Padraig Colman

Rambling ruminations of an Irishman in Sri Lanka

Tag: Prince Charles

The Reign in Spain

A version of this article appeared in the September issue of Echelon magazine.


From dictatorship to democracy to EU bailout. A storm began in 2008 and many Spaniards are still drowning.

On 2 June 2014, King Juan Carlos King of Spain announced that he would abdicate in favour of his son, Felipe, who was enthroned on 19 June 2014. Juan Carlos said, “I don’t want my son to grow old waiting like Prince Charles.”


Spaniards generally respected Juan Carlos because of his role in the smooth transition to democracy from the dictatorship of General Franco. Francisco Franco Bahamonde was the dictator of Spain from 1939 to his death in 1975. Franco came to power during the Spanish Civil War, which was a struggle between democrats, socialists and anarchists, socialists, on one side and monarchists, conservatives, nationalists, and fascists on the other.

After the Civil War Spain was bleak. Represión Franquista, the White Terror, was politically motivated violence and rape committed by the Nationalist movement during the Civil War and during Franco’s dictatorship. A friend’s parents were among many who fled Spain because they were on the losing side and they had horror stories to tell me. Many of those who could not escape lost their jobs or their rank. The country lost many of its brightest minds, and a capable workforce. Franco employed concentration camps, forced labour, death squads and executions. Historians’ estimates of deaths during the White Terror range up to 400,000.

Franco had long planned to restore the monarchy. As he approached death, he decided to skip a generation and name Prince Juan Carlos as his personal successor. He hoped to groom the young prince to maintain the Francoist ultraconservativism. In 1969, Franco named Juan Carlos heir-apparent on condition that he swear loyalty to Franco’s Movimiento Nacional, which the prince did with little hesitation. Juan Carlos publicly supported Franco’s regime but met secretly exiled opposition planning liberal reforms.

Juan Carlos’s accession met with relatively little parliamentary opposition. There was an attempted military coup on 23 February 1981, when members of the Guardia Civil seized the Cortes. During the coup, the King, in the uniform of the Captain-General of the Spanish armed forces, called for unambiguous support for the legitimate democratic government. Public support for the monarchy among democrats and leftists before 1981 had been limited; support increased dramatically because of the king’s handling of the coup.

What Kind of Spain…?

What kind of Spain did Juan Carlos hand over to Felipe? There has been a dramatic rise in poverty, and inequality since the start of the economic crisis in 2008. Spain’s unemployment rate now stands second among the euro zone countries, just behind that of Greece. Since 2008, Spain has lost four million jobs, and the unemployment rate has increased by 20 percentage points. Fully 3.5 million of Spain’s unemployed workers have been out of work at least one year, and two million have been out of work two years or more. Emigration of 280,000 young Spaniards prevented the figure being even higher.

Spain has now become the country with the most inequality of all 27 countries of the EU. The Red Cross’s Bulletin on Social Vulnerability in Spain states that 43.2 percent of people cannot afford heating in winter, while 26 percent cannot afford a meal with proteins three times a week. The Catholic charity Caritas revealed that the number of people it helped nationwide was more than a million in 2011, increasing from 370,000 in 2007.

A recent study published by the trade union CC.OO revealed that 35 percent of Spanish workers receive a monthly wage equal to or below €641.40, the minimum wage. Spain is just behind Romania in the low pay league table. The report forecasts that there will be 28 percent poverty for the whole of Spain by the end of 2012. This represents a rise of ten percentage points since 2007.

Accumulation by Dispossession

Since 2008, over 350,000 Spanish families have been evicted from their homes. According to government figures, there are still 500 evictions a day — 150 of them in Madrid. Most involve families whose main breadwinner lost his or her job in the recession and who have inadvertently fallen behind on their mortgage payments to the bank. There has been a wave of suicides by people who were about to be evicted from their homes. Marxist geographer, David Harvey, coined the term “accumulation by dispossession“. Austerity policies allow bankers and politicians to commit institutionalized theft.

The housing boom left a legacy of ruinous urban development, redundant airports and obsolete infrastructure projects. The Union of Agricultural Workers (SOC), part of the Andalusian Workers Union (SAT) has been one of the key exponents in the struggle for land and the rights of farm labourers. They occupied and worked the farm of Somonte, in Palma del Río, in the southern Córdoba province, that the regional government of Andalusia was selling, even though 1,700 people were unemployed. The aim of the occupiers is that this farm is worked by cooperatives of unemployed people, not taken over by bankers

Despite increasing poverty among the general public, Credit Suisse has estimated that over the next five years the number of Spanish millionaires will grow by 110 percent. By 2017, there will be around 616,000 of them.

Banks and Bail Out

In 2007, Spanish public debt was only 36% of its gross domestic product. Its fiscal balance was positive (+1.9% of its GDP, whereas Maastricht imposes a maximum 3% negative fiscal balance). Spanish public debt only accounted for 18% of its total debt. The private sector, namely the real estate and credit sectors, directly caused the Spanish crisis.

In May 2012, Bankia, the third largest Spanish bank, asked for 19 billion euros in government aid (on top of 4.5 billion already given). The Bank of Spain estimates that the Iberian banking system is sitting on toxic assets of 176 billion euros.


The EU presented “labour reforms” as essential to reduce unemployment. These reforms have achieved the opposite of what they were supposed to do. Austerity policies have driven down real wages and led to the creation of more precarious jobs particularly those characterised by the “zero-hours” contracts under which workers are called in as and when required, but released when work is not available. The reforms have brought wages down by ten per cent in two years. This reduction was what the Troika and the Spanish governments had in mind when they imposed such reforms.


Catalonians will be looking with interest at the referendum on Scottish independence. Spain, which was only cobbled together in the late 15th century, continues to be fissiparous. As in Iraq, a dictator held it together. Juan Carlos and the Spanish monarchy kept it together after the demise of Franco. One wonders how long it will last now Juan Carlos has left the stage.

On September 11, 2012, nearly two million people marched for the right to self-determination and independence for Catalonia. Artur Mas i Gavarró is President of the Generalitat de Catalunya. In 2010 for the first time, Mas indicated he would vote yes on a hypothetical referendum to secede from Spain. Sovereignty and Catalan independence became the central part of his political agenda. He has called for a referendum on independence for Catalonia.

The Spanish Military Association (AME), composed of former members of the army, has threatened Mas with a Council of War and has warned those who promote “the breaking-up of Spain” that they will have to answer before a military court on charges of “high treason”. Mas is a conservative financier and by no stretch of the imagination a subversive. What will happen when the left decide to fight?

Left Alternatives

Podemos (meaning, “We can”) is a political party created on 11 March 2014 by Spanish leftist activists associated with the movement that emerged from the 2011–12 Spanish protests of Los Indignacios. Its de facto leader is Pablo Iglesias Turrión a writer and professor of Political Science at the Complutense University in Madrid. In the European parliamentary elections, Podemos polled 7.97% of the vote and won five seats out of 54.

Popular protests caused the Madrid government to abandon its plans privatize six public hospitals. The regional health commissioner, Javier Fernández-Lasquetty, resigned.

Marinaleda is a small village with a population of 2,700 people,   in the municipality of Seville in the Sierra Sur southern mountain range in Andalucía. While, in Andalucía as a whole, 30% of the active population was without work, in Marinaleda there was full employment. This “communist utopia” and relies on a model of mutual aid, as local people work together to meet shared needs. It has a cooperatively-owned olive oil factory, houses built by and for the community. The mayor himself led the looting of a supermarket from which goods were donated to food banks. The village has a long history of bloody-mindedness after suffering great want and hunger as well as severe repression after the civil war. There have been many protests and seizures of land from the aristocracy. The social and political system that has been implemented in the community, and the good results obtained in terms of economic development and well-being of the inhabitants, has brought media interest to Marinaleda in Spain and internationally.

Spain’s Future in the EU

Spain’s dependency is such that one cannot realistically predict that it will exit the EU or the eurozone. However, membership has not brought happiness for ordinary Spaniards. Despite their responsibility for the economic crisis, the dominant forces in the Spanish state are achieving what they always wanted: the dismantling of the welfare state a reduction of salaries, a very frightened labour force with reduced wages and unions too weak to protect. They hide behind the excuse that the European authorities forced them to do it.

Eighty-two percent of Spaniards say that they do not like the EU. What was once a model of democracy and prosperity has proved to be a sham.


Spain went through great traumas in the 20th century. It was a great advertisement for the EU that this country should come from repression and dictatorship to freedom and prosperity. It is unfortunate that today Spain seems a symbol for the faults of the EU project – lack of democratic accountability, sadistic austerity measures, spurious “solutions” imposed by unelected technocrats- rather than an epitome of its virtues.

Perhaps the new king can utilise his father’s experience of dealing with the dictator Franco to find fresh approaches to dealing with the dictatorship of the banks and the troika. Felipe could innovate by using his influence to spread the example of Marinaleda. The social and political system implemented in that community, and the good results obtained in terms of economic development and well-being of the inhabitants, provides a good antidote to the greed is good atmosphere of accumulation by dispossession. The time is ripe in Spain, indeed in the EU as a whole, for mutuality and social cohesion as opposed to privatisation and dog-eat-dog.




This is an extended version of an article published in the February 2014 issue of Echelon.

The Almoravids under Abu Bakr founded Marrakech sometime around 1060 and it later became the most important of Morocco’s four imperial cities. His cousin Yusuf ibn Tashfin, with the help of Christian and Negro mercenaries ousted him. Yusuf conquered Northern Morocco and by the time of his death in 1106, he had conquered most of the Spanish Muslim principalities. This opened up Marrakech and Morocco to the civilised world of the Mediterranean. Physicians, philosophers and poets from the whole Islamic world visited the city. After a period of decline, in the early 16th century, Marrakech regained its pre-eminence under wealthy Saadian sultans and again became the capital of the kingdom. The French ruled Morocco from 1912 to 1956.

Some say the city’s name from murra kish, meaning “pass by quickly”—a warning about highway robbers. The “Red City” of Marrakech is a magical place, combining old world mystery and French elegance. Marrakech is the third largest city in Morocco after Casablanca and Rabat, and lies near the foothills of the snow capped Atlas Mountains and a few hours away from the Sahara Desert. The city has two distinct parts: the Medina, the historical city, with its intertwining narrow passageways and the new European modern district called Gueliz or Ville Nouvelle.

Getting There and Staying There

If you are flying from the US, Canada, Asia, you may have to change planes in Casablanca for a 45 min flight to Marrakech. Plenty of low cost companies now fly from Europe to Marrakech. Ménara International Airport in Marrakech is 3 km southwest of the city centre receives several European flights as well as flights from Casablanca and some of the Arab world nations.


Marrakech has over 400 hotels. The Mamounia, the “grand dame of Marrakech hotels”, is a 231-room five-star hotel in the Art Deco-Moroccan fusion style, built in 1925.  The hotel has hosted Winston Churchill, Prince Charles and Mick Jagger (not at the same time). Other hotels include Eden Andalou Hotel, Hotel Marrakech, Sofitel Marrakech, Royal Mirage Hotel, Piscina del Hotel, and Palmeraie Golf Palace. There are innumerable modestly priced riad hotels (riad is a traditional Moroccan house or palace with an interior garden or courtyard) listed on Trip Advisor. Customers describe most as clean and quiet.

The Best Food in the World?


Lemon, orange, and olive groves surround Marrakech and influence the cuisine. Food is rich and heavily spiced but not hot. Ras el hanout is a kind of garam masala, a blend of spices including ash berries, chilli, cinnamon, nutmeg, and turmeric. I enjoyed a rabbit tajine. Tajines are slow-cooked with steam in a clay pot with chicken, lamb, beef or fish, adding fruits, olives and preserved lemon, vegetables and spices, including cumin, peppers, saffron, and turmeric.


Shrimp, chicken and lemon-filled briouats are another traditional specialty of Marrakech. Rice or couscous is cooked with saffron, raisins, spices, and almonds. I also enjoyed a pigeon pastilla, a filo-wrapped pie stuffed with meat that has been prepared with almonds, cinnamon, spices and sugar.


Harira soup includes lamb with a blend of chickpeas, lentils, and tomato paste, seasoned with coriander, spices and parsley.


