The Gangster and the Pervert Peer – Favours of all flavours

by Lynn Connolly
You scratch my back and I'll spank your bum...

You scratch my back and I'll spank your bum...

The Gangster And The Pervert Peer on Channel 4 last night was the latest documentary in the ‘Toffs and Crims’ season and revealed a scandalous and sensational story of sex, politics, money and crime… a bit like an episode of EastEnders shot on location in the House of Lords.

The film was based around the fact that in 1964, the Sunday Mirror – rather bravely – made what were described as “lurid allegations of a homosexual relationship between a peer and a gangster.”

Rumour had it that prominent Tory, Lord Bob Boothby, had been attending illegal gay sex parties that were organised and often hosted by notorious underworld boss Ronnie Kray.

Not unreasonably for the time, that did not go down well, unlike – probably – most of the party guests…

Despite the Mirror having photographic evidence of these events – and reports of ‘leaks’ from Scotland Yard – the paper ‘mysteriously’ retracted their story and Boothby received a record payout in damages. The mystery isn’t a mystery at all however; the Mirror were scared and/or paid off to make the retraction

Ronnie Kray made full use of the fact that he was intimately acquainted with a Tory Lord who had a passion for kinky sex, and a Labour MP with a love of cottaging, to ensure that his hold over London – from average Joe club owners to the uppermost echelons of government and high society – was a stranglehold.

But the story didn’t stop there. Over 40 years later, recently discovered documents from the public records office suggest that other as yet “unidentified influential public figures” were influenced by the Kray twins, but have never been brought to justice, which in itself was possibly the most interesting part of this film. Just who are these people??

During the documentary, there were juicy portrayals of the kinky MPs concerned, talk of rent boys and an illicit affair between Boothby and Harold Macmillan’s wife, Dorothy.

She was in fact just Boothby’s cover story to hide the fact he was as gay as a tent full of Brownies on Jamboree night, and it was suggested that he only had the affair with Dorothy because physically, she reminded him of a caddy he’d once had on the golf course in St Andrews. I’m assuming by ‘had’ they mean used for the purposes of actual caddying, but I could be wrong…

Another of Boothby’s young male friends was Leslie Holt who was a prolific burglar. It was claimed that Boothby gave Holt the names and addresses of people he didn’t like so that Holt could burgle them while they were on holiday.

The film then moved on to Labour MP Tom Driberg, who was “turned on” by dangerous sex in public loos and lifts – which is given the term ‘cottaging’ – and next to feature in the film was criminal, Mad Teddy Smith, who could speak several languages although as one wit put it, “I don’t think he told the truth in any of them”.

All of the above came together – by the by, have you any clue how difficult it is for me to have avoided the opportunity for double entendre and puns so far?? It’s killing me! – for orgies involving rent boys and live sex shows.

We also heard the absolutely gross and seemingly favourite pastime of Boothby which entailed a glass table and a certain natural function… oh spew. This is a family site so I won’t relate the hideous details.

One character who featured in these multitudinous scandals included the very appropriately named Lord Effingham, which gave me a right giggle I have to admit…

But back to the documentary and much of what went on behind these governmental and/or gangster doors was common knowledge, but the newspapers of the time didn’t dare print any of it, with the exception of the Mirror and as previously mentioned, they hastily retracted their story.

Writer John Pearson viewed police files on the Krays that hadn’t been previously accessible to the public, but the names of some of the Krays’ supporters had been blacked out because, according to the Attorney General’s office, some of those involved are still alive.

The upshot of this film was that Boothby loved the thrill of risk-taking and being so closely acquainted with the Kray twins was part of that, and of course, they facilitated his every whim…

All in all, a fascinating watch and if you missed it, I’d highly recommend watching it on 4OD when you have a spare hour!

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Lynn is an editor and writer here at Unreality TV and is trained psychotherapist and the author of two books. She's addicted to soaps, period drama and reality TV shows such as X Factor, I'm A Celeb and Big Brother.