Wednesday, 24 December 2008

213: Christmas 6

from “Punch”, 10 December 1980
by Stan McMurtry

A rather belated follow-up to Michael Heath’s Gay Christmas from 1974. And no more relevant or contemporary a depiction of gay men. These could all have been drawn anytime in the previous 5-8 years: self-proclaimed queens, fairies, would-be transsexuals, and a broad selection of catty types in figure-hugging trousers and flouncy shirts.

212: Christmas 5

from “Punch” 19 Dec 1984
“New Recitations for Your Party” by E.S. Turner


"'E was young and 'e was tender,
Much inclined to preen and pout,
Not too certain of 'is gender -
There's a lot of it about.

Sorely did 'is father clout 'im,
Saying, "'Op it! On yer bike!"
Telling all who asked about him,
"'E's a bloody pervert, like."

Up to London goes the sinner,
London, stuffed with moral wrecks!
Now 'e knows 'e's on a winner -
'Alf the town is unisex.

Cast your eyes on Master Pretty,
Painted like a circus freak,
Belting out a filthy ditty,
Earning thousands every week.

Fans go mad in every disco!
Leaders in the Daily Mail!
Troops called out in San Francisco!
Even trendy bishops quail.

Every week 'e presses money
On 'is 'ard-up Dad and Mum.
Now their life is beer and 'oney.
Blimey, it's all right for some.

Dad will 'ear no talk of "phoneys",
As 'e spends the ill-earned pelf,
Oft confiding to his cronies,
"Wish I'd tried that lark myself!"

But the girl the boy once fancied
Grieves to let 'er 'ero go,
Weeps to 'ear 'im telling rancid
Stories on the South Bank Show;

Ow she 'ates the late night chatter!
Wogan treats 'im far too nice,
Goggling at 'is Golden Platter
Garnered from the fruits of vice.

'E 'as gone from 'er for ever,
And 'er 'eart is 'ard as frost.
Will she find another? Never
One as rich as she has lost.

See 'er now, 'er nosegay gnawing,
As she weds a lazy git,
Fated to a life of drawing
Supplement'ry Benefit.

She will 'ave a string of kiddies
In a frowzy council flat,
Gossiping with daft old biddies,
And there ain't much joy in that.

It's the same the whole world over,
It's the straights what lose the race
It's the bent what live in clover.
Ain't it all a blind disgrace!


Before the days of television, people were forced to make their own Christmas entertainment, so each member of the family would have their party piece. Comic monologues and recitations, usually in rhyming verse and performed in either cockney or Northern working class accents, were a staple from the days of the music hall. “The Lion and Albert” and “The Green Eye of the Yellow God” are classics of their kind. Probably the most famous performer of these kind of pieces was Stanley Holloway.
By 1984 this is deliberately anachronistic, although since E.S Turner had been writing for “Punch” for some 30 years, he was probably entering into his dotage. Gender-bending pop stars had been a staple of the last 10-15 years, so nothing new there, although these is springboards off the popularity of Boy George and co. I suppose you could argue the piece is about the comic incongruity of musical hall meeting modern pop. It starts off just describing the trend, but the conclusion is a little unexpectedly harsh in its moralising, although these recitations usually finished with some sort of moral.

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

211: Christmas 4

“Harry Enfield and His Christmas Chums”, BBC1, 24 December 1997

Poor old Modern Dad was Richard Preddy and Gary Howe's idea. It appealed to me because I've lots of gay friends who've been through similar experiences. Few parents over sixty understand the 'progressive' comings and goings of their children, but they love them, so they try their best. I based my character on my father, who is from a much more traditional generation, and always tried just-that-little-bit-too-hard with my girlfriends, knowing that, in the modern world, he mustn't voice his old-fashioned disapproval of relationships outside wedlock. If you've ever seen my dad on Watchdog, you'll know how similar Modern Dad is to him. Modern Dad worked so well because Ben, who played my son, and his boyfriend Ewan (Spud from Trainspotting) were so sympathetic. They didn't 'camp it up' - they were just a normal, nice couple. You feel sorry for them, for me and for Mum. The sketch was basically “What if a gay couple had come to stay at Fawlty Towers?”

- afterword from “Harry Enfield and His Humorous Chums”, Penguin Books, 1997


Like the previous piece from “Punch”, this exhumes almost every common gay pun imaginable. The “Punch” parody uses theses clichés because for that public that’s largely what people thought homosexuals were. Gays are funny because this is what gays actually are.

