The Rise and Fall of the Krays, STV, ITV Hub.

‘Rise’—‘Fear and Fame’—‘Fall. The first episode charts how the Kray twins with a propensity for violence rose from a humble working-class background in the East End of London. We’re on familiar territory here. The wife-beating father, who kicked their mum in the stomach, and caused her to miscarry. But no mention of their older brother, Charlie. Her hairdresser told viewers, she never had the little girl that she craved. Pictures of the twins Reggie and Ronnie shows two cute and dark-eyed babies. Ron caught tuberculosis, a killer then, but Violet brought him from the hospital, and tucked him in beside Reg and he recovered. They were inseparable. In the boxing ring Reg had a bit more guile, and was under-17’s champion of England. Both their grandparents were boxers. Ron was more of a berserker. But they never stopped battling each other and the world. When Ron was sent down to Wandsworth and then sent sideways to a psychiatric unit, what he didn’t know—because  One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest hadn’t been written or made into a film yet—was that time stopped. Prison time only started again when he was deemed medically cured of his psychosis.  He never was, but as long as he kept taking the tablets, the voices inside his head wouldn’t always manifest themselves in violence.

Reg did a swap with Ron in the visiting room. Ron pulling on Reg’s overcoat and swanning out. They couldn’t hold Reg, and Ron had escaped. He couldn’t have been that mad after all.

The Krays ran their nascent empire from a snooker hall. They taxed local crooks, in much the same way crooked cops taxed the same crooks and sellers of porn and brothels. Career criminals paid their cut or they got cut. In much the same way, the entertainment industry was targeted. No trouble if the owners paid tax and fealty to the Krays. Muscling in on businesses and taking them over.

The 1960’s director of a film starring Barbara Windsor laughed as he told viewers how a couple of cars appeared and asked about having permission to film on their turf. He said he’d squared it with the police. But he had to employ two of the Kray’s henchmen. He told how a barman who’d charged him for a drink was taken from behind the bar and severely beaten by the Kray twins because the film crew were ostensibly their guests.

The Queen’s Counsel who represented the Krays and Barbara Windsor’s husband told how she was verbally abused when it got into the press that ‘the little sparrow’ of the East End, Bab’s husband was a gangster. But it added kudos to the film. More generally, it added grit to the hedonistic mix of new money and power. Their criminal empire began to shift beyond the East End with the acquisition of a casino and nightclub in the West End of London were the richest socialites and money-class lived and worked. It was in the former Ron hooked up with the upper-class homosexual and Tory peer Lord Boothby. The Kray’s mum, Violet, stayed in the same house they were born in, but the twins brought her hero Judy Garland to have a cup of tea and she crooned ‘Over the Rainbow’ from The Wizard of Oz.  Nothing could stop them, and more importantly for the media, they dressed well and had that criminal swagger.   

Anne, ITV, ITV Hub, written by Kevin Sampson.

Not many programmes can get away with a one-word titular introduction—Anne. I’d have had no idea of who it was referring unless I’d read the pre-publicity for the four-night drama starring Maxine Peake.

Anne Williams, an unremarkable woman from Liverpool who worked in a shop, and who died in 2013.

That might have been that. But if we throw in another word, Hillsborough, the unremarkable becomes remarkable. I’m old enough to remember the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest in 1989, both serial European Champions. Kenny Dalglish moved to Liverpool from Celtic for a £440 000 transfer fee. He was now the Liverpool manager. As a Celtic fan, I didn’t take much notice of the match or care who won. I didn’t know what happened. But imagined it was much the same as the Ibrox disaster of 1971. Media reports concentrated on the pageantry of Anfield covered in tops and scarves and token of remembrance for the 97 men, women and children killed and around 766 injured.

One victim was Kevin Williams, a few days short of his sixteenth birthday. He attended the match with his mate. Kevin died in pen 3, at Hillsborough. The official line was compression asphyxiation. After The Ibrox Disaster, Glasgow Lord Provost, Sir Donald Liddle wept at a press conference. He declared, ‘It is quite clear a number died of suffocation’. Anyone that has ever been to a big match knows the feeling of being lifted off their feet after their team score and being swept away down the terracing—a mass love in. But that turns to terror when barriers break, people stumble and fall, and there’s nowhere for fans to go and the bodies pile up.

At the end of the first episode, Anne Williams gets on a train and introduces herself at a meeting of The Hillsborough Support Group. Something just doesn’t add up. The official line was that Kevin had died instantly. Stefan Popper the coroner cajoled witnesses until they supported the narrative being sold to the public by South Yorkshire Police under Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield. Victim blaming.

