Just as a Full English Breakfast is really just a little too much –which is its point , so a Very English Scandal the story of the Thorpe affair has so many ingredients that you have to leave some on the side of the plate.
OK so being gay is neither here nor there, nor being bisexual, nor being bankrupt or an MP. Maybe plotting kill an ex lover goes a bit near the edge. Being the leader of a major political party gives a bit of profile. Non consensual sex happens. Nervous breakdowns occur. Having a wife die, being married several times, betraying your friends, being on drugs, conning exiled millionaires, these things are part of non suburban life. Not all the above details refer to Jeremy Thorpe, though many do.
The saga is acted out in farcical fashion by a cast of twilight, nearly men who rely on very ordinary people like their wives, girl friends and neighbours to get them through the night. And what is so brilliant is the establishment ,that is parliament, the police,the legal system closed ranks and let Jeremy Thorpe walk free.
He had buggered and let down Norman Scott who still lives surrounded by animals. When Scott tried to get support through his many break downs Thorpe turned his back and then got the most unlikely crew since the Keystone Cops to try and murder the luckless, wonderfully promiscuous, Scott. Instead they killed his dog, a Great Dane naturally!
Such is the Englishness of this scandal that (now) well known paedophiles such as Jimmy Saville and Cyril Smith feature. Not to mention pillars of the legal establishment such as Lord Goddard and George Carmen. To the end Thorpe could never understand why a life peerage eluded him. One can quite understand why he went to the often disgraced india rubber man, Baron Peter Mandelson to try and get his ermine.
Although there is much to admire,laugh at and enjoy in the book it leaves a sour taste . After all if such a bunch of complete reprobates, liars and inadequates were running the country then in the l960s,how can we be sure that a similar bunch are not doing the same now. When such squeakies as Rifkind and Straw are exposed as corrupt…..
A Very English Scandal.Sex Lies and a Murder Plot at the Heart of the British Establishment.(Penguin ,John Preston)
Caption for link-Did he really say he didn’t like it?