I was certainly not disappointed with the second episode last Sunday of A Very English Scandal. This took us from the relationship itself to the botched attempt to murder Norman Scott. The performances of Hugh Grant and Alec Jennings deserve the praise they received.
Perhaps it will come in the third episode but I would have liked to see more political context. Harold Wilson liked Jeremy Thorpe personally as he found him – as almost everyone who encountered him did – entertaining. More relevantly the party Thorpe led propped up the Labour minority government.
In such situations, notably in Israel where a knot of rabbis whose party helped to form a government in many elections, you can extract many concessions but the Liberals were less adept at this. Indeed as happened with Nick Clegg’s coalition they lose their credibility and identify when subsumed into a party with different beliefs and policies
The drama whilst reflecting the sexual mores of the times and to some extent these had to engage a difficult problem. There was an obvious sympathy for those who were hounded for their sexual preferences which the small scene with the dotty Earl of Arran whose brother committed suicide conveyed movingly but on the other side Thorpe was an amoral philanderer using his authority to seduce Scott. Further was there really a high-ranking black official at the entrance of he House of Commons or was this lip service to diversity?
The acting and drama was sufficiently powerful to overcome such criticisms. Hugh Grant must have studied Thorpe carefully not just to adopt hat posh modulated Etonian drawl but the whole persona of a charming libertine who could turn into something more reptilian and ruthless if his political ambitions were thwarted.
If the facts were not true, a viewer might think the drama stretched credibility too far. Could a group of chancers with misplaced loyalty to Thorpe have really conspired to have someone killed so incompetently?
In one scene the assassin Gino Newton admits he cannot find any trace of Thorpe in Dunstable which is hardly surprising as he was in Barnstaple. With James Graham’s The House dramatising the whip’s office of both parties in the minority’s government of 1974-79 and now A Very English scandal British politics of the seventies has certainly inspired some fine drama.