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Sir Cliff versus the Twits


Although some music critics will argue otherwise, Cliff Richard has led a blameless life. Yet the police invasion of his home in 2014 left the septuagenarian singer ‘hung out to dry like live bait’, his life shattered by the ‘shocking, humiliating and embarrassing’ live broadcast by the BBC of the theatrical raid.

As David Keighley recorded for TCW here and here, in its blinkered pursuit of a scoop the BBC abandoned editorial judgement, gleefully hoping to expose, as a sex offender, a famously clean-living and straitlaced Christian.

Despite the allegations against him being widely derided, almost two years passed before the Crown Prosecution Service issued its mealy-mouthed statement: ‘We have decided there is insufficient evidence to prosecute.’ And as though Sir Cliff has not already suffered enough these past few years, on November 27 he guested on ITV’s Loose Women.

Seated alongside his close friend Gloria Hunniford, the Young One was received with sympathy by all in the studio. Yet somehow his appearance generated headlines such as ‘Sir Cliff Richard sparks fury’ and ‘Cliff Richard shocks Loose Women viewers with controversial comments’. The show’s presenters even got it in the neck: ‘Outraged Loose Women viewers slammed the panel for applauding his shocking statement.

And what was this ‘shocking statement’ that included ‘controversial comments’? In what one imagines to be a first for a guest on Loose Women, Cliff Richard cited the eighteenth century jurist and author of Commentaries on the Laws of England, Sir William Blackstone: ‘Better that ten guilty persons escape than one innocent suffer.

Often paraphrased along the lines of ‘better that ten guilty men go free rather than one innocent man be wrongly convicted’, one hopes most people would concur. But while there might be a philosophical debate to be had regarding what commonly is known as Blackstone’s ratio, in today’s climate of #MeToo and selective reinterpretations of the past, innocent victims of moral crusades are too readily dismissed as collateral damage.

Naturally there was little nuance amongst Loose Women’s ‘outraged viewers’ – a body which in reality would have comprised a small number of perpetually offended Tweeters, such as:

One ‘furious viewer’ was even quoted: ‘Imagine having 10 predators on the streets just because you were mildly inconvenienced by an investigation into you that was proven to be untrue?’ If nothing else, ‘mildly inconvenienced’ displays the writer’s mastery of understatement.

Kneejerk nonsense on social media is best ignored, except that news outlets persist in confecting histrionic headlines and sensationalised stories from the ravings of a few hair-trigger Tweeters. One of which, regarding Cliff Richard, particularly caught my eye:

Gully Burrows is a ‘senior video journalist at Trinity Mirror’ and has a LinkedIn profile which reads as though he is applying to join the blowhards on The Apprentice. Mr Burrows showcases his video journalism by including in his tweet film that purports to demonstrate Cliff Richard’s ‘flawed logic’ – a clip sneakily edited to exclude Sir Cliff attributing his quote to ‘a judge Blackstone from way back’.

So next time you come across some video output from a Trinity Mirror title, be particularly sceptical – the film might have been selectively edited by the deceptive Gully Burrows.

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Gary Oliver
Gary Oliver
Gary Oliver is an accountant who lives in East Lothian.

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