Unfortunately, it’s one of the recurring stories of our times and one that it becomes increasingly difficult to say something new about whenever it rears its ugly head; once again, the headlines keep us in a state of permanent déjà-vu and the seriousness of the crime is almost diminished through terrible repetition. Sadly, we’re back where we’ve been so many times before, but there’s no way it can be avoided; the grim truth demands our attention. Yes, Damian Green allegedly touched a woman’s knee.

In other news, New York experienced a major terror incident when a Jihadist drove a van onto the sidewalk and ploughed down pedestrians and cyclists alike, killing eight of them before being apprehended. Miraculously, he wasn’t shot dead by cops and survives to face the music, though the biggest concern for some is inevitably not the bodies cluttering up Manhattan’s pavements but an anticipated upsurge in ‘Islamophobia’. Anyway, enough of that trivial little domestic business across the pond. Onto more serious matters.

The journalist and broadcaster Julia Hartley-Brewer claimed Defence Secretary Michael Fallon once touched her knee and she made it clear in no uncertain terms what she would do to him if his hand came into contact with said body part again. Fallon withdrew. Fallon is someone who previously edged Philip Hammond in the contest to decide the dullest member of the Cabinet, yet this moment of indiscretion has suddenly and remarkably made the grey man moderately interesting. I doubt few of us would have been surprised had Boris stood accused of such a dastardly deed, but Michael Fallon? Lock up your daughters, especially if they happen to be young party activists; just ask Labour.

It’s interesting that a professional political class which has unquestionably supported DPP Alison Saunders’ cynical crusade to up the rape conviction statistics by broadening the legal definition of sexual assault is now being confronted by the ramifications of this support. The Saunders approach is all fine and dandy if some pleb has the finger of suspicion aimed at him, but the problem with legal definitions is that they’re supposed to be egalitarian and don’t distinguish between class, wealth and social standing. Granted, the ruthless cuts to legal aid have severely limited Joe Public’s ability to defend himself when confronted by an allegation of a sexual nature, but those whose incomes can feather the most exclusive law firm nests probably never imagined they’d be placed in a situation where they’d have to deal with the grim reality of everything they failed to challenge the wisdom of.

William Hague urged caution on Radio 4’s ‘Today’ this morning when it comes to believing the authenticity of every allegation aimed at a public figure, though I don’t remember similar caution being advised by Westminster when the Yewtree witch-hunt was rounding up showbiz stalwarts from the 70s and 80s; back then, the ‘I believe her’ mantra was being recited from every political platform. Operation Midland attracted more criticism in that its targets weren’t quite as irrelevant as Yewtree’s hapless has-beens, though despite a grovelling after-the-event apology from Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe as the outgoing Met Chief sought to cover his back, the damage done to the likes of Harvey Proctor remains a shameful example of what can happen when the powers-that-be allow our police force to be politicised by an inherently merciless and perennially unsatisfied agenda.

The sudden downfall of a liberal left Hollywood darling like Kevin Spacey shows how when the ‘I believe her’ (or in Spacey’s case, ‘him’) rule is applied to everyone rather than a select few, it’s actually not very nice at all. Holding up a placard or wearing a T-shirt bearing a nifty hash-tag slogan is easy when you imagine you’re above the net being cast; when that net is widened and you risk being entangled in it, the experience of thousands of nonentities denied your privileges is brought into extremely sharp focus as the irresponsible gamble of not questioning the placing of a clumsy pass on a level playing field with a brutal rape is writ horrifyingly large. The system that has promoted and repeatedly failed to challenge this fallacy can eject its favoured sons without a second thought if it means the whole system risks being tarnished with the same unsavoury accusations. There must be a lot of leading men in Tinsel Town consulting their lawyers at the moment.

When OJ Simpson was on trial for the murder of his ex-wife way back in 1994/95, the defence shrewdly played the race card, garnering wide African-American support in the process as focus shifted away from the actual crime itself and onto the broader subject of US race relations; their client was rewarded by walking away from court a free man, hailed as the victim of the trial as opposed to the cause of it. One cannot but wonder if Bill Cosby had been accused of murder rather than rape that the voices noticeably silenced in their support for one of the entertainment industry’s great black pioneers might have been heard in a way they weren’t as, one-by-one, women came forward to accuse him whilst the system that had celebrated him for decades denounced him.

The ruling elite have sat back and allowed this state of affairs to develop unchecked for a long time because they imagined they were immune to it. In their desperate search for votes and eagerness to be seen endorsing various pseudo-‘liberal’ causes, they have gleefully given the thumbs-up to dubious moral movements without reading the small print; and now they are finally paying the price for their stupidity. Well, more fool them. I should imagine many little men rotting away in a prison cell on the strength of an allegation propelled towards a guilty verdict via a climate fully endorsed by the political class will be short on sympathy; and who could blame them?

© The Editor


Another report, another series of warnings that will probably go unheeded because we’re dealing with society’s least desirable citizens – well, after those who spend their days lounging around Westminster; yes, we’re talking Her Majesty’s Prisons yet again. This time, the review into the average conditions of Britain’s penal institutions has been conducted by HM Inspectorate of Prisons, producing findings that would appear (in several cases) to contradict the rules of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. 200 years on from Elizabeth Fry’s landmark visit to Newgate Gaol, it seems prison conditions remain abysmal, relative to the conditions in which the rest of us live.