Green tea with mint is served with sugar from a curved teapot spout into small glasses.

mint tea

I was lucky enough to stay with a local family in the medina and enjoy home cooking – traditional specialities like low-roasted lamb cooked in a hammam, roasted aubergine and white bean soup. Villa Flore is an art deco, black-and-white riad right in the heart of the souks, which provides aromatic, lamb and duck, presented by stylishly suited waiters. At Haj Boujemaa, the adventurous can try sheep’s testicles. At Dar Moha, Morocco’s foremost celebrity chef,  Mohamed Fedal presents quail in a flaky warqa pastry nest, foie-gras and melon ‘couscous’ with thyme honey.

Music – Africa Meets Spain

Jelly Roll Morton said jazz should have a Spanish tinge. Berber music is influenced by Andalusian classical music with oud accompaniment. Gnaoua (people of Sub-Saharan African origin) music is loud and funky with a sound reminiscent of the Blues. It is performed on handmade castanets, ribabs (three-stringed banjos) and deffs (handheld drums) and can take the audience into a trance. Performers take to the outdoors and entertain tourists on the main square and the streets, especially at night.

A Masterpiece of a City

Marrakech contains an impressive number of masterpieces of architecture and art, ramparts and monumental gates, Koutoubia Mosque, Saâdian tombs, ruins of the Badiâ Palace, Bahia Palace, Ménara water feature and pavilion.


The Jemaa el-Fnaa square was once used for public beheadings. The name roughly means “the assembly of malefactors”. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1985.  The square attracts dwellers from the surrounding desert and mountains to trade here – wild dishevelled snake charmers, dancing boys of the Chleuh Atlas tribe, acrobats, magicians, musicians, monkey trainers, storytellers, dentists, and pickpockets still ply their trade here.


Jemaa el-Fnaa square

The Saadian Tombs were built in the 16th century as a mausoleum and contains corpses of about sixty members of the Saadi Dynasty. It was lost for many years until the French rediscovered it in 1917 using aerial photographs. Outside the building are a garden and the graves of soldiers and servants.


The Medina holds the tombs of the seven patron saints of Morocco, which are visited every year by pilgrims during the weeklong ziara pilgrimage. According to tradition, it is believed that these saints are only sleeping and will awaken one day to resume their good deeds. A pilgrimage to the tombs offers a cheaper  alternative to the hajj to Mecca.


Traditional Meets Modern and Becomes Modern

Marrakech has the largest traditional Berber market (souk) in Morocco, selling wares ranging from traditional Berber carpets and shawls made of sabra (cactus silk) to modern consumer electronics. Wooden items are generally made of cedar but orange wood is used for making ladles known as harira. Thuya craft products are made of caramel coloured conifer wood indigenous to Morocco. Metalwork made in Marrakech includes brass lamps, iron lanterns, candleholders made from recycled sardine tins, and engraved brass teapots and tea trays used in the traditional serving of tea. You can find designer clothes in Nouvelle Ville and jewellery in the mellah, the old Jewish quarter.

Getting around the City and Getting away to the Mountains

Marrakech is walkable and the Medina is closed to cars. I would advise leaving driving to taxi drivers. Petit Taxis charge Dh5 to Dh15 by day for trips within Marrakech, and slightly more at night. As in Colombo, you need to check that the meter is on. Grand Taxis are Mercedes, which take up to six people to out-of-town destinations. Red double-decker buses of Marrakech-Tour do a circuit of major landmarks and allow you to get on and off where you please. Public buses leave for the Nouvelle Ville from Place Foucault and cost Dh3. Calèches are the horse-drawn green carriages you will see at Place Foucault next to the Djemaa el-Fna.

If you wish to join Crosby, Stills and Nash on the Marrakech Express, Marrakech railway station connects the city to Casablanca, Tangiers, Rabat  and Fez. The main road network within and around Marrakech is well paved. The major highway connecting Marrakech with Casablanca is the A7A. A new road connects Marrakech to the seaside resort of Agadir, 233 km to the west. I found Agadir pleasant but it became more touristy on subsequent visits.

The Ouarzazate area is a noted filmmaking location. Films such as Lawrence of Arabia were shot here, as was part of the TV series Game of Thrones. The fortified village (ksar) of Ait Benhaddou west of the city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Many excursions through the valley of the Draa River into the Sahara start from Ouarzazate. Some companies specialise in Kasbah tours.



Check online for many companies offering guided treks in the high Atlas. I trekked in the Jebel Sahro region with Exodus Expeditions. These mountains, though running parallel to the main Atlas range, are very definitely part of the great Sahara Desert. It was strenuous but unforgettable camping under the stars. It was also very cold at night – my water bottle froze. Even during the day, waterfalls were frozen to the mountain. atlas1







One night we camped at Bou Gaffer.


This was the site of a bloody battle in 1934 between the Berbers and the French. There is a desecrated grave of an Unknown Soldier. Old munitions littered the site and I found a wine bottle dated 1932.


unknown soldier

The trek took us through dramatic plateaux, deep gorges, pinnacles, ruined forts and sandcastle Kasbahs and introduced us to the warm hospitality of the Berber people.

Bou 1


Berbers at play1

Berbers at play2

Berbers at play3


Happy Birthday Prince Charles!

I wrote this in November 2013


If Prince Charles really did exert some influence in getting things moving in the case against those accused of murdering a British tourist and raping the tourist’s Russian girlfriend, I take my hat off to HRH. I have my doubts about tourism being good for Sri Lanka, but I would hope people could come to visit us without being raped or killed. Prince Charles himself will be coming to Sri Lanka for the CHOGM, which starts on 15 November.

Charles celebrates his 65th birthday on November 14. I read in the Times of India that London-based entrepreneur-philanthropists Cyrus and Priya Vandrevala will splash out hundreds of thousands of pounds on a concert by the Philharmonia Orchestra as part of a birthday reception and dinner at Buckingham Palace. I hope that does not mean that Charles has changed his mind about coming here.

For most British males the big thing about reaching 65 is that you get your state retirement pension. I do not suppose Charles would have been too anxious about that, not being short of a bob or two.

I have long taken an interest in Charles’s career. When I was a child, Charles’s mother waved to me outside Moreland’s England’s Glory Match Factory. My aunties worked in the factory in very menial capacities. I met Charles’s aunt, Princess Margaret, in later years. She was extremely small and her skin was smoke-cured like a kipper’s.

Charles and I are near contemporaries and during my childhood I was used to seeing pictures of him all the time. I was, like him, born, and grew up in, state-subsidised housing. I was born in a council house in Coney Hill, Gloucester, not far from a Victorian Gothic lunatic asylum. We later moved to another council house at Longlevens, not far from the greyhound track and the football ground.

As Emil Van der Poorten so charmingly put it – I come from the gutter.

Charles enjoys state subsidised housing of a different kind. He was born in Buckingham Palace and now lives at Highgrove, in my native Gloucestershire, and has accommodation in London at Clarence House. He has another gaff in Scotland at Birkhall. He has a few other places to doss down – Balmoral, Sandringham, Windsor Castle, Holyrood House, Craigowen Lodge, Delnadamph Lodge, Llwynywermod, Tamarisk, Hillsborough Castle.

Like Charles, I followed my mother’s occupation at first. My mother was a cleaner in the NHS; Charles’s mother was not.

My father was a private in the Royal Pioneer Corps. Charles’s family all have high military ranks and he himself is a General in the British Army, an Admiral in the Royal Navy and an Air Chief Marshall in the Royal Air Force. He is Colonel-in-Chief, Colonel, Honorary Air Commodore, Air-Commodore-in-Chief, Deputy Colonel-in-Chief, Royal Honorary Colonel, Royal Colonel, and Honorary Commodore of at least 36 military formations throughout the Commonwealth.

He gets to dress up for all these roles. Being a royal is like being in a big playpen.


Monarchy seems a bit like Colombo Telegraph in that people can use a variety of weird and wonderful names. As well as being called a “grovelling little bastard” by Spike Milligan, Charles has been called Prince of Wales since 1958, but in Scotland, his title is Duke of Rothesay. He is also called Duke of Cornwall. When his mother departs this earthly realm, he will become Supreme Governor of the Church of England, Duke of Normandy, Lord of Mann, Lord of the Isles and Paramount Chief of Fiji. As a royal, Charles has no surname, but when he feels the need to use one it is Mountbatten-Windsor, (Mountbatten is the name chosen during the First World War by the Battenbergs and Saxe-Coburg-Gothas to conceal their German origins).

The London Daily Mirror is a UK paper that is read by  Chavs and Pikeys, white trash from the gutter like me,  the great unwashed working class – sorry, I meant to say loyal subjects. For its special 60th birthday issue the UK Daily Mirror revealed some fascinating facts about Prince Charles.

Chuck wears handmade shoes that cost £650 a pair. Turnbull & Asser make his shirts and, from 2006, his made-to-measure suits, which cost up to £2,500. Previously, Savile (no relation to Jimmy) Row tailors Anderson & Sheppard handmade his suits, at £4,000 a pop. This should set an example of frugality to all of us in this age of austerity – time for us all to cut our clothing expenses. As Thoreau wrote: “Beware of any enterprise that requires the purchase of new clothes”.

No fancy silk monogrammed Jimmy Palmers for our Chas – he always sleeps in the nude. Calm down, Ladies!

Whatever about his seeming extravagance at the taxpayers’ expense, Charles has  a reputation for caring about the planet. He runs his 32-year-old Aston Martin on bio-fuel made from English wine. Better than drinking the foul brew!

Jimmy Savile was a frequent visitor to Charles’s many homes. Charles sent a Christmas card saying: “Jimmy, with affectionate greetings from Charles. Give my love to your ladies in Scotland”. Princess Diana described Savile as a “sort of mentor to Charles. Prince Charles led tributes to Savile on the national treasure’s death in October 2011.


Savile, a former Yorkshire miner, ballroom manager, wrestler and disc jockey has been posthumously rocking the British establishment with tremors being felt in the BBC, National Health Service, the press, police, Crown Prosecution Service,  academia, charities, toffs’ clubs and the papacy. From his humble origins, Savile rose to become a knight of the realm, Papal Knight­Commander of St Gregory the Great, a member of the exclusive Athenaeum club, an advisor to Israeli governments, a confidant of popes, princes and prime ministers.

Jim, who had a TV programme called Jim’ll Fix It,  used his power-base to rape and molest children, some of them sick or disabled. It appears he used the premises of the BBC and the NHS to carry out his nefarious deeds. Prince Charles himself was entertained by Savile at his Glencoe cottage retreat, llt na Reigh, in the Scottish highlands where Savile is alleged to have abused more than 20 victims.

A previous trip by Prince Charles to Sri Lanka cost £300,000. In 2004, the Royal Family cost Britons £36.7m. Palace gardeners cost £400,000 a year.

Most of her subjects are feeling the pinch of austerity but the Queen is forever giving An Béal Bocht (the poor mouth). Documents disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act revealed that in 2004, the Queen asked ministers for a handout to help heat her palaces.  Royal aides were told that the £60m worth of energy-saving grants were aimed at families on low incomes and if the money was given to Buckingham Palace instead of housing associations or hospitals it could lead to “adverse publicity” for the Queen and the Government. The Queen is set to receive an inflation-busting 22 per cent ‘pay rise’ over two years. She is now expected to be given £37.9 million in 2014-15 to run her Household and conduct official engagements, up from £31 million in 2012-13.


Human delusion is a serious problem in many contexts. Seeing broken Britain as a Ruritanian fairyland is not helpful. People who say that the monarchy contributes to the unique and positive character of British democracy, rarely give concrete practical examples of how the Queen make  a difference in real life. Are there examples of the Queen exerting a positive symbolic function in the way Juan Carlos did with the Spanish fascists?

Did the Queen try to stop the invasion of Iraq, which most of her subjects opposed?  All the royal family have a fetish for dressing up in military uniforms. I wonder if the royal family expressed their solidarity with the British armed forces by trying to persuade Her Majesty’s Government to give a better deal in terms of equipment, homes and pensions.

A Health unto HRH (and Confusion to his Enemies)

I have made my own  tradition of sending Prince Charles greetings on his birthday. November 14 is here again, and I haven’t yet got Chas a present. This year he is  64 and still hasn’t got a proper job.