By the times of this sketch, they’re acknowledged to be rather worn-out hack clichés. Each of the clichés is expertly deployed to humiliate the well-meaning but horrifically anxious father for his cluelessness.

210: Christmas 3

from "Punch”, 15 December 1976

From a series of Christmas-themed parodies of assorted minority and specialist journals. “Gay Times”, a minority publication if ever there was one to parody, had recently made the mainstream news because of Mary Whitehouse’s case against the “Gay Times” for blasphemy, which would come to trial in 1977. Never having seen a copy of “Gay News”, I still doubt that this is an accurate parody, since most of the many gay magazines I’ve seen from this period are torn between the need for leftish politics and positive representations. The public’s idea of gay frivolity, as exemplified by Mr Humphries, has little to do with the actual gay world of the time. This is a rather detailed piece, which besides obvious gay clichés and puns (queen, mince, faggots, fairy, etc), probably provides some sort of measure as to how much the generally-informed public could recall about homosexuals.

Quentin Crisp was a minor cult personality at this time, conspicuous for his homosexuality and his contrarian nature. John Hurt had performed as Crisp in the ITV drama “The Naked Civil servant” in 1975. About this time, Crisp was writing occasional reviews and essays for “Punch”.
Proust and Wilde (and an allusion to Reading Gaol) are there as homosexuals whom even the most clueless public will identify.
Casement Diary of course refers to the infamous Black diary of Roger Casement which revealed the Irish politician to have been a promiscuous homosexual.
St Sebastian gets several mentions since Derek Jarman’s film “Sebastian” had been released in 1976.
“British Guards” with phone numbers, refers to the fact that Guards used often to be commonly rumoured to be readily available for cash for a little light nocturnal adult pleasuring.
Several references show that the idea of butch has now extended into actual s&m, to contrast against prissy, effeminated style-obsessed gay clichés.
“Noel” probably is to suggest Noel Coward.
“British Home Stores”, a once popular British chain store becomes “Homo Stores”.

Saturday, 20 December 2008

209: Christmas 2

“The Gays” by Michael Heath in “Private Eye”, 14 December 1984

For what is such a deliberately scratchy and messy style, I think Heath catches something of the blissful epicene self-regard on the face of the twink on the far right.

208: Christmas 1

by Arthur Horner in “Punch”, 7 January 1976

Caricatures of Sir Frederick Ashton (left) and Robert Helpmann (right) as the Ugly Step-Sisters in their annual performance of Prokofiev’s “Cinderella”. Their performance drew a lot from English Christmas pantomimes. It’s not a bad caricature, and only goes to show that when many other cartoonists are attempting a homosexual, it’s based on preconceptions from an actual camp performance such as this. Whether the comment is Helpmann in character as the ugly sisters or just the two real and elderly queens with their sly eyes on the leading man in tights is probably deliberately ambiguous.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

207: Jeremy Thorpe 25

from “National Lampoon” October 1979

206: Jeremy Thorpe 24

Spectator, 7 July 1979
Notebook, by Alexander Chancellor

It is no longer interesting to speculate whether or not Mr Jeremy Thorpe is or ever has been a homosexual. Anyway, it is none of my business. but if he ever did have tendencies of this sort, he has not exactly proclaimed them from the rooftoips. He is not, in other words, a standard-bearer of the Gay Liberation Movement. And there is no reason that I can think of why his acquittal at the Old Bailey, pleasing though it may have been for other reasons, should be seen as any kind of victory for British 'gays'. If anything, I would have thought the opposite, as Mr Norman Scott's performance in the witness box is unlikely to have raised homosexualism in public esteem. So it was therefore not just unlikely, but inconceivable, that a party of 'gays' would wish to crown the celebrations of 'Gay Pride Week' by hiring a coach and roaring down to North Devon to attend the appalling thanksgiving service for Mr Thorpe's acquittal. And yet when this little titbit of unsubstantiated information was cast casually into Fleet Street, it was seized and devoured by every newspaper in sight. It was, of course, an obvious hoax, of which I will not name the perpetrators, for fear that heads might roll and the gutters foam with blood. Suffice it to say that the 'Mr Simpson' who last week telephoned the vicar of Bratton Fleming, the Reverend John Hornby, to announce the planned 'gay' visitation was nothing more than a cruel and malevolent impostor, and not even a 'gay'. The extraordinary thing is that Mr Hornby believed him and sought only to mitigate the embarrassment by declaring that the church would be full (not true, as it turned out) and that the 'gays' would have to make do with accommodation in the village hall, to which the service would be relayed by loudspeaker. Perhaps Mr Hornby's reaction should not surprise us, for on television he appeared to possess in abundance those characteristics which we have come to associate with many of those publicly identified as 'friends' of Mr Thorpe - a disagreeable and slightly sinister appearance and a capacity to say, do or believe almost anything, provided it is in some way inappropriate. If the thanksgiving service was in itself a masterpiece of bad taste, Mr Hornby's sermon was even more so. It was well reported by Ann Leslie in the Daily Mail. 'God is so fantastic', said Mr Hornby, thanking God both for the jury's verdict ('With God, nothing shall be impossible!') and for 'that fantastic resilience' He had granted to Jeremy and Marion. 'My dears, don't you think if it had been you or I in Jeremy's or Marion's'shoes, that we'd be either round the bend or in the madhouse or had a couple of coronaries. . . ?' But enough of Mr Hornby. The really surprising thing was the gullibility of those hard-bitten Fleet Street journalists. Even Mr John Junor, the man who has edited the Sunday Express for countless generations, did not doubt that 'a coachload of poofs' was on its way to Bratton Fleming and practically gave himself a coronary when he thought about it. 'After you with the sick-bag please, Alice' were the closing words of his comment on the subject. But the fantasy world of Jeremy Thorpe has by now enveloped us all.