Out of those currently incarcerated (numbering 85,000), upwards of 21,000 have complained of living in an overcrowded environment; conditions in cells also comprise poor ventilation, a lack of heating in the winter months, damp and vermin. When you’re banged-up in a small enclosed space for 22 hours a day, the indignities of having to take a dump a few feet away from a cellmate is neither enjoyable for the person on the throne or the person hearing and smelling the process. The picture painted by this latest report isn’t exactly the holiday camp model regularly referenced in the likes of the Daily Mail.

According to the report, single cells just about meet the specifications outlined by the CPT, whereas multi-occupancy ones fail dismally. HMP Birmingham has even managed to squeeze as many as four to six inmates in cells that were probably designed to fit three at the very most. As the prison population continues to rise year-on-year, the prisons simply cannot cope. A severe shortage of prison staff isn’t helping either, meaning inmates are spending less of the recommended time out of their cells because there aren’t enough screws to keep an eye on them. To while the long hours away, many prisoners naturally turn to drugs whilst others turn to the Koran – radicalised in time for release.

The Director of the Prison Reform Trust, Peter Dawson, reacted to the revelations in the report by calling them ‘shameful’, whereas the President of the Prison Governors Association, Andrea Albutt, said ‘The Government must be brave and reduce the prison population, and don’t worry about votes.’ Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, added ‘The aspirations of the prison reform programme will not be met if prisoners are confined in conditions that embitter and demoralise, leaving them unable to access rehabilitative activities and, all too often, turning to illicit drugs to break the boredom born of long periods locked in their cells’.

Punishment is pivotal, of course; I would’ve thought being there amounted to pretty severe punishment in itself; I certainly can’t imagine anything worse, but then I haven’t committed a crime serious enough to warrant being detained at Brenda’s pleasure – or at least not one that’s recognised as such, yet. An astronomical increase in the list of offences since the Blair era, the upsurge in terrorist activities, and the habit of the CPS in pursuing allegations stretching back decades have all undoubtedly contributed to the dire state of affairs. At the moment, the prison population is barely a thousand below what is regarded as the ‘useable operational capacity’.

But then there’s rehabilitation; quite important if we are to prevent reoffending and a return to the same cramped cell in the same overcrowded nick. The successful rehabilitation of criminals whose previously closed minds were expanded in the prison library wasn’t helped by the intervention of that dumbbell Chris Grayling when prisons were part of his remit, but education either of an academic or a practical nature is surely a crucial stage in the transformation of the con into a member of society with a purpose. ‘Purposeful activity’ is supposed to constitute at least 10 hours of out-of-cell time a day, though just 14% of inmates in the report claim to have received this, with 21% of them alleging their daily break from the cell amounts to little more than a couple of hours.

The Ministry of Justice has responded to the findings by declaring the Government is indulging in its favourite hobby of tossing money at a problem in the hope it will go away. ‘We are investing £1.3bn to modernise the prison estate,’ said a spokesman. ‘Our work in this area is supported by a drive to recruit an extra 2,500 prison officers, who will boost the frontline and help turn our prisons into places of reform’. Exacerbating the situation, however, today was also the day when the DPP Alison Saunders proudly trumpeted the fact that sex offence prosecutions are at a record high, with more sex offenders being prosecuted ‘than ever before’!

As well as half of the cases coming before courts in 2017 being sex crimes, they now also account for a fifth of the annual CPS caseload, and one wonders how many of them result in a sound conviction, let alone how many should have even ended up before a jury in the first place; according to Saunders, however, ‘Just because they’re cleared doesn’t mean it’s made up’. It’s also telling that cases of domestic abuse making it to court have dropped since the last stats were published, suggesting the majority of the success stories Ms Saunders is so eager to take credit for are either in the ‘stranger danger’ category or are ‘historical’; and the CPS loves to time travel. Perhaps the least surprising revelation is that there hasn’t been a single prosecution for Female Genital Mutilation during the past year, regardless of NHS England claiming 5,000 new cases over the last twelve months. Ah, those funny foreigners and their funny ways.

© The Editor


One of a series of programmes spread across the television networks to mark the 1967 Sexual Offences Act’s fiftieth anniversary, ‘Against the Law’ was a drama-documentary that aired on BBC2 last night. It dramatised the infamous 1954 Montagu Trial, in which Lord Montagu, his cousin Michael Pitt-Rivers and journalist Peter Wildeblood were tried on charges of gross indecency and (to simplify matters) ‘buggery’; they were found guilty, with Montagu serving 12 months and the other two 18 months. The dramatised sections of the programme were interspersed with the recollections of gay men who were old enough to have been affected by the laws surrounding homosexuality as they then stood; and men were the exclusive targets of this law. Lesbianism was never illegal in this country.

These fascinating interludes could have been jarring intrusions into the drama, but actually served to strengthen it as their reminiscences gave the viewer a clearer idea of the parallel universe Britain they inhabited and the dangers of that parallel universe colliding with ‘straight society’. In the late 50s, there were more than a thousand men in British prisons serving sentences for ‘homosexual offences’, yet the police continued to make the arrest and prosecution of gay men a priority; the brutal medical treatments offered as a ‘cure’ for the condition mirrored the establishment line that this was a sickness within society and one it was the establishment’s place to eradicate.