Usually I churn out an article  along the lines of  “Happy birthday, Sir,  and long may you prosper at our expense!” This year there is a new development. An old pal, nay “mentor” indeed! of HRH  is attracting a lot of posthumous interest. One Jimmy Savile is a hot topic of conversation with the British public and establishment.

Savile, a former Yorkshire miner, ballroom manager, wrestler and disc jockey is rocking the British establishment with tremors being felt in the BBC, National Health Service (NHS), the press, police, Crown Prosecution Service,  academia, charities, toffs clubs and even the monarchy. From his humble origins, Savile rose to become a knight of the realm, Knight ­Commander of St Gregory the Great , a member of the exclusive Athenaeum club, an advisor to Israeli governments, a confidant of popes, princes and prime ministers.

Charlie’s pal Jim used this power-base to rape and molest children, some of them sick or disabled, one with brain damage. It appears he used the premises of the BBC and the NHS to carry out his nefarious deeds.

The Drivelling Dauphin counted Jimmy Savile as a friend.

Prince Charles led tributes to Savile on the national treasure’s  death  a year ago. Savile  was a frequent visitor to Buckingham Palace, Kensington Palace and Highgrove (Prince Charles’ estate). Charles sent a Christmas card saying: “Jimmy, with affectionate greetings from Charles. Give my love to your ladies in Scotland”. Princess Diana described Savile as a “sort of mentor to Charles”. He is said to have offered marriage guidance to the trouble-and-strife-beset Charles and Diana.

Prince Charles himself was entertained by Savile at his Glencoe cottage retreat, Allt na Reigh,  in the Scottish highlands where Savile is alleged to have abused more than 20 victims.

Dickie Arbiter, who handled media relations for the Prince and Princess of Wales while spokesman for the Queen between 1988 and 2000, said that when Savile visited St James’s Palace he  used to rub his lips up the arms of Prince Charles’s young female assistants as a greeting. Arbiter said he thought the women might have thought Savile’s greeting was “rather funny”, but he said it was a cause for concern and he struggled to understand why Savile was granted such access to the royal family. “I looked on  him as a court jester and told him so,” said Arbiter. “I remember calling him an old reprobate and he said ‘not so much of the old’.”

I wonder if Chas’s thoughts will stray to his machang Jim on his birthday. Anyways,  Chas won’t be short of a bob or two to take his mind off things.

The London Daily Mirror is a UK paper that is read by  Chavs and Pikeys, white trash,  the great unwashed working class – sorry, I meant to say loyal subjects. For its special 60th birthday issue the UK Daily Mirror revealed some fascinating facts about Prince Charles.

Chuck  wears handmade shoes that cost £650 a pair. Turnbull & Asser make his shirts and also, from 2006, his made-to-measure suits, which cost up to £2,500. Previously, Savile (no relation to Jimmy) Row tailors Anderson & Sheppard handmade his suits, at £4,000 a pop. This should set an example of frugality to all of us in this age of austerity – time for us all to cut our clothing expenses. As Thoreau so wisely wrote: “beware of any enterprise that requires the purchase of new clothes”.

No fancy silk monogrammed Jimmy Palmers for our Chas – he always sleeps in the nude. Calm down, Ladies!

He has a boiled egg every afternoon. Chefs boil seven eggs at once to make sure one is perfect.

Whatever about his seeming extravagance at the taxpayers’ expense, Charles has  a reputation for caring about the planet. He runs his 32-year-old Aston Martin on bio-fuel made from English wine. Better than drinking the foul brew! His Jaguars, Audi and Range Rovers have all been converted to run on 100 per cent biodiesel made from used cooking oil. This is one great eco-friendly  prince, don’t you know!

For his 60th he  was photographed in his birthday suit, the ceremonial uniform of the Welsh Guards. Being a prince gives the chance to dress up and play-act (this runs in the family – his son Harry got a lot of unfavourable publicity dressing up as a Nazi). Charles is often snapped festooned with medals! He must be a very brave man. Being a royal is like being in a big play-pen.

The palace is keen to portray itself as an institution which is sharing the pain in these austere times. In July 2012 the palace claimed that expenditure had fallen by 26% in real terms from a level of £36.5m three years ago. Last year did see  a fall in the Civil List, most of which pays wages, but royal travel and upkeep of residences rose. The published accounts do not show the cost of security for the Royal Family. When the Queen’s granddaughter Zara Phillips got married, the wedding cost  Scottish police £400,000.

BBC royal correspondent Peter Hunt said: “The price of royal travel is what tends to excite attention year in, year out.” The royal travel bill for 2011 was £6.1m. A Prince Andrew charter flight to Saudi Arabia cost £81,000; a Prince Charles royal train journey was £38,016.

Charles came to Sri Lanka in 2005 to help out after the tsunami. He  visited Batticaloa but floundered helplessly. “I feel awful. All I have done is interrupt their very hard work. You’ve got a lot more to do when I’m gone,” he told the volunteers. That trip by Prince Charles to Sri Lanka cost British taxpayers £300,000. We took  food and supplies to Hambantota in our car and it didn’t cost nearly as much as that. How much parippu can you buy for £300,000?

Sharing the pain should not mean stealing from the poor. The Independent newspaper revealed documents that showed the Queen had tried to claim for  Buckingham Palace gas and electricity bills from funds set aside for energy-saving grants aimed at families on low incomes.

The Queen’s loyal armed forces seem to have been particularly badly treated by governments during the misguided adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan. All the royal family have a fetish for dressing up in military uniforms and pretending to be soldiers or sailors. This is supposed to convey a solidarity with the armed forces. Does it make any more sense than Bush dressing up as a pilot off the coast at San Diego to prematurely proclaim “Mission accomplished” for the invasion of Iraq? I wonder if the royal family expressed their solidarity with the British armed forces by trying to persuade Her Majesty’s Government to give them a better deal in terms of equipment, homes and pensions and to treat them with the respect that they deserve.

There have been calls for the UK Government to strip Jimmy Savile of the British knighthood he was awarded in 1990. I wonder what the birthday boy thinks.

What We Knew: Jimmy Savile and the Culture of Abuse

John Banville:  “We knew, and did not know. That is our shame today”


What We Knew

A former Yorkshire miner, ballroom manager, wrestler and disc jockey is posthumously rocking the British establishment with tremors being felt in the BBC, National Health Service (NHS), the press, police, Crown Prosecution Service,  academia, charities, toffs clubs and even the monarchy. From his humble origins Savile rose to become a knight of the realm, a papal knight, a member of the exclusive Athenaeum club,  a confidant of popes, princes and prime ministers.

He used this power base to rape and molest children. It appears he used the premises of the BBC and the NHS to carry out his nefarious deeds. The conspiracy theorists are coming out of the woodwork. Now many people are coming forward to claim he abused them. Many people are coming forward to claim that they always knew he was a wrong ‘un.


Teenagers in Gloucester

I was a teenager in the sixties in the sleepy cathedral city of Gloucester. We thought ourselves  pretty cool but had no connections with the world of celebrities. I had been to London once as a child  when my  Aunts took me to see Norman Wisdom in pantomime. Those Aunts were great fans of Ruby Murray and David Whitfield and took me to see both in Brighton, which was a raffish kind of place in the 1950s.[i] Even then,  as a pre-teen, I did not find Ruby Murray or David Whitfield cool. Something very different was about to happen. My parents took me to variety shows at the Cheltenham Opera House and the Gloucester ABC Regal. The Beatles played at the Regal but somehow I missed them.

I did see Dusty Springfield at the Regal when she was a member of a folk/pop trio called The Springfields. I am pretty sure I must have seen her also when she was a member of the Lana Sisters but that could be a false memory. Such things happen.  Listening to a Dusty four CD-set it is odd today to hear the Lana Sisters singing Seven Little Girls Sitting in the Back Seat (hugging and kissing with Fred).

Another blonde beauty I saw sing  live on stage was Kathy Kirby. She had a certain resemblance to Marilyn Monroe and had a tremendous number of hit records. Not cool though. Russ Conway was another uncool prolific hitmaker I saw live. He  played solo piano and smiled charmingly on the Billy Cotton Band Show on Saturday night BBC TV.

How did we teens know, as we gathered in the New Inn on Saturday nights looking for parties, how did we know, and I mean a known known, that Rock Hudson was gay (the term had not yet gained wide usage); that Dusty Springfield was a lesbian; that Ruby Murray was an alcoholic; that Kathy Kirby had had at least one abortion as a result of her long-term affair with bandleader Ambrose (42 years her senior); that Russ Conway was having a homosexual affair with Billy Cotton (Cotton’s son Sir William Frederick “Bill” Cotton CBE went on to become Managing Director BBC TV).

Another thing that we “knew” was that Jimmy Savile was a child molester.



Savile first came to public notice on Radio Luxemburg, the first of the pirate pop stations, founded in 1948. For my generation, 208 on the radio dial was where we kept up with pop music because the BBC did not cater for us. The main format for 208 pop music shows was  a sponsored slot in which the major record companies touted their own product. This was better than it might seem.  My favourite was the Decca show, knowledgeably hosted by Tony Hall (someone who met Tony in 2008 when he was 80 described  his ”good manners tinged with a mischievous wit”).

Jimmy Savile had joined  Luxembourg in 1958, but I first became aware of him when  hosted the Teen and Twenty Disc Club, which peddled the pop product of the Warner Brothers label. The show went out at around ten p.m. on  Wednesdays. Listeners were invited to “join” the club. For the life of me, I cannot remember what records he played and diligent research has not helped my memory. WB had started out as a means of the movie studio selling soundtrack albums and then moved on a little by producing comedy albums by Allan Sherman, Bob Newhart and Shelly Berman. Their big act was the Everly Brothers newly acquired at great expense for  a miserly company from Cadence.  Peter, Paul and Mary gave the label, and Bob Dylan’s career,  a big boost with their version of Blowin’ in the Wind. Their manager Albert Grossman also managed Dylan.

Savile as a radio presenter was better than Savile as a TV host because one could not see him. I recall however that, even in his 208 days,  he had already started developing his irritating verbal tics: “howzabout that then guys and gals?” “Am I right , or am I right?” “Now then, now then”.  Savile established himself then in my mind as a mass of mannerisms and no substance.


National treasure. What was he famous for?

It is difficult to comprehend how Savile  rose  from the TTDC to the status of  “national treasure”  and  Knight of the Realm.

BBC TV producer Colehan had the idea in 1963 of making a TV version of Teen and Twenty Disc Club. He produced the pilot which later became Top of the Pops, which ran until 2006. There are now allegations that Top of the Pops was the centre of a paedophile ring at the BBC.

Another of Savile’s long-running programmes was Jim’ll Fix It, the premise of which was that children wrote in to ask for a wish to be fulfilled and Savile and his team would make the wish come true. It is now clear that this was high concept paedophile programming.

Mark Williams-Thomas made a documentary for ITV (after working on one that was shelved by the BBC) which caused the current furore. He has made a second documentary in which he talks to more than 36 victims to uncover the full extent of Savile’s abuse, which started at Radio Luxembourg in the 1950s. “I believe he engineered his programmes within the BBC and Radio Luxembourg in order to gain access to children. The classic examples are Top of the Pops, Savile’s Travels, Jim’ll Fix It – all of them gave him access to young children. That’s why there were so many victims… this isn’t just someone who offended only against 13, 14 and 15-year-olds. It’s someone who offended against ten-year-olds.””

Savile is sometimes described as a disc jockey but he was not  a pioneer in that field like John Peel or Roger Eagle


Unlike even mass market  DJs like Tony Blackburn or Noel Edmunds, it would be difficult to detect any particular musical enthusiasms in Savile. See his banal choices on Desert Island Discs.[ii]

Savile became famous for being famous. His eccentric appearance and manner were unattractive to many but that did not prevent him becoming rich and influential. Novelist Howard Jacobson’s father was a Manchester cab driver who knew Savile through charity work with disabled children. The young Jacobson was horrified that his father could claim to like Savile.

“’But the man’s a creepy nincompoop’,” I used to say. “’He has the dead face of a thug, makes ridiculous noises, and aspires to the condition of a slow-to-develop infant. You’d have had me adopted had I behaved like that when I was three.’”

