Sunday, 22 February 2009

Cyril Smith. The Gangster and the Pervert Peer. RAW muses.

Channel 4 have broadcast a cheeky romp through the 1960's in documentary The Gangster and the Pervert Peer”. A tabloid title with the sort of factual ingredients that allowed for fictional film dramas such as “Get Carter” and “The Long Good Friday” to have gritty resonance from the time of T. Dan Smith (no direct relation to Our other "Friends in The North"- Cyril and gormless Norm MBE, whose political thiefdom is Rochdale - west of the Red Riding).

Crime plots of bent politicians and gangsters obtaining dubious planning permission for 'regeneration' schemes remain a mainstay of the genre. Even BBC's Hustle and new Minder on Channel 5 refer to civic corruption in scenes too close to home for some in Rochdale.

In last week's “Toffs and Crims" documentary the Kray Twins were linked to Tory peer Lord Boothby.

The fact a Conservative Lord was a “pervert” is hardly shocking, is it?

Do bears shit in the woods”?

Picture a glass coffee table and you may be nearer the truth, according to the telly.

The Gangster and the Pervert Peer: The Krays

What does this have to do with Cyril Smith and Rochdale?

Our Cyril was never officially a Tory and no glass coffee table on Earth could accommodate the most morbidly obese MP Westminster has, rarely, ever seen.


M'Lord Boothby was the cousin of Ludovic Kennedy, the journalist and broadcaster who made history in 1958 by fighting the Rochdale constituency seat for the Liberal Party in Britain's first televised election.

There has been no love lost between Ludo and “lifelong Liberal” Cyril Smith. Under the blaze of the 1950's TV spotlights, Ludovic Kennedy lost to Labour's “Gentleman” Jack McCann. On the end credits of the historic live broadcast from Rochdale Town hall, could Cyril Smith's large gut be seen sporting a socialist rosette whilst heartily congratulating his boss - the new Labour MP?

Some annals of Lib Dem history have airbrushed out Cyril Smith's two long spells as a Labour politician:

Firstly, Cyril's early days as a young treasurer and the mystery of the Heywood & Royton Labour Party funds being quite a few shillings short.

Cyril's second stint in the Labour party saw him as Alderman and Mayor. Spanker Smith was also very close to local “businessman” Fred Ratcliffe- and even gained a minor criminal conviction whilst a fundraiser. In true “Get Carter” style Cyril also got the cash to roll in for Fred's football club and charidee empire by using an old (council acquired?) property for a Bingo Hall.

It was a boom time for some with the 'regeneration' of Rochdale in the 1960's and 70's. Compulsory purchase and large civil engineering schemes changed the face of Rochdale forever. The blight caused by the wholesale pouring of concrete still poison the Lancashire mill town so beloved of tabloids and GMTV and others as the sicknote and shameless capital of Britain and “a Place in the Slum”.

In the late 1960's when Cyril Smith was questioned at Rochdale Police Station regarding accusations of serious sexual abuse, his pleas to Jack McCann MP are legendary. Also in the mists of time are accounts of Labour Goverment's Home Secretary Jim Callaghan ordering Cyril's 'paedo' file to be taken by Special Branch from Lancashire Police's HQ in Preston to London.

By the end of the Wilson era, Jack McCann was dying of cancer. Cyril Smith stood as Liberal candidate against his old boss and confidante. He lost in 1970, but the determined conviction politician won the by-election for the Liberals following Jack McCann's death in 1972.

The investigations into Cyril Smith's repeated acts of sexual abuse to vulnerable lads at Cambridge House hostel in the 1960's were published by RAP (transcribed here) and Private Eye in 1979.

Contrary to popular belief, Cyril Smith never sued.

In an official response from the national Liberal Party, a young spokesman called David Steel dismissed the sexual abuse as:

smacking a few bare bottoms”.

Sad irony is not lost on the fact the future First Speaker of the Scottish Parliament did nothing to help young Scottish Whipp & Bourne apprentices who accused Cyril Smith of sexually abusing them when they were so far from home all those years ago.

