On 11 June 1986 Olivia Channon, the daughter of Paul Channon, Thatcher’s Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, was found dead in the rooms of Count Gottfried von Bismarck at Christ Church College, Oxford University. von Bismarck had thrown a post-exams drugs and drink binge the night before for his friends – Olivia had passed out unconscious on von Bismarck’s bed at approx 2-30 am. Her body was found five hours later, in a pool of her own vomit – close to Olivia’s body was a spoon and silver foil with traces of heroin on it. Some of the first newspaper reports about Olivia’s death stated that preliminary forensic tests had shown that she had died from a cardiac arrest after taking huge quantities of champagne, vodka and heroin, other reports stated that a preliminary post-mortem revealed that she had choked on her own vomit. The circumstances of Olivia’s death did not become any clearer over the following weeks or indeed months.
The other revellers – there were eight people at the party – all stated that they had left Olivia alone, crashed out on von Bismark’s bed, in the early hours whilst they went to other events. The police arrested and charged some of those at the party. Olivia’s friend Rosie Johnston- whom she had known from childhood – was charged with supplying Olivia with heroin. Rosie had purchased the drugs in London for Olivia. Rosie and Olivia shared a house in Oxford – Olivia owned the house, she was a member of the Guinness family and was in receipt of a generous trust fund. Unlike everyone else involved, Rosie wasn’t a student at Oxford University. She had actually been studying for a degree with London University, but had transferred to Manchester College – which was part of London University but located in Oxford – because she wanted to be near to her friends. Nicholas Vincent, who discovered Olivia’s body, was charged with the possession of amphetamines. Gottfried von Bismark was charged with possession. Paul Dunstan an ‘unemployed musician’ was charged with supplying heroin. Rosie’s boyfriend – Olivia’s cousin – Sebastian Guinness was charged with possession of cocaine.
After Olivia’s body was found the police began an investigation into the route by which drugs were being trafficked from London to serve the Oxford University market and stated that they were interested in one particular unnamed dealer based in London.
At Olivia’s inquest Nicholas Vincent admitted that he’d lied to the police. He had initially denied that he had been asleep on the bed beside Olivia when she died, but told the inquest that he ‘could not cope with the fact of having slept with Olivia beside me all night’. Vincent was not a undergrad like Olivia and Rosie – he was a post-grad who was working as a part-time tutor and had been giving extra tuition to Olivia. Vincent maintained that he had warned Olivia about smoking heroin.
After Olivia’s death, Vincent left the UK, severed all ties with his contemporaries at Oxford and was last heard of years ago teaching English in Gstaad in Switzerland.
Someone else left the UK after Olivia’s death as well – von Bismarck, although he claimed that he didn’t know that Olivia was using heroin. Gottfried left Oxford within hours – he was ‘recalled’ to the family seat in Germany by his father Prince Ferdinand and rapidly checked into a private clinic to be treated for alcoholism. Gottfried’s departure was so rapid that a family servant was dispatched to Oxford to pay his pub, restaurant and tailors bills. Gottfried subsequently completed his studies in Germany, although he did return to the UK, both to appear at Oxford Magistrates Court and some years later, to live and work. At Oxford Magistrates Court von Bismark was fined the grand total of £80 for the possession of cocaine. Gottfried will not have made a case to the magistrates of being on a low income. His great-great-grandfather was Prince Otto von Bismarck, the Prussian ‘Iron Chancellor’, his father was Prince Ferdinand von Bismarck and the family seat is a castle. The family also owns a good deal more than their castle. Gottfried’s younger sister Vanessa later became a PR agent in the US and his older brother Carl-Eduard became an MP in the German Bundestag.
Gottfried was defended by Robin Grey QC when he appeared before the Oxford Magistrates for the possession of drugs. Grey stated that Olivia’s death was ‘going to be a shadow’ over von Bismark’s head ‘probably for the rest of his life’.
Sebastian Guinness and Paul Dunstan were sentenced in Dec 1986 by Sir Philip Otton. Guinness was imprisoned for four months and Paul Dunstan was imprisoned for four years for supplying heroin to Olivia. Otton commented at the trial that rich privileged people cannot expect to receive lighter sentences and his sentencing would demonstrate this. Which is why the ‘unemployed musician’ received four years in jail and their heir to the Guinness fortune received four months. Whereas Count von Bismark got away with an £80 fine in the Magistrates Court. I haven’t come across many cases involving Sir Philip Otton – but I do know that he was the judge who rejected Mary Wynch’s first appeal. Otton was over-ruled by the Master of the Rolls (see post ‘ The Lawyers And Judges Involved In Mary Wynch’s Case’).
