Friday, 17 June 2016

Fallen idol

Clement Freud was not only a "national treasure" as this article is headlined but also an exemplary MP. He worked hard for his constituents. Michael Meadowcroft wrote in an obituary: "He carried out as much as possible of his constituency casework by telephone and it must have quite impressive for constituents to receive a call direct from Freud after he had resolved their case. He would also follow up names mentioned in his local newspapers. If he couldn't make contact by 'phone he would regularly handwrite a note to the constituent." Another colleague remembered how he would sit attentively through debates in the Commons in which he had no direct interest and from which the party was unlikely to gain. Even then, most MPs were wont to shun the less glamorous debates or to stay just long enough to make a speech which would get into the media back home and then leave. He made a few friends across party boundaries. He was both a good Commons man and a good constituency MP, a rare combination. He supported many liberal causes, whether there was publicity to be gained or not.

So confirmation that the "womanising" referred to in the Meadowcroft and other obituaries was not restricted to those of legal age came as a devastating surprise. Better people than I were admirers of Freud. Craig Murray wrote this obituary in 2009 and three days ago explained how his view changed.

(I suppose there should have been clues in the revelations of the bisexual promiscuity of Lucian Freud. One wonders now whether the sexual practices of his younger brothers might not have been at the root of the rift between them and Stephen Freud.)

You never can tell. Bill Cosby, Stuart Hall and Rolf Harris all provided wholesome family entertainment and I believe they did so sincerely, though their celebrity status certainly assisted them in suppressing evidence of their darker private life. Publicly, they did a lot of good (how can one calculate the contribution Cosby made to the status and self-respect of African-Americans, for instance?). The same was true of Clement Freud. There were clearly people close to them all who were prepared to turn a blind eye to their faults for the greater good as they saw it, but scores of women had their lives blighted as a result.

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