However, what one appreciated yet again in watching this programme was the unique classlessness of the gay underworld in the pre-decriminalisation 50s and 60s, when a peer of the realm could mix and mingle with ‘the lower orders’ in a way that had few contemporary equivalents at the time. It could be argued that the establishment’s fear of this social melting pot – existing long before the over-ground breaking down of class barriers that took place in the Swinging decade – played no small part in the ruthless campaign against gay men that seemed to reach its apogee (or nadir) in the years after the war. The Profumo Scandal of 1963 exposed the hypocrisy and double-standards of the ruling class and was crucial in the death of deference, but the Montagu Trial was also significant in that it reflected the antiquated notion of social superiors ‘setting a good example’ (in public, at least); the outcome also demonstrated a distinct divergence of opinion on homosexuality between the classes.

The prosecution, with the full weight of the police force and the then-Home Secretary David Maxwell Fyfe behind it, imagined the case would unite the nation in revulsion as the trial of Oscar Wilde had sixty years previously; but the assault backfired. It emerged the police were pursuing Lord Montagu in a virtual vendetta; having failed to succeed in an earlier conviction, they may have achieved their aim in 1954, but many members of the general public couldn’t see why their taxes were being spent on locking up what were (in the phraseology of the time) ‘consenting adults in private’. The ramifications of the Montagu Trial led to the setting up of the Wolfenden Committee to look into the laws on homosexuality, and although it took a further decade before the Wolfenden recommendations were implemented in law, the ball had been set in motion.

With his private life made public during the trial, Peter Wildeblood decided there was little point in pretending anymore and openly admitted he was homosexual. Upon his release, he was interviewed by the Wolfenden Committee and aired his belief that his type of gay man should be the main beneficiary of reforms to the law – that is, the type seeking to conduct his business behind closed doors with a man over-21 without fear of prosecution and imprisonment. He made clear distinctions between the camp, effeminate queens, the pederasts and the ‘straight’ gay men like himself. It was to be the third group whose voices were loudest as the campaign to change the law gathered pace in the 60s, the thinking being that the public would accept the more ‘normal’ sort as convincing salesmen for the changes; and the majority within society gradually came round to this way of thinking, ending the ‘blackmailer’s charter’ at last.

When watching ‘Against the Law’, there were undoubted parallels evoked in relation to the police prioritising of this particular offence with the more recent and ongoing pursuit of ‘historical’ sex offenders. Just substitute ‘Pansy’ with ‘Paedo’. Jonathan King himself drew the same parallels when sentenced on charges of dubious authenticity in the first such high profile case of this nature fifteen or so years ago. Comparing his conviction to that of Oscar Wilde appeared a tad egocentric when the claim was made, though subsequent witch-hunts of old celebrities – and the persistent attempts to ‘get’ the ones that were cleared of charges by marching them back into court on new ones – seem to back-up King’s comparison. And, of course, we’re only aware of the famous names doing time for historical crimes.

The 1967 Sexual Offences Act didn’t change everything overnight, however. It may have enabled gay men of the Peter Wildeblood ilk to enter into happy, long-term relationships without having to conduct their affairs in the shadows, but the police continued to crack down on ‘cottaging’ well into the 1980s (especially via entrapment) and raids on gay bars, along with the lingering belief that youth remained susceptible to corruption, was memorably chronicled in Tom Robinson’s seminal protest song, ‘Glad to be Gay’ in the late 70s. As recent as the 90s, what would now be unimaginable language and anti-gay opinions were expressed in media circles, particularly the right-wing press; they must have viewed the onset of AIDS as a God-send to give credence to such beliefs.

Today we do indeed live in a very different kind of society to the one portrayed in ‘Against the Law’, but plenty of men are still imprisoned on charges of sexual offences that a politicised police force and an avaricious legal profession pursue with the same kind of crusading vindictiveness that gay men were once the target of. Indeed, with an estimated half of 2017’s court cases centred around sexual offences and the fastest growing age category in British prisons being the over-60s, there’s no reason to exhibit smugness at society’s supposedly more enlightened attitude towards what men do or don’t do with their willies.

© The Editor


Compared to the far more discreet coverage sexual assault cases once received within mainstream media – with the sole exception being those served-up as sensationalist scraps in the shock-horror Sunday tabloids – the change in recent years, one that has both facilitated and supported the confessional strain of daytime television, has undoubtedly been a double-edged sword. On one hand, it has enabled women who previously would have suffered in silence to open up about their grim experiences and to achieve long-overdue justice as a consequence; on the other, it has gifted publicity-seeking narcissists with an opportunity to spin extremely damaging yarns that, in a culture whereby every woman is now believed and every man is disbelieved, has the proven potential to ruin lives and forever brand the innocent as guilty.

Because the lopsided coverage within the media has been dictated and exploited by the extreme wing of the women’s movement and its spokeswomen in a position of power (such as the loathsome Vera Baird), an undisputed narrative has been established. In this narrative, all men are rabid sex-maniacs and all women are wilting Victorian wallflowers forever at the mercy of these marauding molesters. A dangerous climate has been fostered and encouraged that was bound to give rise to the inevitable serial liar; and it comes as a considerable relief that one such despicable character has finally received her just desserts at last.

