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SUNDAY 14 APRIL 2024

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Political scandals are not what they were. Remember Thorpe, Currie, Mellor and Parkinson?

Has there ever been a more depressing era in British politics with each day revealing a new scandal? So much so that they no longer have the ability to shock.

 

The Tory Party is out of ideas and inept (a scandal in itself) and prone to selecting candidates who are headbangers or sex and tractor enthusiasts. Or just plain drips like Oliver Dowden, the deputy prime minister if you please. Or ultra dries like Mark Francois (not as nice as he looks), Andrew Bridgen, now of the Reclaim Raving Loony Party who left his wife and child and constituents for the privilege of carousing in Sweden to promote anti-vax conspiracy theories, detailed this week by the Sunday Times. Or the just plain unhinged Truss, a woman totally devoid of the self-awareness gene.

 

So you will forgive me for cogitating on the days when political scandals were rather classier and less expected. So pol pickers let’s look at, in no particular order. My Top of the Scandals.

 

The ‘70s were pretty good; Home Secretary Reggie Maudling had to resign for his links with the corrupt architect John Poulson, doing what so many have done (and no doubt still do) for backhanding the way to winning contracts.

 

There was the Lambton Affair in 1973 when I was on the Mail when the urbane and super-posh Lords Lambton and Jellicoe, both Tory ministers, confessed to using prostitutes and (far more shocking for David English) doing so while smoking a joint. I told you they were classier then.

 

Best of the lot involved a Liberal leader, another Lib MP, a dog called Rinka, a hitman who confused Barnstaple with Dunstable (and Whitstable for all I know) and a male model with Big Problems. Yes folks, the Thorpe Affair had the lot and I had just rejoined the Express when I was given the trial hearing to put together into three pages of revelations almost too amazing to be believed. But all true. 

 

The ‘80s kicked off with Cecil Parkinson, oh-so-smooth Tory chairman and close Thatcher ally, resigned when it was revealed that he had an affair with his former secretary Sara Keays and that she had a baby, Flora, who Parkinson, right up to his death in 2016, failed to confirm publicly that he was the father. He never met the child or sent her a birthday card. Parkinson’s greatest supporter was the ridiculous Edwina Currie who said that her view of Sara Keays was ‘unprintable’. The same Currie who was then fired over claiming that most eggs in the UK had salmonella. And she was of the opinion that ‘Northerners die of chips and ignorance.’  See more later.

 

The ‘90s were no less eventful and dominated by Cash for Questions where the star cast featured my old friend Mohamed Fayed, the husband and wife dream team of Sid and Doris Hamilton-Bonkers and Jonathan Aitken, later jailed for perjury when he sued the Guardian before (allegedly) finding God. Oh, not forgetting George Clooney-lookalike David Mellor in Chelsea strip, lover Antonia de Sancha and a free holiday at the home of a PLO leader’s daughter.

 

In 2002 I was idly checking out of a hotel outside York when my boggling eyes were drawn to a full page splash headline in The Times ‘My affair with John Major by Edwina Currie.’ Breath-taking details, you will remember, included who sat where in the bath. Awkwardly this was the same J Major who had launched his Back-to-Basics morals campaign in the previous decade.

 

So there we have it, weren’t they juicier than the ones recently dominating the media? Now we have to rely on the vile Galloway to provide one soon, as he surely will.

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And talking of the biggest scandal of the lot, it’s the Post Office which has spent twice as much to date on lawyers than on compensation. And whose current CEO ranted that he wouldn’t continue unless his salary package including bonus was doubled to at least £1m. Fortunately I have a solution: Let him go and start again.

 

Appoint Alan Bates as chief exec and the tireless Lord Arbuthnot as chairman.

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The silence from the Palace continues. Where is Kate and what’s wrong with her? I can’t say it’s a subject that consumes my waking hours but it is one dominating the usual social media suspects. Most centre on old talk of Prince William and Rose Hanbury, the Marchioness of Cholmondeley (Chumley to any peasants) which has been debunked by various supportive newspapers like the Mail titles.

 

We were at a lunch five years ago given by an old and great friend and were placed on the same table as another pal, a leading royal writer. He wasn’t there because at the last moment he had to write why rumours of an affair between Rose and the prince were not true. The problem is, denial is all too easy but not advisable if it’s a lie.

 

Over the years we were assured that the Yorks were not divorcing, ditto Princess Anne and Mark Phillips and of course Charles and Diana. It was all lies and that was in the days before Twitter and co got on the case.

 

I was as guilty as anyone. In the early ‘90s I turned down serialisation of a book by Lady Colin Campbell which first told of Diana’s problems, the bulimia, throwing herself down stairs and affairs. I have known Georgie Campbell for 40 years and when she went through the multiple revelations at the much missed Orso I said no because there was no way they could be corroborated. And stupidly because I believed the Express in the form of Little Lord Stevens would step in to stop us.

 

Of course Georgie was not only spot on but she was first with the news.

 

So my advice to the Palace: Say something even if it is bad news because the longer the silence the more the rumours will multiply. They should also remember that we pay the bills and the Royal Family survives as long as we say so.

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On a sporting note, a remarkable first happened over the weekend. The Varsity Rugby match on Saturday had two brothers on opposing sides, James and Harry Pratt. I mention this because they were at my old school, Methodist College Belfast before leaving for Sidney Sussex, Cambridge and Queens, Oxford. For the record  the Light Blues thumped the Dark Blues 56-11.

 

The same margin hopefully for the upcoming Ireland victory over England in five days time...


ALAN FRAME

5th March, 2024