Sunday, July 20, 2014

Viscount Tonypandy and Leo Abse

Today's newspapers say the police are investigating reports that the late Viscount Tonypandy - George Thomas, the Commons Speaker - raped a nine-year-old boy.

According to the Mirror:
His alleged victim, now aged 55, said: “I was raped by George Thomas in Cardiff. I was about nine. 
“He spent a lot of time at my house as my parents were good friends with him. Things started small but then got a lot worse. It has been with me all my life.” ...
The alleged victim, now living in Australia, said his foster parents were Labour Party supporters. He added: “We went on many campaigns for Harold Wilson, Jim Callaghan and George Thomas.”
Anyone who shares my weakness for political gossip will be familiar with the rumour that George Thomas used to pick up young men for sex.

The most authoritative account of this rumour was given by another deceased Labour MP, Leo Abse. It appeared in the American edition of his The Man Behind the Smile: Tony Blair and the Politics of Perversion, which was quoted in the Daily Mail the other day.

I seem to recall reviewing the British edition for Liberator, but Thomas was still alive when that came out. After his death Abse felt less constrained and added an extra chapter to the American edition, which came out with the less beguiling title Tony Blair: The Man Behind The Smile.

In it the worldly Abse describes George Thomas's terror of exposure and how he would sometimes help Thomas deal with the threat of blackmail.

He then writes:
But there were times when my advice had gone unheeded. While still a backbench MP, he asked me for a loan. The specificity and size of the loan, £800, aroused my suspicions. 
He poured out the story. I urged him to let me deal with this extortioner. But to no avail. That sum – the ticket and resettlement money which was to take the man to Australia – would, George insisted, mark the end of the affair. 
I had profound misgivings but I could see George was near breaking point. I gave him the money.
Given that Thomas's alleged victim now lives in Australia, one has to wonder whether Abse's £800 was used to settle the whole family there.

It was not blackmail, It was a way of Thomas getting rid of a potential scandal.

Abse does say that this incident took place when Thomas was still a backbencher, whereas the supposed rape seems to have taken place in the late 1960s or early 1970s, which makes the dates hard to reconcile.

But at the very least we know that Thomas regarded Australia as a place to dispatch people who threaten to become awkward.

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