A Harrowing story
Does some sort of curse hover over the constituency of Harrow East? I ask because Bob Blackman, Tory MP for Harrow East, was on the front of the Sunday Mirror at the weekend in an acutely humiliating context. This champion of marriage, one of the few remaining defenders of the notorious Clause 28, introduced on a wave of anti-gay bigotry in the 1980s, for which David Cameron has publicly apologised, was pictured alongside the headline ‘Caught with his Pants Down’. Allegedly, unbeknown to his wife, he has been having an affair with a fellow councillor for over 11 years.
The previous Harrow East MP, Tony McNulty, was no stranger to public humiliation. He had to apologise to the Commons after the Standards committee told him to repay £13,837 from his housing expenses. He was preceded by a Tory, Hugh Dykes, who was never given a government job during his 17 years in Parliament because he was too pro-EU, and after losing the seat on a near record swing, defected to the Lib Dems.
Before him there was Anthony Courtney, who had to fight for political survival after a package was sent anonymously to the press and to MPs in July 1965, possibly by the KGB, containing photographs of him and a woman who was not his wife. His local party stood by him, but he lost the seat in 1966 by just 378 votes.
He had won the seat in a by-election, because 54 years ago this month, police heard a rustling in the bushes in St James’s Park, in Westminster, and came upon two men involved in activity that even now would be illegal in so public a spot. One made a run for it, but was recaptured. He was Ian Harvey, a foreign office minister and the Tory MP for Harrow East.
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