205: Jeremy Thorpe 23

“Entirely A Matter For You” by peter Cook
“The Secret Policeman’s Ball”, 29 and 30 June 1979

Although only performed for the final two dates of “The Secret Policeman’s Ball”, this monologue by Peter Cook is rightly acclaimed as one of the high spots of 20th century English satire. “The Secret Policeman’s Ball” was a benefit performance in aid of Amnesty International from 27-30 June 1979. Most of the Oxford and Cambridge-educated comedians of the last twenty years gathered to perform their greatest hits for charity. However, a review printed on the morning of the third performance by the “Daily Telegraph”asking where was the satire, stung Peter Cook into writing this stinging parody of Justice Cantley’s summation at the Thorpe Trial. Cook attacked Cantley’s obviously biased and systematic blackening of the prosecution witnesses, and the typical egotistical but cack-handed self-regard of a judge who finds he has the stage. The Trial had only concluded on the 22nd of June. In an age before constant 24 hour commentary on numerous multi-media platforms the case was still relatively fresh news, and Cook encapsulates a moment of outrage at Establishment privilege in the best immediate manner of live cabaret. An edited version of it was printed in the 6 July, 1979 edition of “Private Eye”. To cash in on its notoriety it was also released as a mini-disc “Here Comes the Judge”.

Cook’s performance of a clapped-out judge allows him to weave senile confusion and bigotry with his own distinctive wordplay. So the matter of homosexuality causes him to confuse “he”s with “she”s, “mr”s with “mrs”s, husband with wives, and impute effeminacy all over the place.

Peter Bessell becomes “Bex Bissell” a brand of vacuum cleaner. Cantley had described Bessell as “a humbug”.

Norman Scott becomes Norma confused with Norman St John Stevas, a Tory minister. Cantley described Scott as “a liar”, “a crook”, “a fraud”, “a sponger”, “a whiner”, “a parasite”. "Pink oboe" is supposedly a piece of slang from Glasgow donated by Billy Connolly who was one of the performers, although there is 1959 episode of "The Goons" entitled "The Spy, Or Who Is Pink Oboe?". “Chews pillows” refers to when Thorpe first sodomised Scott back in 1962 - it was so painful Scott had to bite down to stop himself shouting out. An occasional piece of graffiti from this time read “Norman bites pillows”. “Gleadle” is a very Peter Cook-type name, but he was indeed Scott’s physician for a while

Andrew is confused with Olivia Newton-John, a bland female pop singer of the time. Much of Cantley’s summing of Newton was devoted to damning him for his incompetence as an attempted murderer.