An additional twist to Olivia’s death emerged when three journalists found a three page torn up suicide note from Olivia addressed to Rosie in the dustbin of the house that the young women shared. There were references in the note to Olivia being depressed and distraught over her break up with a man to whom she referred as ‘Jeremy Hippy’. It transpired that Jeremy Hippy was Thomas Jeremy Barnes, a former Oxford student who ran a mobile disco in Verbier, Switzerland. After the existence of the suicide note became public, Paul Channon issued a statement through his lawyer maintaining that Olivia had written the note months ago, that she and Jeremy Hippy were reconciled and that he knew that she hadn’t committed suicide because if she had been planning to do that she would have contacted Channon to talk about her will. Obviously a warm and caring family the Channons. I can find no other references to Jeremy Hippy except in the context of the mention of his name in the suicide note, so presumably he kept a low profile in Switzerland with the mobile disco as he will not have needed to have been concerned with the writing of any will.
Rosie Johnston was dealt with rather more harshly than von Bismarck, but still didn’t suffer too much. She was sentenced to nine months imprisonment and served six months. She briefly saw the inside of Holloway but was then transferred to Bullwood Hall and East Sutton Park Open Prison. In 1989 Rosie wrote a prison memoir called ‘Inside Out’. Because by that time I had been subject to a number of attempts by the paedophiles’ friends in north Wales to frame me for serious offences, I took quite a big interest in matters concerning criminal justice and I read Rosie’s book. Rosie was quite laid back about prison – she noted that Holloway held a lot of seriously mentally ill women who spent their days injuring themselves and frequently succeeded in killing themselves despite being on the euphemistically named ‘hospital wing’. The hospital wing in Holloway was of course known as the muppet house because even the other prisoners noticed that the prisoners on that wing really were in a bad way and should not have been in a prison. Rosie wrote about hearing the muppets screaming in distress 24 hours a day and she also noticed how many women in Holloway were serving sentences for drugs offences, including overseas citizens who had been coerced into working as drug mules by pimps or gangsters and were serving very long sentences for importing drugs. Rosie described Bullwood Hall as being like a particularly awful girl’s boarding school, but because she had been to such an establishment herself she didn’t find it too unbearable.
Rosie mentioned in her book that she arrived at Holloway wearing no knickers because she forgot to put them on and that the other prisoners were puzzled as to why someone as posh as Rosie was so unkempt, or in their words ‘dirty’. Now as someone who has had to prepare myself for a possible prison sentence on a few occasions as a stream of Angels and Top Doctors have perjured themselves, I can testify that it is most unlikely that one would forget one’s undies in those circumstances. If you know that you may well be banged up for God knows how long with no opportunities to get your hands on the essentials, things like toothbrushes, undies etc do spring to mind. Unless of course you are someone with one hell of a drug problem and are barely compus mentis in court, although there was no suggestion of that in any media reports.
Rosie Johnston’s mother is a member of the publishing family the Chancellors. At the time of Olivia’s death Rosie’s uncle Alexander Chancellor was Deputy Editor of The Sunday Telegraph and had just spent several years as Editor of The Spectator. Both publications were very supportive of Thatcher’s Gov’t.
When her book was published Rosie Johnston indicated that she wanted to work in prison reform, but I note that did not happen.
Someone else’s name cropped up in connection with Olivia’s death who supported Paul Channon’s claims that Olivia didn’t kill herself – Viscount Charles Althorp aka Champagne Charlie, the Princess of Wales’s brother. Champagne Charlie maintained that he had phoned Olivia hours before her death and she was fine and happy.
In the wake of Olivia’s death there was many acres of newsprint dedicated to the hedonistic lifestyle being pursued by some Oxford students. One article I remember reading in I think the New Statesman had been written by a young journo who had mates at Oxford. This journo had been reassured that although a great deal of drinking and drug taking was happening, one just had to ensure that one’s mates put one’s body in the appropriate position to prevent one choking on one’s vomit if one passed out. A medical student called Hilary was good enough to tell the New Statesman exactly what needed to be done in order to avoid death when rat arsed. Some press articles were rude enough to suggest that Oxford was stuffed full of rich drug taking wasters from dysfunctional families who had bagged their places through their connections rather than their ability.
