Finally, they say it: ‘Police failures were the main cause of the tragedy’
Police chiefs finally acknowledge culpability, 34 years after the fact, but no sign of the landmark legislation campaigners are demanding
Dear readers — welcome, welcome. And buckle in. We’ve got a packed-out edition that spans the full scope of the human experience. Such as…
Your Monday news roundup, including anger at Eurovision relying on unpaid volunteers and far-right activists in Southport
Today’s big story, looking at the response to the long overdue police apology for Hillsborough and the latest rejection of a Hillsborough Law in parliament
Post Picks featuring Charlie Chaplin and Ricky Tomlinson
A back-bedroom surprise for the ages in our Home of the Week
Apologies for the lack of weekend read. To those of you who set your alarms for 7:00am on Saturday, hauled yourself out of bed and excitedly poured a big mug of coffee, only to sit and wait for an email that never came, we do hope your weekend bounced back after that crushing blow. In case you missed it, Jack dropped a note at the top of Friday’s newsletter, explaining that he would be away for a few days due to a personal matter and couldn’t get it finished in time. He’s back now, thanks to everyone who sent comments and emails over the weekend. You’re all incredibly kind.
Last week paying members received two great pieces. On Tuesday we sent Dani Cole to Open Eye Gallery, where photographer Craig Easton’s new show capturing life in the north of England has been making waves. Here’s a snippet from her piece:
“Upon entering the gallery, there are 10 black-and-white portraits from ‘Bank Top’ that loom large — but instead of intimidating, they invite you closer. There is Nader Khan, covered in white paint, a crisp splodge on his chin; there is Carol Imasiku, half of her face in soft shadow, looking somewhere just out of frame. Irfan Ali prays in the next room.”
Then on Thursday we took a journey back to the late 1800s to meet Mr Adbullah Quilliam, the globetrotting, frock-coat wearing, flamboyant and idiosyncratic Liverpool-born solicitor who became the first Muslim convert on the British Isles. If you missed that one, you can read it here.
Editor’s note: Thanks as always to those of you who signed up as paying members over the weekend, taking us to 851 in total. Last month was our most successful month for growth in a long time, and it would be great to keep up that kind of momentum into February. The 1000 mark is now so close we can smell it. If you haven’t signed up yet, consider taking out a membership with the link below and you’ll forever have the bragging rights of having been in the first 1000 Post subscribers when we eventually achieve world domination.
From today’s sponsor: If you like getting The Post’s emails in your inbox, you are going to love The Knowledge, a brilliant free newsletter that filters out the media noise and just gives you the most important stories and insightful opinions from around the world in a 5-minute read. It is the brainchild of Jon Connell, founder of The Week magazine, and the idea is to make the news manageable by bringing together lots of things that matter (and a few things that don’t) in a highly readable style. It manages to be fun as well as informative and we read it religiously here at Post HQ. Sign up for free at theknowledge.com.
Want to appear here? By sponsoring our Monday Briefings you can reach our passionate and influential audience (13,430 readers and counting) while providing vital support for our journalism. Just email firstname.lastname@example.org now.
This week’s weather
Monday ☁️ Light cloud and a gentle breeze with highs of 9°C
Tuesday ☁️ Light cloud and a gentle breeze with highs of 9°C
Wednesday ☁️ Light cloud and a gentle breeze with highs of 8°C
Thursday 🌧️ Light rain and a gentle breeze with highs of 7°C
Friday ☁️ Light cloud and a gentle breeze with highs of 7°C
Weekend ☁️ Light cloud and a moderate breeze with highs of 7°C
This week’s weather forecast is sourced from BBC Weather and it’s for Liverpool.
The big story: An apology, but still no Hillsborough Law
Top line: Last week, 34 years on from the Hillsborough disaster which claimed 97 lives, senior police chiefs apologised for their “profound failings” and admitted that “policing got it badly wrong”. It was a landmark moment, the first official response to Bishop James Jones’ 2017 report into Hillsborough which argued for “substantial change in the culture of public bodies”. Nonetheless, to many it was a deeply inadequate response.
What did the police say? Alongside their apology, the police have drawn up a 56 page report setting out their plan to learn from Hillsborough and other tragedies, with commitments to: not seek to defend the indefensible; revise their ethical policy; and issue new guidance for specialist officers supporting families during a tragedy. Andy Marsh, the chief executive of the College of Policing, said a new code of ethics would be issued too, ensuring officers show “openness” and “candour” at inquests and public enquiries. He said:
“Policing has profoundly failed those bereaved by the Hillsborough disaster over many years and we are sorry that the service got it so wrong. Police failures were the main cause of the tragedy and have continued to blight the lives of family members ever since.”
West Derby MP Ian Byrne, who leads the Hillsborough Law Now campaign calling for a new law which would introduce measures to ensure public authorities actively cooperate with investigations, said it was “a very small step in the right direction” but that many families and survivors would feel it was “too little too late”. His words captured the general response.
