Saturday 20 January 2018

Clarkson carry-on is crass nonsense as awful Hillsborough truth is revealed

As someone who tolerates cars only when Chuck Berry is singing about them, I admit to finding Jeremy Clarkson somewhat tedious.

Thankfully, the buffoon doesn't feature on my social sat-nav, expect on those all-too-frequently-occurring occasions when he wipes his bottom in public.

His latest alleged bout of loutishness has given rise to the most divisive debate in Britain since the poll tax. You'll remember how that debate led to street riots and the downfall of Margaret Thatcher. Coincidently, Clarkson was an invited guest at Mrs Thatcher's funeral.

The TV presenter can afford to be smug about his job prospects. The highest-paid contributor at the BBC, his TV programme and associated merchandise are said to earn the station €210m a year. That sort of lolly can buy you a lorra luv. Not to mention the sight of the current prime minister, David Cameron, drooling like a fan-boy at a Miley Cyrus gig.

Should he stay or should he go? BBC executives are likely to get a kicking either way. Sure, 350 million Jeremy fans can't be wrong. Or can they? Whatever the outcome of the latest hoo-ha, Clarkson will continue to bellow from a TV screen near you. But hey, the greatest invention since the wheel, and certainly more useful than a carburettor, is, of course, the TV remote. Zap!

There were much more important matters to concern us this past week, including hearing a man called David Duckenfield declaring: "Everybody knew the truth, the fans and police knew the truth that we'd opened the gates."

Duckenfield was speaking of how he'd lied about football fans forcing open the gate at Hillsborough and causing a crush that resulted in the deaths of 96 football fans.

That horrific event happened on a sunny Saturday afternoon in 1989. Twenty-six years later, entire communities still struggle with their loss and a legacy of pain, caused in part by a campaign of lies designed to blame the Liverpool supporters for the tragedy - a campaign orchestrated by the police and spearheaded with disgusting disrespect by the Sun newspaper. The people of Liverpool will never forget how the Sun printed front page falsehoods about fans urinating on the police, pick-pocketing the dead and even attacking a cop who was attempting to save someone. All gross untruths.

For 26 years, families and friends of the deceased, as well as survivors, have campaigned through one official inquiry after another to clear the names of their loved ones and uncover the truth.

Then, during the week, Duckenfield spoke the words that came too late for too many of the campaigners and their families.

Duckenfield isn't just any old civilian. He wasn't an odd-job man or programme-seller who happened to be near the gate that fateful afternoon. He was Chief Superintendent Duckenfield, South Yorkshire Police commander and senior officer in charge of policing that day.

His self-serving silence betrayed the dead and condemned the living to years of emotional trauma and hurt.

We'll have the theological arguments now, the clever high-wire legal semantics, as the British establishment squirms to deny any orchestrated cover-up or conspiracy to hide the truth until now.

Duckenfield would have the shameful injustice passed off as a "mistake, oversight". But the former officer can rest assured that the name Duckenfield will forever be listed on a roll of infamy on Merseyside and beyond, unlike those unfortunate fans who lost their lives that Saturday because of his negligence.

My late friend Adrian Henri, the Liverpool poet and football fan, wasn't at Hillsborough but his poem, The Bell, is a poignant reminder of the grief felt on Merseyside.

"The bell tolled all afternoon ... it told of flowers heaped in a goalmouth ... tears dried by the April wind ... the deep bell still tolled in our heads long after the light had gone."

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