Gottfried at least was certainly a very rich man with a hectic lifestyle. He drank very heavily throughout the night and kept himself awake during the day by using amphetamines. He was a member of the Piers Gaveston Society, which had originally been established as a gays only club. Members had an interest in rubber and whips and were required to camp it up. Gottfried took his membership seriously – he regularly appeared in fishnet stockings or lederhosen and lipstick. Although von Bismarck was a member of the Bullingdon Club as well and spent many happy hours smashing up restaurants, he found life in Oxford somewhat dull and spent much time in London doing some rather more serious partying. Gottfried did host some memorable bashes in Oxford though. At one Bavarian themed party he hung two severed pigs heads over the tables to enable the pigs blood to drip onto the food. Sebastian Shakespeare – who is now a journalist – was a good mate of Gottfried’s and was in attendance on that occasion.
Other friends of von Bismarck’s included Champagne Charlie, Lady Antonia Fraser’s son Damien and Princess Charlotte of Luxembourg. Fellow members of the Bullingdon Club included Darius Guppy – who was also in the Piers Gaveston Society. Guppy was best man at Champagne Charlie’s first wedding and Champagne Charlie was best man at Guppy’s nuptials.
Darius Guppy is of course best known for a 1993 insurance fraud which involved him and his business partner Benedict Marsh faking a jewellry robbery and then claiming £1.8 million from the insurers. In Feb 1993 Guppy was sentenced to five years imprisonment for conspiracy involving fraud, robbery and false accounting. In 1993 Guppy also pleaded guilty to three separate charges concerning illegal VAT claims on gold bullion smuggled into India between Oct 1989-July 1990. Since his conviction Guppy has written some bizarre pompous articles explaining how trying to swindle £1.8 million out of someone else was his revenge on Lloyds of London for their alleged wrongdoing in relation to his family. His mates like Boris Johnson – who was at Eton and then Oxford with Guppy and was a fellow member of the Bullingdon Club – have banged on about Guppy being a man of such honour that he had to demand satisfaction. Do you know Boris, a lot of people have done some very nasty things to me, but I’ve never staged an armed robbery in order to extract nearly two million quid out of them. I’ve ended up writing this blog instead.
Guppy obviously felt that he could rely on Boris to defend his corner because in 1990 when Boris was working as a journalist on the Daily Telegraph, Boris received a phone call asking him if he could provide the home address of News of the World journalist Stuart Collier, who was investigating Guppy – Guppy wanted to have Collier beaten up. A tape of the conversation was leaked to the press in 1995.
Another person who was in the Bullingdon Club with this lot was someone called David Cameron. This bunch of indulged dickwits really were the heirs to Thatcher. Before the unfortunate business of Olivia Channon, the Daily Mail and similar outlets used to constantly run features on Champagne Charlie et al drooling over how grand and important their parents were. I remember reading one article about ‘the Cabinet Ministers beautiful daughters’ – one of the beautiful daughters, Mary Parkinson, fruit of Cecil’s loins, had rather let the side down by getting involved in drugs and prostitution – the principal star of this feature was one Annabel Heseltine, who I think was at Durham rather than Oxford. Anyway Annabel’s mates were interviewed explaining that ‘she was always falling out of her clothes’ – a bit like Cecil then – and getting plastered on champers. Many years later, but I think before Cameron became PM, old father Heseltine was waxing lyrical in a broadsheet about the fine new generation of Tories that had been bred when he revealed that he had tripped over David Cameron in a heap of bodies after Annabel had held a piss up. And do you know, Heseltine was most impwessed when he actually spoke to Dave and he wealised that he was looking at a future Pwime Minister.
Dave – can you ask your mates how Olivia died? Furthermore, what with your mother sitting on the Oxford Magistrates bench, can you perhaps explain how the fuck Count von Bismarck got away with an £80 fine when a corpse full of heroin was discovered in his room? I heard you on the radio that time when you became over excited and starting shouting about how what pumps you up is people taking a chance and ‘doing the right thing’. Loading your mates up with Class A drugs, fleeing when they die and telling a pack of lies to the police isn’t really doing the right thing is it Dave? Perhaps you could include a chapter about it all in the memoirs that you’re writing in your shepherd’s hut.
