Private life of gay former Tory MP and Thatcher aide under spotlight

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The personal life of the late Sir Peter Morrison, a former Conservative MP and parliamentary aide to Margaret Thatcher, who was seen to be gay by several respected political commentators, has come under the public spotlight following remarks made in parliament by the Labour MP Tom Watson.

On Wednesday evening, Mr Watson denied speculation that he had been talking about the former Conservative MP in comments made at PMQs.

Writing on his blog, he said: “I am not naming the person for obvious reasons but for clarity it is not former MP, Peter Morrison”.

Mr Watson added: “This afternoon my office has been bombarded with calls regarding Morrison, I think because he was named by Edwina Currie at the weekend as having inappropriate sexual relations with teenage boys.

“I’ll say more when I can but this may not be for some time.”

Earlier today, speaking under parliamentary privilege, Mr Watson said police must investigate claims of a “powerful paedophile network linked to parliament and “Number 10”.

He asked David Cameron to ensure that officers looked into the allegations.

Mr Cameron said he would look into the issue, although he said it was not clear which former prime minister Mr Watson was referring to.

At which point, the Guardian’s veteran political journalist and Assistant Editor Michael White tweeted from his personal account @MichaelWhite:

“#PMQs Cam “does not know” which PM Hackgate’s Watson is talking about. But many will know it was Thatcher ally & MP, late Peter Morrison.”

On the Guardian’s live blog of Wednesday’s PMQ, it said of Mr Waton’s comments:

“Tom Watson (see 12.30pm) may have been referring to the late Sir Peter Morrison, Margaret Thatcher’s former parliamentary private secretary”.

Last weekend, the Sunday Times published an article about Sir Peter by interviewing Edwina Currie, a former Conservative MP and health minister of the Thatcher government under the title: “Thatcher aide ‘had sex with underage boys’”.

It claimed Sir Peter, who died in 1995, had sex with 16-year-old boys when the age of consent was 21.

Ms Currie said: “Was [Sir Peter] doing anything illegal? Almost certainly. Would it be illegal today? Hard to tell now the age of consent is down to 16”.

Ms Currie said Sir Peter was protected by a “culture of sniggering, of giggling and of nudge-nudge, wink-wink,” and that his behaviour was covered up by senior party members.

The Guardian’s blog linked to the Sunday Times’ article shortly after Tom Watson’s remarks at PMQs.

Several other political blogs including also mentioned Sir Peter’s name in connection with Mr Watson’s parliamentary comments.

However, on Wednesday evening, the Independent claimed that Mr Waton’s remarks had not been aimed at Sir Peter, but were in reference to a living person associated with Margaret Thatcher’s administration.

Michael White subsequently tweeted: “Correct. It is true that Peter Morrison had form, but Tom W seems to have another Maggie-ista in his sights today. Caution !”

Yet in a further twist, International Business Times said Mr Watson was indeed talking about the former Conservative MP – despite Mr Watson’s own denial on his blog.

Paul Connew, former editor of the Sunday Mirror, spoke of a police cover-up into the conduct of Sir Peter and told IBT:

“I had no idea Tom Watson was going to set off that hand grenade in parliament”.

International Business Times also mentioned an article from April 1998, published in the Guardian by journalist Nick Davies concerning paedophilia abuse in the UK where Sir Peter’s named also appeared.

When talking about how parts of the press had ignored reporting previous cases involving certain public figures, Mr Davies wrote:

“Fleet Street routinely nurtures a crop of untold stories about powerful abusers who have evaded justice. One such is Peter Morrison, formerly the MP for Chester and the deputy chairman of the Conservative Party. Ten years ago, Chris House, the veteran crime reporter for the Sunday Mirror, twice received tip-offs from police officers who said that Morrison had been caught cottaging in public toilets with underaged boys and had been released with a caution. A less powerful man, the officers complained, would have been charged with gross indecency or an offence against children.

At the time, Chris House confronted Morrison, who used libel laws to block publication of the story. Now, Morrison is dead and cannot sue. Police last week confirmed that he had been picked up twice and never brought to trial. They added that there appeared to be no trace of either incident in any of the official records”.