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BBC crisis: wishing for a new Profumo

Many, many years ago – OK, the late 90s to be exact – I worked on one of the first of the many ‘list shows’ I ended up making my living from. Most of these programmes were about TV, pop music or popular culture. This programme was called Top Ten Scandals and was about – yes, you guessed it…

Our presenters were none other than Neil and Christine Hamilton, fresh from the ignominy of the ‘cash for questions’ scandal that was one of the many nails in the coffin of the ailing Major government.

The ‘Hams’ as we came to know them were a great booking, in that they didn’t ask for much money and were game for a laugh. We spent two days shooting the presenter links for the programme and dragged them round most of London; if I remember rightly, the locations included a church in Stoke Newington, Battersea Park, an outdoor pool in Covent Garden and last but not least, a fetish club in Kings Cross. This was run by a terrifying figure called Rubber Ron who expected me to stay after the shoot – er no thanks. I think they supplied a gimp (as well as Neil) and I have definite memories of Christine really enjoying herself.

Happy days.

On the list were: ( in no particular order) Robert Maxwell’s death and theft of pensioners’ money; the trial of Jeremy Thorpe
(70s version of Nick Clegg accused of murdering his gay lover); Princess Diana’s death; Lord Lucan’s disappearance and the Profumo Affair. I can’t for the life of me remember which one was number one…

I don’t think the show was that successful – it was a bit odd – but it was brilliant to work on. As well as Neil and Christine, I met Robert Maxwell’s butler, who told me how the big man used to eat compulsively when stressed, raiding the fridge in the middle of the night and leaving the carcasses of whole chickens on the kitchen floor. I also met Mohammed Al Fayed (an interesting character) and Mandy Rice-Davies, one of the main characters in the Profumo Affair.

Excuse my ramblings, but this all came into my mind when I was thinking about the current scandal that has lead to the resignation of BBC Director General George Entwistle.

I’ve already written at length about the wild rumours that appeared online in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal and do not want to end up in court for repeating a libel.

Fortunately I was busy with work last week, so I neglected to write a blog post. I’m quite glad I didn’t, because I easily could have got carried away and repeated some of the wilder accusations that were flying about. Guardian columnist George Monbiot (who I have a hell of a lot of time for ) obviously regrets his comments. Serial reality TV contestant and Daily Star Sunday columnist Sally Bercow also put her foot in it.

Labour MP Tom Watson has also been ridiculed for his role as ‘Noncefinder General’ by the likes of Richard Littlejohn but he has been at pains to point out that he never actually commented on the scandal relating to children’s homes in North Wales (the subject that caused all the bother at the Beeb). He responds here.

So how does this all relate to Profumo?

Back in the 60s, Profumo was the THE scandal that tore the Establishment to pieces. We learnt that top ranking Tory politicians were shagging ‘party girls’ who were also having relations with Russian naval attaches and sleazy society osteopaths. Profumo revealed the upper class figures that ran Britain as sordid and sex crazed. The scandal is seen as the force that destroyed a corrupt ancien regime and ushered in the era of Swinging London, Harold Wilson and The Beatles.

I think that many people are so desperate for a similar scandal to engulf the current administration that they suspended their disbelief and swallowed some of the wilder claims that emerged online in the wake of Savile and the now discredited Newsnight investigation into the goings on in children’s homes in North Wales in the 80s. I think that many people have so many negative feelings towards Cameron, Osborne, Hunt, Lansley, Hague, Duncan Smith etc that they are easily swept away by some of the barmy rumours that swirl around online.

I include myself in their ranks. I don’t like the government and want to think the worst of them. I think wishful thinking explains the foolish behaviour of both George Monbiot and Sally Bercow. I think it partially explains the foolish behaviour of staff at the BBC – though it’s said that the absence of key staff on the Newsnight team in the aftermath of the Savile debacle is also a contributing factor.

It’s why the conspiracy theories – as peddled by the likes of Icke – have crossed their way into the mainstream.

One Comment

  1. Chris says:

    Basically, it’s the fault then of the people who wanted Peter Rippon out for the awful crime of not airing a bloody TV report.

    I also note that the BBC never named this individual, so the whole scandal is basically over nothing.

    That’s what this is really about – right-wingers will use any excuse to attack the BBC because they dislike its impartiality.

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