One of the reasons that Savile achieved such wealth and prominence and a knighthood was that he was perceived to do great work for charity. Now it seems he used that work as a cover for the abuse of children. The national treasure is now boldly described,  by the police as well as the tabloid press, as a “predatory sex fiend”.

Jacobson asks: “So, is philanthropy the last refuge of the scoundrel?”


The Accusations

After interviewing him for a BBC programme, psychiatrist Anthony Clare said that Jimmy Savile” appeared to be a man without feelings”.

In an interview with Louis  Theroux, Savile  said he never brought a girl home to the apartment he shared with his mother until her death in 1973, because it would have been disrespectful to her. Out of the apartment’s window he pointed out his  “love nest” , a camper van. He also had trailers, caravans, private apartments at various institutions where he did “charity” work.

On 19 October Scotland Yard launched a formal criminal investigation into historic allegations of child sex abuse by Savile, over four decades. Other reports state that allegations cover six decades. Police said they were pursuing over 400 separate lines of inquiry, based on evidence of 200 witnesses, via 14 police forces across the UK. They described the alleged abuse as being “on an unprecedented scale”, and the number of potential victims as “staggering”.

Met Police Commander Peter Spindler described the police inquiry as a “watershed” moment in the investigation of child abuse. He praised the media for exposing Savile “for what he was.” He said Savile was “undoubtedly” one of the most prolific sex offenders of recent history, and the weight of evidence from victims against the late DJ was overwhelming. “We have to believe what they are saying because they are all saying the same thing independently.”

It is alleged that he preyed on young patients at Stoke Mandeville and Broadmoor hospitals. He also, as part of his “charity “ work was a porter at Leeds General Hospital. A former nurse said she saw Savile molest a brain-damaged patient there. Savile mainly seems to have targeted under-age girls but there were some boys also. Lawyer Alan Collins said that a client of his had been abused by Savile when he was a ten-year-old at the Haut de la Garenne children’s home in Jersey.

Someone walked into Jimmy Savile’s dressing room at the BBC to find Savile engaged in penetrative sex with an under-age girl. Savile was annoyed but not ashamed. He told the intruder to get out. The intruder said he had gone to discuss business and  was shocked enough to report the incident. No-one did anything.

Some news reports on Savile allege that he made unaccompanied visits to mortuaries (such as the one at Stoke Mandeville) and that he spoke publicly to the media about his “fascination” with dead bodies. Paul Gambaccini, who started working as a DJ on Radio 1 in 1973 on Radio 5 Live claimed that a reporter was heard talking at a wedding ten years ago about Savile being a necrophiliac. In an interview with Q magazine Savile once said: ‘One of my jobs is to take away the deceased. You can look after somebody, be alone with somebody, who has lived a whole lifetime, and I’m just saying goodbye and looking after him. That is a privilege and an honour. Some people get hold of the fact that Jim likes looking after cadavers and say, ‘Aha, Jim’s a necrophiliac!’ I’m not a necrophiliac”.[iii]


In the bosom of the establishment

Despite his eccentricities – long dyed hair, tasteless jewellery, big cigars, shiny tracksuits, not to mention persistent rumours about paedophilia- the British establishment bizarrely clasped Savile to its bosom.

Chris Patten, chair of the BBC Trust, wrote in the Mail on Sunday: [iv]:  “He was received into the heart of the Establishment; feted from Chequers to the Vatican; friend to Royals and editors. How did we let it happen? And could someone like this con us all again?”

Savile was for years a regular guest of Margaret Thatcher at her official country house when she was prime minister.

Prince Charles regarded him as a friend. Savile was frequent visitor to Buckingham Palace, Kensington Palace and Highgrove (Prince Charles’ estate). Charles had visited Savile at Savile’s retreat in Glencoe, Scotland. There was even a Christmas card in which the Prince wrote “Jimmy, with affectionate greetings from Charles. Give my love to your ladies in Scotland”. The Daily Mail reported in 2011 that Savile had “been used as an intermediary in an attempt to resolve the differences” between Charles and Diana. Indeed the late Princess Diana described Savile as a “sort of mentor to Charles”.

He was elected to membership of the Athenaeum Club on Pall Mall (a far cry from the Teen and Twenty Disc Club). Other members  include cabinet ministers, senior civil servants, peers of the realm and senior bishops. For many years The Athenaeum Club was widely seen to represent the peak of London’s clubland for the public intellectual. Most members of the Athenaeum were men of inherited wealth and status but the  admission of men who had gained their social position through intellectual influence and achievement rather than by title or money gave the club an unusual diversity of membership. Members have included Charles Dickens, Charles Darwin, GK Chesterton, Joseph Conrad , Winston Churchill, Alec Guinness, TS Eliot, WB Yeats and my former boss Sir Arthur Armitage. Savile was put up for membership by Cardinal Hume and was accepted over the protests of many other members. The cardinal had introduced Savile to Pope John Paul II when he visited Britain in 1982. Of Savile’s election to the Athenaeum, the cardinal’s spokesman noted: “He is a great admirer of what Jimmy has done for young people – and Stoke Mandeville – and is delighted to help in this matter.”

Savile once described himself as “the most Jewish Catholic you will ever meet”. He helped raise money for Jewish causes in Leeds and beyond, all (it would appear) as a smokescreen to keep on-side the community in whose midst he lived. Savile, who visited Israel on a number of occasions, met senior political figures there in the 1970s, and as recently as 2005 raised money for Laniado Hospital in Netyana.[v] It seems Savile did not visit the hospital. Savile received a medal from Israel in 1979. He visited Israel in 1975 to advise Israel’s President Ephraim Katzir on a matter of security. Reportedly, Savile told the Israeli cabinet that he “was very disappointed: the Israelis had won the Six Day War but they had given back all the land, including the only oil well in the region, and were now paying the Egyptians more for oil than if they had bought it from Saudi Arabia.” A memorial to Sir Jimmy Savile was recently removed from the Leeds Jewish Welfare Board (LJWB) building.[vi]  Savile’s Jewish connections have caused a great deal of anti-Semitic ranting in the murkier depths of the blogpond.


Undermining of institutions

Patten again: “Above all else, I think of the victims of abuse – women and men – marooned for decades with terrible memories of physical and mental torment which, even when they had the courage to report them, no one apparently believed. Not the police. Not the newspapers. Not the BBC… In recent years, some of our greatest institutions have been discredited one after another: Parliament; the police; the press. Now the BBC risks squandering public trust because one of its stars over three decades was apparently a sexual criminal; because he used his programme and popularity as a cover for  his wickedness; because he used BBC premises for some of his attacks; and because others – BBC employees and hangers-on – may also have been involved.”

Although there have been rumours for decades about Savile’s proclivities and actions, the stories really  emerged  into the daylight after an ITV documentary showed interviews with many victims making allegations about him. There have been accusations of a cover-up by the BBC. Victims are likely to sue and the BBC might be “vicariously liable” for Savile’s actions on their premises.

Operation Yewtree, the Metropolitan Police’s investigation, headed by Peter Spindler,  into sex abuse by Savile, is looking at 400 lines of inquiry and around 300 alleged victims. Mr Spindler said: “I have no doubt that we are in watershed moment for child abuse investigation and this will be a landmark investigation. I want to praise the courage of the 300 or so who have come forward.” The celebrities named by victims – some huge household names – are set to be quizzed over serious sex assault allegations. Revealing an “arrest strategy” had been drawn up by his 30-strong team of officers, he said: “There is Savile but there are also others and if those others are living we can now look at them. We are dealing with a major crime investigation here.” While the majority of calls fielded by police are about Savile, some relate to individuals who are believed to have been complicit in the TV star’s abuse, or carried out abuse themselves.

Mr Spindler declined to say where these people worked or if they had links to the NHS, BBC or other institutions with which Savile was involved.

Savile, like John Peel and Alan “Fluff” Freeman (another dead former Radio One DJ about whom there are plenty of child abuse allegations floating around the web),  were all recognised by the British honours system (with Savile himself also being close to various members of the British royal family). An irreverent  blogger commented:  “This starts to create the impression that unless you are a kiddie fiddler you’ll never be offered an honour by Queen Elizabeth II. The class system still stinks something rotten and it is high time we not only stripped all royals of their titles and wealth, but did the same to every last member of the superannuated  establishment!”



Academia nuts- Dr Savile and Professor Ebdon

There are ridiculous pictures of Savile dressed up in an academic gown. Professor Les Ebdon was appointed as the head of the universities’ admissions Office for Fair Access. Savile was made an honorary doctor of arts by the University of Bedfordshire, of which Ebdon was vice-chancellor. Before the ceremony, Savile  was interviewed by the university for a television broadcast. The interviewer asked him if he was “carrying on leading an interesting life”. He replied: “Yes, well, I’ve not been found out yet.” The honour raised eyebrows, with some commentators who said Savile  was hardly an example of academic excellence. Savile’s honorary degree has been rescinded.


Liz MacKean, a Newsnight reporter who had been working on a Savile investigation, which was shelved by the BBC, said: “The story we were investigating was very clear cut. It was about Jimmy Savile being a paedophile, and using his status as a charity fundraiser and television presenter to get access to places where there were vulnerable teenage girls he could abuse.”


Newsnight editor Peter Rippon  shelved the  Savile programme with the words: “Having pondered this overnight I think the key is whether we can establish the CPS [Crown Prosecution Service] did drop the case for the reasons the women say. That makes it a better story – our sources so far are just the women and a second–hand briefing.” The phrase “just the women” incensed many.  Alison Pearson wrote in the Daily Telegraph: “So, BBC icon imports girls from approved school and secure mental hospital to pimp them in orgies in his BBC dressing room. And a senior BBC news executive allegedly thinks the offences could have been worse?”

Rippon stopped his journalists’ investigation into paedophilia allegations just two days after the BBC published its Christmas schedule, which included tribute programmes to Savile. Liz MacKean has taken “voluntary redundancy” from Newsnight.

The  BBC is investigating nine allegations of “sexual harassment, assault or inappropriate conduct” among current staff and contributors.

Spindler said a retired officer who previously worked in the Yard’s juvenile bureau had come forward to say he looked into an allegation of indecent assault which he thought had taken place in Savile’s caravan. The alleged sex attack was reported to Hammersmith and Fulham police station, the nearest station to TV Centre, but there was “no evidence that would substantiate a prosecution. Cmdr Spindler said he could not give further details of the 1980s investigation because so far officers had been unable to locate the file on the case. He said he did not know whether Savile was interviewed over the allegation.

There have been reports of a paedophile ring at the BBC centring on Top of the Pops. Jim’ll Fix It would have been an ideal opportunity to gain access to children.

Lord Patten, a practising  Catholic, wrote in the Mail on Sunday: “The filth piles up.”  Patten  has insisted the corporation’s two independent inquiries will hold nothing back in establishing the truth, “however terrible”. He suggested it was unlikely that no one knew about Savile’s abuse. “Can it really be the case that no one knew what he was doing?”

“Today, like many who work for the BBC, I feel a sense of particular remorse that abused women spoke to Newsnight, presumably at great personal pain, yet did not have their stories told as they expected. On behalf of the BBC, I apologise unreservedly.”

“How could the BBC, for example, ever cover sexual crime in other organisations unless we deal thoroughly with what happened in our own?”

Some have seen hope in the fact that the BBC aired a BBC Panorama programme that was highly critical of the role BBC itself in the Savile saga. Patten: “The BBC must retain its capacity to conduct investigative journalism without fear or favour. That should include looking at itself, as Panorama did last week at Newsnight.”

Tom Sutcliffe wrote about the Panorama programme in The Independent. “The Human Centipede in media form” was how the comedian David Schneider described it on Twitter – a recursive nightmare in which the BBC found itself investigating its own failure to investigate. Jeremy Paxman  acknowledged  that it had been a bad day for the BBC and added “it can at least take some comfort from the fact that the BBC did most of the damage”.