25-year-old Jemma Beale accused no less than fifteen men of raping or sexually assaulting her over a period of three years – and every time she made her utterly false allegations she was believed on each occasion without dispute because the police forces in this country have been instructed to accept an accuser’s word as gospel at the expense of evidence. Beale said she was seriously sexually assaulted by six different men and raped by a further nine. Her lies resulted in the wrongful conviction of one man and led to another fleeing the country, but a couple of days ago at Southwark Crown Court – ironically the venue for numerous high-profile trials re ‘historical sex crimes’ – Beale was found guilty of four counts of perjury and four counts of perverting the cause of justice.

Beale claims to be a lesbian – a good career move from the perspective of her allegations – and first made herself known to the police when she accused Mahad Cassim of raping her when he gave her a lift home. Cassim was found guilty in 2010 and sentenced to seven years; during his trial, Beale said ‘I feel that any sentence he receives will never reflect the life sentence that he gave me’, a statement straight out of the approved Victims’ Handbook; for her pains, Beale received compensation payments upwards of £11,000. However, an ex-girlfriend of Beale cast doubt upon Beale’s claims in 2013, provoking the Met’s Sexual Offences, Exploitation and Child Abuse Command (bit of a mouthful) to launch an investigation into the multiple allegations Beale had made.

Beale had also alleged she’d been gang-raped by a group of men in a car-park, an allegation that was undergoing a separate investigation at the time the SOECA decided to look into the Cassim case. It soon became evident – albeit belatedly – that Beale’s accusations bore a remarkable similarity to one another and boasted virtually identical discrepancies that should have been obvious before Mahad Cassim was even tried; but in the current climate, it’s no great surprise they weren’t. Mercifully, Cassim’s conviction was quashed on appeal in 2015. By then, Beale herself had already been arrested as suspicions grew around the accuracy of her allegations.

At Southwark Crown Court two days ago, Judge Nicholas Loraine-Smith referenced Beale’s ‘attention seeking’ and it comes as something of a surreal relief to hear a police officer openly discussing the lies of a false allegator. The copper in charge of the investigation into Beale’s bullshit, Detective Sergeant Kevin Lynott, said ‘Beale is responsible for fabricating a series of extremely serious allegations…her manipulation of the criminal justice system has caused police to direct serious amounts of resource into investigating her bogus complaints as well as her own offending. She has also significantly impacted on the NHS as a result of her complaints and used up many other limited resources that are relied upon by genuine survivors. Not only that, but then she went on to give false testimony at court, which resulted in the conviction and imprisonment of a completely innocent man.’

Lynott added ‘Beale has been exposed as a serial liar and I can only think that she was motivated partly by financial reward, but mainly the attention and control over her partners and family at the time she made the allegations. The impact on those she falsely accused had been devastating. However, hopefully the outcome now fully exonerates all the men she accused of such heinous crimes.’

Jemma Beale is hardly unique, but the verdict of her trial is certainly that; it has brought to the attention of both the judiciary and the wider public the dangers of introducing a system that predetermines the guilt or innocence of both accused and accuser and has offered financial and moral incentives for Victims whilst condemning the targeted to years behind bars, whether or not they did the deed. One can only hope her case sets a precedent, but I suspect the law has been distorted to such an extent that any cases in a similar vein will be few and far between in the future. Too many parties have a vested interest in the opposite outcome to make them commonplace.

© The Editor


wwiiA story appeared in the Mail last week that, on the surface, reiterated the regular ‘it’s political correctness gone mad’ narrative so familiar to Alan Partridge’s favourite Fleet Street rag, but contained within it a grain of what worries so many who wouldn’t ordinarily fork out for Mr Dacre’s flag-waving cancer-watch daily. It concerned a retired railway enthusiast whose voluntary duties included the twice-weekly winding-up of the iconic clock used in Noel Coward’s legendary 1945 weepie, ‘Brief Encounter’, restored to the platform of Carnforth Station in Lancashire 13 years ago. Since its restoration, a Mr Jim Walker has had the official role of keeping the clock in working order – though no longer. Mr Walker has been relieved of his duties on account of a busybody overhearing him having a private conversation.

Mr Walker is now ‘banned’ from entering certain areas of the station he has been an unpaid worker at for more than a decade because a visitor eavesdropped upon his comments during a private conversation (yes, I’ll say that once again), comments stating he regarded the migrants from Calais as unworthy of comparison with the Jewish child refugees who arrived in the UK before the Second World War. Hardly an opinion nobody else has expressed of late, but so grossly offensive that it warranted reporting, with the upshot being that the Carnforth Station Trust has now taken action.

According to a solicitor’s letter Mr Walker received, there was a ‘serious complaint’ made by a family at the station in regards to ‘loud, offensive remarks’ that consisted of ‘inflammatory and highly abusive language’; in the words of the Carnforth Station Trust, this was categorised as ‘a very serious incident which could have involved the police.’ For the third time, I’ll just remind you this was a private conversation Mr Walker was engaged in with another individual; he wasn’t adopting the guise of a town-crier on the station platform and broadcasting his own personal opinion on the subject of immigration to everyone present. Nevertheless, expressing free speech in a private conversation (one last time) is now seemingly a criminal offence, as long as there are people at whom it isn’t directed who are prepared to go crying to the authorities. UK or GDR? You decide.

