THE LETTER sent by Sheffield MP Louise Haigh to the Home Secretary calling for a wider inquiry into the police handling of the so-called Battle of Orgreave during the Miners’ Strike could not be more conciliatory in tone – she acknowledges Theresa May’s important role in the chain of events which led to an inquest concluding, after a 27-year miscarriage of justice, that 96 Liverpool fans were unlawfully killed in the 1989 Hillsborough disaster.
Yet, as relatives await the next phase of this tortuous legal process, Mrs May now needs to demonstrate similar transparency over Orgreave and the extent of alleged malpractice on the part of the embattled force which had three separate chief constables in six turbulent days following the Hillsborough verdict.
Given the significance of The Yorkshire Post’s exclusive revelations about the links between the Orgreave and Hillsborough inquiries, and then the disclosure of secret correspondence revealing Margaret Thatcher’s personal involvement in the policing of the 1984-85 Miners’ Strike, transparency is the only way forward.
Justice delayed is justice denied and the need for Mrs May to act is made stronger by Dave Jones, the Acting Chief Constable of South Yorkshire, saying that he would welcome “an independent assessment of Orgreave” because Hillsborough has “brought into sharp focus the need to confront the past” and Dr Alan Billings, the re-elected crime commissioner, describing the extent to which this force is being dragged down “by legacy issues” and how current officers feel subjected to “a constant battering”.
With Dr Billings alleging last night that “the police were dangerously close to being used as an instrument of the state” in the Miners’ Strike, a claim borne out by the latest Thatcher disclosures, Mrs May must act so South Yorkshire’s police leaders can start changing the force’s culture for the better. Integrity is the cornerstone of policing and must not be compromised any longer than necessary – after all, it has already taken three decades to reach this point.
A healthy alliance: Time for the NHS to pull together
AS THE Government and British Medical Association belatedly resume talks to end the junior doctors’ dispute, the impasse is now complicated by two academic studies which conclude that it is “a major oversimplification” on Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s part to blame staffing levels for higher mortality rates at weekends.
This certainly puts Mr Hunt in an invidious position. After the Health Secretary confided last month that this is likely to be his last “big job” in politics, he has stressed that the NHS needs to move to seven-day contracts and shift patterns because of weekend death rates in hospitals. The Minister’s position is further compounded by Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee which is warning that the cost of the Government’s plans could spiral out of control because there will be a greater reliance on ‘agency’ staff to meet the projected shortfall in doctors and nurses.
It should not be like this. Believe it or not, Mr Hunt, the health academics and members of the PAC have much in common; namely a desire for NHS patients to receive the very best care on a 24/7 basis. Given this, it should not be too much to ask them – and other interested parties – to come together collectively, determine how hospitals should be run in an ideal world and the role of local authority care providers before working out the best way to achieve this objective while also bearing in mind financial restraints and the fact that there are simply not enough new recruits wanting to join the medical profession. This is surely preferable to the current stand-off which is proving so damaging to the reputations of both Mr Hunt and the BMA.
Racing certainties. Summer under starter’s orders...
FOR many, this is the week when summer comes under starter’s orders.
For some, it was the mini-heatwave that began at the weekend and, typically, gave way to mizzly rain – that perennial symbol of British Summer Time – yesterday.
For some, it was the hatching of the first cygnet at the Abbotsbury Swannery in Dorset where local legend suggests this birth signals the true dawn of summer.
For others, it is the start of the three-day Dante meeting on York’s Knavesmire where spectators are assured of unrivalled Yorkshire hospitality, and top class horse racing, at a venue which has just completed the final phase of a £10m redevelopment.
If only fine weather to match this sporting and social occasion was a racing certainty...