Monday, 9 June 2008

133: Tom Driberg 5 - Peter Cook

From "Monday Morning Feeling" in “The Daily Mail”, 27 June 1977


I am sorry Tom Driberg, or Lord Bradwell as the old snob became, has left out all the really juicy bits from his autobiography “Ruling Passions”, the highly enjoyable story of a poof with a sense of humour who spent a great deal of time picking up working-class lads in public lavatories. He tells us almost nothing of his infinitely more interesting activities with his colleagues in the Labour Patty, not to mention his dealings with certain prominent Tories. Being a man of wide-ranging interests it would not surprise me if he'd been on more than nodding terms with members of the Liberal Party.

As a matter of fact, a predilection for working-class youths is probably as good a reason as any for joining the labour movement. Alas, I was too middle-class for Tom and he never made the remotest pass at me - apart from one rather lingering handshake when he delivered his excellent crossword to “Private Eye”. At his burial, there was a very dignified Mass. When the body had been sprinkled with Holy Water and the black cloth removed from the coffin, the Red Flag was revealed. I don't think this joke was up to Tom's real standards. I had been hoping for a naked working-class lad to spring from under the shroud and shout some slogan for Gay Lib.


Despite the use of the rough-and-ready language typical of the ‘70s, this is a largely affectionate memoir by Cook, the proprietor of “Private Eye”. Certainly, the humorists and satirists of “Private Eye” are a lot more charitable and understanding towards Driberg than the moralising journalists who reviewed “Ruling Passions” ever were. Maybe they found him ridiculous and unreliable, and they’re far from respectful, but they acknowledged he was he was part of real life. Thier jokes about the satisfactions of lust are hoteful. The newspaper reviewers of “Ruling Pasions” also knew Driberg personally, but they chose instead to pour from a height of disgust such venomous obliquy and condemnation as to bury what remained of him under a reputation as a filthy sexual offender in stark 20-point newsprint.

The gibe about “Liberals” may be either a sarcasm about the uselessness of the Liberals, or an allusion to the revelations of homosexual intrigues surrounding Jeremy Thorpe slowly trickling out for the last year or so.

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