Wednesday, 13 August 2014

When Mary met William (and Jimmy)

I've been reading Quite Contrary (Sidgwick & Jackson, 1993), the - third, I think - autobiography of Mary Whitehouse, a woman who I've written about before on this blog. And I'm very taken by her account of a 1981 debate at the Oxford Union, where - for the first time ever - she actually won a vote.

Her opponent was Victor Lowndes, formerly the chairman of the Playboy Organisation in Britain. It all sounds terribly exciting, particuarly because of the accompanying photograph - there, separating the two antagonists, is our very own William Hague, looking even younger than he had at the 1977 Conservative Party conference:

Mind you, this being written twenty years ago, when Hague was not yet even in the cabinet, he doesn't rate a name-check by Whitehouse at all.

Odd how different things can look in retrospect. Elsewhere in the book, Whitehouse remembers the occasion on which Jimmy Savile was presented with an award by the National Viewers and Listeners Association. In his acceptance speech, Savile reflected: 'While Mrs Whitehouse possibly wouldn't agree with my personal lifestyle, it is through organisations like hers that there is some semblance of decency.'

This was in 1977, just as Whitehouse was launching her great drive against paedophile pornography, a campaign which would culminate the following year with the Protection of Children Act. So he was probably correct in his assessment.

Writing in 1993, however, Whitehouse comments: 'Well, I don't know anything about Jimmy's lifestyle and, in any case, it's no business of mine. What I do know is that, as the years have gone on, so Jimmy has continued to make his highly acclaimed contribution to those in need and for that one continues to be grateful. His knighthood reflects the respect in which he is held by everyone.'

You can't get it right everytime.

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