18 Sep 2012

Why won’t MacKenzie tell us ‘the truth’ about Hillsborough?

To be fair to The Sun, it was reporting in good faith what several police sources had told to a reputable Sheffield news agency. A local MP was also saying the same thing. It was not to know it was in the hands of a major police black propaganda operation – a cover-up.

Even so, that night, The Sun reporter who wrote the copy beneath the infamous headline insists he wrote a story about “allegations” concerning Liverpool fans at Hillsborough. He says he was measured, distanced. He could not be sure.

Harry Arnold, that reporter, recalls just what happened when he saw Kelvin Mackenzie writing that headline: “I was about to leave the newsroom when I saw him drawing up the front page,” he told the BBC, “When I saw the headline ‘The Truth’ I was aghast because that wasn’t what I’d written.”

He recalls a critical conversation which then took place with Kelvin MacKenzie:

HA: You can’t say that.

KM: Why not?

HA: Because we don’t know that it’s the truth.

KM: Oh don’t worry. I’m going to make it clear that this is what some people are saying.

And he left.

But that is not how things appeared in the paper, as the world knows. To date, Mr MacKenzie has never explained why he overruled the clear misgivings of many of his staff that day.

Moreover, except for a written apology last week in which he said he wished he’d written ‘The Lie’ instead, Mr MacKenzie has not given any interviews at all since the publication of last week’s Hillsborough report.

Channel 4 News repeatedly called him requesting an interview. We called yesterday in person to relay that message to him via his family at his large house in a private development in Surrey.

This morning I arrived there. I went straight to his house without any camera or recording equipment and asked Mr Mackenzie if he would kindly put on camera the remarks in his statement last week and generally give his side of the story.

Mr Mackenzie explained he was in the middle of writing an article for The Spectator and did not wish to do a TV interview with me. He then added: “F*** off.”

So I did. But not far. Just around the corner in fact to meet our cameraman and put on a radio microphone.

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We called again. And you can see what happened on the next two meetings at his house. This time, Kelvin MacKenzie had changed rapidly from the shorts and t-shirt of the earlier visit into a smart shirt and trousers.

I sensed he was going out. In fact he went in. He again said he did not wish to be interviewed and that he was ‘not going to let (Channel 4 News) set the agenda’. He slammed the door in my face.

What the camera doesn’t pick up is that, from within the house he said: “I’m not afraid” when I ask him why he’s afraid of speaking to us.

Equally, when we returned a second time, what you don’t quite hear is Kelvin Mackenzie emerging from his house to leave.

As he does so he says jauntily: “Ah Alex – you still here? And still employed?”

I confirm on the tape that I am, still, employed and the rest is all there for you. And needs no words from me.

But as a postscript, consider this from Chris Horrie and Peter Chippindale’s fascinating account of life under Kelvin Mackenzie at The Sun – “Stick It Up Your Punter: Rise and Fall of The Sun”:

“As MacKenzie’s layout was seen by more and more people, a collective shudder ran through the office but MacKenzie’s dominance was so total there was nobody left in the organisation who could rein him in except Murdoch.”

“The error staring them in the face was too glaring. It obviously wasn’t a silly mistake; nor was it a simple oversight. Nobody really had any comment on it, they just took one look and went away shaking their heads in wonder at the enormity of it. It was a classic smear.”

A smear for which Kelvin Mackenzie adamantly refused to apologise for many years. He still refuses to explain why he came to over-rule his staff and set in train a smear that hurts many to this day.

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