Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Political crimes

Lewis Harcourt

India Knight perhaps rather overstates the case here, when she writes, in connection with Chris Langham's conviction on child pornography charges, that satirise politicians all you like, but not one of them has ever been accused of sinking as low as Langham, a nice arty liberal. Langham has been convicted of viewing and downloading particularly horrible images of child abuse.

Lewis Harcourt, the son of Gladstone's Chancellor William Harcourt, was a cabinet minister in his own right, serving in Asquith's cabinets as Secretary of State for the Colonies during World War One. He was also an enthusiastic and practising paedophile with, according to Matthew Parris, the widest collection of child pornography in the world. His tastes extended beyond pictorial amusement, however, and it was so widely known that boys at Eton were specifically warned off from going for walks with him.

Langham can at least take some comfort that politicians have the capacity for such great iniquity that his rather pales in comparison. Harcourt's end was poetic justice - a boy whom he propositioned told his mother, wh threatened to make the whole thing public. Harcourt retired to his study, and killed himself. Viscount Esher is said to have hurried round to his house and disposed of his ponographic collection before its contents could be made public. I suppose it's not only Langham who can feel a little bit better: Harcourt certainly makes Mark Oaten's spot of difficulty look postively wholesome by comparison.

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