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review 2018-10-07 16:00
A Very English Scandal by John Preston
A Very English Scandal: Sex, Lies and a Murder Plot at the Heart of the Establishment - John M. Preston

Unfortunately I’ve been ill for the last few weeks and in the brief periods I’ve been well I’ve been preparing for Nanaowrimo (national novel writing month), which I’m going to be participating in this year. I’m finally getting back to some semblance of normality, so I feel up to writing a review of this fantastic book. As reading has taken a back seat recently, I’ve decided to just go for one bingo. Thriller/suspense isn’t really my genre, so I’ll be more than happy with one bingo.

 

It would be easy to forget that this is a work of non-fiction, based on the personal life of Jeremy Thorpe, the Liberal Democrat leader. For my American friends, the Lib Dems are one of the three main political parties here in the UK. They typically get a very meagre share of the seats available in the House of Commons, with the Conservative and Labour party holding the lions share.

 

Before Jeremy became the leader of his party he’d done some things, specifically in his personal life, that he didn’t want to come to light. At the start of the book he relates this problem to his fellow party member and so begins a plot to cover it up. Jeremy’d been involved in a homosexual relationship in his younger days and, at the time, homosexuality was illegal. The man he had this relationship with had letters which alluded to the affair, although by no means specific. Jeremy knows that if the letters become public, though, he’ll be tarnished and unable to continue in the public sphere.

 

Jeremy doesn’t actually do much of anything to rectify the situation, but elicits the help of his friends and fellow party members to do so instead. He was apparently such an infectious and charismatic character that his closest would do almost anything to protect him. The establishment did their part in helping to cover things up, as well. This is most abundantly clear at trial towards the end of the book.

 

The book is written in a sparse and journalistic style, as you’d expect from a work of non-fiction, but the plot is so fascinating that that has little bearing. 

 

I watched the mini-series starring Hugh Grant right after I finished and the perspective the book was told from (Jeremy’s fellow party member) was lost in the screen adaption. The overall feel of the adaption felt a little different due to this, but the book was followed closely in most other regards. Overall, though, it was quite good, with a great performance from Hugh Grant who played Jeremy.

 

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text 2018-09-18 15:54
Reading progress update: I've read 20%.
A Very English Scandal: Sex, Lies and a Murder Plot at the Heart of the Establishment - John M. Preston

This is my next read and I'm really enjoying it. Intrigue and scandal at it's best.

 

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review 2016-04-11 23:42
A Very English Scandal: Sex, Lies and a Murder Plot at the Heart of the Establishment by John Preston
A Very English Scandal: Sex, Lies and a Murder Plot at the Heart of the Establishment - John M. Preston

 


Penguin Books (UK) Viking

Description: In 1979, Jeremy Thorpe, the rising star of the Liberal Party, stood trial for conspiracy to murder. It was the first time that a leading British politician had stood trial on a murder charge. It was the first time that a murder plot had been hatched in the House of Commons. And it was the first time that a prominent public figure had been exposed as a philandering homosexual. With all the pace and drama of a thriller, A Very English Scandal is an extraordinary story of hypocrisy, deceit and betrayal at the heart of the British Establishment.

Opening: PART I: A Dinner at the House of Commons: One evening in February 1965, a man with a fondness for mohair suits, an unusaually wrinkled face and a faint resemblance to Humphrey Bogart walked into the member's dining room at the House of Commons. His name was Peter Bessell and he was the Liberal MP for Bodmin in Cornwall.

Take one callous homosexual rapist with eyes on Number 10 Downing Street, and you end up with this train wreck. If you could envisage the non-payment of NI employer contributions as the horse's nail:
“For the want of a nail the shoe was lost,
For the want of a shoe the horse was lost,
For the want of a horse the rider was lost,
For the want of a rider the battle was lost,
For the want of a battle the kingdom was lost,
And all for the want of a horseshoe-nail.”
Preston's biography of Thorpe also brushes up against the Profumo Affair, and we also come smack bang up against the paedophile Liberal MP from Rochdale, Cyril Smith.

On page 173, just when I thought the sleaze and hypocrisy could not become any worse we are treated to this eye-opening encounter:

Thorpe decided to use some of MacKay's money on a new party political broadcast. He was keen that the party should engage with younger voters, and he cast around for a suitable format in which to put across his message. It's unclear who suggested that he should appear in front of an invited audience with the disc jockey Jimmy Savile, but it was an idea Thorpe eagerly embraced. [..] At one point a member of the audience asked if it was ever permissible to break the law in this country. Both men vigorously shook their heads. "I believe this country is a democracy where ther is no need to break the law," said Thorpe. "There are sufficient democratic outlets without having to do so." Savile nodded his agreement.

And on page 186, Johnny Savile:



Jimmy Savile wasn't the only member of his family with close Liberal connections: his older brother Johnny was standing as the Liberal candidate in Battersea North. Fifteen years after his death in 1998, Johnny Savile was accused of sexually assaulting mentally ill patients at the hospital in Tooting, where he worked as a recreation officer.


Jeremy Thorpe with Cyril Smith. Liberal party, police and MI5 concealed MP Cyril Smith's industrial-scale child abuse



Leo Abse - a white hat in a flouncy shirt who pushed for pro homosexual legislation

Clement Freud

David Steel - please note, Mr Steel was nowt but a good guy. His picture here is because of how white he turned when he heard Mr Norman Scott tell his tale.

You have heard me regale at length before about the writing getting in the way of the story: Preston tells the story without curlicues to distract from the hideously breathtaking events; jounalism at its best. 'Just the facts ma'am' is what I crave and what was delivered. It seems entirely natural that this is the first read after the Panama Papers where I have to employ a money laundering shelf. Now I need to give my brain a scrub to rid myself of these corrupters of the common good.



13.05.2015: Jeremy Thorpe: Inquiry into claims police altered evidence

Police to investigate 'suppressed evidence' from Jeremy Thorpe trial

James Baldwin's Giovanni's Room
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