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Sex, lies and a murder plot hatched in Westminster.

The Thorpe affair was the trial of the century, and — as John Preston’s devastating new book, A Very English Scandal, sets out in forensic detail — subject to a poisonous cover-up that infected nearly every corner of the British Establishment, with monstrous consequences...

More than half a century later, the knock-on effect of that scandal is still with us.

That Thorpe got away with it may well have encouraged the likes of DJ Jimmy Savile and Liberal MP Cyril Smith — both of whom knew him — to believe that their own sexual exploitation of vulnerable young people would be brushed under the carpet.

Harold Wilson read the MI5 file on Thorpe and Scott, and was prepared to leak it to scupper a possible Liberal-Conservative coalition in 1974.

And when Thorpe finally did come to trial for conspiracy to murder his one-time lover, even though his guilt was obvious to most observers, the judge’s summing-up whitewashed him to such an extent that a jury found it impossible to convict him.

There was no doubt that what they had heard was evidence of a criminal offence.

But the culprit named by Scott was a prominent public figure — no less than the flamboyant and hugely popular Liberal MP Jeremy Thorpe, an increasingly impressive figure on the political stage and, then aged 33, clearly destined for greater things.