Vague ramblings

In a foreign country: another bullet to the head of the 1970s

Posted in Life by Ian Cundell on 30 June, 2014

The era that brought us the delights of St Cecilia’s Leap Up And Down (Wave Your Knickers in The Air) has delivered another tawdry footnote. The oh-so-original jokes that come whenever any catchphrase-heavy celebrity is brought low are all present and correct, but the only real surprise is the surprise.

Not so long ago, when Dave Lee Travis was acquitted of the charges against him, it was not hard to find people saying: “Well, what do you expect; how can anyone prove what happened so long ago?” and confidently predicting that all the other pending cases would go the same way before calling for the “witch hunt” to be ended.

Tell that to Max Clifford and, now, Rolf Harris.

About a year ago – maybe a bit more – a friend, aged I think around 30, asked with full horror: “How on Earth did [Jimmy Savile] get away with it?” It is the question that separates those who lived in the 1970s and those who have heard of the 1970s.  It is almost two years since I outlined my theory that a documentary about the police started the destruction of 1970s culture. It has been a long slow process – for reasons best known to himself, Noel Edmonds thought, in 1985, that it would be OK to perform Leap Up And Down on his TV show and the very existence of the Everyday Sexism project provides a daily reminder that there is still a long road to travel.

Not having seen the evidence put before the different juries, I do not know what led them to come to different conclusions for Travis as for Clifford and Harris. But I do think, from experience of the juries I have sat on, that there is a strong desire to believe the best and that they are devilishly hard to persuade of the worst. And that, I think, is the way it should be.

“The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there,” began The Go-Between. It is a tale from an earlier, although no more  innocent, era but it seems that some stories have the timelessness of their proverbial truths thrust upon them.

I suppose the most optimistic way to look at this is that British culture is finally doing a little overdue house cleaning or, more dramatically, a purging of shame.

I’m not entirely convinced: Savile, Harris and Stuart Hall are not the first criminals to operate over an extended period – think Harold Shipman – and I doubt they will be the last.

But let’s be clear on one thing: this is not a a witch hunt – it is justice not only being done, but being seen to be done. For Savile’s victims it is already too late, and that alone should tell us why we must go where the evidence leads and not let the fog of time deter us.


One Response

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  1. Thom Hickey said, on 1 July, 2014 at 4:58 am

    Thanks. Sound sense! Regards Thom.

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