Sutcliffe: “It was the sight of the BBC’s new Director-General being questioned by one of his own reporters that drove home the true paradox of this unprecedented hour and a bit of broadcasting history. It was this: only by further damaging its own reputation could the BBC even begin the process of mending it. Last night’s film was grim and depressing – but it was also very difficult to think of any other organisation, media or otherwise, that would have exposed itself to such a painful self-laceration. It’s not over by a long stretch but Panorama may have started to restore some trust.”

BBC director general George Entwistle resigned on Saturday, just two months into the job,

“Kiddie-fiddlers” are not new at the BBC. Respected figures from the cosy days of the 1950s –Gilbert Harding, Derek McCulloch (Uncle Mac), Lionel Gamlin – were seriously disturbed people with a penchant for young boys.

Andrew O’Hagan wrote in the London Review of Books[vii]: “The BBC isn’t the Catholic Church, but it has its own ideals and traditions, which cause people to pause before naming the unwise acts that have been performed on its premises. Perhaps more than any church, the BBC continues to be a powerhouse of virtue, of intelligence and tolerance, but it is now suffering a kind of ecclesiastical terror at its own fallibility. One has to look further into the institution to see another, more obscure tradition, the one that leads to Savile and his liberty-taking. There was always an element of it waiting to be picked up. Many people I spoke to wished to make that clear, but – feeling the Chorus watching from above – they asked for anonymity.”


Did the  NHS ignore Savile’s behaviour  because he raised so much money for hospitals?

Savile was given bedrooms or an office at three hospitals. He was given his own gold-plated keys to high-security Broadmoor hospital for the criminally insane. Broadmoor now houses only adult male patients – but in the 80s accompanied children were allowed to visit relatives. The Department of Health is to investigate how he  was allowed to work as a volunteer following allegations that he abused and raped patients at Broadmoor in the 1970s and 1980s. A spokesperson said there would be an investigation into how Savile  was appointed to lead a “taskforce” overseeing a restructuring of the hospital’s management.

Alison Pink said Savile put his hand up her nightdress when she was 17 when he walked  in on a group of girls watching TV in 1969: “I felt absolutely disgusting afterwards, like I had been used as a piece of meat for his sexual gratification.. He made very good friends with patients on the male ward, which was full of sex offenders.”

A former patient at Broadmoor has claimed that Savile assaulted her at the hospital, touching her intimately under the cover of giving her a hug. She told ITV that when she complained about the star’s behaviour she was put into solitary confinement.

Psychiatric nurse Naomi Stanley told the Guardian that a patient told her she had been frequently abused while she was in hospital in the 1980s. She said the young woman said Savile had raped her repeatedly near the stage of the theatre at the hospital. When she threatened to report he  claimed ‘nobody would believe her and he could do what he liked’.

Richard Harrison, a former psychiatric nurse who worked at Broadmoor for 30 years told Channel 4 that talk about Savile being a paedophile was widespread at the hospital: “I’d long considered him, as my colleagues did, as a man with a severe personality disorder and a liking for children .”

Savile, who raised £40m for Stoke Mandeville, had boasted that he “lived” in a bedroom hospital managers had given him and could do as he pleased. Stoke Mandeville hospital was at the centre of a child sex abuse scandal in the late 1980s. Dr Michael Salmon, a consultant paediatrician was struck off  and  jailed for three years in 1990 after admitting indecent assaults on two 13-year-old girls and a 16-year-old girl. Three years earlier he had been praised by Princess Diana  for helping to organise a trip to Walt Disney World in Florida for 300 disabled children.

Nurses at Stoke Mandeville hospital dreaded Savile’s visits and would tell children to stay in bed and pretend to be asleep when he came round. Former patient Rebecca Owen told BBC News she overheard nurses talking in a way that suggested he also targeted them. “It was an air of resignation that you had to put up with,” she said. “There was some sort of ironic chatter between the nurses about who would be the lucky one to go off to his room.” A spokesman for Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust, which runs Stoke Mandeville, said: “We are shocked to hear of the serious allegations about Jimmy Savile.

Christine McFarlane, former director of nursing and patient care at Stoke Mandeville said Savile “basically … had the freedom to walk wherever he wanted” and maintained a powerful position thanks to “subtle bullying” of hospital managers. There was a fear of him taking something away. He argued that it was his and not theirs.”

June Thornton, a patient at the Leeds General Infirmary (LGI) in 1972, told ITV News “In 1972 I was taken into the LGI for an operation on my spine. After the operation I was laid flat on my back and I saw, at the bottom of the ward, to the side of the ward, Jimmy Savile come to a young lady sat in a chair. Unfortunately, this lady had I think brain damage because she just sat there and he kissed her and I thought he was a visitor coming to see her. He started rubbing his hands down her arms and then, I don’t know of a nice way to put it, but he molested her, he helped himself. She just sat there and couldn’t do anything about it. When eventually a nurse came to see me, I said to her ‘that’s Jimmy Savile over there’, she said ‘yes’. I said ‘if he comes anywhere near me I’m going to scream the place down’.”

Terry Pratt, who was a -hospital porter at LGI, has told the BBC[viii] that Jimmy Savile was regularly handed a key to nurses’ accommodation there. in the late 1980s. Savile would arrive in the early hours, with teenage girls who seemed “star-struck” and were “not streetwise”, take the girls to the nurses’ home and leave before dawn. Savile had a home in the Roundhay suburb of Leeds less than three miles from the hospital.

The National Association for People Abused in Childhood said it had been “inundated” with calls about Savile. Chief executive Pete Saunders said: “Two this morning told us that not only did Jimmy Savile abuse them at Stoke Mandeville but a doctor did as well.”

Information on three doctors who worked at hospitals where Jimmy Savile had links has been passed to police amid claims they were involved in a network of child abusers with him.[ix] The Guardian said the trio were alleged to have abused young people in their care and were identified by victims who came forward recently. Police are examining individuals, some of whom were associated with Savile, who might have had access to vulnerable children.

Downing Street and the Conservative Party

Was there a paedophile ring within Number 10 Downing Street?

Labour MP Tom Watson, the scourge of Murdoch, recently asked a parliamentary question,[x] which suggested that there was “clear intelligence” linking a former Number 10 aide with a notorious group of sex offenders. “The evidence used to convict paedophile Peter Righton, if it still exists, contains clear intelligence of a widespread paedophile ring. One of its members boasts of his links to a senior aide of a former prime minister who says he could smuggle indecent images of children from abroad. The leads were not followed up, but if the file still exists I want to ensure that the Metropolitan Police secure the evidence, re-examine it and investigate clear intelligence suggesting a powerful paedophile network linked to Parliament and No 10.”

In the aftermath of Mr Watson’s remarks, media outlets speculated that he was referring to the late former Prime Minister Sir Edward Heath – who was the subject of unsubstantiated rumours about sex with under-age boys – or to Sir Peter Morrison, a former Downing Street aide who died in 1995. The Daily Mirror, referred to “Savile’s pal Edward Heath, who appeared on his BBC1 show Jim’ll Fix It”.[xi] ] Newsnight,  in association with the Bureau of Journaliostic  Investigation,  eventually revealed one of the Conservative names that had been cropping up in rumours but argued the case for his innocence.[xv]

This caused further grief for the BBC because Newsnight had named Lord McAlpine only for his accuser to say he had been mistaken. Media commentator Steve Hewlett said: “For the BBC this is just a disaster. You have a programme like Newsnight which in the last few weeks has been flayed alive for not broadcasting something that probably was true (about Jimmy Savile) and has now responded – or that’s how it appears – by broadcasting something that flagrantly wasn’t true. How on earth did it get on air? If there are questions about the BBC these just multiply them. What does this say about the BBC’s journalistic standards? It looks like it was done on the rebound.”[xvi]

Nick Davies[xvii] reported in the Guardian in 1998 that “Fleet Street routinely nurtures a crop of untold stories about powerful abusers who have evaded justice. One such is Peter Morrison, formerly the MP for Chester and the deputy chairman of the Conservative Party. Ten years ago, Chris House, the veteran crime reporter for the Sunday Mirror, twice received tip-offs from police officers who said that Morrison had been caught cottaging in public toilets with under aged boys and had been released with a caution. A less powerful man, the officers complained, would have been charged with gross indecency or an offence against children. At the time, Chris House confronted Morrison, who used libel laws to block publication of the story. Now, Morrison is dead and cannot sue. Police … confirmed that he had been picked up twice and never brought to trial. They added that there appeared to be no trace of either incident in any of the official records”

Edwina Currie, former health minister and mistress of John Major,  quoted from her diary in her published autobiography: “One appointment in the recent reshuffle has attracted a lot of gossip and could be very dangerous: Peter Morrison has become the PM’s PPS. Now, he’s what they call ‘a noted pederast’, with a liking for young boys; he admitted as much… when he became deputy chairman of the party but added, ‘However, I’m very discreet’ — and he must be! She [Thatcher] either knows and is taking a chance, or doesn’t; either way, it’s a really dumb move. It scares me, as all the press know, and as we get closer to the election someone is going to make trouble very close to her indeed.” Currie says today: “Was he doing anything illegal? Almost certainly. Would it be illegal today? Hard to tell now the age of consent is down to 16.”

A blogger writes: “My family live in Northern Ireland and in the 1970’s they had heard rumours about a certain leader’s activities with boys. They had also heard about an actor, now dead, and recently linked to the Haute Garenne stories. If these stories reached the west of Northern Ireland in the 1970’s then surely a lot more was talked about in England. So, how high up in the police, judicial system and parliament were the people who quashed any attempt at justice? Did they get paid for their help, or just a share in the paedophile pot?”[xviii]

In  1980, three members of staff at the Kincora Boys home in Northern Ireland were jailed for   offences relating to the systematic abuse of children in their care over a number of years. It was alleged by satirical magazine Private Eye that high-ranking members of the Whitehall civil service and senior officers of the UK military were involved in the sexual abuse of boys in Kincora. One person alleged to have visited Kincora is British prime minister Edward Heath. Another is Jimmy Savile. Another is Lord Mountbatten. Heath is also alleged to have visited Haute la Garenne[xix]. Jimmy Savile claimed he had never been there but there is photographic evidence placing him there.[xx]

Heath came under suspicion purely because he never married. Some thought him asexual, some thought he was a repressed homosexual, some a repressed heterosexual. Labour minister Barbara Castle said: ”We knew he was a repressed something, but were never quite sure what”.

A typical comment from the blogpond, on the Before It’s News website: “He [Savile] was said by Gordon Logan, ex-MI6 spy, to be procuring children for Edward Heath to abuse”. [xxi] Here is another: “The ex-British Prime Minister, Edward Heath was a paedophile. I can write this with no fear of libel action; you cannot libel the dead. It has been reported that Heath (British Prime Minister 1970-74) was known to rent boys in London, would hang around public toilets and had been warned by the Special Branch and Metropolitan Police that his actions would risk his political standing… They were both associated with Haut de la Garenne[xxii] on Jersey, the boys’ home at the centre of a horrific paedophile scandal. Savile reportedly provided boys to Heath, who would take them for a sail on his yacht, where, it’s been alleged, sexual acts on the boys would take place by Heath.”[xxiii]

Peter Hannaford, one of Jersey’s leading trade union officials, who was sent to the home as an orphaned child, waived his right to anonymity to tell the Jersey Evening Post how his earliest memories were of abuse.”Boys and girls were raped when I was there,” he said. “The abuse was anything from rape and torture. It happened every night. And it happened to everyone.”[xxiv]

 The Independent understands that Mr Watson’s comments were not aimed at either Sir Edward or Sir Peter, but at a living person associated with Margaret Thatcher’s administration.[xxv] They are thought to involve the activities of the Paedophile Information Exchange, a pro-paedophile group in existence between 1974 and 1984, which believed there should be no age of consent. [xxvi]

Tom Watson refers to the abuse in North Wales children homes. Someone has come forward to say he was abused by Savile at Bryn Estin. The victim told The Sun newspaper: “Howarth pulled down my pyjama bottoms in front of Savile. I was helpless as Jimmy watched. He thought it funny entertainment. This happened to a number of boys.” According to “Ben”, Savile would ask him: “What do you want me to do? Can I fix it for you.” The victim added: “He kept on looking at me and smiling and laughing. Then he started rubbing my leg. After that I went to bed but he had other children brought up to him.” [xxviii]

A note of caution would be wise here. Some newspaper reports are still referring to “whistleblower” Alison Taylor. Richard Webster effectively demolished her case in his lengthy and exhaustively researched and argued book The Secret of Bryn Estin: The Making of a Modern Witch Hunt, which was praised by such luminaries as John Le Carre, David Lodge, Anthony Clare, Bernard Crick, Richard Hoggart and Anthony Storr. Unfortunately Webster is not available for comment as he died in June 2011.[xxix] A summary of his book can be found at

Here is an excerpt from the Introduction to The Secret of Bryn Estin: “It requires only a little knowledge of human nature to recognise that wherever adults and young people are placed together in residential settings…sexual abuse will sometimes take place….some of those who are now in prison are there for no other reason than that they are guilty of the crimes alleged against them.. {Many} are concerned above all about the manner in which allegations have been obtained and about the soundness of some of the convictions they have led to.. Some defence lawyers have expressed the view that false allegations are now being made on a massive scale, and that the majority of the most serious allegations made against care workers are false”.

