A Very English Scandal

A Very English Scandal montage ab0601
A BBC tv series telling tales of Jeremy Thorpe and Norman Scott, and how Thorpe came to order the murder of Scott, but managed to escape conviction for it.
With a heavy dose of the oppression caused by Britain’s anti-homosexual law and practices added in.
The drama does confuse –
– clearly saying that Thorpe was wrong for arranging a murder, yet showing the suffering at the hands of Scott’s irregular requests for help that taunted his first wife (that might explain the irrational drive for his death);
– spelling out that Thorpe was getting off because people in power looked after each other, but also giving form to the judge’s most compelling criticism of 2 of the key prosecution witnesses – they did testify for money;
– suggesting that Thorpe have privately fallen for Scott cos of the propensity to be beaten up by others whilst on the pull, when at the outset it showed Thorpe finding Scott beautiful;
– explaining Scott suffered from mental illness, yet capable of persuading people to be very generous to him;
– its portrayal of Scott as a gay champion in court (“I was rude! I was queer! I was myself!”) is at odds with reports elsewhere – e.g. “Scott contended that homosexuality was an incurable disease, with which Thorpe had infected him“.
The first 2 and a half of the episodes fair whipped along, with a huge degree of laughter at some of the farcical elements, some implied strong sex scenes (Brookside’s first lesbian kiss now seems pretty pallid by comparison),  some genuinely touching scenes (Thorpe’s love for his first wife and the new baby) and some tragedy (Gwen Parry-Jones, a friend of Scott’s, drinking herself to death).
Some significant omissions –
– Harold Wilson thinking the South Africans were trying to frame Jeremy Thorpe;
– the gunman not being shown in the trial.
Biggest criticism has to be of the court section – more of the judge could have been shown to give more force to the biased nature of his summing up; less of the irrelevant journeys to and from gaol; using TV coverage to ram home the editorialising rather than court scenes to increase the drama.
Even with its mis-fires and omissions (inevitable I know), it will be one of the TV highlights of the year.
The story is fascinating and there’s a lot of documentaries available on youtube, albeit with a bit of self-righteous journalism.
What are the big lessons for today?
Well, not that nothing’s changed.  We’ve come a long way on equal opportunities.
For me –
– the shallowness of third party / individual Liberal party politics that was not to serve Britain well;
the jury being frustrated at not being able express concerns;
– that the court system is not accountable enough and that there are still things to work out to get to the truth and to justice more quickly and effectively.

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