Jack Hayward = Haywire, and Nadir Dinshaw = Rickshaw and opportunity to use blatant racism to sway Cook’s fictional jury

Sunday, 14 December 2008

204: Jeremy Thorpe 22

Auberon Waugh’s Diary

From “Private Eye” 6 July 1979


The Thorpe Trial is over and we await the verdict. Judge Cantley's summing up was one of the strangest judicial performances I have ever seen. Sniggering and giggling throughout he insulted the prosecution witnesses one by one, misdirected the jury about the "impeccable" character of the defendants and urged them not to believe Mr Bessell.
I decide to dedicate my book about this dingy affair to Peter Taylor QC, Chief Counsel for the Crown, and Chief Superintendent Challes, practically the only two people who come out of it with any credit.
Towards the end of his second day's closing speech Mr Carman QC said he thought there 'might, indeed, still be a place in public life for his client, Mr Thorpe. I think there may still be a place in public life for me, too. At the next general election I may easily find myself standing not only as a Dog Lovers' candidate, but also for Law and Order and Public Safety, against Frightening and Tendencies in Public Life.


The jury is still out. Thorpe apparently spent the night in hospital in Brixton Prison with an upset stomach. Just occasionally I, too, have suffered from an upset stomach and it can be quite disagreeable, although it has never occurred to me to go to hospital for it.
The other three defendants, being of lower class, spent the night locked in a single cell with two rebarbative Negroes. Although not by nature a left-winger, I feel something about this case stirs the latent Robespierre in me.


The Verdict. Thorpe declared not guilty, as we all knew he would be. How could it have occurred to any of us for a moment that he was anything but innocent?
Speaking for myself, I think it may have been something to do with the double-breasted waistcoats he wears. At my school, prefects were allowed to wear these absurd garments as a badge of office. So many of them were hypocrites, sodomites,and criminal psychopaths that I understandably jumped to the conclusion that Jeremy Thorpe might just possibly be one, too.
Now we know otherwise, perhaps he will consider wearing more conventional clothes in the future.

from “Private Eye” 20 July 1979


At last I have decided on a name for the book. The idea came to me in a flash of inspiration while I was reading from the works of Beatrix Potter to the outdoor servants and farm labourers. I have instituted these readings in protest against the collapse of secondary education in this country, and in rehearsal for the traditional Connolly Night celebrations later this year.
This is what I read from The Tale of Mr Jeremy Fisher:

'The water was all slippy-sloppy in the larder and in the back passage. But Mr Jeremy liked getting his feet wet; nobody ever scolded him and he never caught a cold!"

Suddenly the Idea was born:

Auberon Waugh

Part One: The Tale of a Flopsy Bunny
Part Two: Fierce Bad Rabbit
Part Three: Mr Jeremy Escapes
Epilogue: Let Us Now Praise Famous Men

All these ideas are world copyright and anyone who plagiarises them will spend the rest of his days in a prison ceIl with three rebarbative Negroes suffering from upset stomachs.

(The book Waugh refers to is his “The Last Word: An Eye-Witness Account of the Thorpe Trial”, 1980)

203: Jeremy Thorpe 21

cover of “Private Eye”, 6 July 1979

The “Trial of the Century” ran from May 8th until 22nd June, 1979. The QCs gave good drama. Several of the witnesses disgraced themselves intentionally or incidentally, only adding to the hub-bub of commentary and speculation surrounding the trial. Except for George Deakin, none of the other defendants gave evidence. At the summing up, the judge, Joseph Cantley, made every effort to discredit the prosecution witnesses while drawing the Establishment wagons around Jeremy Thorpe. After almost two days’ deliberation, on 22nd June, the jury acquitted all four defendants on all charges.
Almost all comment then focussed on how the Liberals were going to forward without the embarrassment of Thorpe.

202: Jeremy Thorpe 20

The trial was scheduled to begin on 8 May 1979. The trial had been moved so that there would be no conflict with the general election, in which Thorpe would be campaigning.

At the suggestion of the editor of “Private Eye”, Auberon Waugh stood in North Devon as a candidate against Jeremy Thorpe in the 1979 general election. Waugh’s campaign address was published in “The Spectator”, 28 April 1979, and also in the “The Guardian”. Thorpe’s solicitors attempted to have an injunction slapped on his address and have Waugh committed to prison for contempt of court on the grounds that the address might prejudice a jury. After going back and forth between various courts and appeals, Waugh had no address. He did still manage to receive 79 votes. Thorpe, however, lost his constituency to the Conservatives.

You will, of course, note the allusion to Sodom. Making this piece of satirical political theatre the "Dog Lover’s Party" was a clever stroke. As far as the English are concerned, shooting a defenceless dog is about as perverse and unnatural as a taste for light recreational buggery (vide the Marc Boxer cartoon)


Unaccustomed as I am to public speaking I offer myself as your Member of Parliament in the General Election on behalf of the nation's dog lovers to protest about the behaviour of the Liberal Party generally and the North Devon Constituency Liberal Association in particular. Their candidate is a man about whose attitude to dogs - not to mention his fellow human beings - little can be said with any certainty at the present time.

