Yewtree, DLT, Gambaccini and me

Paul Gambaccini sits at home, his diligently structured 40-year broadcasting career in tatters – a career built on hard work, intelligence, deep knowledge, a carefully cultivated public persona, and a courteous manner in private that never seems to flag.

Eleven months on bail, and no charge brought.

Did we even know that was possible? Are we not shocked that it’s legal?

This is Operation Yewtree at work, in which police and prosecution services seem to have dispensed with some of the hardest-won and longest established tenets of British justice.

I launched this blog at the beginning of 2014, just as BBC4 started running repeats of Top Of The Pops from 1979, including my own appearances.

Since then, many editions of the repeats have been cancelled because they were hosted by presenters who have come under Yewtree’s magnifying glass. More will be cancelled in the coming years – or else they’ll be edited to remove the guilty (or even the arrested-but-not-charged).

I’m not here to talk about the hateful crimes of Jimmy Savile, Stuart Hall and Rolf Harris. Good riddance to them, and God bless and help their victims.

What I am saying is: surely our police and prosecution services might have foreseen that the public would discern a difference between heinous paedophiles and rapists, and groping pillocks like Dave Lee Travis?

More to the point, they might have realised that the public would be seriously perturbed at the effect on the lives of those the police haven’t even charged. When do you think we will next hear from Cliff Richard?

But neither the police or the media seem to pay much attention to public feeling. To this extent, they appear to be acting more akin to Cotton Mather (the Salem Witches) than William Blackstone (Fundamental Laws of England).

The Facebook group Popscene has over 350 members. A significant portion, maybe half of them, are female. Throughout Yewtree, I haven’t seen a contribution from anyone, let alone a female, that says, regarding sexist gropers being prosecuted, “About time too”.

The thing that binds Popscene, apart from a love of pop music, is that many members are of a certain age. So a lot of these women have been through the era when, we are told, female employees were routinely assaulted and too afraid to do anything about it.

And yet Popscene women appear furious at Yewtree’s tactics in publicly outing those they are ‘investigating’, whether they charge them or not.

Jimmy Tarbuck, Jim Davidson and Freddie Starr are just three of those arrested, given maximum publicity, and released without charge. Others – no use to the police for publicity, so not named – have also been arrested and released without charge.

But they did manage to charge Travis with 12 offences. Unfortunately for them, after two trials, only one of the charges stuck, and then only for a short suspended sentence. Which tells you something about how the rules of evidence are being degraded.

I’m not saying what Travis did was excusable.

Also, just so you know, I never liked the man. That’s just me. Doesn’t matter why. It’s personal.

But still, imagine yourself in court, and the Crown’s QC is telling the jury: “It’s not for you to judge degrees of guilty.

“Don’t ask why we are trying something that could have been dealt with by a slap in the face.”

Really? We’re not allowed to ask that?

It doesn’t matter, she said, that the allegations “are not the most serious that courts have to deal with. ‘Is it serious enough?’ is not a question you have to worry about.”

Wow. I would have thought that was partly what juries were for – to tell the Courts at the very least when they are overstepping the bounds of common sense.

All of this has resulted in a spate of reminiscences and newspaper stories of ‘inappropriate’ (God, I hate that word) behaviour. Some of these stories are of events that happened less than 20 years ago. In the 1990s, The Spice Girls led us to believe that girl power had taken over, and that women knew how to deal with sexists like Travis.

But it seems not. Janet Street Porter recently told the story of a female editor of a 1990s television programme. The editor’s star presenter routinely presented himself ‘stark naked in the bath’ for daily meetings in his dressing room.

Complaining that you allowed yourself to be subjected to this indignity every day, day after day – isn’t that just whingeing?

I’ve spent a week trying to frame this blog in the least controversial manner. But it’s an almost impossible task. You’re reading my 53rd draft, and still I know it will offend. Because – all special pleading aside: we are a victim if we say we’re a victim – this is not how we conduct justice.

So let’s make it personal for a second. At the age of fourteen I told a fully mature 6′ 4” man – father of two toddlers I had just babysat – that, no, I didn’t want him masturbating me while I took a bath. Surely by the 1990s a grown woman could take personal responsibility for telling a grown man they should meet in an office, rather than in his bath?

In the Sunday Times this week, Camilla Long recounts her 2012 interview with Dave Lee Travis.

In 2012 she reported “I don’t think there was a part of my body he didn’t grope”.

In 2014 she reports that she “left the interview feeling like a non-person, odd and dirty and used”.

Is it just because I’m male that I find it difficult to understand why she didn’t say that first time around?

After all, Camilla Long is no shrinking violet. She is caustic and controversial. Last year she won the Hatchet Job Of The Year award for her review of the book Aftermath. She described author Rachel Cusk as “a brittle little dominatrix and peerless narcissist who exploits her husband and her marriage with relish”, who “describes her grief in expert, whinnying detail”.

So this is where we’ve got to, 45 years after Germaine Greer’s watershed work. A tough, professional woman, willing in print to attack a ‘sister’, but afraid to slap an ageing dj or knee him in the balls, or even just tell him to fuck off, despite the fact his wife and a photographer were in the vicinity. She put up with Travis’s behaviour for 90 minutes, she says. Why?

