Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Savile Row

Now then, guys and very young gals, there's nothing like a good old British bandwagon to jump onto, is there. So make room on top for me. Ooh err, Missus!

As a child of the sixties (as opposed to one who is in his sixties), I never liked Savile as a DJ for the simple reason that he got in the way of the music with his laboured attempts at being eccentric, and I never followed him in his later career as a general entertainer. I don't believe I saw a single episode of Jim'll Fix It. His "getting in the way", was of course the self-same thing as his genius for self-publicity and the man's other achievements were undoubtedly remarkable. Not quite as remarkable as he claimed (he didn't invent the twin turntable, for example), but that is partly my point. He was someone who bigged himself up and grasped opportunities. He was also, in a sense that is the source of much of the current kerfuffle, a man of his time.

So, I neither liked nor disliked the guy, even in retrospect; I just didn't "get" him. But those who are taking the opportunity to judge Savile in retrospect include on the one hand Chris Patten, someone for whom I have an enormous respect, and on the other hand Esther Rantzen.

Chris Patten, Chairman of the BBC Trust, has stated that Savile's activities could not be excused as behaviour from a time when "attitudes were different", and gave his backing to inquiries by police and the corporation. Of course, he would be unlikely to say anything else in his position, but is it reasonable? I think it depends exactly what he means. By which I mean, of course, that it doesn't.

There is a range of alleged behavour by Savile, which is getting tarred with a single brush. There is having sex with under-age girls, having sex with young but not under-age girls, having sex with mentally disturbed girls, and having non-consensual sex. (There is also an implied offence of getting more nookie than anyone else. We'd better come up with a law outlawing rich, charismatic, physically impressive people from getting more than their fair share. But not till I've gone, eh?)

Certainly two of the first four activities are unlikely to be regarded differently now than in the 60s, perhaps three depending on whether you think the age of consent is a moral issue or a legal artifice and whether one particularly mature fifteen year-old might be less vulnerable than the next vulnerable eighteen year-old. Does Patten mean that whatever seems wrong now should be regarded as having been wrong then? If so, I disagree. Or is he talking about legalities, in which case I make the same point, though the age of consent law hasn't changed as far as I know. (In which case, Patten is surely suggesting that we impose today's morals on the previous century.)

 I do doubt whether, as a general proposition, if you are talking about morality, you can impose one generation's morals on another. The question must be, was what Savile did wrong when he did it?

(I am pleased by the way to advise my avid reader in this respect that my own taste is for ladies over 40 - hello, Joycey - or even 50. You know who you are.)

Esther Rantzen's judgement (or do I mean her chance to get some publicity out of all this?) is tempered by her embarrassment that she herself heard rumours of Savile's Travels (geddit?) at the time but did nothing. This from the founder of a charity, ChildLine, set up in order to protect children. According to Rantzen, until now it had 'only been one single child's word against the word of a television icon'. Now it was 'five adult women' who had come forward it was easier. They are 'cool, credible, sensible women', who are 'convincing' to Rantzen, and so she has "started" to believe there is some truth to it all. Isn't that exactly what Rantzen has been making career capital out of  campaigning against most of her professional life? Has Rantzen's charity work, mirroring so closely Savile's own charity work, been  just another exercise in self-publicity, and like Savile's is now revealed as a self-serving sham? In my book, that makes her as bad as Savile.

As she now says, 'How I long to turn the clock back'. Yes, and not set up that damn charity.


  1. Things certainly have changed since the last century.

    You can rest assured that had Sir Jimmy started his career 10 years ago we all would have pinged him as a kiddy fiddling pervert within seconds of seeing him on the TV.

  2. Yes, and blogs, Faeces Book and Twatter would have got the stories aired in more recent years. Hang on a minute, they didn't.