Paul Nuttall: The Last Tory Scouser
Claims that Nuttall wasn’t present at Hillsborough may be false, but the truth is so much worse.
Earlier this month, Paul Nuttall was forced to apologise for claims on his website that he’d lost close friends at Hillsborough, admitting they were false. Later, the prominent UKIP-backer Arron Banks caused controversy by saying he was “sick of hearing” about the disaster. On Tuesday it emerged that Nuttall had given a statement to the commission investigating the deaths of 96 people at Hillsborough, as a witness, amidst speculation that he may not have been there at all.
But supposing we give Nuttall the benefit of the doubt, where does that leave us? I’d say with quite an accurate portrait of the UKIP leader.
Since their false portrayal of fans in the wake of Hillsborough, as criminals somehow culpable for the tragedy, you’ll struggle to find a copy of The Sun in Liverpool. It’s safe to say conservatives aren’t too popular there either, with the Tories and UKIP sharing just 6.8% of the local election vote in 2016. This surely has something to do with the embargo against the Murdoch paper, but ultimately the ban is just the tip of the iceberg. Like so many old industrial towns and cities in the north of England the Thatcher years were cruel to Liverpool, but there she also represents the systematic smearing of a community during their time of intense mourning. Her government was complicit in the police cover-up of the tragedy, and she remains a symbol for it.
Nuttall, if he is to be believed, survived the Hillsborough disaster himself. He then joined the Tory Party, standing for them as a Councillor in 2002. He received just 12% of the vote then, but this rose to 38% in the same ward in 2008 after he changed his affiliation to UKIP. The same story is playing out now in Stoke. Voters who would never vote Tory are turning to UKIP, despite the ease with which members at every level move between the two.
Nuttall, like his predecessor, has previously gone on the record as encouraging privatisation of the NHS, but still attracts support from those who feat for its safety. For what seemed like forever, Farage’s UKIP chipped away at Labour’s core. But whilst this was to be expected from a wealthy, privately educated ex-stockbroker, Nuttall is a different animal altogether. Here is a man who wears the tragedy of Hillsborough on his sleeve as a life-affirming experience, and yet he is hell-bent on continuing the work of Thatcher’s Conservatives. Just as he did in 2008, just as UKIP does in every election, Nuttall is marching under a name that can succeed where the “Tory” brand has no weight. If either label wins on the day, Thatcherism would be the victor.
Our only hope is that when the good people of Stoke and Copeland go to the ballot box today, they give the likes of Nuttall everything that Thatcherism has given to towns like theirs: nothing. Ever.