LGBT+ history month: remembering the ‘Glamour Boys’ – the gay MPs who warned 1930s Britain about Nazism

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02/04/2021

In the 1920s and 1930s of buttoned-up Britain, homosexuality was an illicit act, and would remain that way until 1967 when the law changed in England and Wales. Even though gay culture was vibrant, it existed mostly underground, its community forced to socialise with a certain degree of covertness in order to avoid exposure and the risk of prison. Berlin, meanwhile, had emerged from the dark years following the first world war as a cultural hub of creativity and intellectualism, attracting pioneers in the fields of science, psychology, art and literature. The German capital was also a hotbed of hedonism where sexual freedoms and gay culture flourished, and where exciting new forms of music and dance contributed to the febrile atmosphere. On visits to this liberal metropolis during that period, a small group of young British Conservative Party MPs – which included figures such as Ronald Cartland, Anthony Muirhead and Robert Bernays – began to witness the growing persecution of certain groups in Germany, including homosexuals and Jews. This group of Conservative MPs was scathingly dubbed the “Glamour Boys” in 1938 by their own leader Neville Chamberlain, the then prime minister. Chamberlain, who would become the eventual architect of appeasement in the autumn of 1938, even threatened the group with deselection. The story of the Glamour Boys provides a striking example of how the political establishment was prepared to publicly disparage members of their own party.

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