Webster argued that one disgruntled care worker, Alison Taylor, (who had a separate career as a writer of crime fiction) encouraged vulnerable people to seek the limelight and financial reward by fabricating allegations. She was assisted in this by the distortions and selective reporting of a freelance journalist called Dean Taylor, used by the Independent.



Prince Charles led tributes to Savile when he died a year ago. Savile  was frequent visitor to Buckingham Palace, Kensington Palace and Highgrove (Prince Charles’ estate). Charles sent a Christmas card saying: “Jimmy, with affectionate greetings from Charles. Give my love to your ladies in Scotland”. Princess Diana described Savile as a “sort of mentor to Charles”. He is said to have offered marriage guidance to the strife-beset couple.

Prince Charles himself was entertained by Savile at his Glencoe cottage retreat, Allt na Reigh,  in the Scottish highlands where Savile is alleged to have abused more than 20 victims.

DJ David Hamilton told how Savile made a beeline for the Countess of Wessex when she was a young PR at London’s Capital Radio. Prince Edward’s wife-to-be, Sophie Rhys-Jones greeted  Savile with a bottle of champagne as he joined Capital Gold in 1990. The wind blew her skirt up. Savile leered at her legs, pawed at her side and attempted to shower her with kisses. Hamilton reported: “Sophie stormed off and said: ‘I refuse to have anything to do with that revolting man.’”

Dickie Arbiter, who handled media relations for the Prince and Princess of Wales while spokesman for the Queen between 1988 and 2000, said that when Savile visited St James’s Palace he  used to rub his lips up the arms of Prince Charles’s young female assistants as a greeting. Arbiter said he thought the women might have thought Savile’s greeting was “rather funny”, but he said it was a cause for concern and he struggled to understand why Savile was granted such access to the royal family. “I looked on  him as a court jester and told him so,” said Arbiter. “I remember calling him an old reprobate and he said ‘not so much of the old’.”

Much of what is now being accepted as fact about Savile has long been scurrilous gossip on the internet. David Icke has long been regarded as number-one flake in England. He used to be a minor goalkeeper and sports presenter but achieved greater fame when he appeared to go completely bonkers. In March 1991 he held a press conference to announce that he was a “Son of the Godhead”.  On the Terry Wogan Show he announced that the world would soon be devastated by tidal waves and earthquakes. He said the show changed his life, turning him from a respected household name into someone who was laughed at whenever he appeared in public. At the heart of his theories lies the idea that a secret group of reptilian humanoids called the Babylonian Brotherhood controls humanity, and that many prominent figures are reptilian, including GW Bush, the Queen, Kris Kristofferson,  and Boxcar Willie. Just because he might be wrong about a lot did not prevent him from being right about Savile.

Many of the conspiracy theorists base their crazed allegations against the royal family on a book called War of the Windsors by Lynn Picknett, Clive Prince and Stephen Prior. One reader comments: “They make sweeping statements  …over and over again, and leap to extraordinary conclusions on little to no evidence. The factual errors are endless, and make the hypotheses even more unreliable.” There is a website for conspiracy fans.[xxx]

Dan Davies writes about the Duncroft home in his unpublished book about Savile:

“Many of the 25 or so girls in its care at any one time came from comfortable backgrounds and included the daughters of ambassadors and BBC producers. As a Home Office-approved school, funding came from Social Services. Regular guests at their parties included the actor James Robertson Justice, who was one of Britain’s leading film stars in the 1940s and 1950s and reportedly a close friend of the Duke of Edinburgh. Princesses Marina and Alexandra are said to have attended. Among the former Duncroft girls to have come forward, one has said she was put in the isolation unit for ‘two or three days’ after loudly protesting when Savile groped her in a caravan on the school grounds. ‘For years we tried to report him,’ another confided to me. ‘We even had a mass breakout to Staines police station.’

There have been calls for the UK Government to strip Savile of the British knighthood he was awarded in 1990. David Cameron, the Prime Minister, hinted earlier this month that the honour could be removed. However, the Cabinet Office said that honours ceased to exist when a person died, although there is a campaign to change the law so that they can be revoked after death.


Catholic Church

Savile was made a Knight ­Commander of St Gregory the Great by Pope John Paul II for his charity work in 1990. It is one of the ­highest awards the Pope can bestow.

Following Savile’s death the Scottish Catholic [xxxi]newspaper carried a glowing tribute: “The popular Catholic DJ, entertainer and philanthropist passed away at his home in Leeds just two days before his 85th birthday. His funeral was at St Anne’s Catholic Cathedral in Leeds on Wednesday.”

Cardinal Keith O’Brien, (who has recently been named “bigot of the year” for his views on homosexuality[xxxii]) Britain’s most senior Catholic clergyman, spoke of his friendship with Savile: “My friendship with Jimmy Savile developed over many years since I was assistant priest in St Patrick’s Parish, Kilsyth, along with the parish priest, the then Fr Denis O’Connell. We were always trying to fundraise, not only for the parish, but for a variety of local and national charities and Father Denis had got to know Jimmy quite simply because of Jimmy’s mother, ‘The Duchess.’  It was Jimmy’s fond mother who attributed the healing of Jimmy when an infant to her prayers to the Venerable Margaret Sinclair, a young Scottish nun.”

Savile was put up for membership of the Athenaeum by Cardinal Hume and was accepted over the protests of many other members. The cardinal had introduced Savile to Pope John Paul II when he visited Britain in 1982.

Savile could become the first person to be stripped of a Papal knighthood posthumously. Other recipients have included Rupert Murdoch. Church sources said there was no established process to remove a Papal honour posthumously because the award dies with the recipient. However, senior Roman Catholic clergy in Britain feel that the Vatican should look at whether it can do something to recognise its disgust at the “deeply shocking” series of allegations.

Civil Service

How was Savile appointed to head a taskforce looking into the management structure of Broadmoor? A spokesperson for the Department of Health  said: “We will investigate the Department of Health’s conduct in apparently appointing Savile to this role. “Apparently”? “Although the framework for child protection and safeguarding for Broadmoor and other special hospital patients changed radically in 1999, we of course want to establish the circumstances and see if any lessons can be learned. “In hindsight, he should very obviously not have been appointed. Had anyone involved in the appointment been aware of allegations of abuse against Savile, we would not have expected him to have been appointed.”

A senior civil servant whom I encountered at a few meetings in the early 1980s. He  ran the mental health division of the Department of Health and Social Security in 1987, when plans were drawn up to appoint Savile to run a taskforce overseeing the hospital. He left the civil service under circumstances which I have been unable to fathom and became Special Adviser to the mental health charity MENCAP and a contributor to Community Care and other publications.

Department of Health  sources said they understood this official  was “instrumental” in the creation of the taskforce. In a book about psychiatric care, Alan Franey, an NHS administrator who was appointed to the same taskforce describes being issued with the invitation in 1987 – during “an unusual meeting in the Athenaeum Club in London with some officials who shall remain nameless.” He neglected to mention that Savile was present, although he confirmed it when contacted by The Sunday Telegraph, but refused to say whether this man  was among the officials. Contacted by The Sunday Telegraph, he confirmed that he was very closely involved in discussions about the running of Broadmoor but could not recall his part in Savile’s appointment. He  said he had never been to the Athenaeum and only recalled meeting Savile once at Stoke Mandeville Hospital.

The former senior civil servant, now 74, was prevented from working with children by Croydon Council in 2005, when he was stopped from running a children’s church group. Three years earlier Bromley Council ended his involvement with services for children with learning difficulties.  The interventions followed police investigations into his conduct during volunteer visits to children’s homes. The interventions followed police investigations into his conduct during volunteer visits to children’s homes.

The former official told the Sunday Telegraph: “Ministers made the decisions obviously because that is what they are there for. I am not saying I wasn’t involved but I simply don’t remember a single thing about this appointment.”  With regard to his own conduct, the former civil servant said he had done “absolutely nothing wrong”. [xxxiii]



Children in Need is the BBC’s corporate charity, providing grants to projects in the UK which focus on young people who are disadvantaged. Sir Roger Jones was chair of the charity from 1999 to 2002. He said he would have stepped down from his Children in Need role if Savile had been allowed to become involved with the charity. Sir Roger, who  was also  a BBC governor for Wales from 1997 to 2002, said he had refused to let Savile “anywhere near” the Children in Need appeal after being told of rumours by BBC colleagues in London. “I think we all recognised he was a pretty creepy sort of character”. Jones said paedophiles target the annual charity appeal “just like flies around the honey pot”.

John Oldfield, who was on the Yorkshire committee of the Royal Variety Club of Great Britain from 1981 to 1996, and its chairman in 1989, said he didn’t let him near the charity. [xxxiv] “Everyone knew, everybody I spoke to knew he was dodgy. It was widespread, it went back to when he was working at the Meccas, all over the UK, but also in Leeds,” said Oldfield, who owned an ad agency based in Leeds until he sold out in 1999 and is now membership director of industry trade body the IPA. “He had a reputation for entertaining young girls. He was the top DJ in Leeds. He was always chasing around with young girls, it goes back 30 to 40 years, and it just wasn’t right, even when you consider it was the days of flower power and free love. He looked dodgy, he sounded dodgy, he was dodgy. And why did he always turn up with that motorised van?”

Savile, who raised millions of pounds by running marathons and half-marathons, has now been removed from the Great North Run Hall of Fame.

Abuse campaigner Shy Keenan told The Sun newspaper that she told ChildLine founder and long-time BBC presenter Esther Rantzen about allegations against Savile some 18 years ago. Asked about the claims, Ms Rantzen replied: “I have no memory whatever of this lady. I’m sorry to be disrespectful, but I don’t remember the conversation at all. She said in The Sun that she told me about rumours. If she did, I would have said to her: ‘Can you take it any further; can you discover any evidence; can you pass it to the police’.”


The press are clearly enjoying the story but revelations are also undermining the newspaper culture. If I and my friends in Gloucester knew about Savile before the days of the internet, the press would have known also. Why didn’t the press do something?  It is said he blackmailed any paper about to unmask him with the threat of putting an end to his giving, but that should not deter any self-respecting journalist.

As Andrew O’Hagan writes:” For forty years people believed Savile was the hero of Stoke Mandeville Hospital and for forty years the red-top papers promoted his image as the nation’s zaniest and most lovable donor. He may have abused two hundred children during that time.”


Police and Crown Prosecution Service

Although Operation Yewtree will be an extensive investigation the police have been criticised for failing to prosecute Savile when he was alive. Victims of Savile made complaints to several  police forces including in London, Sussex and Jersey, but it was decided that no further action should be taken.

The Director of Public Prosecutions announced he was to review the original police file sent to the Crown Prosecution Service alleging child abuse by Savile. The DPP, Keir Starmer,  will investigate why the CPS took the decision not to prosecute over allegations in 2009. He has also asked to speak to the attorney general, Dominic Grieve, about whether the CPS should start referring Savile sex abuse cases to other relevant agencies, including social services, where the evidence is not deemed strong enough for a criminal prosecution. The CPS is investigating a decision in 2009 not to prosecute the star despite a file from Surrey police detailing four victims.  At the time the CPS advised the police that no further action should be taken because of lack of evidence and because the alleged victims’ unwillingness to support police inquiries made a conviction unlikely.

