What do the Hillsborough disaster, the Toxteth riots and the Battle of Orgreave have in common?
Wait! Before answering that, let’s just remind ourselves what they are.
The Hillsborough disaster was an event in 1989 when ninety-six people from Liverpool were unlawfully killed by the South Yorkshire police. That same police force subsequently smeared the victims and systematically lied about their actions in order to present an entirely untrue version of what really occurred.
The Toxteth riots broke out in Liverpool in 1981 at a time when heavy-handed policing had utterly alienated the black community of that city. During the riots, Merseyside police used CS gas for the first time outside Northern Ireland to quell civil revolt.
The Battle of Orgreave happened in 1984 when police attacked protesting miners in South Yorkshire. The subsequent prosecutions all collapsed and the police were forced to pay a half million pounds in compensation for assaulting their victims.
What do these three incidents have in common?
The answer is this: one man, Peter Wright who was Chief Constable of South Yorkshire during the Hillsborough mass killing and the Orgreave attacks, and Deputy Chief Constable of Merseyside police during the Toxteth riots.
Of course, nobody will suggest that Peter Wright was single-handedly to blame for all these disasters, but he was certainly responsible, as the man in charge of the force, for the unlawful killing of the Hillsborough victims, even though David Duckenfield was of course responsible for what happened at the Sheffield Wednesday ground on the day of the disaster. Wright was also answerable for his officers attacking the Orgreave miners, though his role in Liverpool is less clear, but the point is more nuanced than simply apportioning blame.
Peter Wright was a member of the brotherhood who control police, fire and ambulance services in Britain. He would never have reached that level of adeptness had he not been welcomed into the inner circles and therefore he represents all who stood in his place during those dark times.
Britain has a multiplicity of forces — police, fire and ambulance — all with a similar quasi-military structure. Members of those forces are big on saluting, marching and standing to attention. They have a strong uniform fetish and they all draw their traditions from one branch or another of the armed forces. The fire services, for instance, pride themselves on their naval origins. Furthermore, they are all independent fiefdoms, much like medieval lordships, and are all headed by a feudal lord called a Chief Constable, a Chief Fire Officer or a Chief Ambulance Officer.
It’s an astonishingly rigid tribal system, deeply resistant to dissent and with a rigid disciplinary structure, much like orders of knights, even though the United Kingdom presents itself as a modern democracy.
Just as advancement in the old RUC or the Northern Ireland Fire Service was impossible without being a member of the Orange Order, it has been an open secret in Britain for generations that nobody can advance beyond a given level of seniority in the police, the fire service or the ambulance service without being a member of the Freemasons. This is taken as a certainty by everyone within these organisations, and furthermore, has been welcomed by aspiring members, because joining any of the UK’s emergency services has been seen as a passport to prosperity and in many cases an escape from the drab impoverishment of working-class life in Britain.
Therefore, who could blame the average working-class cop in Toxteth, in Hillsborough or in Orgreave for wielding a baton against the man he grew up next door to? That’s how feudal societies work.
Who could blame the recently-deposed Chief Constable of South Yorkshire, David Crompton, for feeling aggrieved when all he did was defend to the hilt his band of brothers in the face of the facts? What tribal chieftain would do any less? What warlord would not go before some upstart Star Chamber and face down its impertinent accusations?
David Crompton must be sitting in his magnificent home today wondering what on earth he did wrong.
To the average observer standing back and looking at British society, the feudal element is obvious, though of course we Irish aren’t qualified to point fingers, given the feudal elements exposed in our own society by the economic crash and the history leading up to it.
But nevertheless, we can reflect on the dangers of having a police force and emergency services whose leaders are in thrall to a secret organisation and perhaps apply the lessons to our own society.