New ITV drama ‘Anne’ follows the fight for justice by the families of the 97 victims tragically killed in the Hillsborough disaster, exposing the real role of the establishment for their deaths and subsequent cover-up.
It is hard not to get emotional after watching the new ITV drama Anne, which follows a mother’s search for the truth about her son’s death at the 1989 Hillsborough disaster.
In the first episode, Anne Williams (played by Maxine Peake) says goodbye to her 15-year-old son Kevin, who is going to see Liverpool play against Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup semi-final. Little does she know that it will be the last time that she sees her son alive.
A few hours later, after watching the tragic events on TV, Anne and her husband Steve (Stephen Walter) decide to drive to Sheffield to look for their missing son.
When Anne and Steve arrive in the Yorkshire city, it becomes increasingly clear how serious the situation is. They see people crying and howling after having to identify loved ones who didn’t survive the disaster.
The distraught parents are taken to a room where pictures of young boys are stuck to a board on the wall. A police officer asks if one of them is their son Kevin. Anne’s voice breaks and says, “No, no he isn’t there, Kevin isn’t one of them,” refusing to believe that her son is dead. Instead, it is Steve who quietly cries out: “That’s our Kevin. Kevin is on the board.”
After receiving the devastating news about their boy, Anne and Steve’s lives are forever changed. The series unapologetically shows how they go through what every parent fears the most – the loss of a child.
What makes this real-life story even more tragic is not only that families lost their loved ones, but that the victims were scandalously blamed for what happend.
Only four days after Hillsborough, The Sun published its infamous ‘THE TRUTH’ front cover, which told straight up lies about what happened during the match.
According to this Murdoch rag, the Hillsborough disaster was a result of so-called ‘drunken’ Liverpool fans. The reactionary tabloid claimed that “some fans picked pockets of victims”; “some fans urinated on the brave cops”; and “some fans beat up PCs giving the kiss of life”.
These lies were fed to the press by police inspector Gordon Sykes and Tory MP Irvine Patmick in order to cover-up the role of the South Yorkshire Police in the disaster.
The ITV drama does not shy away from dealing with these police cover-ups. It shows how, from day one, the police not only blamed the football fans for the disaster, but also kept the families of the victims in the dark about what happened in Hillsborough.
Anne is told by the police that her son died of traumatic asphyxia and was brain dead by 3.15pm. But she suspects that this is not what happened to Kevin, and won’t accept the verdict which stated that the deaths at Hillsborough were accidental.
When Anne hears this she says: “Accidental death? The report said it was down to the police on the day so how come that was accidental?” Her husband Steve answers: “Because that’s what happens. When did the system ever protect us? They will always do this Anne.”
Struggle for justice
After almost being paralysed by grief, Anne becomes determined to find out the truth of her son’s death. She joins The Hillsborough Family Support Group and realises that she is not alone in doubting the information from the police and the government.
In an almost obsessive manner, Anne starts to investigate her son’s death. After contacting a couple of key witnesses, she discovers that Kevin was alive at 3.57pm, after a police officer was giving him a heart massage. If Kevin could have received medical help earlier, he could have been saved.
For more than two decades, Anne never gave up her struggle for justice for Hillsborough’s victims. As a result, the real Anne Williams has become a hero in Liverpool.
Andrew Devine’s name has been added to the memorial at Anfield
Andrew Stanley Devine RIP
— Hillsborough Survivors Support Alliance (@HillsboroughSu1) January 28, 2022
Role of the state
ITV’s Anne shows that the police and the state are not there to protect the working class. Instead of conducting a proper investigation into how and why the disaster happened back in 1989, MPs, the police, and the media all colluded to make up lies and protect their own interests.
The former South Yorkshire police inspector, Gordon Sykes, knew that the stadium’s Leppings Lane turnstiles were a death trap, stating that the police had “got away with” overcrowding for years.
Sykes never raised his concerns about the stadium. Instead, at the police’s Niagara social club on the night of the disaster, he told the Police Federation secretary, Paul Middup, and local Conservative MP Irvine Patnick, that Liverpool supporters had been drunk, and that he had been kicked while trying to help people.
These lies were known to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Home Secretary Douglas Hurd, and Sports Minister Colin Moynihan.
Blaming the disaster on drunk football fans went well with Thatcher’s war against so-called ‘football hooligans’, which was used to incite class hatred amongst the police towards the working class.
After all, the government needed a reliable force that could clamp down on workers’ struggles – like they had done a few years earlier in the great miners’ strike of 1984-85.
When you watch this series or read about what happened in Hillsborough, it is clear that the behaviour of the police was not the result of a few bad apples. Rather, the whole institution is rotten.
After more than three decades, no one has been held responsible for the deaths of Hillsborough’s 97 victims. This is what ‘justice’ looks like under capitalism. As Steve says in the first episode: “When did the system ever protect us?”
Many more people are starting to ask themselves the same question. After scandals like the murder of Sarah Everard, racist stop-and-search practices, and the Met’s intervention to redact of the recent Sue Gray report, more and more people are now losing their trust in the police.
In October last year, for example, one YouGov poll showed that more people are now unconfident in the police (48%) than confident (43%).
This questioning does not stop at the police. From their disastrous handling of the pandemic; to Downing Street’s ‘Partygate’ scandal; to the seemingly endless stories of sleaze and corruption: the capitalist establishment is being increasingly exposed.
And it’s not just Tory MPs that are untrusted, but also their Blairite shadows in the Labour Party. In December, a poll from the IPPR thinktank, found that 63% of people now believe that politicians are ‘mainly in it for themselves’. The same poll also showed that only 5% believe that politicians act in their country’s best interests.
The establishment is increasingly losing its legitimacy. This is an extremely significant development for the future, as no ruling class can rule through repression alone.
Nothing can bring back the lives of those so tragically lost at Hillsborough. But as the saying goes: ‘The truth will out’.
In portraying the real role of the establishment for their deaths and subsequent cover-up, the series Anne cannot but help to raise class consciousness for all those who see it.
In doing so, it helps prepare the way for achieving real justice for Hillsborough’s victims – through the working class overthrowing this rotten system, and taking power into its own hands.