Stonehouse

Let’s put aside the history for a moment. The 3-part TV drama based on the story of John Stonehouse MP has been dam good entertainment[1]. No need to recount every step in the story. It’s the sort of sequence of events that, had it been written as fiction would have been rejected as too bizarre and not printable. Here life really is stranger than fiction.

He was a rising star of the Parliamentary Labour Party in the early 1970s. He took a very unexpected turn in life’s series of multiple choices. Any explanation he gave seemed comic and a little bit sad. It’s clear why he had to be brought to justice. That said, Stonehouse is far from the first, or last parliamentarian to tell whopping great big lies and somehow expect to be believed.

Watching this story unfold in an era before instant communications, a camera on every mobile phone and streets covered with CCTVs makes me think this must be almost impossible for younger people to get. I may be wrong, but now the scenario would be even more hopeless than it was in 1974. Although, the twist now might be that various media can be convincingly faked.

The actor Matthew Macfadyen does a wonderful portrayal of foolhardiness and haplessness. He’s captured a blank expression that accompanied Stonehouse telling tales riddled with preposterous nonsense. True or not, this is dam good entertainment.

The spouses of parliamentarians have a lot to put-up with in normal times, let alone crazy excursions into fantasies and a partner’s moral bankruptcy. It leaves me wondering why they do it.

I know there’s a strong compulsion to keep-up appearances, or at least there was in the 1970s. There’re many popular British comedies based on the abhorrence of embarrassment and inclination to do almost anything to keep-up appearances[2]. It’s a 20th Century cultural theme.

The fantasy of starting a new life is a strong one too. That’s probably been sustained down the decades much more than aspirations based on social class. The mirror we put up to ourselves called Television regularly screens such programmes as: a place in the sun[3].

The true story of John Stonehouse MP is a complex one. Reading about the times it’s difficult to have much sympathy for him or the choices he makes. Those choices do appear extremely self-centred. Even with a generous interpretation.


[1] https://www.imdb.com/title/tt13005652/

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keeping_Up_Appearances

[3] https://www.channel4.com/programmes/a-place-in-the-sun