Saturday, December 6, 2014

Central figure in the most sensational gay political scandal of the 20th century has died

Charismatic, flamboyant and possessed of a rapier wit, former MP Jeremy Thorpe, who died Thursday, rose to lead Britain's moribund Liberal Party and was a dedicated, effective foe of apartheid who was banned from Spain by Generalissimo Franco. Gregarious and socially adroit, it is said that then-Prime Minister Wilson, would invite him to dinner,
purely in order to hear his devastating impersonations of Anthony Eden and Harold Macmillan. He had caused permanent damage to the latter’s reputation in responding to the dismissal of seven cabinet ministers in the 1962 Night of the Long Knives with an adaptation of the words of St John: “Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his friends for his life.”
     In October of 1975, when an AA patrolman discovered Norman Scott, who had a relationship with Thorpe in the early 1960s, crying beside the corpse of his dog, Rinka, Scott claimed that only a jammed pistol had prevented the assailant from shooting him as well as the dog. 

      For years Scott, a former model, had blackmailed and threatened Thorpe and attempted to peddle his story of their relationship to various newspapers, but in 1976 he got the press to publish his accusations and eventually got Thorpe charged with conspiracy and incitement to murder:
      In January 1976 Scott, charged with defrauding the DHSS, declared under the privilege of court that he was being “hounded by people” because of his affair with Jeremy Thorpe. This time, at last, the press did take notice. Thereafter rumour blew so loud that by March Thorpe felt compelled to defend himself in The Sunday Times, specifically denying both that he had hired a gunman to kill Scott, and that he had had any knowledge of Holmes’s purchase of the letters in 1974.
      Despite support from the prime minister, Harold Wilson, who appeared to believe that the accusations had been fabricated by the South African Secret service, Thorpe was unable to hold the line. After the “Bunnies” letter was published in The Sunday Times in May 1976, he resigned the Liberal leadership. 

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