Although Robin Grey QC had explained to the Oxford Magistrates – perhaps even to Dave’s mum herself – how Olivia’s death would be forever with von Bismarck, it didn’t hold the Count back for long. After completing his studies in Germany, von Bismarck spent some time in Los Angeles and then worked as an executive for Kevin Maxwell’s company Telemonde. von Bismarck’s role was to raise capital from the stockmarket – unfortunately Telemonde collapsed in 2002 with debts of £105 million. von Bismarck then spent some time working in London promoting holidays in Uzbekistan. von Bismarck was promoting the delights of the Uzbek regime to tourists just after Jack Straw, in his capacity as Home Secretary, had ordered the withdrawal and interrogation of the UK ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray. What had Craig Murray done to upset Jack Straw? Murray had raised concerns over human rights abuses in Uzbekistan – human rights abuses which included boiling people alive. After advertising the delights of Uzbekistan, von Bismarck co-founded AIM Partners, a London-based investment firm.
In August 2006 someone else died at a party hosted by von Bismarck – Anthony Casey fell 60 feet from the roof terrace of von Bismarck’s Chelsea flat and died of multiple injuries. von Bismarck was not arrested and the police did not find any drugs at the flat. The police might not have found any drugs in the flat but there were a lot of drugs in Mr Casey. The subsequent coroners report stated that there was no alcohol in Mr Casey’s blood but a significant amount of cocaine. The coroner told the Guardian that a great deal of ‘sexual paraphernalia’ had been discovered in the flat, including a variety of sex toys, lubricants and a butane gas cannister. There was also a box containing dozens of syringes. The coroner explained that there had been a ‘gay orgy’ taking place in the flat in the early hours of the morning, but all the action was between ‘consenting males in private’. As with Olivia’s death, there were a few things that weren’t ever explained – such as how Mr Casey ended up on the roof, let alone falling off it. There was a suggestion that he was ‘feeling unwell’ at the orgy so von Bismarck gave him the keys to the roof terrace.
von Bismarck left the UK after this death as well.
So who was the coroner who asked so few questions about an orgy which resulted in someone’s death, someone who was full of drugs himself but had taken part in an orgy in a flat in which no drugs had been found, although plenty of syringes with which to take drugs were present? It was none other than this blog’s friend Dr Paul Knapman, who was the coroner for Westminster and until he retired in 2011 could be relied upon to provide unbelievable explanations about the most suspicious or socially embarrassing deaths. Knapman – who is an alumnus of St George’s Hospital Medical School – conducted the inquests of Lord Lucan’s nanny Sandra Rivett, of Georgi Markov, of Roberto Calvi and of Mark Saunders the barrister shot dead by the police. Knapman was involved with the inquests of Diana and Dodi. He also handled the Marchioness Disaster and the Clapham Rail Disaster. For more details on Knapman see post ‘A Future Leader Of The Labour Party’.
In March 2007 the Daily Mail ran an article in which it claimed that Rosie Johnston was speaking ‘for the first time’ since Olivia’s death. Rosie did quite a bit of speaking in her book nearly 20 years previously, but I think that the Mail were trying to flag up that now Rosie was speaking about Olivia’s death, something that she had been rather reluctant to do before – but then none of the people who hadn’t been at the flat when Olivia died and who didn’t know that she was taking heroin, even Nicholas Vincent who had been lying next to her on the bed whilst she took heroin and then died, had been prepared to speak about Olivia’s death. Rosie stated that she hadn’t spoken about Olivia’s death ‘simply out of respect for her family’ – previously Rosie had said that she doesn’t ‘discuss the events of that night or what led up to it because it’s just not my place to’. No, Rosie’s place was to supply the drugs and then tell the police that she wasn’t on the scene when Olivia died.
The Mail explained that after Rosie came out of prison she ‘worked in a Bed and Breakfast in Devon’. Another source tells us that Rosie owned that Bed and Breakfast. Rosie realised that her life was on the up again when she landed a job as company manager for an opera festival in Italy. She ‘started off cleaning loos and organising washing-up rotas, then I moved into directing’. Rosie found herself directing successful opera productions in Oxford, Holland Park and in Hong Kong. As you do when you’ve been employed to clean the bogs.
