Newspapers today are listing the contributions from Merseyside MPs to the debate on Hillsborough. They have missed John's contribution. Maybe it is just prescience on their part and they already regard Southport as a Lancashire seat! Anyway here is what John had to say:
John Pugh (Southport, Liberal Democrat)
I begin by congratulating, on behalf of, I think, all of us here today, Steve Rotheram. None of us can hope to match his eloquence, passion, persistence and, frankly, the raw emotion he has displayed today. I first knew him as a very effective mayor of Liverpool city council, and he has today proved to be a very effective champion of his area and of Merseyside as a whole. I want to thank him for associating me with his efforts in making the all-party applications; this has been an all-party endeavour. I also want to mention the hon. Gentleman’s predecessor, Peter Kilfoyle. Even though he was a lifelong Evertonian, he did a lot of work for this cause in the House.
I should declare an interest. I am a Liverpool FC supporter. My entire family came from Liverpool, and I grew up there, although I had the misfortune originally, as a child in a city that was oozing football success, to be taken every Saturday toKnotty Ash to watch our one and only rugby league team get beaten repeatedly week after week—thereby amply preparing me for life as a Liberal.
I think I understand the Liverpool character as well as most. A history that has often been quite brutal has endowed that character with two marked traits. The first is a profound emphasis on social solidarity. People have learned to depend on each other—on family and neighbourhood. That was beautifully summed up by Bill Shankly in the following quote, of which I have a copy in my office:
“the only way to live and to be truly successful is by collective effort, with everyone working for each other, everyone helping each other, and everyone having a share of the rewards at the end of the day.”
The second major trait has also been forged by a hard history. It is a lack of reverence—a suspicion and questioning of authority and all the pomposity and cant that often underpins it. That is the reason why Liverpool produces so many comedians. It is a feeling that the world is not necessarily on our side—and, indeed, often it is not, especially for those who spend their time questioning authority, and the pomposity and the cant underpinning it.
Hillsborough was a terrible tragedy for Liverpool. At the time I was a councillor in Sefton, and we outside the immediate Liverpool area lost many people. Afterwards, there was an opportunity to show that things could be different, but what happened? As expected, there was a massive, deeply impressive show of solidarity, and it continues, confirming that this is the city where the way forward is not “walking alone” and where social solidarity is important. The people were, however, let down by the powers that be: the national media, including The Sun, about which much has been said today; those in the legal system, about which we have not said as much as we ought to have done; and the police—we have mentioned Duckenfield—who tried to shift blame. Some—but not all—of them perpetuated, relied on or were diverted by prejudices, not just about football supporters but specifically about Liverpool football supporters. That was the case both knowingly and, sometimes, unknowingly, and explicitly and implicitly. Unsurprisingly therefore, there has been no closure. The narrative not only of what happened but of how different people told—or tried to tell in order to fix—that narrative has never been fully before us.
I genuinely believe that we get better inquiries and inquests if the people running them are prepared to look at their limitations and flaws. We get better reporting if the media at least acknowledge their failings. We also get better policing if the police openly account for their wrongdoing and the error in their own ranks. Truthfulness at all levels is the path to improvement.
"I am aware from books written on this topic that certain people in the offices of The Sun questioned Kelvin MacKenzie about his decision on that day.
Liverpool people are not stupid; they know there are good and, sometimes, not so good men in all uniforms. They know that judges are likely to spend more time at Twickenham than on the football terraces so do not necessarily have adequate knowledge of the latter. They know that lawyers can be, and have been, both cynical and noble in addressing this issue. They know that football supporters also come in all shapes and sizes, and that everyone has their prejudices. The antidote to all that, however, is not reports and procedures; rather, it is a single-minded pursuit of the truth. The antidote is not a narrative that suits one or another group or institution, or even one that allows all interests to make peace.
Liverpudlian John Lennon’s song “Gimme some Truth” puts this point most simply. One verse—I am unsure whether it applies to any Member who is present—states:
“I’m sick and tired of hearing things
From uptight, short-sighted, narrow-minded hypocrites
All I want is the truth
Just gimme some truth”.
The full truth will not necessarily make everything right again. The horror that was Hillsborough will recede in time, even though for some it is, of course, relived every day. However, we owe it to them and the victims to ensure that what passes into history is not a myth or a convenient narrative, but is, so far as is humanly possible, the true and full account of the events."