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Memo to Jeremy Irons: Yes, Things Were Different in the '70s. And Thank Goodness They've Changed

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Whenever I hear the name 'Jeremy Irons', my mind instantly takes me to one of two places. The scene in Damage in which he passionately throws Juliette Binoche against a wall - well, he's only human - or this exchange, from an episode of The Simpsons, in which Lisa meets the brainy father of her brainy new friend:

Professor Taylor: Hi Lisa. I'm Alison's father, Professor Taylor. I've heard great things about you.

Lisa: Oh really? I...

Professor Taylor: Oh, don't be modest. I'm glad we have someone who can join us in our anagram game.

Allison Taylor: We take proper names and rearrange the letters to form a description of that person.

Professor Taylor: Like, er... oh, I don't know, uh... Alec Guinness.

Allison Taylor: [thinking] Genuine class.

Professor Taylor: Ho ho, very good. Alright Lisa, um... Jeremy Irons.

Lisa: [looks worried] Jeremy's... iron.

Professor Taylor: Mm hmm, well, that's... very good... for a first try. You know what? I have a ball. Perhaps you'd like to bounce it?

Yes, Jeremy's Iron - actor, social commentator, anagram - is at it again. Social commentating, that is. Or that should be socially commenting? Either way, he's at it - giving us his thoughts on Operation Yewtree and related arrests, saying that he feels "incredibly sorry for people like the television guy on Coronation Street".

This is, presumably, as opposed to the theatre guy on Coronation Street - and we'll also assume that he means Bill Roache, and not, say, the chap who plays Steve McDonald.

Mr Irons' kneejerk sympathy for Bill Roache - as opposed to his alleged rape and indecent assault victims - is a viewpoint that's been expressed by many since Operation Yewtree's net widened and cases other than Jimmy Savile's have come to light (the charging of Roache, for example, is outside of the Yewtree investigation).

Irons and his like seem to assume that the ensnaring of more celebrities by this net is akin to a witch hunt; that the fact that more and more household names are falling from grace is sexual-political correctness gone mad. "They seem to be in the mood to pillory anybody," Irons told the Sunday Times.

The fact is, however, that as more cases become public, more victims come forward as a result. That the unravelling of a web of abuse and deceit - over decades - by scores of people is simply that: an unravelling. Not a fabrication. The woman whose letter to Yasmin Alibhai-Brown started the enquiry into Stuart Hall's serial abuse, for example, wrote in that letter: "The furore over Jimmy Savile has spurred me on." Victims who have remained silent, terrified, for years, have now felt able to come forward. Society is listening to them now, in a way in which it didn't all those years ago.

And their abuse has been real. They weren't what Irons dismisses as "goers". They were young, vulnerable women - children, mostly - who were easy prey for the powerful men who abused them. Irons says: "Look at Top of the Pops. What were those girls doing there? What did they want, the lot of them, when they hung around the caravans and trailers afterwards?" Well, I'd hazard that they wanted an autograph, Jeremy. Or some time with their telly hero. I'm pretty sure that what they didn't want was to be taken advantage of by that hero in the most horrific way imaginable.

Irons explains these encounters by saying that "there was a sort of sexual freedom" in the 1970s - as if all sexual relations during that decade were between consenting adults of equal status. But of course they weren't - and thank goodness that the sort of behaviour considered acceptable or symptomatic of being a "goer" back then is now rightly seen for the abuse that it is.

Bill Roache is innocent until proven guilty, of course. But guess what, Jeremy? So are those doing the accusing. And so are all the children and young women who were abused by Savile, Hall and anyone else who took advantage of them.

You know what, Jeremy? I have a ball. Perhaps you'd like to bounce it?

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