After Cyril's spanking and testicle squeezing abuse revelations became public, Smith continued as Rochdale's MP for another 13 years. Despite repeated, unchallenged, claims of him being a pervert he was never made a peer. Some old Freemasons would not give him house room. It has been suggested that the rotund Rotarian was 'blackballed' from the bench of Rochdale Magistrates. Thankfully, later generations of Rochdale youngsters were officially spared criminal 'punishment' from Spanker Smith.

What lessons can be learned from Channel 4's recent documentary?

Here are a few musings:

  • Four decades do not diminish a public interest in investigations of historic sexual abuse.
  • True tales of gangsters and politicians make avid viewing.
  • The Establishment has a habit of covering things up, but eventually the truth can emerge.
  • Boothby spoke in the House of Lords to ask helpful questions about the incarcerated Kray Twins- key 'regeneration experts' and 'businessmen' who employed many in the East End in their day. Politicians can abuse their position of influence to help gangsters. Cyril Smith spoke in the Commons on behalf of corporate asbestos mass killers Turner & Newall. He was so impressed by the product he even acquired shares in the cancerous company.
  • Government files often remain censored if those involved in political scandal are still alive. Those who are dead are no longer protected. Reputations can be destroyed by the truth of investigative journalism.
  • With some determination, justice can prevail- eventually.

As for unrepentant pervert Cyril Smith and his peers, gangsters and planning corruption: could history repeat itself?



Anonymous said...

Cyril Smith has been called "Mr Rochdale"

Look at the state of Rochdale - especially the system built monstrous carbuncles of the 1960's and 70's.

Town Flats, Failinge Flats, Freehold Flats, Ashy Valley. Cyril was influencial on the housing committees when these acts of genius were planned and created.

Rochdale's half a ring road. Cyril bought a newsagents in the line of the new road. Compo was forthcoming, after he ran the business into the ground.

Rochdale market- a disgrace that ripped the heart out of the town. Those brown tiles from Germany that used to drop on the locals' heads were a mystery. How did they get specified when we had the Potteries in Stoke on Trent?

Cyril Smith, Mr Rochdale indeed. Morally, and sexually corrupt.

Anonymous said...

Nothing wrong with town flats and whatever problems there are on Freehold & Falinge, the flats themselves are OK, big rooms, massive windows & warm as toast - brutalism is the only form of architecture unique to the 20th Century and is long overdue for rehabilitation IMO.

I agree with you about the market though. And your assessment of Smith himself.

Anonymous said...

Brutalism- yep a good description of the achitecture Cyril signed off for Rochdale.

Fair point about Town Flats, even Failinage (apert from the old deck access and refuse problems). There could never the a defence of Ashfield Valley- a shambolic low quality scheme so badly built that damp started to rise from day one.

"System built" - not the prefab construction but rather the system used to get the 'redevelopment' through. A system of greed, corruption, petty influence and bullying. A system used to great effect by T.Dan Smith in the North East. A system that Big Cyril pushed for Rochdale with little brother gormless Norm on the Planning Committee.

What is really sad is the fact that Rochdale was sold down the river so cheaply. Planning corruption doesn't involve really big bucks. Rather it was a few kind words, slap up meals, an appointment to a subcommittee (with expenses), a few bottles of wine, a trip or two in the sun, access to a nice second-hand car or just a few peices of silver. A 'system' that was was encourage and milked by the Smiths for years and one of the reasons why Rochdale has gone to the dogs.

What particularly sticks in throat is the propaganda that Cyril was such a civic servant who only had Rochdale's best interest at heart.

He was an abusive bully who overcompensated for his personal issues by going on a destructive and corrosive 60 year ego trip.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to go a bit off topic, but I'll tell you waht's always puzzled me about blocks of flats in Rochale - They all seem to have one word names eg 'Pershore', 'Valleyfield', 'Lindisfarne'. They'd sound far homelier with a 'walk' or 'way' or 'house' stuck on the end.

Anonymous said...

The blocks were given a name from A-Z.

Lindisfarne was about right- cold, inhospitible and damp.

