Getting The Kinks Out

STEPHEN MILLIGAN WAS A rising star in the British Conservative Party. A former journalist who had spent only two years in Parliament, he was already in line for a ministerial job. Still a bachelor at 45, he had dated a string of beautiful women. But apparently something was missing in Milligan's life. He fretted about loneliness and the all-consuming demands of politics. He paid $1,000 to join a dating service called Drawing Down the Moon. And last week his secretary found him dead on a kitchen table in his London home. A black plastic bag was over his head. Electrical cord coiled loosely up his body from ankle to neck. Otherwise, he was naked, except for a garter belt and women's stockings. There was no sign of murder or suicide. Evidently Milligan died when a kinky sex stunt went horribly wrong.

Sexual escapades have become a Tory epidemic. Last fall, trying to reinvigorate his beleaguered government, Prime Minister John Major grasped at a trite phrase: "back to basics." It wasn't clear what, if anything, be actually meant by the term; most Britons assumed it had something to do with "family values." But even cliches seem to backfire on Major these days. Milligan's death was the latest in a series of scandals that have made Major's preaching sound like "two-faced nonsense," as the Daily Mirror put it.

On Jan. 5 Tim Yeo, a junior environment minister, was forced to resign after admitting he had fathered an illegitimate child -- his second, as it turned out. Next, the Earl of Caithness, the minister for aviation and shipping, resigned after his wife committed suicide; she was said to be distraught over their failing marriage and his affair with another woman. Then Tory M.P. David Ashby denied his wife's charges that he was a homosexual; he had shared a bed with another man while on vacation in France, he said, "in order to save money." And late last week, Tory M.P. Hartley Booth, a Methodist lay preacher and father of three, resigned his junior ministerial post after denying reports of an affair with his female researcher.

Even Tories are fed up. "What fools we were to believe this lot," The Sun said last month. "This bunch of hapless harlots wouldn't recognize decency if they fell out of their mistress's bed and landed on it. "

Milligan apparently was killed by a practice known as "scarfing": choking off one's oxygen supply to intensify the effect of an orgasm. There were no drugs in his system. But some press reports said a piece of orange found in his mouth might have contained amyl nitrite, a chemical "popper" that makes the heart race and heightens pleasure.

His death set off predictable rumors and lamentations in the British press. The authorities were said to be investigating rings of homosexuals and transvestites in the House of Commons. Dr. Adrian Rodgers of the Conservative Family Institute protested: "I do not expect to be governed by clandestine poofters [homosexuals], adulterers and lechers."

Ornate perversions have long been a fixture of British politics, especially among Tory nabobs. In 1963 War Minister John Profumo helped to bring down Harold Macmillan's Conservative government by sharing a call girl with a Soviet agent. Sex scandals generally don't hurt a government unless it is weak or worn out to begin with. The Tories, under Major and his starcy predecessor, Margaret Thatcher, have been in office for nearly 15 years now, and they're looking more than a little threadbare. Milligan's death reduces the Conservative majority to 17 in the 651-seat House of Commons. Recent opinion polls give the opposition Labor Party an advantage of about 2 to 1 in public support. Amid the sexual high jinks, 1994 is beginning to look like the Year of Profumo all over again.

Getting The Kinks Out | News