THAT NIGHT ON THE HEATH
It led someone who was then an MP to
become the angriest of those TV republicans.
He tells Nicholas Farrell why ALAN Amos, a former MP, delivered per- haps the most extraordinary outburst on an already extraordinary programme, Carl- ton Television's Monarchy — The Nation Decides. The Queen, he shouted, was responsible for 'this nation's dreadful decline'. She was 'head of a rotten, class- ridden, corrupt social and political envi- ronment', and the royal family were `parasites and hypocrites'. What viewers may not have realised when he was intro- duced as an ex-MP was that Mr Amos was not an ex-Labour MP, but an ex-Conserva- tive MP.
How could a Tory utter such subversive remarks? What Saul-like conversion had Mr Amos experienced? The explanation was simple. It had to do with something which happened one night on Hampstead Heath in March 1992, just before the general elec- tion.
Mr Amos, a bachelor, resigned as MP for the safe Tory seat of Hexham after being arrested on the Heath with another man behind a famous pub, Jack Straw's Castle, a noted homosexual pick-up spot. He was not charged with any offence, but he was cautioned after questioning in con- nection with an act of indecency. When the story broke in the press, he refused to go into detail about what had gone on that evening on the Heath. And though he denied he was a homosexual, he did resign as an MP.
Then, two years later, Mr Amos, who had been a member of the Tory Party since the age of 11 and once suggested that rapists and muggers be flogged, did some- thing equally odd. He joined the local Labour Party in Canning and Poplar, where he lives. Alas, we heard no more of him until last week when he popped up on television with his outburst. So what was it that went on behind Jack Straw's Castle that night in 1992 to cause him to swing so far and so fast?
Nowadays, Mr Amos, 43, works for the Local Government ombudsman. A strident anti-smoker who once said it was 'a dirty, dangerous and anti-social habit', he was pre- viously chairman of Action on Smoking and Health (Ash), the lobby group for a total ban on smoking in public places. But it was not Tory refusal to outlaw smoking — despite all the tobacco money it receives in revenue and donations that sent him scuttling across the political no-man's-land to join the enemy. It was something far more evil — the Establish- ment.
Educated at a direct-grant school in St Alban's, he first encountered what he calls the 'county set' or 'Establishment snobs' — 'the people who run the country, basi- cally' — at Oxford, where he read PPE at St John's. He became president of the Oxford University Conservative Associa- tion CI beat them then and thought I could beat them afterwards as well'). At this stage what most irritated him about `them' was that they preferred to use their time 'spending an enormous amount of money on drink and food' than discussing `political issues'. It sounded to me much more fun than politics. But for Mr Amos politics was what he got his kick out of. `This was the mid-Seventies. There were a lot of issues. . . . '
A decade of relative tranquillity ensued. He seems not to have encountered 'them' again until he became MP for Hexham in 1987. The Tories in Enfield, north London, where he had for many years been a coun- cillor, had been 'refreshingly' interested in talking about politics. For a long time he, a meritocrat, believed that Mrs Thatcher's brand of Conservatism was meritocratic as well. He confesses now that despite his hos- tility to the 'county set' he cannot remember having any view either way on the monarchy until the 1990s: 'It was just there, just like a road.'
But 'the events of 1992', as he calls them, on the Heath and the hostile reaction of the press and his constituency association to those events changed everything. Tor the first time I began to question my loyalty to people and organisations. I had always been loyal to the Conservative Party; I had always been loyal to the police. Both were then dis- loyal to me. The police assured me that what had happened in 1992 was confidential, but they sold the story to the Sun for a five- figure sum. There was an investigation. But no one was caught, no one was disciplined.'
So this once loyal Tory is now a class warrior of the old school. His views would embarrass Tony Blair. Indeed his views if allowed a regular airing — would cause serious damage to Labour's hopes at the election. 'The Establishment', he says, is `corrupt' because its only interest is the preservation of its 'privilege and power'. The Tory Party is 'corrupt' because it is controlled by 'the Establishment'. The Tories have destroyed local government by `taking away all its powers'. Tory Party members are 'bigots' because they use `blacks, gays, the disabled' as 'scapegoats for society's ills'. 'Discrimination' against such groups is rife. The police are 'corrupt' as well. But he emphasised: 'I am not bit- ter, I am angry.'
But it was only post-Heath that Mr Amos saw the light — that the monarchy was the wicked symbol of all that was rot- ten. I asked him why. 'The Conservatives are basically hostile to Europe, blacks, the disabled.' Yes, but why? 'The answer is that the Conservative Government has to appeal to Conservative MPs. Why do so many Conservative MPs hold these views? Britain is the fifth poorest country in the EU. Our 11-14-year-olds' education stan- dards are 18 months behind those of Ger- many. Why? The answer has nothing to do with the rate of tax. It's because the econo- my is being run to protect the privileges and power of the rich.'
Yes, but what has the monarchy to do with that? 'The monarchy is the head of this class-ridden, status-obsessed, rotten society.' But would his political conversion, I wondered, have happened anyway without, that is, the intervention of the `events of 1992'? 'All Lean say is that those events started the process.'
Was the Tory Party, I asked, riddled with homosexuals? 'That's the whole point, isn't it? If you want to deflect attention from yourself you go on the attack.' What about Tory homosexual MPs? How many did he think there were? 'I think I can identify 21 . . . but I would never do that. I'm not interested in people's private lives.'
What of Labour's homosexual MPs? 'In the Labour Party it's not an issue. Chris Smith is likely to be Secretary of State for Health, all things being equal, and he's openly gay.'
From the way Mr Amos was talking it became apparent that if the Tory Party is the party of homosexuals, then the Labour Party is the party for them.