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……