuses
  • funding for the NHS should increase in real terms in each year of the Parliament

and you might find yourself questioning if the Conservatives had actually won on any of the negotiating points.  Don’t run away with that thought, though, because of course they did:

  • modest cuts of £6 billion to non-front line services… within the financial year 2010-11
  • a review of the long-term affordability of public sector pensions
  • an annual limit on the number of non-EU economic migrants.

As playwright (and exotic dancer) Dan Rebellato commented on Twitter:

 

so I agree, it is vital for us as voters to retain some cynicism about the whole process.  On the other hand, it is equally important for the Conservatives that they don’t cause undue alarm in this initial period, calming the nerves of people with a visceral hatred of all things Tory, reaching out to wavering Lib Dems and making us all believe that they have our best interests at heart.  There are even some reports of a much deeper change in outlook, if Tory blogger Tim Montgomerie is to be believed:

‘They don’t believe us when we say we’re not two-headed, monstrous Thatcherites so we’ll just have to prove it in office,’ was the conclusion of one leading Cameroon.

I find myself with the words of Mandy Rice-Davies echoing in my head: ‘well he would say that, wouldn’t he?’  When most of the Cabinet count their small change in the millions rather than in silver and copper, you have to question how far we can realistically expect them to understand the concerns of us plebs.  Are they likely to protect the hard-won services and policies that may seem like an unnecessary extravagance at this time of extraordinary economic turmoil, but which we recognise as essential in the battle to keep body and soul together?  I wonder.

Similarly, it is difficult to feel much confidence in the sudden raging appetite for political reform amongst those who typically consider themselves to be the natural party of government.  Having been kept away from the top jobs for over a decade, they won’t be keen to vacate them so readily.  The Alternative Vote system proposed in the agreement is a long way from the demanded Proportional Representation,  as noted by John Q Publican:

It’s about safe seats. AV is the only one of the alternative systems which preserves them intact. Safe seats are graphably the reason for the expenses scandal. Safe seats allow parachuting of candidates, placing too much power in the hands of central committees over local candidates and parties. Safe seats are wholly counter-democratic. And the LibDems have almost none of them, but the other parties have quite a few each

 It does seem that if we are not very careful, what we could end up witnessing is a rapid return to what Rosemary Bechler calls ‘business-as-usual politics’, instead of what benefits us as voters:

We want open discussion and robust decision-making that takes in a range of options we can keep our eyes and ears on.  We want people who answer to our criticisms face to face (as opposed to Jeremy Paxman’s). We want people who ask us what we think much more often.  And we want a democratic, fair, adult, proportional electoral system

So how do we go about getting that?  I believe we must keep up the pressure by demanding a fairer voting system until we get it – the Take Back Parliament campaign is one way of doing this.  Another is to join 38 degrees in deciding what comes next, following their successful actions during the election to counter adverse publicity about hung parliaments and challenge candidates to support electoral reform. 

Whatever the outcome of this, the first UK hung parliament since 1974, it must not be more of the same.  Keep watching!

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Something for the weekend

KHamnett_thinkMaybe it is because it is the season of fashion weeks (Fashion Month?) and maybe because I just submitted some scribblings to a fashion mag’s writing competition (in the hope of winning shoes!) but I have of late, found myself musing about the mad, bad and dangerous to know world of fashion.

Of course, ten minutes hate is mostly concerned with the iniquities of politicians and the tyrannies of other weak-willed men, and it could be argued that with all the scandals, thievery and corruption in the world, taking a month off to gawk at clothes we won’t even be wearing until next Spring is, well, a bit silly, isn’t it?

I would disagree, obviously, or this post ends here…

Once you concede that clothes are about more than protecting us from the elements or saving our modesty on a packed Tube train, everything else becomes a statement of intent.  Having a good day and toasting it with bright red lipstick, wishing to hide in a comfy tracksuit, going for the full uniform of whichever tribe you picked: from goth to emo to skater or a million others, even in the anti-capitalist garb of army surplus trousers and ironic t-shirt, you are saying something about yourself when you get dressed each day.  To be ‘anti-fashion’ is to be as much a part of the conversation as a member of the front row at any show.

True, there are things to hate about fashion.  I hate it when fashion is cruel to women by, for instance, offering shoes designed to cause injuries, or making a perfectly healthy girl feel fat, or engaging in excess and waste on a scale not seen since Marie Antoinette was playing at milk-maiding.  I also hate when the fashion default setting is ‘how amazing!’ when really it should be ‘are you sure?’, which is why it is so refreshing to read reviews like this one of House of Holland’s show (hat tip to Gem Fatale’s Style Blog for the link).

But credit where credit is due, not all fashion swims at the shallow end of the pool.  Witness Katherine Hamnett offending Margaret Thatcher two decades ago, Vivienne Westwood matching a natural sense of playfulness with a deeper concern for the world around her, not to mention all the Reds, People Trees and Eduns which seek to bring us clothing grown from renewable sources, made by workers adequately rewarded for their labour and sold with biodegradable packaging.  Sometimes fashion proves that it is for the grown ups too.

vw_manifestoWestwood’s manifesto contains more than a trace of her punk roots and shows that ‘recreating a punk aesthetic’ should be about more than wearing your skinny jeans with too much eyeliner and a safety pin brooch (god help us, I have yet to recover from that one, thanks ASOS.)  Do It Yourself and be proud to have your clothes show age as you wear them.  It could be simply a ‘make do and mend’ for the Noughties except for the margin notes added to the handwritten note: exhortations to save the rainforest and support for an Amnesty International campaign.

So now that I have proved that you can keep your political consciousness and still enjoy clothes, feast yourself on these images from New York and London Fashion week.  A little something for the weekend.

Hamnett image from Vogue, Westwood manifesto from Style on Track.

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