After using Twitter to quote Nietzsche and George Washington, and then to insult Alan Shearer's dress sense, Joey Barton was back on the social networking site yesterday, but this time his comments were widely met by praise and respect as opposed to ridicule and rage.
The Newcastle midfielder sent over 40 tweets calling on his 420,464 followers, as well as celebrities ranging from Alan Sugar to Lady Gaga, to back an online petition demanding the government withdraw its opposition to the full disclosure of documents relating to the 1989 Hillsborough disaster.
The Cabinet Office said on Wednesday that it was appealing against the information commissioner Christopher Graham's ruling calling for the documents to be made public on the grounds that such details should first be seen by the Hillsborough Independent Panel as part of its ongoing inquiry into the events that led to the death of 96 Liverpool supporters during an FA Cup semi-final tie against Nottingham Forest in Sheffield 22 years ago.
The Cabinet Office's stance, which would protect withdrawn files including reports presented to then prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, and correspondents between her office and that of the home secretary at the time, Douglas Hurd, was met by the creation of an e-petition on the government's website by the Liverpool supporter Brian Irvine calling for the "full disclosure of all government documents relating to 1989 Hillsborough disaster". Should it receive 100,000 signatures, the motion would automatically have to be heard by parliament.
As of last night, it had 44,171 signatures and many could well have been instigated by Barton's intervention, which began on Wednesday night before gathering pace yesterday.
"Everybody sign this petition, the truth about hillsborough must come out, all football fans should join together," tweeted Barton before he began to send a host of similar appeals to high-profile figures, asking them to retweet the message.
Lady Gaga was the most high profile of those targeted by Barton but as yet, the outlandish pop star has not joined the cause. Among those who have, however, are Piers Morgan and the Manchester United and former Liverpool striker, Michael Owen.
Barton's efforts were well received, particularly from Liverpool supporters. In response to the 28-year-old, who grew up on Merseyside, Graeme Hammond tweeted: "I lost my brother at hillsborough thankyou for all your doing getting the petition noticed."
The praise represent something of a turnaround for Barton, who was vilified in many quarters for his perceived dive during Newcastle's goalless draw with Arsenal at St James' Park last Saturday. Before that, he had become something of a figure of fun for using pseudo-intellectual tweets to describe his frustration at having been made available for transfer by the north-east club.
Interesting, Barton also tweeted yesterday he would "make no comments about anything" until the e-petition had received 100,000 signatures.
It has already been publicly backed by the Liverpool manager, Kenny Dalglish, as well as a number of high-profile politicians, including the former culture secretary, Andy Burnham.
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