Shadow attorney general Emily Thornberry welcomed the DPP’s decision but said “any review should be independent of the CPS in order to command public confidence”.[xxxv]


National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children

When I worked in child protection at the Department of Health,  the government gave large financial grants to enable the NSPCC to continue its work. The NSPCC also felt the need to maintain a public profile by raising funds itself from the public individually. They did this by attention-grabbing campaigns which indicated that just about everyone in Britain had been abused as a child. When one analysed the raw data one discovered that their definition of sexual abuse range from violent and continued penetrative rape to having seen a flasher or to two consenting teenagers being caught at it and being labelled sex offenders because they were underage.

The Savile case has brought out statements like one from Sue Berelowitz, Britain’s deputy children’s commissioner, who is quoted as saying: “There isn’t a town, village or hamlet in which children are not being sexually exploited.” I have dealt with sexual abuse hysteria and lynch mob mentality before in this paper. This conflation of different types of behaviour can result in wrongful persecution of innocent people. In this case it trivialises the gravity of Savile’s crimes.

The Kissing Sailor, the Groping DJs

There was an interesting debate on a blog about the “Kissing Sailor”.

At the end of the Second World War,  photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt captured the iconic image of a sailor kissing a nurse in Times Square. The image has been extensively analysed and many have come to the conclusion that what had been regarded as a joyful moment was in fact a sexual assault. The nurse was a stranger to the sailor. He had performed a sexual act upon her without her prior consent. Her body language clearly indicates that she is resisting rather than participating. His body language speaks violence and power and coercion. The title of the article mentions a “Culture of Rape” although the writer and her supporters vehemently deny that they are suggesting the kiss equates to rape.

Did a culture of rape exist at the time the picture was shot? Does a culture of rape exist today? Was the culture of the 1960s and 1970s different from the culture of today? In many ways things were worse in the 70s. I found the “classic” movie The Italian Job unwatchable because of the attitudes to “birds” and the “pulling” of birds. However, today hard-core porn is easily available and the hardness of that core generally means objectification or violence towards women. The publishing phenomenon Fifty Shades of Grey was aimed at the female market while trading on the (supposedly) erotic potential of female submission.

Continuum of exploitation

A number of individuals have been dragged into the Savile scandal and a number have come forward themselves to  relate their experience.

It seems that  Savile once said Gary Glitter had done nothing wrong. Glitter (Paul Gadd)  served two months in jail in Britain in 1999 for possession of child pornography. Gadd was deported from Cambodia and imprisoned for four years in Vietnam for having sex with underage girls (as young as ten). Comedian Freddy Starr has strenuously denied any guilt. At time of writing, the police have arrested him twice for lengthy questioning. His most serious alleged offence seems to be groping a 14-year-old girl a long time ago.

The BBC has also been embarrassed by revelations that eminent, saintly and dead DJ John Peel impregnated a 15-year-old girl. It has long been a matter of public record that Peel married his first wife when she was 15 and that  he boasted (in his unassuming, non-threatening kind of way) to have had under-age  girls throwing themselves at him. Julie Burchill wrote about this in January 1999[xxxvi] but it has taken the Savile revelations to topple the institution that was John Peel.

Dominatrix Miss Whiplash (former prostitute and brothel owner Lindi St Clair) , said Savile  had sex with her (when she was 15) and a 13-year-old friend when they were runaways. He paid GBP3 for the privilege.

Two women have told the Daily Mirror about sexual attacks involving Savile. One woman says Savile and a friend from the BBC got her drunk and took her to a hotel: “I remember seeing them stark naked and the BBC star’s friend was very aggressive in his tone. He was shouting quite loudly at one point. He then took hold of me and got on top. I felt so helpless. I was terrified. At one point the BBC star held my head as the other guy was on top of me.”The woman says she was then forced to perform a sex act on the presenter with the other man still in the room.“The room had two single beds and I woke up with the big man hugging me from behind” .[xxxvii]

Guilt by association and conflation of different orders of abusive behaviour has somewhat fogged the picture. In an attempt to convey a “culture of sexual abuse” at the BBC a number of people have come forward with their own experiences. Sandy Toskvig and Liz Kershaw have said they were groped on air. Some have had a brief moment of press interest by saying they were not abused. Toyah Wilcox has said she had not been groped because she was too tough but knew it was going on. Headlines suggested that David Walliams had been in danger but he was merely trying to amuse by saying that he had written to Jim’ll Fix it but had not got a reply.

Eve Graham, who  was  the young lead singer of The New Seekers, whose hits included I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing, said: “When I was a naive 19-year-old virgin, I was alone with an agent in his office when he pinned me against a wall and tried to force my hand to touch him intimately”. “I said, ‘No’, walked away, and that was the end of it. If he hadn’t let me out of the room, I would, probably, have punched him, but I wouldn’t have made a case out of it.”

Anne Robinson has told of how she was groped by Irish Prime Minister Charles Haughey.


Bill Wyman has joined up with the other Rolling Stones for reunion concerts. Wyman is still accepted  despite famously beginning a relationship with Mandy Smith when she was 13. Jerry Lee Lewis had to cancel a tour of the UK in the 1950s when it was discovered that his wife was 15. The “Killer” thought this was quite normal back in Ferriday, Louisiana and was shocked at the shock.

The word culture has been bandied about a lot in this affair. Wasn’t it Goering who said: “when I hear the word culture, I reach for my gun”?

The Oxford Companion to Philosophy uses this definition: “a system of values in terms of which participants in a form of life find meaning and purpose”.

Raymond Williams, laid the foundations for the field of cultural studies. In his conclusion to  Culture and Society, published in 1958, Williams wrote: “The word, culture, cannot automatically be pressed into service as any kind of social or personal directive.” In Keywords [xxxviii]Williams wrote: “Culture is one of the two or three most complicated words in the English language. This is so because of its intricate historical development, in several European languages, but mainly because it has now come to be used for important concepts in several distinct intellectual disciplines and in several distinct and incomplete systems of thought”. Williams examined Herder’s ideas on the topic: “It is then necessary, he argued, to speak of  ‘cultures’ in the plural: the specific and variable cultures of different nations and periods, but also the specific and variable cultures of social and economic groups within a nation. This sense, which has become common in C20 anthropology and sociology, and by extension in general use, remained comparatively isolated, however, in all European languages until at earliest mC19 and was not fully established until eC20”.

Frank Furedi, one of the professional contrarians at,  in an article titled The Culture of Abuse, quotes himself:

“Back in 1997, when I wrote my first book on the sociology of fear, I argued: ‘The theme of abuse has become one of the most distinct features of contemporary Western culture. The frequency with which the term is used and the growing number of experiences that are defined as abusive are symptomatic of the significance of this artifact of contemporary culture.. There is little resistance to the depiction of most forms of human relationships as potentially abusive.. Like the effects of toxic waste, the effects of human pollution are long-term, apparently. That is why many believe that the causes of our present-day distress can be located in the distant past. Memory is believed to have the power to discover the truth that evades us in the present, and so the official inquiry becomes the institutional setting through which the ritual of revelation is conducted.’”

Britain’s biggest commercial broadcaster, ITV, now stands accused of contributing to a culture of trial by internet, because Phillip Schofield ambushed the prime minister on live TV with a list of names accused of child abuse on the web. ITV sought to limit the criticism by issuing its own statement. “It is extremely regrettable that names may have been very briefly visible as a result of a misjudged camera angle, although most viewers would not have been able to read the list. As Phillip has stressed, the programme was not accusing anyone of anything.”[xxxix]

Music writer Jon Savage describes a particular culture of the 1960s: “mixing homosexuality (illegal until summer 1967), blackmail, organised crime, the music industry and the most famous pop stars on the planet.” Savage interviewed Beatles publicist and Apple PR Derek Taylor in 1997:”he mentioned Beatles’ lawyer David Jacobs in passing: Brian [Epstein, Beatles manager] ‘had a vast and successful group of homosexual friends. Including Nat Weiss, David Jacobs… that was a very dodgy business, it ended so badly, and I don’t know why he hanged himself…he had no innocence at all left, David Jacobs.’” [xl] There have been suggestions that Jacobs was murdered.

Patten: “The BBC should reflect our society’s ethical values. How has this been shown by the relationship between our dismal celebrity culture and our values system? How can we have allowed so many people and institutions to be mired in fawning over one awful man – a  devious psychopath?”

Savile was not the only “awful man” at the BBC.

Jonathan King was a DJ who also presented other BBC TV programmes. He was tried in September 2001 and received a seven-year sentence for six offences against five boys aged 14–16 committed between 1983 and 1989. He continues to protest his innocence. In January 2012 he appeared as a witness at the Leveson Inquiry into the culture, ethics and practice of the press and media in the United Kingdom.

Chris Denning was one of the original DJs on BBC Radio 1. Denning’s first conviction for gross indecency and indecent assault was in 1974, when he was convicted at the Old Bailey. In 1985 he was imprisoned for 18 months for gross indecency with a child, and in 1988 when he was jailed for three years for indecent assault on a 13-year-old boy and possession of indecent photographs. In March 1996 he was imprisoned for 10 weeks for publishing indecent photographs. Denning was part of a group of child sex offenders based around a disco for young people in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey. He is currently serving a  five year sentence in Slovakia for producing child pornography.

Alan Freeman was a long-time presenter of Pick of the Pops on BBC radio and a familiar face on Top of the pops and other TV programmes. Freeman confessed to being bi-sexual but did not deal with rumours about under-age sex. It has been  alleged that East End gangster Ronnie Kray had access to many London care homes and would have boys delivered to parties at Freeman’s large flat over a music shop in East London. There they would meet with show biz types and DJs including Jimmy Savile, Gloucester-born record producer Joe Meek, playwright Joe Orton, actor Peter Arne  and Beatles manager Brian Epstein. Peter Arne, like Orton was bludgeoned to death. Meek killed himself after bludgeoning to death his landlady. Ronnie Kray remained in Broadmoor until his death on 17 March, 1995.


Channel 4 News said it had seen an email sent last December by Liz MacKean in which she wrote: “Having commissioned the story, Peter Rippon keeps saying he’s lukewarm about it and is trying to kill it by making impossible editorial demands.” She reportedly claimed: “When we rebut his points, he resorts to saying, well, it was 40 years ago … the girls were teenagers, not too young … they weren’t the worst kind of sexual offences etc.”

An inquiry will be conducted by former Court of Appeal judge Dame Janet Smith. She will examine the BBC’s culture and practices in the years that Savile worked there. She will also examine whether BBC child protection and whistle blowing policies are good enough.

Many commentators are echoing LP Hartley’s observation that  the past is a different country. The rock world of the 1970s was a bizarre, hedonistic country. The strutting rock gods of that era (and their hangers-on) may have claimed an element of consent in their sexual exploits, although their behaviour may have been morally reprehensible as it abused their power and status. Often their behaviour was illegal. They contributed to a more general distasteful culture because it seemed to give permission to many nonentities to emulate them.

Dozens of big name stars from the 1960s and 70s have contacted publicist Max Clifford “frightened to death” they will become implicated in the Savile scandal. He said the stars, some of whom are still big names today, were worried because at their peak they had lived a hedonistic lifestyle where young girls threw themselves at them but they “never asked for anybody’s birth certificate”. Mr Clifford said young pop stars at the time had gone from working in a factory one week to performing in front of thousands of people “and girls are screaming and throwing themselves at them then”.

It was a culture shock to me to go from university to a local social security office in Manchester. There were certainly inappropriate relationships between teachers and students at university but the brutal atmosphere of male chauvinist piggery in the local office was as  depressing as the fog of cigarette smoke. That it went on at a higher level is indicated by the eventual ousting of a senior civil servant I knew well for sexually harassing his subordinates.

It is a long time since I worked in an office,  but from what I read, the smoke is no longer a problem and I would think there is also less sexual harassment. The Protection from Harassment Act 1997 obliged employers to take seriously the issue of female staff being bullied or sexually harassed in the office. The Employment Equality (Sex Discrimination) Regulations of 2005 provided clear protection for any woman subjected to “unwanted conduct that has the purpose or effect of violating her dignity or of creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for her”. The TUC has said that law means “that if, for example, a colleague persists in making remarks about what nice legs a female employee has, or her boss promises her promotion if she goes away with him for the weekend, she should be able to claim that this is sexual harassment”.