In 1994 Rosie married, moved to New York and then lived in New Mexico – she had her own radio show and raised money for charidee. In 2002 tragedy hit Rosie – her husband died of heart failure at the age of 40. Which is quite unusual – unless the person concerned has put themselves at risk by ooh, let’s say amphetamine use… After her husband died, Rosie realised that she was an alcoholic, so she checked into an establishment called Cottonwood in Arizona, whose previous guests have included Ronnie Wood, Kate Moss and Daniella Westbrook. Rosie now realises that she has ‘an allergy’ to alcohol because every time she drank she used to end up in trouble. That particular allergy used to be known as ‘being drunk and disorderly’.
Rosie told the Mail that Bullwood Hall prison was Hell – ‘the atmosphere…was so tense and violent that towards the end of my time there I didn’t go out of my cell’. Now that is not what she said in her book – and I’m fairly certain that in her book Rosie described Bullwood Hall as having dormitories not cells.
Fortunately the Daily Mail was able to give us the good news that Rosie has now been In Rehab and had ‘finally confronted what happened’ re Olivia in therapy sessions. So as well as those people who fled the country, there’s a therapist somewhere who knows how Olivia died…Rosie told the Mail that she thought it was extraordinary that newspapers printed articles about her being on the fringes of high society and she stressed that they didn’t all take heroin – in fact Rosie and her friends just went to wine bars, they couldn’t afford anything else. Not on their trust funds.
Rosie went to school with Lady Helen Taylor, the daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Kent. Olivia was at the same school, the Channons and the Kents were two families who were very close. Lady Helen Taylor experienced her own sad loss four years after Olivia’s death – her friend Henry Tennant died from AIDS at the age of 29. Before Henry died, he let on that he remembered Olivia smoking heroin at the family home in Cheyne Walk, Chelsea. Olivia might well have smoked heroin at the family’s other homes as well – they also owned a country mansion in Essex and two villas in Mustique, so there was quite a bit of choice as to where she smoked her heroin . Henry was the son of Colin Tennant, Lord Glenconner, who was a mate of Princess Margaret. The Channons were also mates of Princess Margaret. The Tennants, the Channons, Princess Margaret and Roddy Llewleyn used to have a great time on Mustique at Colin Tennant’s parties, along with David Bowie and Mick Jagger. Those parties may well have been spiced up by supplies from Dr Ann and Peter Dally, Royal physicians and dealers to the stars (please see post ‘Little Things Hitting Each Other’). Lady Helen Taylor observed that it was sad when so many of your friends and colleagues had died from AIDS. Henry’s older brother Charles died before his time as well – Charles was a heroin addict who succumbed to hepatitis. Charles Tennant hit the headlines years ago when he flogged a photo of Princess Margaret at a party in fancy dress to raise money for drugs.
Having been in rehab, Rosie had now found gainful employment, although it was only bringing in about £800/month – in 2007 – so she was a bit miffed about that. Rosie was running workshops about the dangers of drugs and alcohol for schools and prisons. She was working with an organisation called Re-Cover, a free service to find people rehab places. It’s just as well that I don’t need one because I don’t think that I could afford Rosie’s free service – she explained to the Mail that rehab isn’t as expensive as people think, she could find a place for someone in South Africa providing three months of ‘care’ for £4k.
As part of her service Rosie doesn’t advise people not to take drugs because she says that they’re going to do that anyway, she gives info about the effects of drugs and tries to explain how the law works. Presumably Rosie’s advice includes the best way to get yourself off manslaughter charges when when one of your customers dies. As part of her work with Re-Cover Rosie was undertaking a course in drug and alcohol counselling.
If Rosie fancies slumming it in north Wales rather than in south west London, I’m sure that CAIS would be delighted to have her as a peer guide, she’s just what Dafydd and Lucille are looking for.
