Whilst I enjoyed this three-part series broadcast over 3 nights on ITV, there are two problems with this genre.
Firstly, they require not much writing creativity as you already have a story with characters and secondly, how can you differentiate between what is fact and what is faction?
Apparently John Stonehouse’s daughter has taken issue and there was a disclaimer at the end of a denial that he was recruited by Czech intelligence.
The Stonehouse story is so incredible that the cliche “You could not make it up” applies.
Here was this debonair, ambitious, thrusting Labour politician – rising up the Labour Party – who messed it all up by getting into debt after his dubious business dealings and faked his death by drowning on a Miami beach after acquiring a false passport in the name of a dead constituent.
Amoral, ego-centric and not that bright, Matthew MacFadyen portrayed him as blokish but did extract some sympathy for him, particularly when he walked with his slop bucket to his prison cell.
There was no real revelation of his mental state other than a state-appointed psychiatrist in Melbourne, where he was discovered by police who were searching for Lord Lucan, opining that he had a split personality and rejected the Stonehouse one.
He certainly caused headaches for his wife, children and Harold Wilson who had to manage a very slender majority.
With his customary wit, Wilson wisecracked to the Speaker Betty Boothroyd “We are dependent upon a man who is either off his rocker, or thinks he is”.
The story is also of some interest as in those times politicians could get away with much more.
Edward du Cann was chairman of the Conservative Party and 1922 Committee but went bankrupt in 1993.
Reginald Maudling was associated with disgraced architect and property dealer John Paulson.
Jeremy Thorpe, who featured in a production also written by John Preston, led a debauched life.
None, however, finished up in jail. Like John Stonehouse.
His long suffering wife divorced him but his mistress Sheila Buckley remained steadfast.