Despite the Police apology, there is still much anger that the government has yet to respond to Jones’ report, which Theresa May commissioned. Greater Manchester metro mayor Andy Burham accused them of lacking “basic decency” and said: “The Government asks a senior Bishop to report on the experience of the Hillsborough families — then leaves it on a shelf for over five years and counting.” Home secretary Suella Braverman said the delayed response was to “avoid the risk of prejudice during any criminal proceedings which related to Hillsborough”.
No Hillsborough Law? A few days after the police apology, the bill for a Hillsborough Law was denied a second reading at the end of the Commons’ Friday sitting, having been proposed by Garston and Halewood MP Maria Eagle. Eagle complained that it was the 12th time it had been rejected in two years. The law would seek to:
Create a new legal duty of candour on public authorities and officials to tell the truth and proactively cooperate with official investigations and inquiries
Ensure victims of disasters or state-related deaths are entitled to parity of legal representation during inquests and inquiries. This will mean that bereaved families can get legal aid
According to the BBC, “the bill is set to be debated again on 3 March, but will fall to the bottom of the order paper for the day, meaning MPs will likely run out of time to consider it.” Eagle wanted answers, and said this:
“Can you advise me please on how I can convince my constituents, who are families of the 97 unlawfully killed and survivors of that terrible day at Hillsborough, that our government cares about righting the terrible wrongs they have suffered over the last 34 years, and making sure that the lessons of that terrible day are truly learned?”
Bottom line: It’s now been seven years since inquests found that the 97 victims of Hillsborough had been unlawfully killed due to gross negligence manslaughter by South Yorkshire police officer Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield and six years since Jones’ highly critical report. But no police officer has been convicted of any offence relating to the disaster or for giving false evidence. The police acknowledgement of culpability represents a symbolic milestone in the search for justice, but anger at the sense of official impunity lingers.
Your Post briefing
Why are Eurovision planning to use free labour? Culture Liverpool, in charge of the organisation of Liverpool’s hosting duties, have been criticised after it was announced that they were seeking 500 “volunteer” staff to help out. The volunteers will be used to help at the Tourist Information Centre, Eurovision Village and transport hubs, meeting and greeting visitors and scanning tickets. “Enthusiastic volunteers are what make our events great,” says councillor Harry Doyle, but Twitter is awash with people questioning the decision not to create paid roles, with one widely shared tweet reading: “The ££ spent on Eurovision bid etc was justified as city leaders promised it would bring in revenue & local jobs, boosting the local economy. Yet 500 “unpaid” workers are being sought, during a cost of living crisis…” Know more about this? Please get in touch ahead of our story on it tomorrow.
Home Office plans to house 500 asylum seekers at Pontins in Southport have been shelved. Ministers wish to end the reliance on hotels to house migrants, which is said to cost £6.8 million a day. Two weeks ago, details of a £70m contract to put asylum seekers into accommodation centres was published, but Pontins is no longer being considered. The Post understands that far right groups have taken credit for the decision, after Patriotic Alternative Merseyside — the local branch of a white nationalist group that acts across the UK — member James Mac Costello (an activist previously associated with banned terror group National Action) went leafleting in the area. 90 leaflets claiming “White Britons to be a minority by the 2060s — or sooner” were delivered. Got any information about Patriotic Alternative Merseyside and their operations? Get in touch by hitting reply to this email.
Sefton Council’s children's services are in “severe difficulties” according to government-appointed commissioner Paul Boyce. The department was rated “inadequate” last year by Ofsted, and Boyce said that children are still being let down, warning that the service could be taken away from the council altogether. “I can't be any clearer — your children's services is in severe difficulties and unless you all work together to fix the problems you've got you will let children down in this borough as you already have as a council," he said, addressing the borough's overview and scrutiny committee. Boyce also said that there appeared to be a “distrust” between councillors and council officials. The Post is currently looking into the situation with Sefton Council’s children's services — please email us.
Liverpool and Manchester United fans have come together (yes, really) to issue a joint statement calling for tougher ownership rules of English football clubs. Both clubs are currently said to be for sale, and following months of talks between the Manchester United Supporters’ Trust and Spirit of Shankly, the largest fan group at each club, they released a statement urging the government to give fans greater influence in how their clubs are run, and to implement a system of more robust scrutiny to prevent buyers “whose primary motivations may not respect either the cultural heritage of our clubs or the values and interests of supporters“. Draft legislation on football governance is expected to be published by the government this month.
