Revealing the real Rachman?

Jules Birch

It’s almost 50 years since Peter Rachman died and we still use Rachmanism as a shorthand term for everything that is bad about bad landlords. But is what we think we know wrong?

That is the premise of a fascinating documentary on BBC Radio 4 this week that set out to find The Real Rachman – the Lord of the Slums (listen again on iplayer here). The legend it investigated was of the evil vice racketeer who owned slum properties in Notting Hill packed full of tenants with working girls ‘bending the basement’ below them. In 1963 the People exposed an ‘empire based on vice and drugs, violence and blackmail, extortion and slum landlordism the like of which this country has never seen and let us hope never will again’. The same year Panorama exposed a ‘big time 20th century racketeer’ who sent men round with dogs to evict his…

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