SKULLDUGGERY by MPs is no new phenomenon.
The current disgrace of Parliamentary expenses claims seems to have tainted the Commons irrevocably.
Indeed, it eclipses the earlier scandal that erupted in March 2006, when several people nominated for life peerages by then Prime Minister, Tony Blair, were rejected by the House of Lords Appointments Commission.
It was later revealed they had loaned large amounts of money to the Labour Party at the suggestion of Labour fundraiser Lord Levy. This was not, strictly, honours for sale, but it was as close, ethically, as made no matter.
A former Colne Valley MP may well have been murdered for trying to expose a similar scandal at the beginning of the last century.
Victor Grayson was born in Liverpool, the son of a carpenter, and was apprenticed as an engineer. Despite a stammer, which he mastered through elocution lessons, he became an inspiring orator.
He joined the Independent Labour Party and in 1907 won the Colne Valley seat which he held until the General Election of 1910.
He continued using his skill at public speaking to recruit soldiers for the First World War and in so doing lost the friendship of many of his Labour colleagues.
In 1918 Sir Basil Thompson of the Special Branch asked a man called Maundy Gregory to investigate Grayson’s activities involving Communists and the IRA, with whom Grayson had expressed sympathy.
Gregory, a former theatrical impresario – an active homosexual and political fixer – was employed by Liberal PM Lloyd George to sell honours. It’s thought Gregory raised £150m at today’s prices, lining the pockets of himself, Lloyd George and the Liberal Party. The Tories are thought to have employed Gregory for the same purpose and certainly provided him with a generous £2,000 a year pension after his prosecution for attempting to sell honours in 1923.
In early 1920 in Liverpool Grayson threatened to expose Gregory with the following inflammatory words: “The sale of honours is a national scandal. It can be traced right down to 10, Downing Street and a monocled dandy with offices in Whitehall. I know this man and one day I will name him.”
Shortly after, Grayson was beaten up in the Strand, London, apparently as a warning.
On September 28, 1920, Grayson was drinking with friends when he received a telephone message. He told his friends that he had to go to the Queen’s Hotel in Leicester Square and would be back shortly.
Later that night, the artist George Flemwell was painting a picture of the Thames when he saw Grayson entering a house on the river bank. Flemwell knew Grayson, having painted his portrait before the war, but did not realise the significance at the time because Grayson was not reported missing until several months later.
An investigation carried out in the 1960s revealed that the house that Grayson entered was owned by Maundy Gregory.
Grayson was never seen again. It is widely believed that he was murdered to prevent his revealing evidence of corruption. However, a comprehensive biography by David G Clark, himself a former MP for the Colne Valley (1970-74) suggests his possible survival into the 1950s.
Someone collected Grayson’s war medals from the New Zealand Ministry of Defence in London on August 25, 1939. David Clark argues that since all those who knew he was a war hero were dead and remaining living relatives didn’t know he was owed the medals, the only person who could have legitimately collected them was Grayson himself.
Clark reports that there was widespread speculation that Grayson was the love-child of an aristocrat, the house of Marlborough, Churchill’s family, and was fostered or adopted in Liverpool.
There were several unconfirmed sightings in Australia and New Zealand. One man claimed he’d seen Grayson running a bookshop in London in the 1950s. Another said he spotted him with an elegant younger woman on the Underground in 1939. Others said they had seen him in the Kent, the South of France and Italy. MP Tam Dalyell claimed he saw Grayson on a CND march in the 1950s.
The current expenses scandal has not yet involved a suspected murder. Perhaps this is progress of sorts.