I recall that in the 1970s it often seemed that promiscuity was compulsory whether one wanted to join in or not. That does not mean that paedophilia was condoned. I do recall a certain naiveté – the idea of anyone wanting to rape a baby was too bizarre. However hedonistic people might be that was beyond the pale. The mores of the 70s and 80s as regards paedophilia were no different to today. Actor Peter Adamson died a penniless recluse after achieving wealth and fame in the tele-drama Coronation Street on which he was a regular for 23 years. He was acquitted of inappropriately touching two young girls at a swimming pool. Despite the acquittal the accusation was enough to destroy his life.

Patten referred to “celebrity culture” In the 1970s and 1980s, Savile was tragically turned into a saint by a society that looked to celebrities for moral and social guidance.

Deborah Orr: “It’s also easier to bear the idea that Savile’s reign of terror was due to some unique historical confluence, that he slipped though the gap that appeared during a time of great cultural upheaval. This narrative is true enough. Savile exploited the chaos created by changing attitudes – to sex, class, youth, culture, entertainment, money, fame, even to public services and charity – that were themselves a response to an industrial age of rapid technological advancement,.. it’s easy to understand how a figure as unlikely as Savile could have been mistaken, by those girls, for a handsome prince. He wore the invisible yet dazzling cloak of celebrity and promised them the tawdry glamour of television exposure. Savile knew better than anyone that TV is better at concealing than exposing, particularly in the light entertainment department..”[xli]

Andrew O’Hagan traces a distasteful culture at the BBC back to the thirties and sees it still prevalent. Prevalent in the BBC and the wider world. “Why is British light entertainment so often based on the sexualisation of people too young to cope? And why is it that we have a press so keen to feed off it? Is it to cover the fact, via some kind of willed outrage, that the culture itself is largely paedophile in its commercial and entertainment excitements? Milly Dowler’s phone was hacked by journalists cynically feeding the ravenous appetites of three million people who love that stuff, and that’s just the ones who actually bought the News of the World. When Leveson’s findings are duly buried, will we realise that it was the nation’s populist appetites that were on trial all along?

We’re not allowed to say it. Because we love our tots. Or, should I say: WE LOVE OUR TOTS? We know we do because the Mirror tells us we do, but would you please get out of the way because you’re blocking my view of another 14-year-old crying her eyes out on The X-Factor as a bunch of adults shatter her dreams. Savile went to work in light entertainment and thrived there: of course he did, because those places were custom-built for men who wanted to dandle dreaming kids on their knees. If you grew up during ‘the golden era of British television’, the 1970s, when light entertainment was tapping deep into the national unconscious, particularly the more perverted parts, you got used to grown-up men like Rod Hull clowning around on stage with a girl like Lena Zavaroni. You got used to Hughie Green holding the little girl’s hand and asking her if she wanted an ice-cream. Far from wanting an ice-cream, the little girl was starving herself to death while helpfully glazing over for the camera and throwing out her hands and singing ‘Mama, He’s Making Eyes at Me’. She was 13”. died at the age of 35 after suffering from anorexia since she was 13.

Alison Philips wrote in the Daily Mirror: “Like woodchip wallpaper and leg warmers, these things weren’t nice, but it was how it was.. And let’s keep in clear focus the real issue: the terrible actions of a dangerous predatory paedophile – Jimmy Savile – and how he managed to evade ­detection, for far, far too long..”

David James, writing for Wales Online said: “We may be seeing the death of an innocent culture of trust in authority that allowed those who benefited from the cover of respectability – whether as an MP with an expense account or a TV celebrity with a private dressing room – to abuse it.”[xlii]


Howard Jacobson again: “The psychology of the grope is interesting, and self-evidently has more to do with the exercise of power than erotic appreciation. Feeling a woman’s reluctant body can be pleasurable only if reluctance is itself a spur and defying it a turn-on, which is a mystery to simple men like me who prefer desire to be reciprocal. Power corrupts, in sexual matters as in political, and one of the most important lessons to be learnt from Savile’s progress is that we should check power at every turn.”

The most disturbing thing about Savile is that he gained power and used it against children, sometimes children who were already vulnerable, disabled children , brain-damaged children, sick children in hospital. This is very different from a drunken sailor kissing a woman without permission or one adult DJ putting his hands inappropriately on another adult DJ. They should not have done it but it was different to what Savile did.

How Did He Get Away with It?

Criticising the BBC’s performance, David Cameron said: “These allegations do leave many institutions – perhaps particularly the BBC – with serious questions to answer – I think above all the question, ‘How did he get away with this for so long?” As one former victim described it: “Adults look, but then they turn their faces away”.

In Savile’s 1976 autobiography, Love is an Uphill Thing, he boasted about inappropriate behaviour with young girls. “I train my men well and, to date, we have not been found out. Which, after all, is the 11th commandment, is it not?”

I remember Ray Teret  (Ugli Ray)  as a DJ on Radio Caroline and then Piccadilly Radio in Manchester. Teret was Jimmy Savile’s former flatmate and chauffeur. He has been released on bail after being held on suspicion of rape

In his best-selling book The Gift of Fear, Gavin de Becker outlines some of the strategies used by abusers.[xliii] Becker list some PINS – Pre-incident Indicators:

  • Forced Teaming. This is when a person tries to pretend that he has something in common with a person and that they are in the same predicament when that isn’t really true.
  • Charm and Niceness. This is being polite and friendly to a person in order to manipulate him or her.
  • Too many details. If a person is lying they will add excessive details to make themselves sound more credible.
  • Typecasting. An insult to get a person who would otherwise ignore one to talk to one. For example: “Oh, I bet you’re too stuck-up to talk to a guy like me.”
  • Loan Sharking. Giving unsolicited help and expecting favours in return.
  • The Unsolicited Promise. A promise to do (or not do) something when no such promise is asked for; this usually means that such a promise will be broken. For example: an unsolicited, “I promise I’ll leave you alone after this,” usually means you will not be left alone. Similarly, an unsolicited “I promise I won’t hurt you” usually means the person intends to hurt you.
  • Discounting the Word “No”. Refusing to accept rejection.[xliv]

According to the Sunday People, Savile said: “All I have to do is call my friends in the IRA. They’ll have someone waking up in hospital the next morning eating their breakfast through a f***ing straw. [xlv]

BBC TV producer Paul  Jackson said he believed the  BBC was  initially reluctant to use Savile on Top of the Pops because of his background in the Leeds and Manchester club and dance hall scene. As well as DJ-ing he was a club manager in the 1950s but, according to Mr Jackson “you didn’t cross him”. “Savile was thought to be dodgy, there was a feeling he was heavy, you didn’t cross him, he was a heavy dude,” Jackson said. He added that those who came through the clubbing circuit, flooded with cash and drugs, were tough: “They had bodyguards, they had sharp elbows, you had to protect yourself.”

There is a strong whiff of violence about Savile. A picture is emerging of Savile as a an opportunist who surrounded himself with dubious characters. One line of inquiry is following Savile’s links to the criminal underworld in Manchester, including the notorious Quality Street gang, who supposedly dominated the city in the 1960s.[xlvi]

Former West Yorkshire Police detective John Stainthorpe said Savile was a suspect in the hunt for the Yorkshire Ripper more than 30 years ago.[xlvii] The brutal murders were committed in Savile’s home town of Leeds, some within sight of his apartment. Between 1975 and 1980, the vicious murderer attacked women, stabbed his victims with screwdrivers, stamped on them, left notes with their bodies taunting police for not catching him and killed a total of 13 women. ‘When the Ripper was really active one of the suspects put forward by members of the public was Jimmy Savile, strange as it may seem.”  Police  hunting the serial killer took a cast of Savile’s teeth from Harley Street dentist Dr Mace Joffe. [xlviii] Sutcliffe named Savile in police interviews and two of his victims were found near Savile’s flat. The TV star visited Sutcliffe in prison soon after his conviction.

Peter Sutcliffe was convicted of the murders and Savile befriended him in Broadmoor.

Savile tricked Frank Bruno into shaking hands with the Ripper. He didn’t tell Bruno who it was until afterwards

In an interview with Louis Theroux,[xlix]  Savile  talked about how he dealt with troublemakers when he was working in clubs: “I never threw anybody out. Tied them up and put them down in the bloody boiler house until I was ready for them. Two o’clock in the fucking morning… We’d tie em up and then we’d come back and I was the judge, jury and executioner.” Savile later told Theroux he was talking metaphorically and said he would never tie anyone up – only with words – but admitted “some of my people might have done”. He described drug dealers as “dirty slags”. “If those people wanted to sell drugs, so be it, but it must not happen in my place. All there is to it. No arguments. I invented zero tolerance.”

Liz Boothe was Savile’s girl friend in the early 60s. She told The Sun[l]: “He knew a lot of dodgy people. I remember hearing him telling someone to set fire to Bruce Woodcock’s house. He’d say, ‘What happens in this office stays in this office’, so I kept quiet.” Bruce Woodcock was boxing hero who won heavyweight titles from 1945 to 1950.

O’Hagan: “He was loved for being so rich and so generous and for loving his mother, the Duchess. And no one said, not out loud: ‘What’s wrong with that man? Why is he going on like that? What is he up to?’ He was an entertainer and that’s thought to be special. A more honest society brings its victims to the Colosseum and cheers. We agreed to find it OK when our most famous comedians were clearly not OK. When Benny Hill’s mother died, in 1976, he kept her house in Southampton as a shrine, just as Savile kept his mother’s clothes, and it might have been weird but it was also the kind of celebrity eccentricity we had come to expect.”

Savile  is said to have threatened that there would be some funding shortfall for Stoke Mandeville hospital should claims about his rape of children be made public. In recent days many people have said that even in retirement Jimmy Savile was just too powerful.

Douglas Murray writes on the Spectator blog:”If the sexual abuse of children – and the sexual abuse of children with disabilities at that – is something that can be an unspoken secret because of fear and group-think (and when the fear is of a crappy low-grade entertainer) what does it say about our inability to deal with major issues arising from people who have real power?” [li]

Alison Bellamy, who ghosted Savile’s autobiography,  heard the rumours about his fondness for young girls and says: “Like almost everyone who knew him, I never believed them. Or maybe I did not want to believe them.”[lii] During a series of interviews in 2006 with Savile she asked him about the rumours and admits accepting his dissembling replies. She writes: “He was dismissive, as if what I was saying was ridiculous. But he was always manipulative with the press and, even though he insisted he would always answer any question thrown at him, he would often change the subject or talk nonsense.”

Unknown Knowns

Alison Pearson wrote in the Daily Telegraph: “After Savile died, a year ago on Monday, a commemorative page was put up on the BBC website. As requested, viewers shared their memories of “Ow’s-About-That-Then” Jimmy – only, instead of a light-entertainment legend, they recalled a dark, devious pervert. The Savile tribute page was hastily removed. Shouldn’t that have been the first sign that celebrations needed to be put on hold?”

Writing in the New York Times about the child abuse scandal in the Irish Catholic church, novelist John Banville said: “It was an echo of that silence which, like the snow in Joyce’s story ‘The Dead’, was general all over Ireland, in those days. Never tell, never acknowledge, that was the unspoken watchword. Everyone knew, but no one said.

Amid all the reaction to these terrible revelations, I have heard no one address the question of what it means, in this context, to know. Human beings — human beings everywhere, not just in Ireland — have a remarkable ability to entertain simultaneously any number of contradictory propositions. Perfectly decent people can know a thing and at the same time not know it. Think of Turkey and the Armenians at the beginning of the 20th century, think of Germany and the Jews in the 1940s, think of Bosnia and Rwanda in our own time.”

[i] BBC DJ Alan Freeman lived in Brighton. He knew the Beatles lawyer David Jacobs (not to be confused with the more famous DJ of the same name). Jacobs died in Brighton in 1968 after a rumoured S&M orgy. Jacobs loved boys. So did playwright Joe Orton. He planned a move to Brighton but was murdered before he could. So does Julie Burchill, scourge of Saint John Peel.


[xxxviii] Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society, Raymond Williams, Fontana Communications Series, London 1976.

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