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A Very English Scandal

Sex, Lies and a Murder Plot at the Heart of the Establishment

By John Preston
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A Very English Scandal by John Preston

A Very English Scandal (2016) tells the story of former British politician Jeremy Thorpe’s affair with Norman Scott. From a botched assassination to a biased murder trial, the story of this scandal shines a harsh light on the petty yet powerful relationships within the British Establishment and how those ties work to silence justice and protect reputations.

Key idea 1 of 7

Jeremy Thorpe was a powerful yet arrogant politician with a secret: he was a closeted homosexual.

British politician Jeremy Thorpe was a man whose charm and cunning helped him climb the ranks of the elite. Leader of the Liberal Party from 1967 to 1976, he had a spotless public image.

But he also had a secret.

Thorpe was homosexual, a fact he kept hidden for fear of damaging his political career.

Yet Thorpe was also reckless when it came to his affairs. Many felt Thorpe was an arrogant man; Thorpe certainly knew that with his charm and the help of influential friends, he could escape any sticky situation.

One particular relationship, however, changed this.

In the early 1960s, Thorpe met a young and emotionally unstable man named Norman Scott. The two made their acquaintance through one of Thorpe’s friends who was Scott’s employer at the time.

Thorpe took a shine to the young dressage rider and suggested that Scott get in touch with him should he ever need a “favor.”

Scott was unaware of the politician’s real intentions. Shortly after their meeting, Thorpe initiated a sexual relationship that Scott claims at first wasn’t consensual, saying that Thorpe raped him during their first sexual encounter.

Scott later moved to Ireland but kept in touch with Thorpe. He was determined to have Thorpe help him in securing a National Insurance card, which he needed to get a job.

Gradually Scott’s obsession turned into behavior that threatened to expose Thorpe. As Scott traveled, he would share stories of his affair with the prominent politician. Homosexuality was still illegal at the time, and, desperate and depressed, Scott went so far as to show the police letters Thorpe had sent him. At one point, Scott even contacted Thorpe’s mother, asking her for money.

Feeling threatened, Thorpe realized he needed outside help to keep Scott’s mouth shut about their relationship.

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