The truth about that awful alleged Boris Johnson quote on Hillsborough

Louis Dor
Tuesday 26 April 2016 18:20
Celebrities
Picture: Chris Ratcliffe/Getty Images

Following the result of the inquest into the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, which concluded that the 96 football fans who died were unlawfully killed, people have been using social media to hold those who blamed the fans accountable.

As well as South Yorkshire police, The Sun and Margaret Thatcher's press secretary have been subject to most of the anger, but many have been tweeting about an editorial column in the Spectator then edited by now-Mayor of London Boris Johnson.

In an editorial column on page seven in the 16 October 2004 issue, the Spectator argued that the murder of Kenneth Bigley, by the Tawhid and Jihad terrorist group, was fuelled by the fact he was from Liverpool.

This excerpt in particular, has come in for the biggest criticism. It's not hard to see why:

The extreme reaction to Mr Bigley's murder is fed by the fact that he was a Liverpudlian. Liverpool is a handsome city with a tribal sense of community. A combination of economic misfortune — its docks were, fundamentally, on the wrong side of England when Britain entered what is now the European Union — and an excessive predilection for welfarism have created a peculiar, and deeply unattractive, psyche among many Liverpudlians.

They see themselves whenever possible as victims, and resent their victim status; yet at the same time they wallow in it. Part of this flawed psychological state is that they cannot accept that they might have made any contribution to their misfortunes, but seek rather to blame someone else for it, there by deepening their sense of shared tribal grievance against the rest of society.

The deaths of more than 50 Liverpool football supporters at Hillsborough in 1989 was undeniably a greater tragedy than the single death, however horrible, of Mr Bigley; but that is no excuse for Liverpool's failure to acknowledge, even to this day, the part played in the disaster by drunken fans at the back of the crowd who mindlessly tried to fight their way into the ground that Saturday afternoon. The police became a convenient scapegoat, and the Sun newspaper a whipping-boy for daring, albeit in a tasteless fashion, to hint at the wider causes of the incident.

However, the column was not written by Johnson, although he was the editor at the time - doing so part-time while a shadow cabinet minister.

Johnson previously apologised for the editorial in 2012, saying:

I'm very, very glad that this report does lay to rest the false allegation that was made at the time about the behaviour of those fans. I was very, very sorry in 2004 that the Spectator did carry an editorial that partially repeated those allegations, I apologised then and I apologise now. I do hope the families of the 96 victims will take some comfort from this report and that they can reach some sort of closure.

In 2012 Simon Heffer wrote in the Mail that he was responsible for the article - at least the first draft of it.

A spokesperson for Mr Johson told indy100:

As you’ve pointed out the Mayor has addressed this and apologised in 2012. I don’t think we’ll have any further comment to make.

More: Sir Bernard Ingham: The disgraceful letter Margaret Thatcher's press secretary sent to Hillsborough campaigners

More: Remembering how the Sun newspaper covered the Hillsborough tragedy 27 years ago

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