Free at last, actor Michael Le Vell walks down the steps outside Manchester Crown Court. Left hand in trouser pocket, which says, only a little too loudly: I’m a cool kinda guy. Legs a little further apart than strictly necessary, which says: my balls are big so they do need more room. Acquitted on all 19 counts of child sex abuse, after two years of ‘hell’ who can blame Le Vell for strutting his stuff? Still less for going down the scally pub as soon as he scally could.
Le Vell now lives in Hale (the posh end of Greater Manchester), but hails from Newton Heath, a couple of miles north of Manchester city centre. The area was first industrialised as far back as the 1820s. It would be a hundred years, and more, before L.S. Lowry depicted Le Vell’s recent forebears as matchstick men (going to their wartime work in the Mather Platt factory).
For 30 years Le Vell himself has painted a picture of working class manhood, playing the part of car mechanic Kevin Webster (avec moustache = gay icon) in the longest-running British TV soap opera,Coronation Street. He says he doesn’t let his children watch the show if Kevin is caught up in a racy scene, in case they become confused about who their father is. But after 30 years in character he too must have difficulty distinguishing himself from….himself.
On trial, a.k.a. on stage in a Manchester courtroom, once again Le Vell became two personae in one person: the guilty man and the innocent party. Only the jury had the power to tell them apart. After his acquittal, we all know which of these was real. But there is something about the wider situation today which means that the doppelganger never altogether disappears.
Those now facing sexual abuse charges are drawn from all walks of public life – MPs (thin ones, fat ones); various actors; a host of radio hosts, starting with Jimmy Savile, anti-Christ. Odds are not all of these are guilty men; but it’s a dead cert that we’re all now involved. Even if each of us were to stand trial and be acquitted of anything-you-like, in today’s climate we are liable to remain the man who beat the charges and dodged the accusations – till next time.