The Leeds post on Savile required subtlety; it dealt with things like culture and class that only work that way. So what about Broadmoor, the asylum where the Tories put the psychopath in charge? Well, Leeds was about the things nobody was willing to say. As we will shortly see, Broadmoor was about precisely the things people said right out there in the open. The report is here.
If you followed mainstream media or indeed this blog, you’ll know that the minister responsible for putting Savile in charge of Broadmoor Special Hospital was none other than Edwina Currie. Here’s what she has to say for herself, at paragraph 7.14 of the report.
“He’d had a look at everything he could use to blackmail the Prison Officers’ Association…I thought it was a pretty classy piece of operation. He knew how to pin people to the wall and get from them what he wanted
She wasn’t wrong.
What was it Currie was talking about? Well, Savile claimed per paragraph 7.13 to have discovered that the Broadmoor staff were fiddling their overtime, that some people who weren’t working there had managed to keep tied accommodation, and that some £5 million was missing from a construction project. The reference to blackmail is that he proposed to leak this to a newspaper if the POA didn’t cooperate.
As the report says, the corollary of this is that he, Currie, and senior civil servants were willing to accept the alleged fraud in exchange for cooperation. As it doesn’t say, quite, the government in the person of Currie was also OK with using Savile’s gangster tactics as well as putting up with the illegality. Currie thought this “classy”.
The motive was, per paragraph 7.13, as follows. It is what you might guess.
He intended to bring the POA to heel
In 7.14, Currie says:
The principal question was “how can [the government] break the hold the POA has on the hospital
She also (reference 7.20) says:
a racket run by the union was like manna from heaven
In a brief for ministers dated February 1989, reference 7.19, we get this:
As a direct result of Mr Savile’s determined and at times ruthless leadership, 15 militant senior nurse managers are set to leave the hospital
It seems only surprising they were not found in a ditch in Guatemala, going by the style and tone here.
But, you say – a racket run by the union is still a racket. The report repeatedly points to the fact that many Broadmoor staff lived in tied accommodation as a reason why Savile got away with it. They were scared of being evicted. The racket didn’t end – he muscled in on it. Clearly, he provided some service and that service was putting the fear of God into people who were after all just in a union. It’s normal. It was the thuggery that impressed so much.
By the way, in fact he made a pass at the minister herself; an annexe to the document contains a civil service note of the meeting in which she says he tends to kiss right on the mouth. We’ll break here to pass round the brain-bleach.
If the convulsions have passed, we’ll continue. One of the big issues in Broadmoor and in the NHS at the time was the emergence of “management” as a thing as opposed to “administration”. “General managers” were appearing and gaining influence as a new profession. In Leeds, this was almost certainly a good thing. Professionalisation removed niches in which the roots of his tolerance lay. Access was reviewed. Policies were drawn up for things like protecting patients from abusers. The dual hierarchy of consultants and nurses, neither of whom necessarily took responsibility for basic security, was subordinated to management.
In Broadmoor, though, Savile was the agent of the rise of the manager. His appointment occurred in the context of efforts to create a management structure for the special hospitals. DHSS officials who believed strongly in “entrepreneurs” were instrumental in appointing him. The launch of playing-at-shops internal markets was closely bound up with it. The man who pressed the button, Cliff Graham, did so over the summer while key civil servants were on leave, ministers were out of the country, and Edwina Currie, bless her heart, was “covering but doing most of it from Yorkshire”. Graham acted, and then informed the minister when the damage was done. It is surely interesting that the report quotes another civil servant describing him as “a thug”. Graham has since died.
I didn’t know, before reading the report, that Broadmoor played an important role in the foundation of the POA. As such, it was perhaps a sort of carceral Yorkshire coalfield. The changes going on there were socially complex. Part of the story was the movement towards a less vicious form of psychiatry, which implied that the role of the staff would be more therapeutic and less punitive or security oriented. This is clearly a good thing. However, an important social aspect of this was that it meant that they would cease to be a trade, organised in the POA, and become a profession with a chartered institute, the Royal College of Nursing.
I don’t know, but I’m guessing that the transition from a blue-collar ex-services culture to a pink-collar one probably came with a pay cut and not much future for non-graduates. Which would be why they wanted Savile and his merry gang from Leeds. Tellingly, the report says the most prison-minded old guard types were also the most successful at keeping him out of their wards – they weren’t likely to be bullied.
Which leaves us with a question I left hanging. Which newspaper was that again? It was, of course, the Sun. It goes without saying, really. And not much changed. Here’s David Hencke:
Matthew [D'Ancona] describes his [George Osborne's] view of Coulson as ”a street fighter who could take the battle to Labour and win in a media knife-fight.”
But Cameron comes over as besotted with Coulson. According to [D'Ancona] ” Cameron..was awestruck by his communications director, whom he privately described in lyrical language.”
” He treated Coulson as a red top shaman, a source of secret knowledge about the world of tabloids, Essex and kitchen- table politics..
Still far too keen on anyone who came across as: a thug.