A Director of Rangers adopted a similar approach and the club did not admit culpability. Spectators helped police carry victims onto the Ibrox pitch and pavilion. A general appeal went out for first aiders. Fifty-three bodies, still in their club’s colours, were laid out on the pitch.

Mist was falling in Govan and ambulances, police and fire engines were delayed by the crowd leaving the stadium, unaware of the tragedy. Eye-witness accounts such as eighteen-year-old, First-Aid assistant, Ian Holm told us he wasn’t even sure what happened and he was inside the stadium.

At Hillsborough there was panic and no coordinated response. The Miner’s Strike 1984-85 had given the police force a blank cheque in Yorkshire. They were dealing with the enemy, working-class men. Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield already knew the official line before any major event. It had worked before and drawn nothing but praise. Rupert Murdoch’s Sun (let’s not call it a newspaper) carried reports of looting and drunken brawling among Liverpool supporters. Let’s not forget a frail and senile acting Murdoch appearing before a Common’s Committee after the News of the World debacle. Then suddenly regaining his mojo in time to help the moron’s moron get elected. That’s the kind of leverage he had then and now. But long memory.  Graham Sourness, the ex-Liverpool captain and Rangers manager, was ostracised in Liverpool for taking the Sun’s money for a story a few years later.

Mary, my partner, watched the first episode with me. She was crying. I guess, like many others, we’ve been there before with unexpected deaths that don’t make sense or the news.

‘But he was already dead,’ she said. ‘What more could they have done?’

I tried to explain about the official delays to ambulances. The chaos of fans using pitch-side barriers to carry victims away. Impromptu, mouth-to-mouth and heart massage. And this is what Anne Williams heard. She was convinced her son cried out her name. A volunteer policewoman said he’d been alive. The coroner said he’d most likely been brain dead and that was highly unlikely. He imposed a 3.15 pm cut-off point, after which anyone on the pitch was presumed to be already dead.

‘What happened to my boy?’

An Observer report concluded if Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield and his compromised police force had behaved professionally, 40 victims might well be alive. In other words, Frank Williams, who was breathing, might well be alive.

What have we learned from Hillsborough? Nought. I look at the Grenfell tower fire. The way the official narrative switched when officials could no longer blame the victims, but instead focussed on those that had cheated and were trying to claim compensation money they weren’t due. Then those that were victims were allowed their day in court. When that was out of the way, the adults in the room could get on with the real business of cutting a deal. No one to blame. Nothing to see. Business as usual.   

Alan Cumming (2021) Baggage: Tales From a Fully Packed Life.

I was vaguely aware who Alan Cumming is. For independent film consortiums, Miriam Margolyes seems to be the pensioner of choice to go on adventures and sell the results to BBC, ITV or Channel 4. She’s been sent to America a few times and to Australia. The latest wheeze is Scotland. Yes, Bonnie old Scotland. Who’d have thought of that? Monopoly money for old rope. They flung in Alan Cummings as a guide, and driver of their motorhome. He’s Scottish, I didn’t know that. Stanley Kubrick though he was American, so I’m in good company. I wouldn’t know a good actor from a ham. But my partner who watched bits of the scenery in the Grand Tour said Cumming’s dad was bad to him. That piqued my interest. Now is the time to fling in some quotes about happy families being all the same. We’re off to a flyer. Cumming’s da was a sadistic cunt.

The book starts with discord. He’s in a marriage, I wouldn’t call it unhappy. They’re trying for a child. She’s an old acquaintance from drama school. A few years older. She’s the star turn with the operatic voice. The diva.  He’s the man with a childish face that gets parts playing adolescents. I thought Cumming was gay. So being married to a woman (he later marries a man) was the done thing. And if you’re going to do the done thing, you might as well do it early.

Before he went from the West End of Glasgow (the snobby bit) to Drama school he worked for D.C. Thompson and Company near Dundee, and near his home. He wrote the Astrology bits and pieces. You will find a stranger in Uranus. Not quite, but similar. The Fiction department. A Thompson clone was on ever floor.  When we grew up, Cummings being much the same age as me, they produced The Beano and Dandy, but also The Sunday Post, with Oor Wullie in it, a true Scottish legend. Cummings points out D.C.Thompson had a London address to give their publishing empire legitimacy. No unions, but Unionism and no Catholics were a given. Cummings ticked all the right boxes. Gay men or women, of course, didn’t exist and were too risqué for even the Fictional department.

I knew he’d done the MC in Cabaret. I hadn’t seen him in that, but watched (I suppose like everybody else) the film version with Liza Minelli. I’d read the Christopher Isherwood books, Mr Norris Changes Train and Goodbye to Berlin on which the musical is based. Cumming suggests that Isherwood and W.H. Auden et al weren’t there to fight fascism or do anything highbrow, but simply wanting to escape England and sample cock. No big surprise.


‘It’s hard to be your authentic self when you don’t know who you really are.’

Cummings was in New York, close enough in his apartment to witness 9/11 and the fall of the Twin Towers. He acknowledges the fear and mistrust of Muslims and those of non-white, pasty, Scottish skin colour that ensued. The finding of a scapegoat and the invasion of Afghanistan, followed by Iraq. And how this all fed into the moron moron’s Trumpism (maybe I’m reading too much into a general observation).

Sean Connery, Billy Connolly, Faye Dunaway, Tina Turner, Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Halley Berry, Gore Vidal…they’re all here (apart from Rod Stewart and Elton John). The book was five years late. Too early for a chapter on Miriam Margolyes and her observations on bowel movements and the howls of laughter that ensures. Ho-hum. Read on.    

The Trial of Louise Woodward, ITV Thursday 11th November 9pm, ITV Hub

Matthew Eappen would be around twenty-five now, had he lived. Nineteen-year-old nanny, Louise Woodward was accused and found guilty of shaking the eight-month-old baby in her care so hard it caused subdural hematoma and killed him.

Her trial, soon after the death of Princess Diana in 1987, was a media event—I don’t remember it, but watching footage Woodward’s pasty face was familiar from old newspaper stories.

Key players in the trial, such as the defence team, were interviewed. Many of the same high-profile names that had appeared during the O. J. Simpson murder case. Legal costs paid for by au pair companies that imported labour into New York’s prosperous boroughs. A service-sector also on trial, with the fear of further litigation from ‘shaken-baby syndrome’ a threat to their business model.

As were the middle-class parents of Eappen.  They were both doctors. Trials had been filmed, but until this case streamed only to a local audience. The court-room commentator offered insight into how their closed world was viewed through a lense. Woodward, for example, she suggested was a nervous smiler. That might give the jurors, and those at home, the wrong impression. And she didn’t cry. That was a no-no. But crying at the wrong moment, or inappropriately, could also set jurors against you.

The mother of Matthew, being blonde and pretty, helped their case. But she also didn’t cry enough. And those stay-at-home moms with less than the twin incomes of two doctors were less sympathetic to her need to work, and might have wondered why she wasn’t a stay-at-home mother to their two young children.  

The case itself was a closed-room, but not a mystery of the Agatha Christie variety. Louise Woodward the only suspect. She either shook the baby to death, causing internal bleeding behind the eyes, or she didn’t.  Her defence team took the controversial decision to go for all or nothing. They would not, for example, go for a plea of manslaughter with all its legal complexities and moral nuisances.  Woodward, if found guilty of murder, could expect a minimal of ten or twenty years on prison. Or if the sixteen jurors, whittled down to twelve to the dismay of the defence team, found her not guilty, she’d walk out of the courtroom, there and then.

The case rested on medical science. The prosecution had a text book open-and-shut case. Straight-backed white, medical men declaiming what happened. A pattern they recognised and could show, visually, using props.

The lead defence attorney asked an expert for the prosecution case to ‘imagine’ a different scenario than one he was trying to present. The expert refused, only to be rebuked the judge.

This is where the trail of Louise Woodward fails the viewer. We wouldn’t expect the parents of Matthew Eappen to take part in the re-construction of events, or even Louise Woodward, but we might expect the trail judge to take part and explain how he came to his extraordinary verdict (but twenty-fire years later, perhaps he’s dead).

Certainly, the prosecution team and its experts had little doubt of Woodward’s guilt of ‘shaken-baby syndrome’.

In contrast, her family, and supporters at her small Cheshire English village, portrayed her as a martyr falsely prosecuted for reasons they couldn’t quite fathom. Experts can’t be experts when they contradict a firm belief has become for many a way of life with a contemporary resonance from the election of the moron’s moron to global warming narratives.

The defence case rested on medical expertise, but with a different paradigm. Woodward had been in charge of the children. And she may have shaken Matthew, to help revive him after he had slipped into unconsciousness, but from bleeding to the brain that had happened before—when exactly, wasn’t important—therefore she had responded in a reasonable manner. The black swan argument.  All swans are white, but there might be a black one. And our experts will show you pictures.

