The 1960s, ’70s and ’80s may have been a particularly corrupt period in British politics and high society. There were Right-wing and secret service plots against the governments of Harold Wilson; shocking examples of subversion in Northern Ireland; the Hillsborough scandal; anti-union machinations; a number of sexual shenanigans (‘affairs’); much financial corruption (which in my view is more serious); regular police wrongdoing, ‘fitting’ suspects ‘up’, secretly infiltrating protest groups, and the like; a number of proven instances of paedophilia among establishment figures, one of which I was personally close to and have blogged about (https://bernardjporter.com/2016/03/17/cambridge-and-homosexual-harassment/); and much more – a significant amount of which the ‘Establishment’ of the time was able to cover up, because it had the power to. Much of it has only been unearthed recently.
At one time I thought of writing a ‘secret history’ of these years woven around this theme, but never got round to it. Someone ought to do it, in order to try to measure it: was it really unique to this period? probably not; and to tease out the reasons for it: right-wing fears of socialism, the Cold War, the decline of conventional morality, the public schools, the Empire, British traditions of secrecy (just suggestions), and so on. It would provide an interesting counterpoint and corrective to conventional histories of our ‘democracy’.
Even before that book has been written, however, these revelations have stained the reputation of the past. This explains why it is possible for us to credit the charges of paedophilia against Edward Heath that are the subject of today’s (inconclusive) report by the Wiltshire police. After all, if that fat Liberal MP from Lancashire was a child abuser, why not him? And that’s so whether the charges against Heath are true, or not. Which is unfortunate for his memory if he was innocent. And we know enough about false evidence from pretended victims to know that this could be so.
Even when he was alive Heath was always suspected of being a homosexual, in an age when a prominent male figure couldn’t ‘come out’ as gay without sacrificing his career and – early on – even his liberty. It was also an age when men and women were supposed to be married. If you weren’t, it automatically opened you up to doubt. Every bachelor was suspected of being ‘queer’, and if you were queer it followed that you were attracted to boys.
Of course it didn’t necessarily follow. Some men – and I always thought Heath might be one of these – are simply asexual. It’s odd how ‘asexuality’ isn’t generally included when we’re dividing people up into sexual categories, along with heteros, homos, trans, bi’s and all the rest. It must be quite a pleasant condition. Restful.
The depredations of the period you mention are merely retail corruption compared to the wholesale corruption of this century. The obscene pay levels and bonuses of CEOs have no counterpart in the relatively innocent 60s; the behaviour of hedge funds, banks and other financial institutions in the lead up to – after the – the GFC constitutes corruption on a very grand scale. Public funds were used to bail out and reimburse the culprits: privatising the gains and socialising the losses. In the US, Trump Inc leverages the presidency for financial gain with complete impunity. Such visible cynicism would not have been tolerated fifty years ago.
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My daughter tells me that ‘asexual’ is now recognised as – not a condition, but – an identity, as valid as any other. The old(!) ‘LGBT’ formulation (lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans) has in some quarters been expanded to LGBTQIAA (lesbian, gay, bi, trans, queer, intersex, asexual… and allies, i.e. heterosexuals who aren’t actually bigots).
I suppose it’s better than prejudice. It makes me feel very old, though.
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