Lost and gone, and well forgotten

Martin Kettle starts his Guardian piece:

Commentators often fail to discern the essential insecurity of politicians. Yet somewhere beneath even the most confident MP’s veneer is the sleepless fear of oblivion.

I found that reassuring. I know my memory is not what it should be, and used to be — too much Cabernet Sauvignon, too often. Still, I wonder how many others of my vintage would recognise the names on this list:

Mac the Knife

That’s “Vicky ” for the London Evening Standard, exactly fifty-two years ago (17th July, 1962). There are, it seems, two versions of this cartoon. The early editions of the paper may have had just the seven top names, with the other nine, the junior ministers, were added in the later effort.

Kettle’s point, about “oblivion” made me wonder how many of the names on Mac’s “Little List” have any resonance these days. Does anyone hanker for David Eccles at Education (1954-7, 1959-62) or at the dead-and-gone Board of Trade (in the intervening gap)? Do we remember Harold Watkinson for his time at Defence (1959-1962) or as Chairman of Cadbury Schweppes (1969-74), or neither?

Just two characters there deserve a bit of immortality

Selwyn Lloyd (sacked as Chancellor by Macmillan) was rehabilitated as Leader of the Commons by Alec Douglas-Home, and imposed by the Heath majority as Speaker in 1971.

Kilmuir was the Lord Chancellor, formerly David Maxwell Fyfe.

I’d not be surprised if, in the near future, his name doesn’t appear more often than it has these forty odd years since his death. He was wrong about not reprieving Derek Bentley in 1953 (allegedly because a hanging would strengthen his chances to elbow Eden aside in Churchill’s succession). He justified the Suez intervention in 1956. He set up the Wolfenden Committee, and then in the House of Lords opposed its recommendations and badger-stroker Lord [“Boofy” Gore] Arran’s Sexual Offences Bill. Kilmuir remained a firm defender of the death penalty.

What may yet give Kilmuir some posthumous notice is his claim in the House of Lords, 24th May 1965:

I have in mind the proselytisation which goes out from sodomitic societies and buggery clubs, which everybody knows exist.

I cannot find another reference for this, but Geraldine Bedell, in a 2007 piece for the Observer had:

For the opposition, Lord Kilmuir warned against licensing the ‘buggers’ clubs’ which he claimed were operating behind innocent-looking doors all over London. But Arran, supported by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, won his third reading by 96 votes to 31.

The term buggers’ clubs, as there, seems always associated with Kilmuir. Properly it belongs to Lord Chief Justice Goddard:

There is no judge who has to go on circuit, as I did for many years, who does not from time to time find that in various parts of the country—in quite different parts of the country—there are what are generally referred to among the people who practise these things as “buggers’ clubs” or associations or coteries of people who are given to this particular vice. They are often careful to see that they keep out young boys, because they know that they get very heavy sentences if they are found out; but at these coteries of buggers, the most horrible things go on. As a judge, one has to sit and listen to these stories which make one feel physically sick.

If this Bill goes through, so that buggery is no longer a criminal offence provided it is done in private and with no boys concerned, then it will be a charter for these buggers’ clubs. They will be able to spring up all over the place. I can assure your Lordships that it is a very real risk.

Goddard is now remembered for his other proclivities and his trousers. Which is one way of escaping public oblivion.


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Filed under Evening Standard, Guardian, History, homosexuality, Law, Observer, politics

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