But while it is one thing to observe the polite convention that a man is innocent until proven guilty, it is quite another thing to take a man who has been publicly accused of crimes which would bring him to the cordial dislike of all right-minded citizens and dog lovers, and treat him as a hero.

Before Mr Thorpe has had time to establish his innocence of these extremely serious charges, he has been greeted with claps, cheers and yells of acclamation by his admirers in the Liberal Party, both at the National Conference in Southport and here in the constituency. I am sorry but I find this disgusting.

I invite all the electors of North Devon, but especially the more thoughtful Liberals and dog lovers to register their disquiet by voting for me on 3 May and I sincerely hope that at least fifty voters in this city will take the opportunity to do so.

Genesis XVIII 26: And the LORD said If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes.

1 Samuel XXIV 14: After whom dost thou pursue? after a dead dog, after a flea.

Rinka is NOT forgotten. Rinka lives. Woof, woof. Vote Waugh to give all dogs the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

201: Jeremy Thorpe 19

by Michael Heath
in “Punch”, 13 December 1978

Well, as expressions of exasperation go, this is
witty in it dismissiveness. Although, if you didn't know that it was inspired by the surfeit of Thorpean sexual revelations, then it could be taken as a wish for a return to the good old days when homosexuals were invisible or non-existant.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

200: Jeremy Thorpe 18

by Michael Heath
in “Punch” 29 November 1978

This is not quite as appallingly homophobic as it at first seems. In the course of giving evidence, Bessell claimed that Thorpe said of killing Norman Scott, “It is no worse than shooting a sick dog”, which has a certain dramatic irony when you think what happened to Rinka. So Heath is simply reversing it, although the resulting sentiment is callously shocking, which is rather the point of the joke.

199: Jeremy Thorpe 17

from “Private Eye”, 24 November 1978

On 20 November 1978, committal proceedings opened at Minehead Magistrate’s Court. Deakin applied that reporting restrictions be lifted, and so much of the matter of the case was revealed then before the actual trial in 1979. Most of the cartoons about the start of the proceedings were jokes based on the scramble to get seats, but this “Private Eye” cover includes a few dreadful gay-tinted puns, just to remind everyone what is really at stake.

198: Jeremy Thorpe 16

by David Austin
from “Private Eye”, 15 September 1978

There was much foot-dragging by the prosecution service, but finally on 3rd August 1978, Jeremy Thorpe, Holmes, David Holmes, and George Deakin were formally charged with conspiracy to murder Norman Scott.
A little later in September there were suggestions of homosexual shenanigans at the National Liberal Club. The National Liberal Club had originally been founded by the Liberal Party but had been sold on a couple of years ealrier. So this was nothing to do with Thorpe, but David Austin conflates it all into one big Liberals = homosexual satirical shorthand. Whether “Sodom and Gomorrah” is anymore original than the contemporary tittering about Liberal “seats” is another matter.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

197: Jeremy Thorpe 15

from “Private Eye” 11 November 1977

On the 27th October, 1977, Thorpe gave a press conference giving an account of acquaintance with Norman Scott but denying any sexual activity. It was a catastrophic media circus. William Rees-Mogg, however, the editor of the “the Times” ran an editorial in which he avoided any questions about Thorpe’s truthfulness, and instead equivocated about Christian morals and prejudice against homosexuals. This piece is aimed sharply at Rees-Mogg, painting him as a pettifogging trendy liberal vicar (and the main writers at “Private Eye” at this time had some strong opinions about trendy vicars). This parody adopts a deliberate sermon-like style, with all sorts of references to unseemly gay practises, and then resolutely fails to point any finger at Thorpe about his homosexuality, let alone conspiracy to murder. The deliberately addled references to Profumo and Nixon show what "Private Eye" really think though. The reference to "cottaging" arises from the posthumous publication of Tom Driberg's memoir "Ruling Passions" earlier in 1977.

