TV and Radio

TV review: Hugh Grant excels as closet gay politician

Hugh Grant plays Jeremy Thorpe in A Very English Scandal
Billy Foley

A Very English Scandal, BBC 1, Sunday at 9pm

IT'S not just the last leader of the Liberal party who had a problem with homosexuality, so did one of his predecessors.

Jeremy Thorpe's problem, however, was not one of religious objection to same-sex marriage, but being a gay man when homosexuality was only on the cusp of being decriminalised in Britain.

Thorpe, who harboured distant ambitions of being prime minister, had significantly greater problems than Tim Farron.

As leader of the Liberal Party in the 1970s he was offered a cabinet seat if he formed a coalition government with Labour, but declined because Wilson would not grant them a change in the first-past-the-post electoral system.

He was popular and his party was on the rise but Thorpe's career would be devastated if his great secret was revealed and he operated a double life, so common to a significant number of powerful men of the time.

This three-part dramatisation of the seminal years in Thorpe's life brilliantly cast Hugh Grant as the Liberal leader.

Grant, acting against rom-com type, was superb as the old Etonian who revelled in his private attraction to young men.

Thorpe voted for the decimalisation of homosexuality in 1967 but was in no doubt that this would not save him if his second life was exposed.

"Make no mistake," he tells a close confidant, "if anything about me becomes public, I give you a guarantee; I'll put a gun to my head and blow my brains out."

It was reference to the terrible suicide rate about gay people and it is remains remarkable that homosexuality was only legalised in Northern Ireland in 1982 and the Republic of Ireland in 1993.

Thorpe is, however, not a very sympathetic character, given he attempts to murder a former lover, Norman Josiffe (Ben Whishaw), after he repeatedly threatens to expose him.

The pressures of the time were extreme, but Thorpe's cold and calculated decision to marry a woman also exposed the ruthlessness of his ambition.

Both Grant and Whishaw were superb, the innuendo was delicious and there are two more episodes to look forward to, culminating in the trial of Thorpe for attempted murder and the ending of his career.

**

Robbie's War, The Rise and Fall of a Playboy Billionaire, BBC 2, Monday at 9pm

Robert Tchenguiz is a London property tycoon who lost billions in the financial crash and was then arrested on fraud charges. And although he was cleared of any wrongdoing he is determined to restore his full reputation and make financial institutions and the police pay damages.

This film followed him for part of his, apparently hopeless, 10-year legal battle to get "justice", including trying to save his palatial home overlooking Royal Albert Hall from repossession.

It also explored his curious family arrangement, where his ex-wife and children share the house with him and his 27-year-old girlfriend.

It was a gripping insight into both the extraordinary lives of the super wealthy and also how easily money can be made and lost.

We often think of the 'one per cent' - those said to be the richest and most powerful people in society - as a fixed number of what Tom Wolfe's described as the "masters of the universe".

In fact the membership of the 'one per cent' is constantly moving and changing.

Mark Zuckerberg will probably keep his membership for the duration of his life, but some studies suggest that just 3 per cent of any list of the 'one per cent' remain in that position for a full decade.

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