Britain's 'Family Values' Party Is Party to a String of Sex Scandals

updated 02/28/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/28/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST

Hartley booth was A Politician with preacher and self-proclaimed "fighter for the family" was elected to Britain's House of Commons as a Conservative in 1992, taking Tory titan Margaret Thatcher's old seal. But his personal life didn't live up to his rhetoric. This month London's tabloids disclosed that Booth, 47, who's married with three children, had what he calls an unconsummated affair last year with Emily Barr, 22, a researcher in his office. The tabs even published his love poems ("He who is tall/ Has further to fall/ And I fell/ How I fell"). Suddenly Booth's bright future seemed behind him. He resigned his Foreign Office post—but not his seat in Parliament.

It was only the latest in a siring of scandals and humiliations that have undermined Prime Minister John Major's Back lo Basics campaign—as the latest Ton appeal to flag and family is called. Since Christmas, five sex scandals have rocked the party of conservative virtues. On Dec. 26, environment minister Tim Yeo, a 48-year-old married man, admitted he had lathered a daughter with girlfriend Julia Stent, 34. Born last July, she was his second illegitimate child; the first, also a girl, was born in 1967 to another woman. In January, another MP, Gary Waller, 48, said that he had a son out of wedlock with a House of Commons secretary. And MP David Ashby, 53, sheepishly confessed lo reporters—and lo his wife, Silvana, 51—that he had shared a hotel bed with a man during a holiday in France. He claimed he often shared beds with other men to save money on hotel rooms and accused skeptics of having "dirty minds."

But if these revelations played somewhat like a West End sex farce, there were tragedies as well. On Jan. 9, the Earl of Caithness, 45, resigned as transport minister the day after his wife, Diana, 40, shot herself to death—apparently in despair over her husband's affair with Jan Fitzalan-Howard, 44, former secretary lo Princess Anne. And on Feb. 6, Stephen Milligan, 45, a rising star in Parliament and an enthusiastic supporter of the family-values program, was found dead in his London home wearing women's stockings and a garter belt. Investigators from Scotland Yard concluded that Milligan—who had a plastic bag over his head and a cord around his neck—had suffocated during an elaborate masturbatory act in which he cut off his oxygen to increase sexual pleasure.

Conservative insiders concede that the revelations of the Tory sleaze factor, as the British media now call it, has turned the Back to Basics campaign into a fiasco. Moreover, Milligan's death may diminish the Tories' already slim margin in Parliament and has prompted calls for a general election, a prospect that delights John Smith, leader of the opposition Labour party. "It's their own fault," he says of Major and his hapless crew. "They dug a hole and jumped right into it.""

From Our Partners