Rosie was running some of her workshops with a company called Richardson Calder. I can find no trace of Re-Cover or Richardson Calder on the web, but I suspect that Rosie’s aspirations to educate the UK on the matter of drugs and alcohol may have hit a problem. The fall-out from Anthony Casey’s death must have presented quite a hill to climb, but a few weeks after the Mail published their article about Rosie and her drug awareness work, Rosie’s old mate von Bismarck found himself headline news again.
von Bismarck was found dead on 2 July 2007, in his almost empty flat in Chelsea, which by then was in the process of being sold for approx £5 million. von Bismarck was 44 years old. Sebastien Lucas, the pathologist who carried out the post-mortem, stated that von Bismarck had injected cocaine on an hourly basis during the day before his death and that his body contained the highest level of cocaine that Lucas had ever encountered, as well as morphine. von Bismarck had liver damage, hepatitis B and C, as well as HIV. The cause of death was given as a heroin overdose.
As well as inheriting a great deal of money, Paul Channon inherited a seat in the Commons. He was MP for Southend West, 1959-97, until he received a peerage. His father Sir Henry ‘Chips’ Channon had held the seat before him and before Chips, Chips’s mother-in-law Gwendolen Guinness, Countess of Iveagh was the sitting MP. Gwendoline succeeded the seat after her husband Rupert Guinness, who had been the MP, had to stand down when he became the 2nd Earl of Iveagh. It was such a given that a member of the Guinness dynasty would hold the seat that when Chips pegged out, Paul Channon put himself forward for the nomination although he was only 23 years old and was still an undergrad at Oxford. Paul won the nomination despite 129 other applications and in the face of a campaign run by Lord Beaverbrook in the Daily Express who was outraged at such nepotism. After Channon was selected as the candidate his grandmother Lady Iveagh congratulated the voters on ‘backing a colt when you knew the stable he was trained in’.
I’m not sure that I’d have chosen a colt from that particular breeder. Chips Channon is remembered as a ‘diarist’ – whilst Chips’s diaries are famous, his nearest and dearest censored them before publication and never dared reveal what was in the unpublished bits. Although Chips did marry and produce a foal, as well as enjoying alcohol laced with drugs Chips also enjoyed many gay relationships. One of his partners was the playwright Terence Rattigan and Paul Channon’s mother, Lady Honour Guinness, left Chips because of his relationship with a male landscape designer. Biographies of Channon rather unfairly make reference to his mother ‘running away with a Czech airman’ without explaining why a Czech airman was a preferable option to Chips. There was much speculation that Chips also had a relationship with his closest friend Prince Paul of Yugoslavia – whom it is believed that he named his son after – and with the Duke of Kent.
Paul Channon mixed with high society from birth. When he was a baby his nanny used to take him for a walk in the park in his pram with her friend, the nanny of the Duke of Kent and her charge, the future Duke of Kent. Channon remained a lifelong friend of the Duke of Kent.
Chips was friends with Edward VIII and Mrs Simpson and Edward gave Channon a toy panda in the run up to the abdication. During WWII Channon was evacuated to the home of the Astors in New York where he became acquainted with their neighbour President Roosevelt.
Channon went to Eton and for his national service joined the Royal Horse Guards, with whom he served in Cyprus. Among his duties there was escorting Prince Philip’s nieces. Channon then went to Christ Church, Oxford where he was President of the Oxford University Conservative Association. Channon left university to take up his seat in Parliament. He served under five Tory leaders – Macmillan, Douglas Home, Heath, Thatcher and Major. He was PPS to R.A. Butler, 1961-64, whilst Butler was Home Secretary, First Secretary of State and Foreign Secretary. Chips had also been Butler’s PPS – Channon was really chuffed that not only had he inherited the dosh, the family mansion, the Parliamentary seat, but he’d even inherited the job of Butler’s PPS. He commented that it was ‘his life’s dream’.
Channon was a Heathite and in 1967 Heath appointed him spokesman for the Arts. Channon occupied junior Ministerial roles between 1970-74, including Minister of State for N Ireland for six months in 1972. This was whilst Willie Whitelaw was Secretary of State for N Ireland and on 7 July 1972, Channon and Willie met IRA leader Sean Mac Stiofain and other Republicans at Channon’s house in Cheyne Walk. (I know that Thatcher kept maintaining that the Tories didn’t talk to terrorists and that only Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell met IRA leaders, but she was lying.) The talks with the IRA weren’t much of a success – two weeks later the IRA bombed Belfast on Bloody Friday.
Whilst he was a junior Minister at the Department of the Environment Channon installed a tiger skin sofa in his office.
