Former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie was yesterday described as as a ‘despicable man’who ‘dehumanised the deaths’of the 96 fans who died during the 1989 Hillsborough disaster.
During a debate in the House of Commons Labour MP for Walton, Steve Rotheram, said The Sun’s infamous 1989 Hillsborough splash headlined ‘The Truth”, in which it accused Liverpool fans of causing the tragedy, was ‘one of the cruellest blows”.
The story was printed four days after the incident and claimed it was the result of drunkenness among Liverpool fans, who it claimed pick pocketed victims, urinated on police and assaulted officers attempting to help the injured.
Lord Justice Taylor’s official inquiry into the tragedy dismissed The Sun’s claims and found that not a single witness called before the inquiry supported the allegations.
Last night Rotheram launched a personal attack on The Sun’s then editor Kelvin MacKenzie, who is now a columnist for the Daily Mail, claiming that it ‘beggars belief that certain sections of the media still give air time to this most despicable man to vent his bile and mendacity”.
‘Given what he said about the Prime Minister the other day, even some Tories may now agree that this man is a pariah, as we on Merseyside know him to be,’he continued.
‘This is a man who preaches about free speech, but who dehumanised the deaths of 96 people for a cheap headline–what an absolute hypocrite.”
Rotheram said it had taken the allegations of phone-hacking at sister-title the News of the World for people to realise that ‘there may be some truth to our allegations of collusion between the press, certain politicians and the police”.
He also called on Prime Minister David Cameron to press for a front-page apology in The Sun.
Shadow Health Minister Andy Burnham said The Sun and other media outlets should be encouraged to hand over any material that might reveal who made the claims.
At the time The Sun attributed the allegations to unnamed South Yorkshire police officers.
Burnham was echoing calls made by Hillsborough campaigner Margaret Aspinall, whose 18-year-old son James died during the disaster.
‘It is my belief that the British public, following the revelations about phone-hacking, will see Hillsborough in a new light,’said Burnham.
‘That, too, is a story of unacceptable collusion between police and the press, working against the wider public interest, and it, too, must be fully exposed, with those responsible held to account.”
Burnham also noted it was not only The Sun that made the allegations, highlighting similar ‘inaccurate and deeply hurtful lies’in the Daily Star, Daily Express, Daily Mail and Yorkshire Post, which all used unattributed quotes from police and Police Federation sources.
Alison McGovern, Labour MP for Wirral South, said the ‘lies’reported in The Sun’s story had ‘echoed down through the years’and continue to be spread.
‘I moved to London in 1999, fully 10 years after the disaster, and I was shocked then by how many people still believed the lies told about Hillsborough.
‘They did not believe those lies out of malice, but no one had ever corrected them before. On many occasions I have had to explain what actually happened at Hillsborough, why the calls for justice still ring out, and why people will not ‘just let go’.”