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 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
on 7/7. London
And people used to wonder why we wouldn’t give up on our demands for justice...
However the situation in
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. Ethiopia
So what do the two events have in common other than the strange 80’s feel to the old news footage?
The famine in
was primarily caused by a
drought just like the catastrophe on the Ethiopia 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.
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 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 Great
considered feeding their people to be beneath their dignity. Ethiopia
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
because we didn’t know there were
kids starving in .
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 Ethiopia 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
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
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
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. Westminster
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
. 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. Britain
Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
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.