Margaret Thatcher may have been the reigning prime minister of England when Hillsborough occurred, but the much of the aftershock took place during the reign of John Major. Major's government famously did not order an inquiry into the tragedy, and the former prime minister has now apologized for the failure that occurred under his watch.
Major addressed guests at a House of Commons lunch organized by the Parliamentary Press Gallery, as reported in The Telegraph:
"The Hillsborough report was pretty shocking. When there was agitation for a Hillsborough report we had pretty strong police views that there was no need for a report at the time.
"Nowadays I’m not sure that assurance would ring as strongly as it did in the 1990s, so self-evidently, the Hillsborough families who petitioned and demanded the independent report have been effectively proven to be right.
"And we must all say to them ‘We are sorry, we should have dealt with it earlier and we should have listened a good deal more carefully’.
"And I am very happy to say that to the Hillsborough families today – we should have done more and I am sorry in retrospect that we didn’t. It is one of many things that you can look back on and regret."
The apology was met positively by representatives of the Hillsborough families, but as with most revelations of culpability in the incident, it's a nice gesture that is also more than twenty years too late. Save for an apology from the grave by Margaret Thatcher, it's the closest the Hillsborough families will likely get to an admission of wrongdoing from a member of the sitting government at the time of the tragedy and its direct aftermath.
Cynicism aside, it is of course another small step in the right direction. The lack of ownership taken by anyone in positions of power for what happened has been deafening, and as cracks in their stories continue to be split wide open by continued investigation, Major's apology may not be the last.