A street trader in London’s Soho, the earliest, and only, political advice he ever gave me was: “They’re all at it, son.”
As well as professional politicians, his assessment embraced all the establishment’s arms including the police, the judiciary, the church and the royals.
As a smart grammar-school boy, I’d humour my daft dad as he regaled me with his latest unbelievable Soho tale of corruption by the boys in blue at West End Central (this was the late 1950s), the sexual predilection of this bishop or that MP and the brazen lie of this cabinet minister or that celebrity.
I think I first realised he was on to something when, with my own 11-year-old eyes, I saw a policeman take cash from a “chase the lady” trickster who did not want to be moved on from his illegal pavement pitch near my dad’s legal flower stall in Rupert Street.
Then, as the 50s flowered into the sexy 60s, there were the Krays and the Richardsons with their police and political courtiers, Profumo of course, and, across the pond in the 70s, Watergate.
Here, as the 70s prepared to soar into the “greed is good” 80s, there was the Jeremy Thorpe trial, the Cecil Parkinson affair and many other glimpses into the real natures of our ruling elites.
Sword of truth
The 90s saw Jonathan Aitken’s “sword of truth”, Monica’s non-sex with the President, the painfully slow revelation of sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests in the UK and US and the grudging agreement by The Firm that Princess Diana, far from being a fantasist, was indeed in a in three-sided relationship with the heir to the throne (now married to his mistress, the former wife of his friend Andrew Parker Bowles).
Of course the list continues, making it game, set and match, to my father’s societal verdict: Jimmy Savile, Cyril Smith and now Lord Rennard (who vehemently denies any wrongdoing).
Nick Clegg (he of the winking “would I lie to you?” Sunday Times mag front page, above) seems, at the very least, to have been “economical with the vérité” to quote a ruling-class miscreant I seemed to have omitted from my list.
As I write, his party looks like it’s heading for disaster at a by-election caused by the resignation of the lying cheat who was its MP.
So, 50 years on, I am forced to concede that my dad, sadly now departed to the great street market in the sky, was not a jaundiced cynic making up whoppers over the dinner table.
He was an astute political commentator.
Yes, dad, they’re all still at it.
STOP PRESS: In case there was still any doubt, this just hit the headlines: Cardinal Keith O’Brien resigns as Archbishop.
“Told you, son” (Who said that?)
Image from Sunday Times (for review purpose only)