Why do the likes of Jimmy Savile, Fred Goodwin and Rupert Murdoch get away with it for so long?

Mainly because we forgive anyone and anything if they do a bit of work for charity

Investment bankers must have been so relieved. Fred Goodwin will have seen the quotes from executives saying, “we all suspected this reckless behaviour was going on but it was considered normal” and “at the time, no one dared criticise but now I think he should be stripped of his knighthood”, and thought: “They’re starting on me again. Oh, hang on, that’s a result, they’re talking about Jimmy Savile.”

This routine keeps happening. Politicians who grovelled to Rupert Murdoch for years now gasp: “Well, who’d have thought it? It turns out his papers lied and cheated. If only there’d been some sort of clue that his main concern was with his own power. It goes to show it’s always the quiet retiring ones who are up to no good.”

There’s astonishment that bankers were greedy, or police lied when anyone vaguely connected to the universe knew this. It’s like someone letting a bunch of crocodiles loose in a swimming pool, and after they’ve eaten everyone then saying: “None of us could have had any idea this would happen. Maybe we should consider tighter regulation on crocodiles in public, as long as the crocodiles agree to a system that doesn’t restrict the important work we expect our carnivores to do.”

But of all the revered institutions that were clearly up to no good, none was more obviously sinister than Jimmy bloody Savile. I felt abused by him when I was 13 and I only saw him on the telly.

Anyone other than a Saturday night TV host seen mugging to camera and squeezing teenagers while grunting, “Ugh ugh ugh what – have – we –e-e got here ugh ugh” as their faces screamed, “I’m trying to look thrilled but I’m terrified”, would have had a blurry photo of themselves on the front of The People with the headline, “Have you seen this pervert?”

Partly, he was protected by his association with charity; anything’s forgiven if that’s on the CV. Fred West would still be free if he’d sat in a bath full of baked beans to raise money for prostate cancer. He’d be presenting a day-time home improvements programme, while people said: “I know he buried his family but he raises ever such a lot of money for the people he doesn’t murder.”

But what may have saved Savile even more was the saintliness granted to those celebrities whose entire image is built around being wholesome and uncontroversial, full of goodness and virtue, to be loved by all the family. So for the many people who witnessed teenage girls being routinely lured into his dressing room, making an official complaint must have seemed as futile as a bank clerk in 2007 saying, “Are you sure we should lend another million dollars to Mr Stanford?” The only surprise so far about the revelations is that Tony Blair doesn’t seem to have had his picture taken with him, before going on holiday with him and selling him a tank.

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