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August 24th 2014
I don't think any of us were particularly surprised when we found out about Jimmy Savile. Looking like a weirdo doesn't mean that you are a weirdo (and much worse), as various newspapers found out to their cost in the case of Christopher Jefferies, but you only had to watch Louis Theroux's documentary on Savile to suspect that there was something rotten there. The only surprise, really, was that the body of evidence against the man was only properly uncovered after his death, and while the free-for-all that ensues when litigation is out of the question has not lent clarity to the allegations, there can no longer be any serious doubt that Savile was a deeply guilty man.
While it was too late to bring Savile to justice, Operation Yewtree followed and has opened the floodgates of allegations against men in the public eye, with convictions against some, including Rolf Harris and Stuart Hall. That was much more of a nasty surprise for me, as I had never been aware of so much as a whisper against either man, and Hall in particular was someone I had always rather liked whenever I'd heard him on the radio. Operation Yewtree has encouraged some people to make complaints about behaviour that is despicable but not, I think, criminal; but in the cases of Harris and Hall - and Savile, and Max Clifford - the criminality is without question. In this, Yewtree has succeeded, and hopefully everyone now knows that nobody is outside the law, regardless of their place in the public eye. Hopefully no young complainant will ever again be told to stop being silly when they're brave enough to speak up.
But for all its success, Operation Yewtree has been responsible, directly or indirectly, for some very serious failures. Mud sticks, and there is now a parade of people whose names are indelibly associated with horrendous crimes, despite the fact that they have been found not guilty or, in many cases, not even been given a chance even to defend themselves: Freddie Starr, Jim Davidson, Mike Osman, Wilfred De'ath, Ted Beston and Jimmy Tarbuck were all arrested but never prosecuted. Paul Gambaccini has been on bail since last November, Dave Lee Travis has so far been found not guilty of 12 charges, and in a case that was separate to Operation Yewtree, Bill Roache was acquitted of six charges, including one assault charge where the alleged victim had "no actual memory" of the assault. These men have all had their reputations damaged undeservedly; but the biggest damage to reputation - deserved, this time - must be for the Crown Prosecution Service, which needs to work out whether its purpose is to seek justice or to seek headlines.
Which brings me on to Cliff Richard. As you will doubtless be aware, his property was searched by police ten days ago, with a BBC news helicopter in situ to broadcast it live to the nation, and Cliff left in Portugal complaining: "The police attended my apartment in Berkshire today without notice, except, it would appear, to the press." Accusations and counter-accusations between the BBC and the South Yorkshire police force continue unabated, and although they are contradicting each other it is clear that neither has covered themselves in glory, and at least one of them has probably broken the law.
That debate will rumble on, but where does it leave Cliff? At the moment he has been interviewed by police - but only because he volunteered to be; who knows how long they would have left it? - and has not been arrested. And now he is going to go down one of three paths: (i) the police will drop the case, and he will live on like Starr, Davidson, Tarbuck et al in a limbo where he has never been able to defend his name; (ii) he will go to court and be found not guilty, his reputation as intact as Bill Roache's or, going back a bit, Dave Jones's; (iii) he will be found guilty, and join the ranks of Harris & Hall as a once-loved figure who has become a byword for concealed evil.
For me, this case is different to the rest, because I am a fan of Cliff. I have over 200 of his songs, three of his films (let me save you the trouble: Summer Holiday is the only one that's not terrible), a copy of his autobiography and even a set of coasters bearing his image. I like his music - in particular, I'm Nearly Famous is a great album, and Something's Goin' On is easily in my top 30 albums of the noughties - and I deeply admire the bravery of his Christianity in the midst of an industry consumed by hedonism. In short, I am a fan. Which is why I really, really hope that he is innocent.
And that's the thing. I hope he is innocent, but obviously I don't know. I have no basis on which to defend him other than 'innocent until proven guilty', and while I strongly believe in that, such a stance has not reflected well on Savile's former supporters, for example. So, do I want to maintain support for someone who might turn out to be guilty, or do I want to turn away from someone who might turn out to be falsely accused? I'm not kidding myself that it makes any difference to anyone other than myself, but it's a question that scratches at me every time a Cliff song comes on my mp3 player: should I skip the track, in the same way that the BBC has removed Cliff from its playlists, or should I listen on defiantly?
Well, I've decided. There's too much cynicism and not enough faith in this world, and I'm sticking with Cliff; he is in my prayers and I've even joined in the (apparently unsuccessful) campaign to get his 1992 hit "I Still Believe in You" back into the top 40. I'd rather end up being hoodwinked by a criminal than abandon someone, even someone I don't know and who can't possibly notice, in their time of need.

August 31st 2014
Just a quick note to tell that, if you're not already, you should check out Simon's blog posts on the Great British Bake-Off (episode four is here, I leave it to your ingenuity to find the rest). I don't watch GBBO but I enjoy these posts immensely, and such is their popularity that they are now being read and commented upon by the contestants themselves. He was even referenced by one of the former contestants in an offshoot programme called, I think, 'An Extra Slice'. Good work, kid.
In other news, my fence is still unmended, my toilet broke last night and I overslept for church today. I think I might be having a quarter-life crisis of sorts.

what was I listening to?
Speak Now - Taylor Swift
what was I reading?
Blair - Anthony Seldon
what was I watching?
The Town
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