My mother and my grandmother, feminists before the word gained currency, would have wanted a word with Camilla. They’d have also wanted ‘a word’ with DLT. He would have regretted it.

No music this week. It seems, erm…..inappropriate.

Instead, here’s a clip of Morgan Freeman, around the 40th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s death, suggesting we stop talking about racism. I’m wondering if there is a woman out there, in the 45th anniversary year of The Female Eunuch, brave enough to address the discussion of sexism with a similar breath of fresh air.

Meanwhile, I’d like my 1970s back, please. But maybe that’s too much to ask. Or too trivial……

7 Comments

  1. Well written Paul, where do I start? 🙂 First of all Jimmy Savile was never convicted of any crime. He died an innocent man. Rolf Harris I am not inclined to believe he is a pervert – one of his accusers sold her story before or during the trial – that in itself should have stopped the trial. It was said he was in a location over here when he was in Australia, the accuser here didnt appear to be sure from what I hear. I dont know why Stuart Hall pleaded guilty when he first said he wasnt – was it a plea bargain of some kind. Anyway as for that Camilla Long – if she was being harassed as she claims – surely a slap or kick would have sorted that out as you say. Someone somewhere needs a word with her, but she is a feminasty – and therefore is above reproach in today’s world it seems. I dont understand why I hear some of these complainers saying they were sitting on these mens’ laps (as in the case of RH anyway) at the age of 15! That would never have been allowed or tolerated where I lived back in the 1970’s! We had far too much respect for ourselves back then. Lack of self respect seems to be part of the problem now. The curse of Political correctness has ruined a lot of lives and done nothing for any woman, I think. I saw no behaviour as described above when I started work in the late 70’s – bar the odd strange comment from a manager or a male member of staff, we just laughed at them. Anyway thanks as always for a good blog.

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  2. Lots of evidence (including the BBC’s own Pollard Report) suggests that Operation Yewtree was meticulously planned for a good 10 months before it ‘broke’. The first person to be arrested was Gary Glitter, who’s involvement in ‘The Savile Scandal’ was necessary in order to whip up an instant tidal wave of revulsion. Yet 9 months earlier, just as – coincidentally – BBC4 were about to show the former ‘Leader’ on unedited TOTP77 (they had promised Jonathan King they would never again ‘rewrite history’) a Twitter account opened as Gary Glitter, announcing comeback tours and new album etc and created lots of scandal. I wrote this at the time, unaware of the shitstorm brewing http://chrisbarratt.wordpress.com/2012/01/20/tweet-tweet/
    Later, via The Pollard Report, it was discovered the ‘Clunk Click Orgy’ allegation was central to the original Exposure, and this was being planned at this stage. And – hey presto – I found this online https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dfpwtQo67FA

    Now, as far as DLT goes when they were planning this operation they will have needed another BBC TOTP ‘face’, preferably one on the reruns in order to create more attention. Tony Blackburn is too popular in the present. Noel Edmonds the same. The Hairy Cornflake will do – since he got all uppity and left Radio 1 he was thought of a risible old dinosaur. So we come to Ms Long’s article of June 2012 – good timing, huh? Priming the masses for what they were about to unleash, and Dave Lee Travis defenceless against being singled-out just for being famous 35 years earlier & not so famous in 2012 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hoONWS8_3m0
    Was it a coincidence DLT was arrested on the day BBC4 were due to screen one of his editions of TOTP77. And Gambo on the eve of his 40 year anniversary of broadcasting?

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    • I have to admit, Chris, that I’m not much of a conspiracy fan. I did all that through Watergate, and discovered how much of your life can go by in a haze of ‘supposes’ and ‘maybe ifs’.

      DLT resigned from Radio 1 on air, because he had wind he was about to be pushed. A new broom (Matthew Bannister) wanted new, younger talent.

      As for Paul Gambaccini’s 40th anniversary, he had already aired a four-part series on Radio 4 celebrating the feat, which included contributions from Elton John, Michael Palin and Tim Rice.

      I’m not sure if you’re suggesting that the BBC was complicit in some of these arrests, or the timing or planning of them?

      But it seems particularly cruel if they were, not to mention counter-productive to their own ethical standing, to have allowed the expense and hubris of a four-part celebration prior to giving the order, ‘Go for it rozzer’.

      Finally, the idea that Camilla Long would have taken part in any of this is a little far-fetched for me. She is an attack dog, awaiting no-one’s instructions as far as I can see. Which is why I find it less than convincing that she was the meek little girl of her own description, tolerating DLT’s wandering hands “because I had no car to get away”. What?

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    • Oh yes! A long, long time. As long as men behave like pigs is my guess. I’ve had a lot of stick privately from female friends. My concern is, if we allow the law to be bent just because we believe in the cause, we can’t really complain when police and prosecution start bending it in cases where we don’t agree with them. The prosecution’s comments are the thing to examine most carefully here, in my view.

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