Jack Straw blames Thatcher for Hillsborough police cover-up
Former Labour Home Secretary says Margaret Thatcher created a 'culture of impunity' in the police
JACK STRAW, the former Home Secretary, sought to turn the Hillsborough disaster into a party political issue this morning by claiming that the outrageous cover-up by the police had been encouraged by a culture of impunity for the police under the Thatcher Government.
Until Straw entered the debate with an appearance on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, all the attention had been on naming and shaming the police who were directly involved in the cover-up over police failures at the Hillsborough stadium 23 years ago.
But Straw blamed Margaret Thatcher and her Government for setting the police culture that contributed to the scandal. "The Thatcher Government, because they needed the police to be a partisan force, particularly for the miners' strike and other industrial troubles, created a culture of impunity in the police service.
"They really were immune from outside influences and they could rule the roost. That is what we saw in South Yorkshire," he told the Today programme.
The independent panel whose report revealed the damning truth about the police cover-up gives some weight to Straw's argument. It revealed that Thatcher penned a note questioning Home Secretary Douglas Hurd's intention that the government should accept the broad thrust of the Taylor report into the disaster which included criticism of the police.
She wrote: "What do we mean by 'Welcoming the broad thrust of the report'?
“The broad thrust is devastating criticism of the police. Is that for us to welcome? Surely we welcome the thoroughness of the report and its conclusions. MT."
The Tories can claim that Straw is protecting his own back. He ordered a report into Hillsborough when he was Home Secretary and it failed to uncover the truth. Straw said this morning that if he had his time again, he wished it had been more thorough. But his comments show that the fall-out of the Hillsborough report won't be limited to a handful of (mainly retired) police.
Labour's John Mann is calling for the only Sheffield Tory MP at the time, Sir Irvine Patnick, to be stripped of his knighthood for actively spreading the lies that the Liverpool fans were drunk and violent.
Having been praised by Labour for doing the right thing in the Commons yesterday, David Cameron, the Tory leader, is unlikely to allow Patnick to be humiliated in his old age for repeating what he had been told by the police. One of those who knew him said: "Patnick was gullible."
But despite bringing the whole stinking affair into the open, Cameron's party is now likely to be caught up in the calls for justice.