THE challenge facing Dave Jones could not be more invidious after the Chief Constable of North Yorkshire was handed policing’s most poisoned chalice – taking charge of South Yorkshire’s embattled force as it deals with the fallout from the Hillsborough inquest.
Now South Yorkshire’s third police chief in six days, Mr Jones was appointed after Dave Crompton was suspended and then Dawn Copley, promoted to Acting Chief Constable, asked to step aside less than 24 hours later. This hiatus – and other scandals – only served to reaffirm the view that the force’s senior management structure is not fit for purpose.
It is a damning indictment which will be given greater credence by The Yorkshire Post’s revelations that the police’s reluctance to investigate the conduct of officers at the so-called Battle of Orgreave during the Miners’ Strike might have had a direct bearing on the policing arrangements at Hillsborough five years later and the subsequent miscarriage of justice.
Given the fact that not one MP stood up in the Commons to defend the force after its officers were accused of prolonging the agony of the Hillsborough families by blaming, erroneously, the behaviour of Liverpool fans for Britain’s worst ever sporting disaster, South Yorkshire Police still has its work cut out before it can win back the trust that has been betrayed.
Andy Burnham, the Shadow Home Secretary, made this clear when he told MPs: “I promised the families the full truth about Hillsborough. I do not believe they will have it until we know the truth about Orgreave.” As Mr Burnham stressed, this is not a time for secrecy. It is a time for total transparency and Mr Jones, together with South Yorkshire’s new crime commissioner and individuals like Home Secretary Theresa May, must strive for nothing less in the coming weeks. The Acting Chief Constable has made an encouraging start by promising, on day one, to listen to the Hillsborough victims. The tragedy, however, is that it has taken 27 years – and counting – to reach this point.
A train of thought: Stations need more staff, not less
IF Virgin Trains is so committed to improved customer service on the East Coast main line, why are there fears that up to 100 travel centre staff could lose their jobs? This state of affairs is at odds with the rail company’s statement that customers “are at the heart of every decision we make”.
Really? Try telling that to travellers who already face long queues at Leeds, Wakefield and Doncaster, three stations where jobs are said to be at risk, for tickets and travel advice because the ubiquitous self-service machines are not always programmed to sell the cheapest fares.
Yet it goes further than this as Virgin Trains comes under pressure to stop this misguided plan. Like other rail franchises run by private operators, it continues to receive taxpayer-funded subsidies for running a public service.
If anything, there need to be more – not less – staff at stations to help both daily commuters and, specifically, the more occasional travellers who are not used to the complexities of current ticket arrangements. Given that the two previous privately-run East Coast franchises hit the buffers on financial grounds, it can only be hoped that staff are not paying the price for Virgin Trains being over-ambitious with its forecasts. It’s the last thing that this line needs after such a stop-start recent history.
Impossible dreams: Leicester and power of football
IF THE bookies are to be believed, Leicester City’s Premier League victory at improbable odds of 5,000-1 is the biggest upset in sporting history. This is borne out by the fact that England’s cricketers were 500-1 to win the iconic Ashes test at Headingley in 1981 before Ian Botham flayed the Australians to all parts of LS6 and beyond.
Yet, after the whole country took Claudio Ranieri’s unlikely team of bargain basement misfits, rejects and cast-offs to their hearts, this triumph against the odds shows the ability of sport to be a force for good in society. Leicester, one of the country’s most multi-cultural cities, has never been more united while the economic dividend, and feelgood factor, will be substantial.
However the cunning success of the Foxes shows what could happen if any of Yorkshire’s football teams started to realise their untapped potential. This region is home to several clubs who have a far more illustrious history, and far bigger fan base, than the new Premier League champions. If Leicester can do it, they, too, should now be dreaming the impossible.