In Feb 1974 Channon joined Heath’s Shadow Cabinet but Thatcher kicked him out again when she became leader of the Tory Party in Feb 1975. Thatch was alleged to have seriously disliked Channon and told Reginald Maudling that ‘there will be no room in my government for that millionaire’. She ended up having to break that particular vow.
In 1979 Channon was appointed Deputy Head of the Civil Service Department – he became Head in 1980 when his boss Lord Soames took up the post of Governor of Rhodesia. Channon was made a member of the Privy Council in 1980 as well.
In 1981 Channon was appointed Minister for the Arts, succeeding Norman St John Stevas. Channon took the call from No 10 offering him the job at one of his villas on Mustique. Channon really loved opera, so he managed to increase the spending on opera whilst he was Arts Minister. After the General Election of 1983 he was appointed Minister for Trade – Cecil Parkinson’s resignation after Sara Keays conveniently announced her pregnancy in the middle of the Tory Party conference resulting in maximum embarrassment for the Tories resulted in that millionaire becoming acting Secretary of State. Tebbit was appointed Secretary of State over Channon’s head, but then Tebbit had to step aside as a result of needing surgery, so that millionaire became acting Secretary of State again. On 24 Jan 1986 that millionaire became the President of the Board of Trade and Secretary of State for Trade and Industry after yet another resignation – this time of Leon Brittan, over the Westland affair. Which was certainly ironic because Leon Brittan only resigned over that to save Thatcher’s skin after she’d misled the Cabinet and no-one wanted to give Heseltine ammunition.
While Channon was at the DTI the scandal involving Guinness’s take-over of Distillers blew up. Guinness had been involved in fraudulent practice by inflating the worth of their shares and an investigation was undertaken by the DTI. Obviously Channon, being a man of integrity, could not be part of that investigation, it would have been a conflict of interest. So Michael Howard led the investigation. The Michael Howard who less than ten years later completely screwed Mary Wynch over, leaving her ruined after she had dared win a legal case against Dr Dafydd Alun Jones, Clwyd Health Authority and the Home Office, after she had been unlawfully arrested, imprisoned and fleeced of her inheritance by Dafydd.
Paul Channon was a Director of Guinness so he will have known something about the fraudulent practices which Howard investigated.
Other diplomatic incidents whilst Channon was at the DTI were the proposals by the Gov’t that British Leyland should be sold to General Motors and that Austin Rover should be sold to Ford. Channon stopped both sales on the grounds that it would be political suicide for the Tories if they went ahead. However, whilst Channon was in post Leyland Trucks were merged with DAF Holland.
Channon was involved in the arms to Iraq scandal whilst he was at the DTI. Why some years later were Blair et al so certain that Saddam was in possession of WMD? Because Channon and Alan Clarke ensured that he was sold the components that were needed to build them.
On 13 June 1987 Channon became Secretary of State for Transport. Whilst he was in that position: the Zeebrugge Ferry tragedy occurred; the Kings Cross Fire happened which resulted in 31 deaths; there were 35 deaths from the three train crash at Clapham Junction; 270 people were killed when a bomb exploded on the Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie; 44 people were killed when the British Midland plane crashed onto the M1 at Kegworth.
The cause of the fire at King’s Cross was never identified but it was admitted that there were long-standing serious health and safety failures and a managerial vacuum. The British Government received a bomb warning just before Lockerbie but didn’t make the information public for some two weeks and Channon went on holiday to Mustique two days after the Lockerbie disaster anyway.
Thatch sacked Channon as Transport Secretary in July 1989. Paul Foot wrote an interesting account of what was thought to have led to Channon’s sacking in the London Review of Books in 1994. He stated that in mid-March 1989, three months after Lockerbie, George Bush rang Thatcher to warn her to ‘cool it’ on the subject. It seems that on the same day, possibly a few hours before Bush’s call, Channon was a guest of five prominent political correspondents at the Garrick. It was agreed that anything said over lunch would be kept between them and not made public. Channon announced that Dumfries and Galloway police had conducted a major investigation into Lockerbie, had found those responsible and that arrests were imminent. At least one journo broke ranks and made the info public. Channon subsequently denied being the source of the leak. The Mirror called him a liar on its front page. Channon did not sue or complain. A few months later he was quietly sacked – and was replaced by the rehabilitated Cecil Parkinson. It was felt that Thatcher couldn’t publicly blame Channon for the leak because the main problem with it was that it coincided with her instructions from Washington.