Happy days when "system built" Cyril was on Housing and then brother gormless Norm managed to get on the planning committee.

Ashy valley started falling down before it was finished. Cynics at the time though it must have deserved one hell of a bung.

The barefaced cheek of it. Someone needed to get their arse slapped for that concrete crap.

Amazing how over 30 years later some more planning magic happened on the same old Ashfield Valley site with the Nemesis Nightclub planning application.

Local Councillor Paul Rowen got stuck into that one, along with Cllr Norman Smith.

Was a Smith family member involved?

Someone with a long (but not alway successful) track record in the entertainment industry.

Ask Lib Dem Cllr Jean Jeanie about when there was a topless bar up Blackstone Edge Old Rd. (was it the pub that had the mysterious fire that burnt all the tax receipts and invoices?)

Anonymous said...

What I'm getting at is the cheeseparing nature of R/Dale council - It wouldn't have cost them a penny to add a 'way or 'house' at the end of the block titles, so why didn't they? Unless it was to make tenants more easily identifiable to local businesses in order to refuse them HP terms and suchlike.

Incidentally, the 'x' block on the valley was called 'Exford' - coz the council couldn't think of a suitable word beginning with x. The poet Simon Armitage suggested Xanadu (named after Kubla Khans pleasure palace and meaning something like 'a perfect place') - it would've been quite in keeping with Rochdale given the popular nite spot of the same name.

I know the valley had it's problems, but I know lots of people who had fond memories of living there & I find it hard to believe that what has replaced it is in any way an improvement.

That's not to say I'm a supporter of Smith or town hall corruption in general.

Anonymous said...

that is a really good point.

decent people in Rochdale get let down time and time again.

some good people lived in Ashy Valley. Some bad'ens too but not at first.

In the 60's and 70's civic corruption helped grease the cogs to allow for poor standard system built flats.

Now we see the whole regeneration agenda being dominated by a few companies that (until the crunch) fed the shallow consumner boom. Shopping palaces for the people. Bollocks.

A new generation a weak stupid gullable politicians allowing it to happen.

At least the wheels fell of the Rochdale town centre fiasco before the real damage was done.

we are still paying for the damage done by the Smith Brothers Grim from over 30 years ago.

corrupt shitbags.

Anonymous said...

Yer spot on there mate, that's exactly what I was trying to get at, and very little has changed - ask anyone who's had a new kitchen fitted by Cruden's - the mess they leave beggars belief. And then, when the poor old, long suffering tenant comes to leave the property, RBH have the nerve to charge them (extortionately) for the damage done by Cruden's - the company RBH employed to do the work in the first place. I've been a tenant of council gaffes in a number of towns around the North West and I'd say without hesitation that RBH are by far the worst landlord. I'm living on Kirkholt at the mo and I'm willing to bet this whole 'vision for Kirkholt' regeneration scheme will run out of funding halfway through and leave what is an already run-down area little more than a steel-shuttered ghost town. But that's mere speculation.

Anyway, I'm sorry to go off topic again, but the fact that these inept (and/or corrupt) wankers (scuse my French) are my landlords really riles me almost beyond endurance, especially when my rent's gone up by nearly a fiver this year.

There ya go, rant over. BTW, thanks for this site - it's the only place on the net where I can see a Rochdale I recognise.

Rochdale Rapper said...

Ludovic Kennedy- RIP a decent and well repsected man.

BTW- supposedly "lifelong" Liberal Cyril Smith was a councillor and very active in the Labour Party at the time of the 1958 Rochdale By-Election.

There was no love lost between Mr Kennedy -a decent, kind, thoughful and compassionate man - and Cyril Smith- a pro-hanging, pro-corporal punishment, unrepentant supporter of the deadly asbestos industry and someone who was subject to shocking allegations in 1979.
30 years on, the accusations still stand- Cyril Smith never sued Rochdale Alternative Press or Private Eye magazine.

No wonder a principled compassionate Ludovic Kennedy was diplomatic but nevertheless would give "Sir Cyril" house room.