Friday, 5 December 2008

196: Jeremy Thorpe 14

by Auberon Waugh
from "Auberon Waugh's Diary" in "Private Eye", 29 October 1977

After 45 years loyal membership of the Labour Party - years in which it is true to say, I devoted most of my life to the Labour movement and all it stood for - I think the moment may have come for me to join the Liberals.
The attraction of David's Bunny Club may not seem obvious at the present time, but the whole idea of the death penalty for homosexuals has always interested me very much, although I do not approve of capital punishment. Liberals, with their introduction of the bungled execution, seem to have found a compromise which works. Since the attempt on his life, Norman Scott has settled down with a nice young woman who has already given him a baby.
Perhaps the general use of attempted murder to tidy up a party's electoral appeal should be approached with greater caution, although I have always argued that an element of drama is needed to stimulate interest in the democratic process. If all members of an outgoing administration were hanged or imprisoned, as they usually deserve, this might whip up a bit of interest in election results.
The Tories are constantly moaning about how much better their chances would be if Grocer Heath could disappear. Heath is not, of course, a homosexualist, any more than Mr Thorpe is, but nobody can deny that lovely, oyster-eyed William Whitelaw would be leader of the Tories today if it were not for his unfortunate friendship with Grocer. Whenever I make the obvious suggestion to Tory policy groups, they receive it with a nervous giggle. Liberals seem to be made of sterner stuff.

195: Jeremy Thorpe 13

“Lloyd George Knew My Father”
by Alan Coren
in “Punch”, 26 October 1977

It is with a heavy heart and a lovely thick nib that I now set down the dire events in which I became inextricably enmeshed more than a year ago. Events that were ultimately to shake the entire civilised world; or, at any rate, that part of it which feels that man's dark destiny and the future of the Parliamentary Liberal Party are really one and the same thing.
It was at a small souper intime in September 1976 that I first made the acquaintance of Mr X. The acquaintance was Mr Y, and Mr X was very nice about it, really, although I must say he did give me a couple of those very sharp Looks of his when Mr Y and I came in from the balcony, but I think it was only because we just happened to have chosen the same emerald green for our safari suits, and though I says it as shouldn't, you have to be slim for emerald, and Mr X is, well, let's say a little bit portly compared with some people not a million miles from this desk!
Where was I?
Oh, yes, that little supper in Polperro.
Well, after the avgolemono soup (everybody had to bring one course; 1'd done the lime sorbet, which would have been really terrific if I hadn't stopped the car on the way to chat to this nice boy at a Greenline stop, and it went all runny), I was just peeling one of Mr Y's plover's eggs for him (he's got these huge fumbly hands, not one of your delicate ones at all, great big pink fingers like saveloys), when suddenly Lord Z looked up, terribly seriously, and said: "Look here, someone's going to have to do something about this bugger, sorry, this swine who's trying to blackmail the entire Liberal Party with his vile innuendo!"
We stared, aghast! Many a mouth dropped open.
"Vile Innuendo?" enquired W, first of us to recover. "Wasn't he that whippy little Wop that T found on the Spanish Steps during last summer's fact-finding mission?"
"You shut up!" cried T, purpling. "You just shut your rotten face!"
"Stop that!" thundered Lord Z, who can be terribly masterful at times, "This is no time for personal slanging matches. A piece of absolute muck has threatened to sell his grimy tale to the Sunday rags unless he hears from me in folding oncers by the end of the month!"
"Is there any truth in the rumour?" shrieked E.
"There is no truth in the rumour," replied Lord Z firmly. "The person in question, a stoker who is totally unknown to me – “
""Incredible," murmured that spiteful little bitch J.
"- claims to have compromised the entire Parliamentary Liberal Party on the upper deck of a Number Eleven bus during our visit to the London Planetarium last April. "
"1 remember that trip," murmured E absently. "W went all funny when the moon came up. I never realised he had hair on his hands till that moment."
"Never mind that," snapped Lord Z. "The fact of the matter, as many of you here know full well, is that nothing at all untoward happened on that day. Even the stationmaster at Baker Street Underground went out of his way to remark that he had never met a group of gentlemen who had used his Foto-Me booth with more discretion. "
"An absolute sweetie," said J, nodding. "I do like those new little brimless caps they wear."
"You wouldn't say the red piping's superfluous?" enquired X.
"GENTLEMEN!" shouted Lord Z, with rather more force than accuracy. "Can we not address ourselves whole-heartedly to the fact that the great and glorious party of which several of us here are proud members is presently teetering on the brink of outrageous scandal? What are we to do about this awful stoker person?"
"Pay him off?" suggested T. "Personally, I have often found that a bag of boiled sweets and a Judy Garland LP will work wonders on the most - "
"He wants," muttered Lord Z, "twenty thousand pounds. In practical terms, that represents the Party's entire political broadcast budget."
"That's not our fault," protested W, "my friend and I offered to do one for nothing. I got this snotty little note from Party HQ, didn't I, saying the executive didn't feel that the tango was a vote catcher at this moment in time. They're so hidebound, sometimes, you could scream!"
"Why didn't we offer him a safe Liberal seat?" asked X.
Nobody said anything at all. I mean, we all enjoy a joke as much as the next man, but there's a time and a place for everything.
"I know," said V, who up until then had. said nothing, "why don't we lean on him a little? 1 could put you in touch with a couple of big navvies who would go round there and scratch his eyes out."
There were one or two "Oooohs!" at this, but I happened to catch Lord Z's eye, and I could see that it was a suggestion with which he was not totally unsympathetic.
"I had thought of something like that," he said quietly. "But would it not be better it the arrangement were rather more, er, permanent?"
There was a very long, and very uneasy silence.
I cleared my throat.
"Don't these, ahem, matters cost rather a lot of money, too?" I said.
Lord Z peered tetchily through his diamantine lorgnette.
"Who said that?" he enquired.
"It was C," said T. "She's ever such a quiet one. You haven't opened your mouth all evening, have you, C?"
Despite the unseemly tittering, I persisted. Y's little squeeze on my forearm helped.
"It's just that I've heard about these things," I said, "and I'm not sure that Party funds would cover it."
"We've got twenty-eight pounds forty in the kitty, to my certain knowledge," snap¬ped Lord Z, "and we haven't had our jumble sale yet."
"Won't, either," muttered T bitterly. "I understand that the scout hut will not be made available this year. I'm not naming any names, but there's some little unpleasantness still hanging over from last year when that big red-headed Ranger won the cherry cake."
"He guessed its weight fair and square!" shouted J.
"Guessed?" shrieked T. "Guessed? I suppose it couldn't be that the person who made the cake might have written down its weight on a piece of paper just large enough to be pressed into a sweaty little palm while that person and the person with the sweaty little palm were putting up. the bunting together?"
"I'm not listening to any more of this slander!" cried J, shoving back his chair.
"All the thanks I get, you can have a bloody shop gateau this year, I hope it chokes - "
"Now, now," interrupted Lord Z. "Let us put the Party first. Are you telling me, C, that we could not get this person shot for £28.40?"
"I do not," I replied, "believe we could buy a gun for less than about a hundred, let alone someone to fire it."
"Couldn't we have him stabbed?" said T.
"You can buy a hatpin for under a pound."
"Not of any quality," murmured W.
"God knows that's true," nodded X. "I've never known Kirby grips snap as much as they do these days."
"We could poison him," suggested T. "J's probably got a cake or two put by, haven't you, dear?"
"Oh, God," said W, "now you've made him cry, you silly cow!"
"Good training," replied T, firmly, "he'll have to get used to heckling. No good dreaming about being Prime Minister one day if you break down and blub every time the going gets personal."
"Is there no cheaper way of getting at this beast?" cried Lord Z. "Couldn't we frighten him?"
"Has he got a dog?" enquired X. "We could shoot it for him."
"Very risky, that," countered T. "It could cost untold votes, shooting someone's dog. I can't see anyone in the Party wishing to associate themselves with anything of that order."
"Blighter hasn't got a dog, anyway," said Lord Z. "Closest he comes is a ginger teddy-bear with one eye. Got a great sentimental attachment to it, mind. I understand he's had it since he was thirty."
"Perhaps we could knock it about a bit?" offered X. "Pull its other eye off, something of that order."
"Doubt if it'd frighten him much," said Lord Z, shaking his head. "'Make him nastier, if anything. No, our only course is to have him put away for good. No messing about. Bang, bang, and on to the broad sunny uplands of the next election, that's what I say."
"But surely," I said, blushing even as I put myself forward, "we have not dealt with the matter of the fee? It could run as high as ten thousand pounds. Whom do we know who would be prepared to back us with that kind of money?"
We were all silent for a time. Then X said, very slowly:
"No individual would take the risk, of course. Nor is the Liberal Party in a position to offer, er, favours to any businesses, industries, property men, that kind of thing, is it? I mean, we're not ever going to be able to put anything their way, are we, or even - "
"Oh, do get on, dear, for heaven's sake!" cried T. "I know you when you've got something up your sleeve."
"And that's not all," said J, who had blown his nose, retouched his eyeliner, and was almost back to his old self.
"All right," said X, smirking rather unappealingly. "There is just one powerful and rich organisation who might be prepared to carry out the mission on our behalf, provided we could offer them something concrete in return!"
We held our breath! We craned! We positively gawped!
"Do we have something concrete to offer?" breathed Lord Z.
X paused for a long time. He can be such a tease, on occasion.
"Well, it's just a silly idea off the top of my thingy," he said, at last, "but how would you feel about some kind of political pact?"