I guess we all have our run-ins with those who seek to impose their self-righteousness on the rest of us; just today I returned home to discover I’d been sold the wrong brand of cigarettes on account of them all looking identical since it was decided hiding them behind a cupboard and placing photos of gammy feet on the front would dissuade smokers. I wonder why chocolate bars don’t feature images of the obese on their wrappers or alcohol doesn’t come with a photograph of a wino in the gutter stuck to the bottle? Perhaps the prohibitionist lobby isn’t quite as fanatical where other unhealthy stimulants are concerned.

Anyway, I digress; back to Mr Martin. His personal point of view on a contentious subject (if, indeed, it was as innocuous as the Mail declared), not to mention the response to it, is one that seems certain to enflame passions on both sides. The Government’s decision to reduce the number of Syrian refugee children from entering the country on one hand seems like basic meanness and a pandering to the post-Brexit consensus of the Leave camp that often appears to legitimise the worst kind of ‘England for the English’ throwback; on the other hand, the bumfluff profiles of the ‘children’ apparently benefitting from the scheme that were plastered across the likes of the Mail suggests they’re not all as cute as the little boy whose washed-up corpse provoked a swift turnaround in Murdoch and Dacre-Land a couple of years ago.

Both points of view can no longer be expressed without vociferous reactions from its opposing opinion – bleeding-heart liberal Vs xenophobic racist etc. – neither of which helps the issue when it comes to addressing it; and yet the methods by which one side enforces its opinion have become increasingly worrisome, especially in terms of free speech and fair play.

Another development which could be viewed as an extension of the busybody shit-stirrer into private discourse is the instigation of Northumberland’s horrific ‘Crime Commissioner’, the newly-ennobled Vera Baird. Bemoaning the lack of rapes reported to police, Dame Vera once proclaimed this wasn’t good enough and more or less ordered every woman to get themselves down to their nearest police station and report a sexual assault, something that sounded akin to a virtual call-to-arms to ambulance-chasing law firms and female barristers with an axe to grind where the male of the species is concerned.

Fun-loving party animal Dame Vera has now taken this tactic a step further when it comes to rape trials; at her behest, an ongoing experiment in Newcastle has seen the addition of a dozen observers to the courtroom landscape. For the past two years, a committee of professional do-gooders who seem to spend their days sitting on panels that decide the futures of people they’ll never meet (the usual Star Chamber suspects of social workers, counsellors and academics) has been present at such events and has issued recommendations to senior judges presiding over them, something that must fill the accused in the dock with confidence.

On one of my four failed driving tests in the 80s, I remember there was an observer present on the backseat, taking notes on the performance of the examiner; any minor error I made was hardly likely to be overlooked by the man testing me when he himself was being tested, so the odds were pretty much stacked against my achieving a pass. Similarly, how anyone accused of rape can expect a fair trial when confronted by a coven of self-appointed experts with an evident agenda putting pressure on the judge is questionable.

The infantilisation of women at a Rape Crisis centre in the city unfortunate enough to be under Dame Vera’s regime is emphasised by the addition of children’s toys which the female visitors are encouraged to use as an aid to ‘recovering’ the memory of dim and distant sexual encounters, part of the drive to increase rape convictions at all costs. If guilty men are finally sentenced, fair enough; but the false allegation industry doesn’t seem to care about wrongful convictions as long as the statistics look good on the spreadsheet at the end of each year.

Vera Baird and her storm-troopers are of the same mindset as whoever conspired to deprive a pensioner of his harmless hobby at Carnforth Station – acting as unofficial moral watchdogs and exploiting a climate whereby deviations from the accepted consensus are greeted with fear and hysteria. If the US Government could paint Colonel Gaddafi as the Blofeld-figure he never was, it’s hardly surprising that Jimmy Savile could be posthumously rebranded the Most Wicked Man Ever or Ordinary Joe can be hung out to dry by Nosy Parkers whose sinister mantra is seeping into everyday life with unchecked stealth and is aided by the complicity of those to whom questions are a burden. Watch what you say – you never know who might be listening.

© The Editor


coltraneWell, it was only a matter of time in a British TV landscape devoted to revivals, retreads and rehashes; and if it had to be any television channel dramatising the facts of a project so stooped in fiction as Operation It Could Be Youtree, then one would naturally imagine it had to be ITV. After all, ITV essentially sponsored the whole witch-hunt from day one, what with Essex’s answer to Matthew Hopkins, Mark Williams-Thomas, and the tabloid sensationalism of his Jimmy Savile exposé in 2012 kick-starting a free-for-all that has ruined endless lives, careers and individuals unfortunate enough to have made a mark in public life prior to the revisionist’s paradise of the twenty-first century. However, the baton of shame has been passed on to Channel 4, that one-time home of radical and innovative television and now the channel that brings us property porn, poverty porn and naked dating shows.

