A very English scandal Sex, lies and a murder plot in the houses of Parliament

John Preston, 1953-

Book - 2016

"A behind-the-scenes look at the desperate, scandalous private life of a British member of Parliament and champion manipulator, and the history-making trial that exposed his dirty secrets to the world. As a member of Parliament and leader of the Liberal Party in the 1960s and 70s, Jeremy Thorpe's bad behavior snuck under the radar for years. Police and politicians alike colluded to protect one of their own. At the start of the 1970s, Thorpe was the most popular and charismatic politici...an in the country, poised to hold the balance of power in a coalition government. But Jeremy Thorpe was a man with a secret. His homosexual affairs and harassment of past partners--as well as his propensity for lying and embezzlement--only escalated as he evaded punishment. Until a dark night on the moor with an ex-lover, a dog, and a hired gun led to consequences that even his charm and power couldn't help him escape. Thorpe's climactic trial at the Old Bailey in London was immediately dubbed the 'Trial of the Century.' 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 gay man, in an era when homosexuality had only just become legal. By the time the trial was over, Britain would never be the same again. With the pacing 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"--

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Subjects
Genres
Biographies
True crime stories
Published
New York : Other Press [2016]
Language
English
Physical Description
xi, 339 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 24 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references (page [324]) and index.
ISBN
9781590518144
1590518144
Main Author
John Preston, 1953- (author)
  • A dinner at the House of Commons
  • The postcard
  • The eye of Urse
  • Bunnies
  • Mr Bessell goes to Dublin
  • The creature
  • This filthy subject
  • Bessell pulls another rabbit out of his hat
  • The blessings of family life
  • Two pledges
  • Unexpected developments
  • A happy and joyous occasion
  • Shooting a sick dog
  • The ultimate solution
  • Doomed
  • Back to Black
  • The price of a peerage
  • From bad to worse
  • Big swamp
  • A death unforeseen
  • A simple plan
  • Things fall apart
  • Bessellised
  • The man from Canada
  • Death on the moor
  • Vive les trois mousequetaires!
  • A bloody mess
  • Damned lies
  • Judas
  • Ice cold in Minehead
  • Waiting in the wings
  • Overture and beginners
  • Ripped to shreds
  • The greatest show on earth
  • The judgements of Cantley
  • Awkward bows
  • Postscript.
Review by Library Journal Reviews

In his narrative of the scandal that engulfed Great Britain's Houses of Parliament in the 1970s, Preston (The Dig) delivers an operatic account about hypocrisy, deceit, and betrayal at the heart of the government's establishment. The scandal centered on Jeremy Thorpe, a parliamentarian since 1959, who had been covering up a homosexual affair he had begun with Norman Scott in 1962. His relationship with Scott, an on-again, off-again riding instructor and model, took bizarre twists, involving fellow members of his party, lying, payoffs, embezzlement, and a murder plot. As leader of the Liberal Party, Thorpe was poised in 1974 to hold the balance of power in a coalition government headed by Edward Heath. Events climaxed in 1976 when Thorpe was tried for conspiracy to murder. Despite credible evidence to the contrary, Thorpe was acquitted through his attorney's discrediting the testimony of prosecution witnesses and the judge's extrajudicial interference favorable to the defense. Dominic Sandbrook's Seasons in the Sun provides an excellent context in which the events occurred. VERDICT This book, which is based on extensive interviews with principal players and reads like a thriller, is recommended for those with a penchant for 1970s British political culture.—Glen Edward Taul, Campbellsville Univ. Lib., KY. Copyright 2016 Library Journal.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