194: Jeremy Thorpe 12

by Osbert Lancaster
in “The Daily Express”, 20 October 1977

On 19th October 1977, after a year and a half’s quiet for the Liberals, the “Evening News” published an interview with the newly freed Andrew Newton – “I Was Hired to Kill Scott”. This set off a chain of revelations over the next couple of days. Various investigative journalist scrambled to beat each other to the punchline, as the public was reminded of things they may have forgotten in the meantime, alongside new shocking details. A lot of circumspection, however, would result from the fact that Newton only said he had been hired by a nameless “prominent Liberal”, thereby leaving the newspapers hanging, unwilling and unable to make a direct accusation.

Monday, 1 December 2008

193: Jeremy Thorpe 11

Thorpe had given his resignation as leader of the Liberal party to David Steel on 10 May 1976. In considering how the great man could have been brought down, if you obviously discount the homosexual affair and murder plot, then you find yourself haring after some bloody strange suppositions.

These two cartoons are based on one of the weirder and more curious byways of investigation shooting off the case. Thorpe had been quite outspoken in his criticism of South Africa, and it was suggested at the time that Scott’s allegations were really sponsored by the South African Bureau Of State Security (BOSS) to smear Thorpe’s reputation. Even Harold Wilson, the soon-to-resign Prime Minister, backed up these odd rumours. Of course, this was all a wrong-headed diversion.

Raymond Jackson, however, takes the opportunity to ring the changes on secret gay conspiracies within several days.

“Evening Standard”, 11 May 1976
In the first, the fat, bearded chap on the far right is a stereotypical thuggish South African, and as far from a gay stereotype as possible, hence the surprise of the joke.

“Evening Standard”, 14 May 1976
In this one, JAK offers us a regiment of stereotypical homosexuals, all looking like variations on Dick Emery’s effeminate Clarence character.

192: Jeremy Thorpe 10

from “The Rutland Dirty Weekend Book” by Eric Idle, 1976

On 1 May, 1976, Scott sued the Metropolitan Police Force for the return of Thorpe’s letters which Scott had given them in 1962. Immediately, Lord Goodman also sued for them, claiming they were Thorpe’s property. The letters were returned to the Thorpe team. In one of the odder, if not stupider, moments of all this, Thorpe then had the letters printed in the “Sunday Times” of 9 May 1976 in an attempt to clear the situation.

The letters included the notoriously puzzling but memorable assertion by Thorpe that "Bunnies can (and will) go to France". The “Sunday Times” also had a psychiatrist analyse the letters, who declared that while they demonstrated some sort of friendly and affectionate relationship between Thorpe and Scott, this did not necessarily indicate outright homosexuality.

The letters did nothing to strengthen Thorpe’s case with his party, as further revelations of semi-regular payments to Scott continued to appear, alongside accusations from ex-colleague Peter Bessel. Thorpe gave his resignation as leader of the Liberal Party to David Steel the very next day on 10 may 1976.

This is from “The Rutland Dirty Weekend Book” by Eric Idle. The first half tries to drum up salacious interest in dreary bread-and-butter letters. The second half plays off that anxiety about using terms of endearment, or even just “dear” whomever, when writing a letter to another man, as was also used in this sketch by Peter Shaffer during the Vassall case

191: Jeremy Thorpe 9

cover of “Private Eye” 19 March 1976

Andrew Newton’s trial for attempted murder began on the 16 March 1976, and he was sentenced to two years in prison on 19 March 1976. No mention was made at the trial about a conspiracy by Thorpe to murder Scott. Scott repeated his allegations again.

190: Jeremy Thorpe 8

by Marc
in “Private Eye” 20 February 1976

A good example of how middle-class manners didn’t quite know where to establish themselves in the whole farrago. What could be more English than to ride one’s high horse, claiming one’s sympathy is with the dead dog, just about the only concrete fact at that point? Obsessing about the dog gives one slight ethical kudos. One can then pretend to be above prurient sexual curiosity or deny any homophobic disconcertion about Thorpe’s sexuality, or have to pass any judgement at all on a rather confusing scandal.