Robbie Coltrane, the beached Caledonian whale whose serious acting career stalled after the end of ‘Cracker’ in the 1990s (and who has subsequently been reduced to those tedious travelogue showcases for 80s has-beens that ITV specialises in), is to play a beloved celebrity targeted by a Yewtree-style Historical Sex Crimes squad in a new C4 ‘drama’ titled ‘National Treasure’ this coming week. In order to hedge their bets, C4 have even recruited genuine National Treasure Julie Walters to play ‘the wife’; Judi Dench must have been otherwise engaged when the time for casting came around.

Plugging the programme he naturally hopes will salvage his dormant thespian ambitions, Coltrane has inserted the Savile caveat into the interview promoting the series in the current issue of the Radio Times, stressing the character he plays is in no way based upon Sir Jim. It’s merely the latest missive from the publicity circuit Coltrane has been on for the past couple of weeks, and photos released to the press that unnervingly recreate the images we’ve become sadly familiar with since 2012 must bring back such happy memories for the families of Dave Lee Travis and all those other ‘perverts hiding in plain sight’.

Echoing convenient sentiments previously uttered by another face from the past struggling to re-establish his ‘rebel’ credentials – John Lydon – Coltrane declares ‘Everyone knew Jimmy Savile was a creep. Everyone. I never met him but you’d watch him and you’d feel your skin crawl.’ Indeed – the millions who tuned into ‘Top of the Pops’ and ‘Jim’ll Fix It’ every week in the 70s, 80s and 90s felt exactly the same back in the day whenever they set eyes upon that ‘wrong ‘un’, didn’t they, Robbie, which would explain why they kept tuning in. How it pays to be wise after the event.

In many respects, Robbie Coltrane is the perfect choice to play a fictitious figure whose past comes under present scrutiny in the drama; after all, he was a prominent member of the Alternative Comedy generation, those post-punk radicals whose slide into middle-aged respectability (and the establishment honours that come with it) has been utterly seamless. These early 80s undergraduates had a particular grudge against the working-class showbiz heroes of the 60s and 70s, easy targets for mock-satire as their envy of their targets’ achievements eventually led them all the way to writing appalling jukebox musicals based on the music of notable fellow radicals, Queen, on one hand, and relishing the opportunity to condemn them anew via Yewtree on the other.

It pays to remember that, whilst newspaper columnists from Hitchens to Littlejohn can today question the veracity of accusations levelled against personalities they themselves admire and revere, such voices were thin on the ground three or four years back. In the frenzied Yewtree cauldron of 2012/13/14, only thick-skinned brave bloggers dared to question the consensus during the height of the bonfire of the seventies, and they were written-off as crackpot obsessives for their troubles.

Even when the first few household names tentatively raised their heads above the parapet a couple of years ago – when, tellingly, it took the arrest of respectable broadcasters such as Paul Gambaccini to provoke them into action – it remained an unwritten rule that they had to distance themselves from Savile sympathies as they sprung to the defence of their showbiz buddies. Having been so successfully re-educated as to the ‘truth’ of the deceased eccentric charity fundraiser, the public would clearly have to be reminded that any accusation would not necessarily place the accused in the same sewer of filth as Savile. ‘Of course Jimmy Savile was an appalling human being, but…’ went the script recited ad infinitum by the fearless defenders of those caught in the net that the Met had widened.

‘National Treasure’ doesn’t come with the ‘Based on a true story’ attachment, though it’s not hard to foresee that those who still believe Fleet Street brings the Gospel to the masses will switch on and believe they’re essentially watching a documentary. Indeed, it will probably be difficult to distinguish between drama and documentary if one is a regular viewer of what passes for both on the mainstream channels, considering the recent efforts of our man from Billericay to portray himself as a cross between Roger Cook and James Bond over on ITV. I tried my best to ruin his career, but I clearly failed.

In a climate wherein Cliff Richard remains out on permanent ‘moral bail’ and questions over insecure convictions for the likes of Rolf Harris are successfully suppressed within the mainstream media, dramatising such a miserable episode in contemporary police procedure seems the apex of bad taste, though ratings are guaranteed with this kind of cynical exercise; and that’s what matters when the fate of ‘The Great British Bake-Off’ is so pivotal to the wellbeing of the nation.

There’s no doubt there is future scope for fictionalising the experience of the famous and non-famous alike where it comes to the imaginary crimes of the past impacting upon the present; but I have distinct doubts that viewers of ‘National Treasure’ will be exposed to anything other than a PR job for the Professional Victims’ lobby and the crusading integrity of both the Met and the CPS.

© The Editor


BBCMargaret Thatcher once famously referred to television as ‘the last bastion of restrictive practices’, chiefly in relation to the monopoly enjoyed by the BBC and ITV and the way in which their unions were prone to disrupting broadcasting, both factors being contrary to her own business model. On the negative side, there was certainly enough evidence to back up her claim in terms of how union power had regularly held television companies to ransom. At BBC TV Centre, the technician’s union was notorious for switching off the power at a fixed time during the recording of a programme if it overran, but ITV suffered even more. Twice in the space of a year – the winter of 1978 and the summer of 1979 – all ITV stations were blacked-out (the second occasion for two whole months), losing ITV an estimated £100,000 in revenue, and ITV’s planned coverage of the 1984 LA Olympics was also curtailed just days before it was scheduled to begin due to union action.

