Death of politician ruined by scandal

The death of Lord Lambton was announced at the weekend. Chris Moncrieff looks back at the former Berwick MP's colourful career.

The death of Lord Lambton was announced at the weekend. Chris Moncrieff looks back at the former Berwick MP's colourful career.

Lord Lambton was a brilliant and ambitious Tory politician whose burgeoning career collapsed in ruins in 1973 after disclosures of scandalous relationships with call girls.

The affair, which saw him pictured smoking cannabis in bed with two prostitutes, rocked Edward Heath's Government, saw Lord Lambton resign as Minister for the Royal Air Force and eventually to quit the House of Commons itself after 22 years.

But the Harrow-educated Lord Lambton - a courtesy title - made no excuses for what he himself described as "credulous stupidity" on his part.

Until that time, Lord Lambton, who was MP for Berwick-upon-Tweed, was best known for his efforts firstly to lose - and then to retain a title.

When his father died in 1970, he chose to disclaim the Earldom of Durham, to which he was the heir, so that he could stay in the Commons.

But he also wanted to keep the courtesy title of Viscount Lambton. In April of that year the then Speaker, Dr Horace King, ruled he could not use it in the Commons.

However, after the general election he renewed and won a similar appeal to the new Speaker, Selwyn Lloyd.

His downfall was preceded by an expose in the News of the World of a "top-level vice scandal". Rumours in Fleet Street and Westminster started to link his name with it. His resignation was offered to Mr Heath "for personal and health reasons". But on the following day he issued his own "no excuses" statement about "certain events of the last few months".

It said: "During this period I had a casual acquaintance with a call girl and one or two of her friends. I have no excuses whatsoever to make.

"I behaved with credulous stupidity and consequently have let down those I most wished to please - the Prime Minister, the Conservative Party, my electorate who have given me 22 years of loyalty, and my family.

"There has been no high life, vice ring, no security leak, no blackmail, and as far as I know, no politician of any party is remotely connected with these events."

Later that year the Diplock Commission was appointed by Mr Heath to investigate the security aspects of the involvement of Lord Lambton - and also Lord Jellicoe, Leader of the House of Lords, who had also resigned - with call girls.

It reported there had been no breach of security. But it said that Lord Lambton was wide open to blackmail because of his use of drugs and the fact that photographs existed of "sexual practices deviating from the normal".

These included pictures of Lord Lambton in bed with more than one girl. He had particularly used the services of Norma Levy and other sexual partners, at her Maida Vale flat.

Also that year, Lord Lambton was fined £300 at Marylebone Magistrates Court for illegal possession of cannabis and amphetamine tablets.

His wife, the former Miss Belinda Blew-Jones, and his family stood by him throughout these events. Belinda Lambton died in 2003.

Lord Lambton was a first cousin of Lord Home, who was briefly Prime Minister as Sir Alec Douglas-Home. In Parliament Lord Lambton served two years as a parliamentary private secretary.

He resigned in protest over the Government's Suez policy.

---------------------------------------------------------

The County Durham background of disgraced Lord Lambton

Lord Lambton is best known for the call-girl scandal, though to thousands of people in the North his name will be just as well known for a wildlife park.

The 200-acre Lambton Lion Park, near Chester-le-Street, opened in 1972 and attracted thousands of visitors until it closed in the 1980s.

Lord Lambton's County Durham estate also boasted one of the country's best pheasant shoots, and 1,500 acres of the land was sold to help create Washington New Town in the 1960s.

In 1983, he published a book of short stories. He also published a biography of Lord Louis Mountbatten.

Lord Lambton's resignation in 1973 led to the by-election which brought Alan Beith to power as Berwick MP.

Lambton's son, Ned, fought Berwick at the 1983 General Election for the Referendum Party, but received only 1,400 votes.

Journalists

David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer