Last Night's Television - Whitechapel, ITV1; The Princess and the Gangster, Channel 4

Don't mess with the firm

John Bindon was a charismatic fellow, a great story-teller and the life and soul of every party. He was an occasional actor, who popped up in some seminal 1960s films, including Get Carter and Ken Loach's Poor Cow, playing an alternative version of himself, for he was also a violent small-time criminal and a bully. His posh girlfriend, the Hon Vicki Hodge, still has knife marks to show for their relationship.

However, it was for none of the above that, in the 1970s, Bindon's name was as familiar to me and my schoolfriends as those of our teachers. Somehow, word that he was prodigiously endowed in the manhood department got from the pubs of west London, where Bindon used to hang out in more ways than one, to the corridors of our north-of-England grammar school. It could almost have been me and my mates reminiscing fondly in The Princess and the Gangster, but instead it was Bindon's old friends recalling his party pieces, one of which was to "whirl it around like a helicopter". "He used to slap it on the bar," remembered Hodge. "I just thought it was frightfully funny." At my school, it was even claimed that he could stand six pints of beer on it. He was a legend in his own lunchbox.

The central question of this rather tacky documentary was whether Princess Margaret took Bindon's lunchbox to bed. They met in her playpen, the Caribbean island of Mustique, in 1973. Her marriage to Lord Snowdon was as good as over, and Bindon was taking a timely holiday while coppers in Fulham looked for him in connection with some brouhaha or other. Margaret didn't know that he was a villain, just that he was terribly amusing. She also, it was reported by some of her entourage, was treated to his helicopter trick, after which her "lady-in-waiting sat down and said, 'Well, I've seen bigger'."

Whatever, Margaret and Bindon continued to see each other back in London, and the security forces had a quiet word with him when it emerged that he had photos of himself on Mustique that were deemed likely to "embarrass" the Royal Family. Whether any of this was worthy of an hour of our time or indeed Channel 4's, I'm not sure. Margaret's friends always denied that Bindon was anything other than an acquaintance, and of all the people interviewed here, only Hodge, rather desperately basking in the dubious reflected glory, clung to the belief that they had been sexually involved.

Still, I quite enjoyed the image of Margaret turning furiously in her grave, not so much at the suggestion that she had taken Bindon to the royal bed, but with indignation at the "lookalike" hired for the inevitable dramatic reconstructions. She might have been an appalling woman who behaved with monstrous hauteur towards almost everyone, but she didn't deserve quite such a horsey doppelgänger.

Nor, in truth, did she deserve title billing in what was basically a programme about Bindon – who became a reclusive heroin addict and died of an Aids-related illness in 1993 – in which she should have had little more than a wave-on part. It was plainly absurd to imply, as this documentary did, that she owed her plunge in public opinion to the association with Bindon, which was broken by the Daily Mirror after he was tried for murder, and somewhat mysteriously acquitted, in 1978. There have been some right royal scandals since then that made this one seem very small beer indeed. All the same, speaking of beer, it was good to be reminded of the rumours about Bindon's manhood that used to entertain my schoolfriends and me.

Returning to royal scandals, it is sometimes claimed that one of Queen Victoria's grandsons, the Duke of Clarence, was Jack the Ripper. This theory was aired again last night as the hunt for a modern-day copycat Ripper gathered pace in the increasingly preposterous yet still-watchable Whitechapel, in which Racquel from Only Fools and Horses (or at least the actress who played her, Tessa Peake-Jones) became the latest disembowelled victim. Not so cushty.

Whoever is committing these dreadful crimes is rapidly turning into the drama's most plausible character. The coppers down Whitechapel nick are obviously products of a writer's wishful thinking, with their iffy personal hygiene and inability to understand the word "fallible", while their boss, Detective Inspective Chandler (Rupert Penry-Jones), looks more and more as though he wandered on to the wrong set while making an episode of Heartbeat or Poirot. And yet I find that I want to know what happens next, if only to resolve the question of whether DI Chambers's second-in-command, DS Miles (Phil Davis), practically Olympic standard in the business of jumping to conclusions, is as thick as he appears to be.

One final word on Whitechapel. Last week, I was prepared to forgive the over-zealous use of background music, but during last night's episode, the attempt to depict East End alleyways late at night as deserted except for killer and victim was thoroughly undermined by the apparent presence of not one orchestra but several.

Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Arts and Entertainment
War veteran and father of Peter and Laust Thoger Jensen played by Lars Mikkelson

TVBBC hopes latest Danish import will spell success

Arts and Entertainment
Carey Mulligan in Far From The Madding Crowd
FilmCarey Mulligan’s Bathsheba would fit in better in The Hunger Games
Arts and Entertainment
Pandas-on-heat: Mary Ramsden's contribution is intended to evoke the compound the beasts smear around their habitat
Iart'm Here But You've Gone exhibition has invited artists to produce perfumes
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
    'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

    'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

    British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
    Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

    Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

    Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
    14 best kids' hoodies

    14 best kids' hoodies

    Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

    The acceptable face of the Emirates

    Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk