SOCIAL SCIENCES

A Very English Scandal: Sex, Lies and a Murder Plot in the Houses of Parliament

Other. Oct. 2016. 368p. photos. index. ISBN 9781590518144. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9781590518151. POL SCI
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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.
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