Days after Parkinson took over at Transport he had the Marchioness Disaster to deal with.
Channon did not hold another Ministerial post. He wanted to be Speaker – of course he did, three previous members of his family had been Speaker, but he didn’t pull that one off.
After he returned to the backbenches, the man whose family business had been investigated for fraud Chaired the Commons Finance and Services Select Committee and for an encore someone let him Chair the Transport Select Committee. Probably because his ancestors had.
The Torygraph’s obituary of Channon observed that he had a ‘sense of fun’ and could speak backwards and used to ask his staff to speak in foreign accents. It must have been like an episode of ‘It Ain’t Half Racist Mum’ in the DTI. In fact Channon had such a sense of fun that he backed Thatcher in refusing to extend sanctions against South Africa. It was also observed that Olivia’s death had been particularly painful for him because it had happened at Christ Church, his old college – just to make it even worse, Chips went to Christ Church as well. Channon’s ‘love of old buildings’ had caused him in 1962 to promote legislation to ’empower’ local authorities to give grants for the upkeep of historic houses. Channon owned two such houses himself.
Channon was proud of his record on road building whilst at the Dept of Transport. He built new motorways and widened others. When he discovered that a new piece of motorway was planned to pass near to his country house in Essex, Channon and his wife Ingrid – another member of the Guinness family herself who had previously been married to Channon’s cousin Jonathan Guinness, there was a very small gene pool in that stable of which Channon’s granny was so proud – held a garden party to raise funds to campaign against the building of the motorway.
John Biffen’s obituary of Channon observed cryptically that ‘his ministerial duties were not particularly enjoyable, he bore them with good nature…great sadness struck him soon after leaving the Commons, such that he was unable to demonstrate his measured approach to politics as an active member of the Lords’. I don’t why Channon tolerated those ministerial duties, it wasn’t as if he needed the salary – in 1990 his share in Guinness alone was worth £184 million.
After finding out about Channon’s love of opera and how his daughter’s dealer found a new career for herself as an opera director, my ears pricked up this morning when I heard George Osborne being interviewed on Radio 4. George was talking about his love of opera. He explained that politicians are frightened to say that they like opera lest they are thought to be elitist, but he really loves it. Is he perhaps angling for business for Rosie? George mentioned that when he was at university the culture was very laddish and one had to state an interest in football. No George, you were at Oxford with Dave and the gang – no-one gave a bugger about football, that was for the oiks, it was huge quantities of Class A drugs that were in vogue with your friends.
George’s brother Adam likes Class A drugs. Adam was a Top Doctor – he trained with the best of course at Tommy’s. Not only was Adam Osborne a Top Doctor but he was a psychiatrist. So it was quite understandable that the GMC didn’t strike him off after he was caught breaching prescribing rules whilst prescribing drugs to a prostitute. Well the patient was a prostitute and Adam was a Top Doctor, he couldn’t possibly have been to blame for the misunderstanding. Some two or three years ago Adam was up in front of the GMC again. For threatening a patient with whom he had been having sex. I think illicit drugs were involved once more as well. Not only did Adam threaten the patient whom he had been shagging, but Adam’s wife – who was also a Top Doctor – threatened the patient as well. They both told her to keep quiet about Adam having sex with her. Whilst he was having sex with this patient, Adam told her how much he and his wife enjoy threesomes. The GMC did actually manage to strike Adam off after that. Although the last that I read they hadn’t taken any action against his wife. So if anyone wants to get their paws on controlled drugs, have a threesome with two Top Doctors and end up being threatened by them, the lady doctor Mrs Osborne is the one to book an appointment with.
The Daily Telegraph didn’t print a word about the activities of the Drs Osborne, although the Daily Mail went to town on it.
The Osbornes are obviously a very understanding bunch when it comes to Top Doctors abusing their positions. Whilst George was Chancellor, CAIS were given more than a million quid from the LIBOR fund after misrepresenting themselves and telling a load of porkies (see post ‘George Osborne Enters The Picture’).
In this morning’s radio interview, not only did George stress that he was still very good mates with Dave, the son of that very liberal Oxford Magistrate, but he hinted at a political comeback. He mentioned that people are discussing who will succeed Theresa as PM – Theresa, he can smell blood…