Every other Saturday, Tony Blackburn will count down the Pick of the Pops and, through some sleight of hand, glance so swiftly past Gary Glitter on to The Brotherhood of Man that, for a fleeting second, I feel oddly robbed.
Aw, come on, I’ll think, let’s have a bit of Rock’n’Roll part 1. And then I remember. We don’t play Gary Glitter on the radio anymore. As a PRS member, I get it. For every I Love You Love Me Love, Glitter gets £15 or so. And we don’t reward people like him. He’s beyond the pale.
And it’s not so much his crime. Well it is, mostly, but not exclusively. It’s that Glitter has shown no remorse for his hard disk full of horrors. And no atonement means no forgiveness. No second chance.
From that moment, the BBC have airbrushed the bequiffed rocker out of our aural history.
The BBC has been full of the second chance rhetoric this week.
As Andy Coulson was being interrogated, its journalists were braying over David Cameron at his press conference.
“Why did you employ someone who you were clearly warned had more secrets yet to emerge, to be your head of communications?” they asked, with barely concealed indignation.
Cameron talks of Coulson resigning from his News International post, showing contrition and moving on. The Newsnight journalists don’t like it (heck, I don’t like it much myself). They believe Cameron showed bad judgement. They think a man like Coulson didn’t deserve to become a public figure again. He was from the dark side. Let’s face it, he’d paid good money to hear Hugh Grant’s sweet nothings.
For the BBC, this week must have felt like all its Licence Fee Charter days had come at once.
But they too are culpable of giving those in News Corporation a second chance. And, to my mind, people guilty of far worse transgressions – nay, derelictions – of duty than Coulson.
This week might have been a watershed moment for the News of the World. But when The Sun printed The Truth as depicted by Kelvin Mackenzie, Murdoch’s gutter press sunk to lows previously off limits even to their bankrupt moral compass.
By claiming that Liverpool fans urinated on police, pick-pocketed dead victims and prevented brave PCs giving the kiss of life to some of the victims at Hillsborough, Mackenzie put profit before human decency, scandal before sorrow. And, in doing so, he sickened every decent person within and without our city. And, thank God, Murdoch’s empire is still paying the price. Something we should be very proud of indeed around here.
According to Peter Chippindale and Chris Horrie in their Stick it Up Your Punter – the Rise and Fall of the Sun, MacKenzie spent time deliberating over the fateful headline for that day’s paper:
“MacKenzie then did an enormously uncharacteristic thing. He sat for fully half an hour thinking about the front page layout.”
According to the them he pondered two headlines, one that was rejected reading “You Scum”, and the one that was eventually used – and was to prove the biggest disaster for the paper’s reputation and sales: “The Truth”.
Mackenzie, for his part, was forced into a lame and unconvincing apology by Murdoch, only to retract it some years later. Like Glitter, he’s shown no atonement. Quite the opposite. Latterly, the man is positively bullish about his handling of the affair.
His second chance? He’s now employed by the BBC. He’s often on Newsnight. Double standards? From our media? Surely not.
Now imagine this. Rebekah Brooks is found guilty of corruption and conspiracy to intercept communications in the Milly Dowler affair. That she is found guilty of corruption and conspiracy to intercept the phones of the Soham girls’ parents.
Try to imagine a scenario whereby, after that, the BBC invites her to be a regular, jocular guest on panel shows, or to pop up on Saturday Kitchen, The Culture Show or Question Time.
It simply wouldn’t happen. To the BBC, she’ll be in the Glitter camp. Airbrushed out of sight, and well away from our living rooms. Brooks is from Daresbury – Creamfields County – but we’d be in no doubt, if the paper trail ends at her office, that she didn’t deserve to profit from her position in future by being a regular on the sofa of The One Show.
So it’s a curious hypocracy that one gutter press crime is somehow seen as historic, done with, and over (and one that sullied the name of 96 dead and innocent victims), and another – Coulson’s – that the BBC are getting so high minded about. That the BBC journalists think it’s unforgivable for a phone hacker to work again, but it’s fine for Mackenzie to be on our screens (paid by us) every time they need a bigoted, knee-jerking talking head.
Let’s hope News International does launch a Sun on Sunday. We know how well that will sell around these parts.
And, if I’m really honest – I’d much rather hear Rock’n’Roll than Mackenzie’s voice anyday.