Twenty-five years later, a defence expert recanted and agreed such a scenario might have been possible. Another expert sneered. Louise Woodward to him remained a murderer, who had—largely—got away with it.

Certainly, if she didn’t have such an overpriced defence team, it would be difficult to believe that she wouldn’t still be in jail. Portrayed as an English rose, who had been in the wrong place at the wrong time, worked for her in the media (it would have been interesting to compare and contrast the treatment of black or Latino nannies for similar crimes). The world has moved on and Matthew Eappen remains dead. Whodunnit?  You’re the expert.   

Savile: Portrait of a Predator, ITV, STV 9pm, ITV Hub

Ten years ago, Sir Jimmy Savile died. His funeral was an event that featured on the news. The great and the good appeared, in sombre tones, mourning our loss. People lined the streets to pay their respects. Sir Keith Stammer was Director of Public Prosecutions. Operation Yewtree was set up in London in 2012 to investigate his alleged sexual offences after girls from Duncroft, a children’s home in Surrey, featured in the tabloids saying he’d sexually abused them. Detective Gary Pankhurst said he followed up on hundreds of reports. He classified Savile as a high-functioning psychopath.

Spokesmen from Surrey Police admitted they’d interviewed the 80-year-old Savile in 2009. A familiar pattern emerged of Savile getting away with everything short of murder.

The question WHY is easily answered.

He was wealthy.

He was a celebrity. He didn’t work for the BBC. The BBC worked for him. They created a show, Jim’ll Fix It, and it did. It fixed it for the serial paedophile.

He counted Margaret Thatcher and Prince Charles as his personal friends. He was part of the British establishment, given a knighthood in 1990. He had access to Kensington Palace and wandered about at will. Princess Diana thought he was creepy, when he tried to lick her hand. Prince Charles failed to comment on Savile’s posthumous reputation as a serial paedophilic abuser of around 500 mostly preadolescent girls. That’s an estimate by NSPCC. Being a conservative, that is a conservative number.  

He had high-ranking policemen friends that acted as minders.

He had criminal friends that acted as minders.

He could play nice, but he could also play scary.

Sylvia Edwards, now 63, appears on the programme. Back then, in the nineteen-seventies, she’s been given the nod by Savile, picked up by runners for Top of the Pops, a show regularly watched by 15 million. There she is onscreen beside celebrity Jimmy Savile as he speaks to his audience at home in their living rooms. The moron’s moron and fellow psychopath, ex-American President, admitted he grabbed women by the pussy, but it was never shown on camera. But here it is on loop, a blonde and very pretty mop-topped girl, jumping up and twisting away as Savile rams his hand up into her pussy.

It was treated as a joke. When she complained to a cameraman, he told her to go away, get lost.

He picked his victims—they were poor and powerless.

A former bass player with Sparks, Ian Hampton, said: ‘I think he regarded Top of the Pops as a happy hunting ground for young ladies. On one occasion I was on Top of the Pops, Savile disappeared with a young girl to a dressing room’.

Claire McAlpine (her image with Savile shown above) for example, an adolescent, who appeared dancing for the cameras on Top of the Pops. She became pregnant, aged fifteen, and killed herself. Her mother had complained to BBC management about her being in Savile’s dressing room.

Hampton asked a producer of the show what was happening with Savile? He wasn’t given answers. Told he was being ridiculous.  

Literally, powerless with a woman interviewed anonymously, telling how she was in a wheelchair, a patient at Stoke Mandeville Hospital. Savile took her away in her wheelchair to abuse her. She was paralysed from the waist down, but she remembered his eyes.

He did charity work. Kerching, this led to lucrative contracts with state institutions such as British Rail, paying him handsomely for acting as their spokesman on child safety, for example. Savile joked that he’d squared it up with Him upstairs for a few things he’d done. Quid pro quo. A peripatetic bachelor, he had the right credentials to become a priest. He had the equivalent of a knighthood with the Roman Catholic Church.

A two-and-a-half-year independent inquiry in France about the abuse of children by clergy, over the past seventy years, found that at least 330,000 children were victims of sexual abuse by clergy and lay members of church institutions.

“The Catholic church is, after the circle of family and friends, the environment that has the highest prevalence of sexual violence,” the report said.

There’s little reason to believe that similar figures of abuse didn’t also happen in the United Kingdom. And again, these are probably underestimates.

Jimmy Savile was a serial sexual abuser. As each spokesman or woman for the institutions involved run for cover, does this programme offer us anything new?