I should start by stating categorically that my opinions, as expressed below, are not intended in any way to trivialise the grief and suffering of those who lost loved ones in April 1989. If you haven’t experienced something yourself it is difficult, if not impossible, to know how you would react in similar circumstances. However I do have a problem with the disproportionate reaction there has been to the fact that a party leader has merely been photographed holding a free copy of a national newspaper.
Nobody can justify the obscene headlines and untruthful accounts that the Sun published four days after the disaster. It must have caused incredible hurt and mental anguish to those who were still immersed in their grief. That incident however, like the disaster itself, happened over 25 years ago. Does a photograph of a party leader in 2014 holding a copy of the paper really merit calls for his resignation?
I accept that quotes on the Internet, like the Sun’s story all those years ago, can be untrue but it has been reported that a Labour councillor in Liverpool, Martin Cummins, has resigned from the Labour party over the affair. Apparently he said: “Seeing Ed promoting the Sun has rocked me to my core.” Really Mr Cummins? Rocked you to your core?
The Labour mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson, has also been quoted as saying many people would feel “insulted” by Mr Miliband’s actions. “Like everybody in this city I am really hurt and offended by Ed Miliband’s support for The Sun newspaper,” he said. “Such clear support for that publication at any time would be wrong but at such a sensitive time is deeply shocking.”
An article about the affair from the Liverpool Echo that was posted on Facebook drew hundreds of comments but many of them showed little sympathy for relatives of the Hillborough victims. Most it seem called directly for Mr Miliband to resign and quite a few pointed out that all three party leaders had posed in the same manner and queried why it was just the Labour leader who was getting criticism.
My view, for what it is worth, is this: There is, or certainly should be, heightened awareness with regard to the feelings of those affected by the Hillsborough disaster at the moment. It must be extremely distressing to have the events of that terrible day revisited at the new inquest. It would, of course, have been insensitive to draw attention to anything untruthful about the tragedy whether it had been published or not. However in my judgement Ed Miliband being photographed holding a copy of the Sun is not, as the Mayor of Liverpool would have it, “an offensive gesture that insults not only me but every person in the city.”
I believe, considering both David Cameron and Nick Clegg were depicted doing the same thing and appear to have emerged unscathed, that the reaction shows the depth of Labour support in Liverpool and the apparent discontent about Labour’s leader amongst the party’s members and voters there. I think all three leaders made an error of judgement in being photographed with a newspaper even if it was done it the misguided belief that it showed support for England’s football team.
Considering Oscar Wilde’s claim that there is no such thing as bad publicity ironically it is probably the Sun that has benefited the most!