The Bug House Files

Blame the Benny Hill Generation

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Phwooar! A typical scene from the 1970s

Phwooar! A typical scene from the 1970s

Yet again 21st century Britain finds itself engaged a sustained bout of hand-wringing about the alleged crimes of its past.

Slavery? Old hat. Colonial exploitation? Done that.

No, the current angst is all about male TV and radio stars from the 1970s allegedly groping women, and whether they should be held accountable by our rigorous modern standards or cut some slack because it was 40 years ago and everyone was at it.

This has all come to pass thanks to Operation Yewtree a police investigation which, to everyone’s increasing astonishment, pulled in a steady stream of ageing suspects from the world of 1970s light entertainment for questioning about alleged sexual offences committed when they wore flared trousers and had their own hair.

The investigation was fuelled by the allegations of many dozens of middle-aged women who came forward to give evidence of historic sexual abuse, and as I write there are court cases ongoing.

Yewtree has been the cause of much soul searching for the so-called Baby Boomer generation of which both the accused and accusers are part. Born in the post war years – and the self-styled architects of the modern world – the Boomers have been, until now, the most self-regarding generation in the history of the world.

Now they are riven with self-doubt about their very existence. In a TV debate on the subject last night the former Home Secretary Alan Johnson (b 1950) even described himself as now belonging to the “Benny Hill Generation” – which, despite the seriousness of the subject, made me fall off my chair laughing at the thought of über-Boomer Bill Clinton (b 1946) playing the saxophone – see below.

I was born in the 60s, which means I am part of the generation now tasked with passing judgement on the sins of our fathers. Court cases notwithstanding, I suspect the outcome will be the gradual erasing of the 1970s from our cultural history, the decade being simply too un-PC to pass muster in modern times.

But of course it will not end until all the Benny Hill Generation are dead, and all those born between 1946 and 1955 are regarded as an unfortunate stain on the history of mankind.

For the sake of Britain, and our children, that day cannot come a moment too soon.

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Author: Jim Ford

I'm an author and journalist. "The Bug House" series of Tyneside-based crime novels is published in 2014

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