The Plastic Hippo

December 5, 2014

Entirely a Matter for You


On the face of it and with delightful incongruity, the early lives of the late Jeremy Thorpe and the even later Peter Cook are remarkably similar.

Cook was born in Devon and as a son of a colonial diplomat “enjoyed” a public school education at Radley College and then Pembroke, Cambridge. Apart from joining the footlights revue, he also joined the Cambridge University Liberal Club. Thorpe was born 18 years earlier and as a son of a Tory MP, “enjoyed” a public school education at Eton and then Trinity, Oxford where he read law and later still became the Liberal MP for North Devon. Here the similarities begin to diverge. Cook opened the Establishment Club in Soho and Thorpe embraced the other establishment as the leader of the Liberal Party. With one of them making a living out of political satire and the other making a living out of political expedience, both men were probably fully aware of what Cyril Smith was up to.

To his credit, Jeremy Thorpe was a champion of civil rights and an eloquent critic of Apartheid. He also displayed courageous principle by declining the offer of becoming Home Secretary in return for a coalition government led by Edward Heath. As far as we know, Nick Clegg has yet to face charges of conspiracy to murder but by comparison, Jeremy Thorpe is considerably more honourable than the current leader of the Liberal Democrats and those of us old enough to remember Edward Heath will probably go to our graves without learning of some of the former Prime Minister`s peculiar habits. With Lord Rennard back in the Liberal fold and Andy Coulson out wearing a tag, the nation dodged a bullet in 1974 when there was a real possibility of a Conservative and Liberal coalition.

Sadly, way back then, Rinka the dog caught the bullet and a male model and groom called Norman Scott, formerly known as Norman Josiffe, was lucky that the gun jammed before a second, third and fourth shot intended to dispatch him to cover-up heaven. What is astonishing is that in 1975 revelations of alleged “gay” activity would provoke a conspiracy to murder. This was a year that saw the release of Wish You Were Here, Born to Run, Blood on the Tracks, Physical Graffiti and A Night at the Opera.

Thorpe and the other defendants at the later trial declined to give evidence in the witness box and were conveniently acquitted of the charge of conspiracy and incitement to murder including the failed “businessman” and failed Liberal MP Peter Bissell. The trail did, however, expose the money trail to the would-be assassin and failed hand gun maintainer. The cash paid to gunman Andrew Newton came from Sir Jack Hayward, President of Wolverhampton Wanderers FC in the form of a special donation. Registered in the Bahamas for tax purposes, millionaire Sir Jack paid ten grand to a Channel Islands “businessman” called Nadir Dinshaw and covered the transaction as a legitimate “election expense”. All that was nearly 40 years ago and if that was happening then, we can only imagine what is happening now. The reluctance to start the inquiry into historical child sex abuse and the disturbing reports of historical unexplained deaths suggest that Cyril Smith was just the tip of a very large iceberg.

Both Jeremy Thorpe and Peter Cook have, by some, been judged as examples of failed potential. Both are now dead and that is very sad. Thorpe was undone not by his sexual preferences but by an antique hypocrisy that demands that such things need to be kept secret. Conspiracy to murder is a bit more serious than being attracted to another human being.

Peter Cook bank rolled Private Eye who initially broke the story of the conspiracy to murder Norman Scott. It is thought that he was deeply jealous of the success of Dudley Moore in Hollywood and the Derek and Clive Live albums are not something anyone would wish to be remembered for. He has also been accused of saving his rival, a certain David Frost, from drowning because if Frost had been taken by the water then suspicion would fall on Cook for attempted murder. In 1979, Cook was booked to do some stuff at Amnesty International`s Secret Policeman`s Ball. He did some favourites and got a terrible notice in the Daily Telegraph that accused him of recycling old material. This was about the time that Mr Justice Cantley had delivered his summing up of the Thorpe case at the Old Bailey. Within hours, Peter Cook had written and delivered possibly the best piece of satire ever seen. If you think that this is in any way offensive or even remotely funny, then that is entirely a matter for you.


  1. Hello Hippo

    Wish you were her?

    Dr. Freud called.


    Comment by BrownhillsBob — December 5, 2014 @ 10:44 am | Reply

  2. I’m having an identity crisis


    Bib, Bob, Bubba and Bodega the Third

    Comment by BrownhillsBob — December 5, 2014 @ 12:06 pm | Reply

  3. Good read.
    One thing Peter Cook said, when asked, was “why would anyone want to achieve their potential?”
    On regrets, he stated his “greatest regret was saving David Frost from drowning”.
    His appearance on Clive Anderson’s show was a pretty good resume of his career.

    Comment by Rob — December 5, 2014 @ 7:45 pm | Reply

  4. brilliant

    Comment by davidh936 — December 6, 2014 @ 9:05 pm | Reply

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