Having successfully taken on the miners and the Fleet Street printers, Mrs T turned to television in 1987 when an Aussie ally called Brue Gyngell, recently installed as head honcho of ITV’s breakfast service, TV-am, decided to utilise new technology that would result in widespread redundancies. His plans led to a strike that took normal programming off the air; with Thatcher’s approval, Gyngell fired the strikers and replaced them with non-union staff. The ill-feeling between unions and management was irreparable, but for Mrs Thatcher what had happened at TV-am was the final straw. Her solution was the 1990 Broadcasting Act.

That Thatcher should seek to redesign television in her own free-market image perhaps came as no surprise, and the initial changes the Broadcasting Act wreaked on British television came in the new nature of the ITV franchise bidding. Thatcher had a bit of ‘history’ with ITV; her enmity towards the BBC was well publicised, but the controversy arising from Thames Television’s 1988 ‘Death on The Rock’ documentary, in which it was alleged that the members of the SAS who shot dead three IRA men in Gibraltar had carried out an effective assassination, had infuriated the Prime Minister. The furore that followed the transmission of the programme may or may not have influenced her decision to end ITV’s control of commercial television; but the Broadcasting Act was the beginning of the end for the structure that had served ITV well for thirty-five years.

Previously, a company’s record both in strong regional and networked programming was taken into consideration before deciding whether or not the franchise would be renewed or revoked. Now all of that was consigned to the same broadcasting bin as 405-line TV. It was perhaps characteristic of legislation introduced by Thatcher that the main criteria for acquiring an ITV franchise was now how high the bid for it would be. ‘Choice’ was the new buzzword within British broadcasting just as it was in every other deregulated industry; the introduction of cable and satellite channels posed the first threat to ITV’s undisputed dominance of the commercial TV market, and the cut-throat climate that the altered franchise round brought about had far more scandalous losers than TV-am, which famously lost its franchise, an unforeseen consequence of the changes. The system was open to abuse.

The BBC had responded to the changes in the television landscape following the Broadcasting Act by appointing former LWT bigwig, John Birt, as Director-General in 1992. Birt had arrived at the BBC five years earlier to become Director of News & Current Affairs, and immediately ruffled the feathers of widely-respected news reporters such as Charles Wheeler and Kate Adie by insisting that those in the field should submit a written outline of their reports before getting on with their jobs. It was this emphasis on increased bureaucracy that was to characterise Birt’s stint as Director General as he appointed a glut of highly–paid ‘consultants’, overseeing and interfering with the independence of programme-makers. He also introduced classic Thatcherite notions of ‘healthy competition’ between the various BBC departments; that these departments were now forced to charge each other for their services led to many programmes being farmed-out to independent production companies as a cheaper alternative, a move that would eventually lead to the gradual redundancy of British television’s very own Theatre of Dreams, BBC TV Centre in Shepherd’s Bush.

Before Birt, the BBC had been an effective co-operative, in which everyone had worked together for the common good; under Birt’s divide-and-rule stewardship, the organisation resembled the Circumlocution Office, bogged down by meaningless management-speak buzzwords and endless ‘initiatives’ intended to inspire more efficient and cost-effective productivity. Specialist BBC departments with decades of experience and a track record of getting the job done were replaced by endless layers of committees and executives with vague job descriptions later parodied with uncomfortable accuracy in the comedy ‘W1A’. Downsizing, a fresh addition to the TV lexicon, resulted in short-term contracts for new arrivals, hardly instilling a sense of loyalty to the Corporation. Anything deemed as unprofitable or incompatible with Birt’s vision was discarded, even the much-loved and highly-regarded BBC Radiophonic Workshop, which had provided numerous BBC radio and television productions with ground-breaking avant-garde soundtracks for decades, contributing to the BBC’s uniqueness and distinctive identity in the process. Birt’s skewered method of saving money was to take it from those who could make it and hand it to those who had no clue of what to do with it.

With profit now regarded as more important than quality, programming noticeably suffered from the 1990s onwards. An endless conveyor belt of cookery, makeover, quiz and game shows dominated the primetime schedules, with less money diverted into drama or documentaries. In parallel with ITV, BBC TV seemed to view the best way of dealing with the increased competition was to compete on the competition’s own terms rather than those which the BBC had established over many years.

There are some who believe the appointment of such a Thatcher-friendly figure as Birt undoubtedly helped build a few necessary bridges between the BBC and the Government, enabling the BBC to survive the persistent threats of severe alterations to its charter. But there are more who believe the changes at the BBC that Birt instigated have directly or indirectly led to the constant problems the Corporation has been riddled with ever since. The increasing willingness of the BBC to spinelessly kowtow to successive Governments holding its precious charter as an effective hostage has on one hand resulted in the scandalous dismissal of Tony Blackburn this week and on the other, the expensive and unnecessary relocation of the majority of its home-made TV output to a charmless edifice in Salford with the utterly meaningless moniker of ‘Media City UK’; this was an attempt to appear less London-centric, a move that seemed strange considering the fact that the BBC has always maintained strong regional branches around the country. Surely the nation’s premier broadcaster should have its base in the capital city? With the likes of ‘Breakfast’ now presented from an anonymous citadel that guests have to be ferried to at great expense to the licence fee-payer, a showcase programme has been reduced to resembling a regional magazine show.

