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Arthur Maundy Gregory and Cash for Honours

John Simkin

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As Tony Blair is currently involved in the cash for honours scandal I thought it might be worth looking at the first time this became a problem for a serving prime minister.

Arthur Maundy Gregory, the son of a clergyman, was born in Southampton on 1st July, 1877. He went to Oxford University but left before obtaining a degree. He became a teacher but later found employment in the theatre as an actor-manager.

In 1909 Gregory was recruited as a spy by Vernon Kell, head of MI5. Gregory's main task was to compile dossiers of possible foreign spies living in London. Later, Gregory was recruited by Sidney Riley, the top agent the recently formed MI6.

Gregory's work as a spy provided him with information on some of Britain's leading politicians. He was especially interested in their sexual activities and it was later claimed that he used this information to blackmail them for money.

Gregory now moved in circles where he made friends with the rich and famous. This included the Duke of York, who later became King George V. Another friend was David Lloyd George, the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Liberal Government formed after the 1910 General Election.

In 1918 Sir Basil Thomson, Head of the Special Branch, asked Gregory to spy on Victor Grayson, the former MP for Colne Valley. Grayson held left-wing views and was suspecting of working as an agent for the new communist government in Russia. It was also feared he might be working for the Irish Republican Army.

Victor Grayson discovered that Gregory was spying on him and decided to do some research into the spy's background. With the help of some important friends, Grayson found out that the Prime Minister, David Lloyd George was using Gregory to sell political honours. At a public meeting in Liverpool Grayson accused Lloyd George, of corruption. He claimed that Lloyd George was selling political honours for between £10,000 and £40,000. Grayson declared: "This sale of honours is a national scandal. It can be traced right down to 10 Downing Street, and to a monocled dandy with offices in Whitehall. I know this man, and one day I will name him."

Grayson's comments about the "monocled dandy with offices in Whitehall" let Gregory know that he was in danger of being exposed. At the beginning of September 1920, Victor Grayson was beaten up in the Strand. This was probably an attempt to frighten Grayson but he continued to make speeches about the selling of honours and threatening to name the man behind this corrupt system.

On the 28th September Victor Grayson was drinking with friends when he received a telephone message. Grayson told his friends that the had to go to Queen's Hotel in Leicester Square and would be back shortly. Later that night, George Flemwell was painting a picture of the Thames, when he saw Grayson entering a house on the river bank. Flemwell knew Grayson as he had painted his portrait before the war. Flemwell did not realize the significance of this as the time because Grayson was not reported missing until several months later. An investigation carried out in the 1960s revealled that the house that Grayson entered was owned by Arthur Maundy Gregory.

Grayson was never seen alive again. It is believed he was murdered but his body was never found. After Grayson's death Gregory continued to sell honours Gregory was involved in arranging for the forged Zinoviev Letter to be published in British newspapers. An event that helped to defeat the Labour Party in the 1924 General Election.

In 1932 Gregory attempted to sell a knighthood to Lieutenant Commander Edward Leake. He pretended he was interested and then reported the matter of Scotland Yard. Gregory was arrested but he turned it to his advantage as he was now able to blackmail famous people into paying him money in return for not naming them in court. Gregory pleased guilty and therefore did not give evidence of his activities in court. Arthur Maundy Gregory was sentenced to two months' imprisonment and a fine of £50.

On leaving prison Gregory was persuaded to live in Paris where he was paid a pension of £2,000 a year by the Conservative Party. Arthur Maundy Gregory died at the Val de Grace Hospital in Paris on 28th September 1941.


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