And finally, after weeks of misery, some joy for Everton fans. They pulled off an incredible 1-0 win against league leaders Arsenal on Saturday in new manager Sean Dyche’s first match in charge. Before the game kicked off thousands of fans made their way along Goodison Road chanting “Kenwright and co, it’s time to go,” in protest against their owners, but out on the pitch it was a different story. Dyche said he respected their views, but urged fans to “put them aside and remember their belief in Everton as a football club”. Meanwhile, down in Wolverhampton, Liverpool didn’t have quite so much luck. The less said about that one the better…
Home of the week
Nice little house, nice little price, you might be thinking. £79,950, two bedrooms, short walk to the park. What’s not to enjoy? Oh look. A back bedroom filled with maybe 100 plush toys of Taz the tasmanian devil from Looney Tunes. Call the exterminators, gut the house and arrest the previous owner. The stuff of nightmares. Look at your peril. Credit to @isabeIIeee on Twitter for digging this one out.
💃 “Take a pinch of a romantic song cycle, stir in some studio theatre and a touch of jazz, then filter the whole thing through a hessian sack of deep, dark Central European folklore…” is how Manchester Collective’s new project Bag of Bones is being described. Is it music? Is it art? Who knows. Is it worth the £15 entry fee? Certainly. It’s at Future Yard in Birkenhead on Thursday.
📽️ Charlie Chaplin’s 1936 masterpiece about the wheels of industry, Modern Times, is showing at The Caledonia on Friday. Interweaving comedy and social commentary, it follows a factory hand (Chaplin’s iconic Little Tramp) who struggles to survive in an ever more industrialised world. It’s free.
📺 Ricky Tomlinson hosts an evening of screenwriting legends at The Florrie in Dingle. The likes of Jimmy McGovern and Andy Lynch, who have worked on Brookside, Hillsborough, Emmerdale and so on, will be taking questions before a special screening of the first ever episode of Brookside and a TV memorabilia charity auction. Tickets are £3.
🍺 And finally, one for the calendar — tickets are now on sale for the Bombed Out Church’s annual Beer Festival, an almighty piss up in the hollowed-out ruins of one of the city centre’s most beautiful buildings. It’s not until April but you’d be wise to grab a ticket early. Alongside a seemingly endless array of ales, ciders, gins and so on there will be street food and live music.
Our favourite reads
A long read from The Sunday Times looking at a hotel in Birmingham built by the massive union Unite, which ended up costing £112 million, way over its original £57 million budget, leading to allegations of “criminal activity”. Liverpool-based building company Flanagan Group, led by developer Paul Flanagan, got the contract for the construction of the project, but costs soon spiralled out of control, and it is now causing growing concerns for the Labour Party, as Unite is one of its biggest donors. The most recent valuation of the hotel said that it was worth £29 million — £83 million less than it cost. The piece also reveals that Unite general secretary Sharon Graham, who ordered an investigation into the situation, was approached on the street in West London in 2021 by four men telling her she’d be better off “leaving it alone”. “I will not allow any bullies to stop me getting to the bottom of this,” she said.
A great sketch in The New Statesman from the recent Convention of the North (“Think Comic Con for people who know what LEP stands for”), where Levelling Up secretary Michael Gove was “big on rhetoric and short on substance”. From the piece, it appears Levelling Up as a concept altogether might be running out of road: “the divergences between north and south are now said to be as severe as those between the post-communist east and west Germany upon the country’s unification” it reads. Good news if you enjoyed this one. Jonny Ball —ts writer — has been lined up as a galactico signing (well, loan signing) by The Post. He’s working on a freelance piece for us looking at whether the Liverpool City Region works as a concept, or whether tribal loyalties between different boroughs push against each other. Eyes peeled.
Can we pick one of our own? Yes, yes we can. Our piece on the mystery of the Williamson Tunnels was selected by Longreads as part of their “Eccentrics” reading list — “provid[ing] a fascinating glimpse into the minds of those whose lives are anything but conventional.” In the 90s a group of historians began to take interest in a subterranean world beneath the streets of Edge Hill, built by eccentric reclusive businessman Joseph Williamson after he moved into the area 200 years prior. Many theories have since been put forward as to exactly why Williamson — using an army of workers — decided to do this, but the truth is no one really knows. “When you look at some of the structures underground, you think: How the hell did he create these? What the hell was he doing building all this stuff?” tour guide Tom Stapledon told The Post.
Photo of the week
Mark Parsons, whose brilliant street photography of Liverpool can be found here, with an atmospheric late night shot of a shop doorway in the city centre, with Kinder ice cream and elf bar advertising on full display.
Letters from readers
An interesting piece. Good to have some history amidst the latest news about our local councils. Articles like this are certainly more relevant than gossip about daytime TV presenters, not that any serious local journalism outlet would waste time on the latter surely?, ‘The man who brought Islam to Liverpool’, David Nolan
The West Yorkshire Police, the Home Secretary and Sheffield should have apologised years ago for their actions on the day & since. The government of the day should rightly take a lot of responsibility for what the families have gone through, but never forget we've also had 13 years of Labour government where nothing was done in relation to this tragedy. It truly is shocking that it's taken nearly 34 years, ‘Yes, Craig Easton’s photos document the North of England: so what?’, Mal Webster