Twenty-five years since the Broadcasting Act was implemented across British television, it seems the BBC, like ITV, is still attempting to emulate the competition rather than obliterate it – and failing miserably in the process.

© The Editor


RTSay the words ‘Grange Hill’ to anyone of a certain age and a flurry of names will enter their head – Tucker Jenkins, Benny Green, Trisha Yates, Gripper Stebson and poor old ‘Row-land’ will probably spring to mind before any others. Plotlines will no doubt be quickly evoked too. There was one particular plotline in the early 80s that perfectly captured the hormonal turmoil of nascent adolescence, when an absence of sexual fact is compensated for by sexual fiction, though the two have a habit of blurring in the imagination. Yes, we might remember Duane having the hots for ‘Sexy Lexy’ and even enrolling in the extracurricular computer course in order to gaze at the object of his pubescent desire for an additional hour; but it was his pal Claire Scott whose unrequited passion for a member of staff landed that oblivious teacher in hot water.

Mr Hopwood – played by the same actor (Brian Capron) who drove Gail Platt and family into the Manchester Ship Canal a couple of decades later on ‘Coronation Street’ – was unaware his doe-eyed pupil had taken her infatuation with him to another level by recounting her fantasies in the pages of her diary. When her mother broke the golden rule by dipping into it whilst cleaning Claire’s bedroom, she reported what she assumed to be evidence of a genuine affair to her husband, prompting an incensed Mr Scott to storm up to the school and grab Mr Hopwood by the shirt collars, accusing him of something that would now lead to instant dismissal on the pretext of guilty till proven innocent.

Poor, humiliated Claire confessed it was all in her head and that Mr Hopwood had never laid a finger on her; but in an age when ‘Jackie’ magazine was still turned to for advice as the only help-line for young teenage girls focusing their embryonic lust on the nearest grownup male figure outside of family, Claire Scott’s predicament was genuine. It had happened for real just ten years earlier, as sensationally exposed in typically crass fashion by the News of the World in an early example of Rupert Murdoch’s grudge match against the BBC. Claiming ‘Top of the Pops’ was a hotbed of vice and debauchery (always the paper’s favourite subjects), the revelation emerged of a teenage member of the dancing studio audience who had written in her diary of a sexual encounter with one of the show’s hosts.

The girl’s mother got her hands on the diary, took it as Gospel, approached the BBC to lodge a formal complaint (without success) and the private document of her daughter’s fantasies then mysteriously fell into the hands of the Digger, who demonstrated his trademark tact and sensitivity by publishing extracts from it. When the ‘confession’ appeared in the News of the World, his breaking of the sordid little story pushed the girl over the edge and she committed suicide; a police investigation at the time (1971) exonerated the BBC, TOTP and the unnamed ‘seducer’ – a sad chapter in the show’s history that said more about the dysfunctional nature of a mother/daughter relationship than any perceived lack of moral fibre on the part of a programme produced under characteristically stringent BBC rules and regulations.

Over forty years later, the long-forgotten mini-scandal was dredged up anew during Dame Janet Smith’s inquiry into Jimmy Savile’s alleged illicit activities on BBC premises; Dame Janet claims she couldn’t fathom why there was precious little evidence of this incident residing in the BBC archives, though a broadcasting institution that routinely wiped copies of its most popular shows in the 60s and 70s was hardly likely to retain every document relating to a brief episode in which every party involved had been cleared of any wrongdoing. Naturally, when a Fleet Street hungry for any Savile story – however dubious and fantastical – heard about this, their ears pricked up, and the wicked rapist of a 15-year-old girl simply had to be Sir Jimmy. Besides, the actual TOTP presenter named by the dead girl as her seducer, Tony Blackburn, couldn’t be ‘outed’ because he had taken the precaution of a super-injunction.

Now that has expired and Mr Blackburn has been named and shamed, how does his employer of many decades respond to the public revelation of something they were well aware of whilst continuing to pay his wages? It sacks him on the spot. Remember, Blackburn was exonerated in 1971 and once again when he was interviewed as part of Dame Janet Smith’s inquiry. So, that means he has twice been found not guilty of the accusation that has now cost him his job. He wasn’t even fired by the men in charge of the station he works for, Radio 2, but the actual Director General of the BBC himself, Tony Hall. The man whose voice opened Radio 1 in September 1967 is rightly furious and the statement he has issued to the press doesn’t see him mince his words. Legal action is threatened and it would seem he has a very strong case for wrongful dismissal.

Tony Blackburn was perhaps a tad too hasty to distance himself from Jimmy Savile when all that broke out at the end of 2012 and Paul Gambaccini was equally quick to point the finger at a dead man, regarding his reputation as a respected broadcaster and prominent media gay as a sure-fire safeguard against any accusations. He paid the price for his superiority complex and now one of the lowbrow broadcasters who personified the cheery cheese of Radio 1 when Gambaccini joined the station in 1973 has also been hung out to dry by a spineless, weak-kneed BBC as it bends over backwards to ensure its charter is renewed in the face of renewed hostility from a government on Murdoch’s payroll.

What this latest headline says about the BBC, the Metropolitan Police Force, the legal system, and the state of this country in 2016 seems pretty clear. There doesn’t seem much point in spelling it out.

© The Editor