Steve Wins Speech of The Year for Hillsborough (June 18, 2012)
My speech during the Hillsborough debate on October 17th was both the easiest of speeches and the toughest of speeches. It was easy as it was a simple case of outlining ‘fact from fiction’ and ‘right from wrong’, but it was the most difficult of subjects imaginable – the deaths of 96 men, women and children.
It was emotional - because it was a personal story. I'd lived it. I'd witnessed it. I'd had 22 years to deal with it. It was also an account that resonated with other people who were at the ground that day and indeed every football fan that had ever been caught in the frenzy of a match day on the terraces during the 1980s.
It was also tough - because it meant so much to so many people and their expectations had been raised. For almost a quarter of a century, the families and the Liverpool fans had fought hard to be listened to. That night was their last best chance of a real break-though in their ongoing battle for truth and justice. They were asking for nothing more than full disclosure of all documentation that might throw some new light onto the events of 15th April 1989 and its aftermath.
I delivered a 20 minute speech, but the families, survivors and supporters had had a great injustice delivered for more than 20 years. If I came close to articulating what they would have said if they had been given that chance to address Parliament, and had been thinking during 2 decades, then I'll settle for that. I am however, still in no doubt that the loudest and most powerful voice of all in the Hillsborough campaign is that of the ordinary people who refused to give up even though the odds against them were colossal. If we have learnt anything from last October it is that there is a growing chorus of millions calling for the truth and justice and Governments can no longer pretend that they cannot hear them.
On that most unforgettable of evenings, the Chamber was electric. I could feel the anticipation, it was palpable, and of course I knew that the eyes of Members from all sides would be on me as I rose to make the opening speech. Throughout the debate we heard eloquent accounts from Derek Twigg (who was present at Hillsborough on that fateful day), and from Andy Burnham and Maria Eagle who led the campaign for disclosure in Parliament for many years. We also heard passionate and emotional accounts from: Alison McGovern, Clive Betts, John Mann and Angela Smith, and excellent contributions from: Esther McVey, Derek Twigg, John Pugh, Louise Ellman, Stephen Mosley, Maria Eagle, Graham Evans, George Howarth, Therese Coffey, Chris Heaton-Harris, Bill Esterson, Frank Field, Dan Jarvis, Jamie Reed, Luciana Berger, Stephen Twigg, Rosie Cooper, Dave Anderson, John Woodcock, Tom Greatrex, Dave Watts, Andrew Miller and (it must be said) from the Home Secretary Theresa May herself.
I’m honoured that my colleagues have seen fit to award ‘Parliamentary Speech of the Year’ to me for 2011. I would like to thank each and every person that voted. It’s a genuine honour for me, but more importantly it shows that the issue of Hillsborough still resonates far and wide.
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