Labour's Sinister Raiding from Tombs of Past Tragedies; Chief Feature Writer Jason Beattie Questions What Good Yet Another Marchioness Disaster Review Will Do

The Birmingham Post (England), August 20, 1999 | Go to article overview

Labour's Sinister Raiding from Tombs of Past Tragedies; Chief Feature Writer Jason Beattie Questions What Good Yet Another Marchioness Disaster Review Will Do


"This inquiry cannot bring loved ones back but it can bring back some peace of mind now that they know the full story will be told."

So said the deputy Prime Minister Mr John Prescott as he announced a review into the Marchioness disaster.

Note, it is not an inquiry but a review. As always Mr Prescott was being rather slapdash with his terminology. What the families of those who died in the riverboat tragedy are being offered is a re-examination by a senior judge who may advise whether a specific public inquiry is needed.

Apparently the Marchioness Action Group is delighted with the Government's kindness, as well it should be.

After ten years, one inquest, two trials and a Marine Accident Investigation report, the mourning relatives are to be given yet another opportunity to express their grief and reopen the scars of the disaster.

It is doubtful the senior judge will be able to cast new light on the events when the boat collided with dredger Bowbelle on the Thames in the early hours of August 20, 1989, nor should you expect a definitive explanation to the questions which dog the relatives of the 51 people who died.

It was, after all, an accident and the very nature of such things (please see any dictionary for a conclusive definition) means they are without reason or explanation. What excuses that could be found were explored during the official investigations, court cases and reports which are necessarily instituted after any such event.

So what good will yet another review do? Possibly much, possibly very little. From the relatives' point of view it will be another opportunity to seek answers to the unanswerable, another chance to wail at life's misfortunes.

From the Government's point of view it is a splendid opportunity to do something nice; if it offers some solace to a group of people who are unable to grieve properly then let's spend a few thousand pounds by appointing a judge to peruse the anatomy of mischance once more.

After all, politically it will do us no harm and economically such things cannot be questioned, Mr Prescott will have reasoned.

But is it quite so simple? Is the Marchioness review a small act of compassion or is it part of Labour's bigger picture?

Remember, this is not the only re-examination of guilt which the Government has instituted.

No wound is too small, no cut too slight, for Labour to consider whipping out a public inquiry or Royal Commission to re-consider its significance.

The murder of Stephen Lawrence, the Bloody Sunday Inquiry, the BSE debacle - all have been raised from the annals of recent history to be reviewed under the new light of a Labour administration.

History cannot be allowed to rest in peace, it has to be looked at again and again regardless of sensitivities. This is Labour's mission.

It is embarrassed by certain aspects of the past and it not only wants to make amends for these perceived wrong-doings but claim the moral high-ground for its own posterity.

Carefully it has chosen to enter the tombs of those subjects which fit most closely with its own political agenda. …

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