I wear two hats when I write this blog of mine. First and foremost, I manage a small charity in a small Scottish town called Dumfries. Ours is a front door that opens onto the darker corners of the crumbling world that is Britain 2015. We hand out 5000 emergency food parcels a year in a town that is home to 50,000 souls. Then, as you can see from all of the book covers above, I am also a thriller writer. If you enjoy the blog, you might just enjoy the books. The link below takes you to the whole library in the Kindle store. They can be had for a couple of quid each.

Monday, December 24, 2012

'He Ain't Heavy' is much more than a Christmas Number One: it is a kick in the teeth for everyone who tried to cover up what happened that day.

What a bloody marvellous moment it was yesterday to log onto Twitter to be greeted by tweet after tweet celebrating ‘He Ain’t Heavy’ making it the Christmas number one slot. I guess there must have been millions like me who have never had the remotest interest in who occupies the festive top slot suddenly becoming fully engaged in the whole thing. When I downloaded my copy I was fairly sure that it was the first time I had ever made such a purchase and then I remembered Band Aid all those years ago.

Two records.

 Two desperate memories from the Eighties.

 One I watched unfold on the TV as Michael Burke revealed the extent of the human catastrophe in the Horn of Africa. And one I was very much a part of.

What do the two events have in common? On the surface of this not a great deal. The loss of 96 football supporters thanks to the incompetence and arrogance of a police force that had been allowed to become a law unto itself was a tragedy the likes of which we have seldom seen on these shores. Let us never forget that the actions of the South Yorkshire police that day accounted for eight times as many fatalities as the Bloody Sunday Massacre, four times as many as the Real IRA killed with the Omagh bomb in 1998, and almost twice the death toll Al Queda achieved in London on 7/7.

And people used to wonder why we wouldn’t give up on our demands for justice...

However the situation in Ethiopia all those years ago was a whole different ball game. It wasn’t the lives of 96 that were at threat: it was the lives of millions.

So what do the two events have in common other than the strange 80’s feel to the old news footage?

Well, plenty.

The famine in Ethiopia was primarily caused by a drought just like the catastrophe on the Leppings Lane end was largely down to cages and a shamefully dilapidated stadium that wasn’t up to the job. The real question was how these problems were allowed to turn into tragedies and why the tragedies were so appallingly handled. Why couldn’t the Ethiopian government get emergency relief to its own people? Because for years it had been tearing itself to shreds in endless civil war. And like many civil wars from those dimly remembered times, it was also a part of the Cold war. The West backed one side whilst the Soviets backed another. The Cold War Warriors in the White House and the Kremlin shipped millions of dollars and roubles worth of weaponry into the meat grinder and nobody cared much about the civilians stuck in the middle of it all. So when the rains never came and the earth turned to dust nobody either cared or noticed: they were all too busy fighting their ideological games.

And then Michael Burke turned up with his camera and the world sat up and noticed. A record was made and we went out and bought it and it made the Christmas number one slot and the politicians were forced to look beyond their death games.

The South Yorkshire police were also born out of ideology. In the early Eighties they were given a free hand and overtime by the truckload to beat the living daylights out of the striking miners. A blind eye was turned by the media and politicians alike as the Conservatives exacted their revenge for the downfall of the Heath government in 1974. For a while policemen in South Yorkshire were allowed to do anything they liked and there were never any consequences: merely a pat on the back, a round of drinks, endless jokes about kicking the shit out of the lads on the picket lines. And so when they were given the job of ensuring 50,000 citizens of Great Britain could watch a football match in safety they completely blew it because they had been allowed to completely forget that it was their job to serve the public. They had become accustomed to their special status. They were Maggie Thatcher’s very own Republican Guard. Looking after people was beneath their dignity. Just like the dictators at the helm in Ethiopia considered feeding their people to be beneath their dignity.

What is truly heartening in both tragedies is how the public can react when we are finally given the truth. Before the Michael Burke film we didn’t do anything about the kids starving in Ethiopia because we didn’t know there were kids starving in Ethiopia. Similarly for 23 years the vast majority of the British Public dismissed the claims of those of us who lived through that afternoon on the Leppings Lane because they were completely brainwashed to dismiss our claims. But once the curtain of lies and cover up was at last ripped down the public have come through in spades. If only we could be told the truth more often, our world would be a much better place.

Over last few years we Liverpool fans have learned that people power can actually work. We used every tool in the new media box to get rid of Hicks and Gillet and then honed those same skills to force Parliament to finally have an open debate on what really happened on 15 April 1989.

Maybe times are changing and changing fast. Let’s not forget that it was partly down to Joey Barton and his legendary Twitter following that we were able to force the doors of Westminster. The fact that a lad like Joey was able to rattle cage of the Establishment is surely evidence that we might be about to enter something of a Brave New World.

Just look at how those arrogant pricks at the helm of Starbucks are hopping about like scalded cats now that millions of us have decided to buy our Cappuccino elsewhere. They thought they could treat us all with disdain and that we were too stupid to do anything about it. Well think again you greedy bastards, because if we choose not to buy from you then you have nothing except a worthless, tarnished brand that has become toxic. That ultimate example of human pondlife Kelvin McKenzie thought he was a master of the universe. He thought it was his divine right to spout his poison on Question Time and there wasn’t a thing we could do about it. Well think again Kelvin. I reckon Tranmere will win the Premiership before you get on Question Time again.

Here is where there might be more to ‘He ain’t heavy’ than meets the eye. Maybe it is yet another example of how we can all find ways of doing stuff together to kick down the walls of the Establishment and get the truth and justice we crave.

For years Governments of all colours successfully spun the line that the IRA were nothing more than common criminals: murderous thugs who commanded hardly any public support at all. Then a young lad called Bobby Sands went on hunger strike and before he starved himself to death he stood for Parliament. On 9 April 1981, 30,493 people voted for him and for a few weeks he was the youngest MP in the House. Everything changed that day. You simply can’t spin the 'common criminals with no support' line when 30,493 people turn out to vote for one of those common criminals. Thatcher had the rug yanked from under her feet. She was forced to start talking instead of sending out her beloved SAS execution squads and seventeen years later there was peace after 300 years of war.

Every last copy of ‘He Ain’t Heavy’ represents a clear message to the Establishment. Don’t you dare assume that your nasty little cover ups will hold forever. Sure you got away with it for 23 years and my how you must have laughed at us as we beat away at the doors. But the last laugh is ours. The time has come for the bill to be settled and all of a sudden you have nowhere to hide any more.

There is a great deal of talk about the dominant hold the new celebrity culture has over 2012 Britain. The X Factor stands at the epicentre of this tawdry state of affairs. The X Factor overlords no doubt considered the Christmas number one slot to be their divine right just like the South Yorkshire Police were utterly certain that their cover up would stay in place. Well think again. A whole bunch of bothersome Scousers has just bucked the trend. In fact Scousers have a pretty decent track record when it comes to using music to get people to look at the world in a different way. Once upon a time a Scouser wrote the following lyrics.

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too

And did anyone listen? You bet they did. They named an airport after him.        

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