The Best of Goodfellows – Henry Labouchere

Presenter: Andrew Lumsden

Presenter: Andrew Lumsden

On Tuesday 19 July 1881 Colonel Vincent, the young first Director of London’s newly-created Criminal Investigation Department formed to clean up colossal financial corruption in the Met, presented the House of Lords with a draft Bill that would give police more power to clear prostitutes including male ones off the London streets. He claimed that ‘sodomy’ was on the increase in London, especially in the St James’s area with its wealthy and titled folk and wanted more power to deal with that. On behalf of the House of Lords the Marquess of Salisbury, who in June 1885 would become Conservative Prime Minister, but in 1881 was out of office and famous for having defied his father for love of a woman not thought by his family to be of high enough rank, proceeding to have nine children by his beloved, was incredulous, exclaiming ‘But you don’t want any law for that! You’ve got the most severe law in Europe!’ The punishment for sodomy ‘Is indeed most severe’, admitted the top cop, ‘But the way of enforcing it is extremely difficult.’ Four years later Parliament passed the ‘Labouchere Amendment’ giving police extra powers under whose provisions 49,000 British gay men, some alive today, were jailed in Britain and further numbers in the British Empire. Who, then, was Henry Labouchere MP, after whom the Amendment was named?

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