Jim talks about Cyril Smith and some less successful aspects of journalism

I think on the confessional side, because you had indicated that you might want to talk about my failures as well as my successes. I mean Cyril Smith is somebody I ought to put on the record, because, as I said to a chap who wrote a book about it a few years ago, the fact of the matter was that during my time there, you always wanted Smith on the programme because he’d be good value. You know, he’d usually be attacking the Liberal leadership, or he’d come out with a great soundbite. And that was the thing. Well, he had an irritable streak as well. I remember in the early days, when I first started, I was told… because the unions at that time were very powerful, and were very keen on the conditions of work. And we were going to interview Cyril Smith, and I had a big crew, it was sound, cameras, PA, chargehand to deal with the cables. And we were heading off for Rochdale and it was lunchtime, so we had to go into this restaurant and have a three course lunch. But I actually said, “Well, could we forego the desserts because Cyril Smith’s waiting, we’re going to be late.” And, “No, no, no, no.” So we arrived at Smith’s house and, “You’re bloody late.” So he had a bit of a temper on him. But generally speaking, you wanted him on the programmes. And rumbling away in the background… this isn’t particularly covering my Granada period, but he was around all the way through most of my broadcast. 

Rumbling away in the background were these rumours. And I just wish, one way or the other… I mean, I don’t even think World of Action did it. And I’ve studied this almost forensically since, because it troubles me. What was it? And then the Savile affair was a similar pattern. What was it about these larger than life figures that led to them being able to do what they did for so long without being exposed? And with Smith, there was a close down on it. I can excuse myself on the grounds that the Director of Public Prosecutions in 1969, when it was first drawn to his attention, did nothing. And it went on like that. Lancashire Police pulled the files from them. So there was a lot of pressure there, and if I’d ever really taken it on board and gone to an editor who was at the BBC or Granada, would they have believed me or would they have said, “Well, look, the police say there’s nothing in this. We’re going to take the risk.” And then…

And you know, it’s been a depressing few years because obviously I, later on, worked with Stuart Hall. Well, I worked with Stuart Hall at the BBC up to 1980. And then of course he left and he came to Granada for quite a while. That was the big shock. Stuart Hall, he was a very old-fashioned ladies’ man, and that’s why the rest of it was such a shock. 

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