In 1979, Jeremy Thorpe, a popular member of Parliament, stood trial over claims that he hired an assassin to murder model Norman Scott, who claimed to be Thorpe's ex-lover. In this addictive true crime account of one of Britain's greatest political scandals, London-based novelist Preston (The Dig) chronicles Thorpe's early, secretive love life, at a time when sodomy was still illegal, and his exposure. Thorpe is portrayed as repressed and concerned with his public image and political career; he involved colleagues in schemes lasting years to silence Scott. Though Scott had a cache of Thorpe's incriminating letters as evidence, Thorpe always maintained that they were never lovers. Drawing from Scott's memoir and documents from Peter Bessell, a political colleague of Thorpe's with a checkered business past, Preston blends factual with farcical, recounting, for example, a horrifying incident with Thorpe's helicopter and a protester standing too close to the rotor blade—a huge clump of hair seen on the ground turned out to be a muddy wig blown off. The trial near the end is riveting, with Thorpe's lawyer demolishing Scott's and Bessell's credibility; Thorpe was acquitted. Preston caps off the dramatic account by discussing the widely held belief that the acquittal was an establishment cover-up, even though Thorpe never regained his career, and died in 2014. Though knee-deep in politics, scandal, and betrayal, the book also conveys the sobering, grim reality of lives destroyed by dirty politics and homophobic culture. (Oct.) [Page ]. Copyright 2016 PWxyz LLC

Review by Publisher Summary 1

"A behind-the-scenes look at the desperate, scandalous private life of a British member of Parliament and champion manipulator, and the history-making trial that exposed his dirty secrets to the world. As a member of Parliament and leader of the Liberal Party in the 1960s and 70s, Jeremy Thorpe's bad behavior snuck under the radar for years. Police and politicians alike colluded to protect one of their own. At the start of the 1970s, Thorpe was the most popular and charismatic politician in the country, poised to hold the balance of power in a coalition government. But Jeremy Thorpe was a man with a secret. His homosexual affairs and harassment of past partners--as well as his propensity for lying and embezzlement--only escalated as he evaded punishment.Until a dark night on the moor with an ex-lover, a dog, and a hired gun led to consequences that even his charm and power couldn't help him escape. Thorpe's climactic trial at the Old Bailey in London was immediately dubbed the 'Trial of the Century.' Itwas 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 gay man, in an era when homosexuality had only just become legal. By the time the trial was over, Britain would never be the same again. With the pacing 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"--

Review by Publisher Summary 2

Recounts the political scandal of British Parliament member Jeremy Thorpe, who stood on trial for murder, exposing his secret life of gay lovers, lying, embezzlement, and evading punishment for years.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

Now a major TV drama series starring Hugh Grant and Ben Whishaw, a behind-the-scenes look at the desperate, scandalous private life of a British MP and champion manipulator, and the history-making trial that exposed his dirty secrets   While Jeremy Thorpe served as a Member of Parliament and Leader of the Liberal Party in the 1960s and 70s, his bad behavior went under the radar for years. Police and politicians alike colluded to protect one of their own. In 1970, Thorpe was the most popular and charismatic politician in the country, poised to hold the balance of power in a coalition government.   But Jeremy Thorpe was a man with a secret. His homosexual affairs and harassment of past partners, along with his propensity for lying and embezzlement, only escalated as he evaded punishment. Until a dark night on the moor with an ex-lover, a dog and a hired gun led to consequences that even his charm and power couldn’t help him escape.   Dubbed the “Trial of the Century,” Thorpe’s climactic case at the Old Bailey in London was the first time that a leading British politician had stood trial on a murder charge, 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 gay man, in an era when homosexuality had only just become legal.   With 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.

Review by Publisher Summary 4

The basis for the Emmy award-winning limited series starring Hugh Grant and Ben Whishaw  A behind-the-scenes look at the desperate, scandalous private life of a British MP and champion manipulator, and the history-making trial that exposed his dirty secretsWhile Jeremy Thorpe served as a Member of Parliament and Leader of the Liberal Party in the 1960s and 70s, his bad behavior went under the radar for years. Police and politicians alike colluded to protect one of their own. In 1970, Thorpe was the most popular and charismatic politician in the country, poised to hold the balance of power in a coalition government.   But Jeremy Thorpe was a man with a secret. His homosexual affairs and harassment of past partners, along with his propensity for lying and embezzlement, only escalated as he evaded punishment. Until a dark night on the moor with an ex-lover, a dog and a hired gun led to consequences that even his charm and power couldn’t help him escape.   Dubbed the “Trial of the Century,” Thorpe’s climactic case at the Old Bailey in London was the first time that a leading British politician had stood trial on a murder charge, 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 gay man, in an era when homosexuality had only just become legal.   With 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.