Friday, 5 February 2016

Savile and Batmanghelidj: the English need to rediscover their innate distrust of flamboyance

Ever since I arrive in this country 57 years' ago, I've been listening to people lecture the British - the English in particular - on how they should be more flamboyant and outgoing, more easy-going and less easy to embarrass, less judgmental, more accepting of "otherness", less rule-bound, more latin, more life-loving: in other words, not so bloody English. As I have inherited from my Norwegian father an absolute horror of flamboyance (unless it's on the stage), I've felt very much at home with English reticence, and tend to despair when the English start apologising for being English: "Gosh, yes, I know - aren't we awful. Sorry!" I suspect this tendency to feel embarrassed about how embarrassed they feel when faced with loudly-dressed BIG personalities is why Savile got away his his crimes for decades and why Camila Batmanghelidj was able to squeeze vast sums of money from philanthropists and politicians for her disastrously dysfunctional "charity".

Like most people, I watched much of this week's BBC documentary, Camila's Kids Company: The Inside Story, through splayed fingers, as if it were a horror film. Which, in many ways, of course, it was. How, one wondered, had this ghastly, needy, manipulative, ludicrously-attired blimp of a woman managed to get away with it for so long? How could any normal English person meeting her not be troubled by such rampant egomania; by such emetic public displays of compassion; by the fact that she laughed a lot, but appeared not to have a sense of humour; by her evident distaste for the ordinary taxpayer who was (without their permission, of course) funding an organisation whose main purpose seemed to be to demonstrate Batmanghelidj's utter bloody wonderfulness; by the vampiric way she gorged herself on other people's dependency; by her utter inability to see that much of what she was doing would horrify the very people who - unbeknownst to them - were paying for it? Good God, one of the women supposedly "helped" by Kids Company when she was younger had gone on to produce six kids - and now they were all being supported by the charity. One of them was attending boarding school at a cost of £15,000 a year, paid for by us! As were the private school fees of her sodding chauffeur! WTF.

I can only assume that the first reaction of the English politicians and civil servants (not all of whom were taken in, to be fair) who came in contact with this bizarre creature - this human confection - was one of deep embarrassment mingled with distrust. But, having been told all their lives that they should lighten up, be less stuffy, less English, they suppressed their instincts and kept lobbing our dosh at Kids Company.

A similar thing must have happened with all those people who unknowingly (or knowingly) assisted Jimmy Savile to abuse hundreds of children - among them, some of the most vulnerable in the country. Savile dressed like a twat, had stupid hair, possessed no discernible sense of humour, and had a personality like nails scraping on a blackboard. His otherness was excused as eccentricity, and forgiven because he did so much for "sherridy". A whole nation suppressed its natural instincts that this bloke was deeply creepy - a thoroughgoing wrong 'un. My own political heroine, Margaret Thatcher, even gave the blighter a knighthood, despite the resistance of senior Whitehall mandarins (they have their uses, civil servants).

You'd have thought that, following Savile, politicians would automatically be wary of giving any backing to anyone who (1) dresses weirdly, (2) doesn't have a sense of humour, but laughs a lot, (3) has a "big personality" (i.e. is obnoxious)  (4) is evidently an egomaniac and (5) regularly flaunts their compassion in public. When dealing with anyone who meets these criteria, English people should simply go with their natural inclination to slam the door in their face, pronto.

At the start of the week, Dan Hodges wrote this in the Telegraph:
...strip away the more lurid aspects of this sorry saga, and you are left with this. Kids Company wasn’t actually a charity. Nor was it a quango. Nor was it a department of government. It existed in a surreal twilight world, sustained by funding provided by the taxpayer, without proper oversight on behalf of the taxpayer, and – because that funding was provided at the whim of a small circle of senior ministers – without the knowledge or approval of the taxpayer.
His article, "Too many of our 'charities’ are nothing of the sort", reveals that at least 24% of funding for our major charities is provided by the government (i.e. you and me). The figure could be as high as 49%. As Hodges says, "’s increasingly clear many “charities” aren’t really charities at all. They’re public sector service providers, with a cosmetic fundraising arm." This really, really must stop.


  1. Occam's Taser5 February 2016 at 23:55

    One might have thought that London's Athenaeum Club was a perfect venue for English gentlemen to exercise their "innate distrust of flamboyance. "

    Sadly, this was not the case when a prominent member (unworthy pun intended ) viz., the Archbishop of Westminster , Cardinal Basil Hume, successfully proposed his friend Jimmy Savile for membership.

    How much better club life would have been if , after the Athenaeum committee vote on Savile's proposed membership had been taken the conversation between Hume and Savile had been as follows :

    Hume : "Sorry, Jimmy. Blackballed I'm afraid"

    Savile : "Were there many black balls?"

    Hume : "Ever seen sheepshit?"

  2. I am very pleased to see someone making the link between Jimmy Saville and Camilla Batmanghelidj as confidence tricksters who had you if you still took them seriously five minutes after seeing them or hearing them speak.

    Obviously Batmanghelidj is not as harmful a person as Savile but there are a lot of similarities in terms of fooling people who should have seen through them.

    I thought you excellent post was undermined a bit by your reference to Mrs Thatcher as a heroine. She seems to tick all of the boxes apart from displays of compassion which you rightly say should lead to the door being slammed in her face.

  3. Actually Mrs Thatcher did not dress as weirdly as the other two but there was something odd about her appearance and certainly about the way she spoke that made her seem pretty weird

  4. I suspect the next move for Batmanghelidj is a damehood [" for services to curtain industry"] followed by an elevation to the peerage [she and Botney can occupy a whole bench in the House of Lords like two figures from a Donald McGill postcard]. Then an advertising contract with the M&S Soft Furnishing division? After Lin Homer became a Dame after her disastrous tenure of various key offices anything is possible.

    After blowing a vast sum of tax payer's money on Christ knows what without any form of punishment I was wondering wether she was entitled to some lucrative Government pension [Homer has £2.2 M apparently]. I don't know how old Fruity Turbans is [for all I know she may be a Persian adolescent with her Scheherezade wrinkle-free looks , comical clothes and little Shirley Temple voice]. Apparently, charities are protected from the FOI Act even though in this case the majority of the money comes from the British tax payer.

    Finally, the thing that really creeped me out about both Batman and Savile is that they addressed everybody as if they were talking to a retarded child. And as their egos grew out of control they started to forget who they were talking to.

    1. "...they addressed everybody as if they were talking to a retarded child."

      For some reason, that phrase brought Diane Abbott to mind. And some of her clothing choices are a bit OTT. Hmm.

    2. "...they addressed everybody as if they were talking to a retarded child."

      For some reason, that phrase brought Diane Abbott to mind. And some of her clothing choices are a bit OTT. Hmm.