Henry Labouchère

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Henry Du Pre Labouchère (1831—1912) was a British writer, theater owner and politician who edited, funded and published the magazine Truth. He went to Eton College, but his degree was withheld on suspicion of cheating. He subsequently served as a diplomat, but was fired after refusing a posting that the Foreign Secretary gave to him. He was elected in 1865 as MP for Windsor, but was overturned by a petition. He won the 1867 Middlesex by-election, but lost his seat the next time round and didn't return to politics for twelve years.

Labouchère ran a personal weekly journal, Truth, during this twelve-year interval and was sued for libel multiple times, but was able to use his wealth to defend every claim. He also used his magazine to attack Edward Levy-Lawson, proprietor of The Daily Telegraph, and in 1879 there was a court case after Levy-Lawson and Labouchère had a fight on the steps of the Beefsteak Club, prompting Labouchère to sue the club following his expulsion.

Following his return to politics, Labouchère successfully drafted the Labouchère Amendment as an add-on to an existing parliamentary bill. The amendment allowed for the prosecution of gay men who engaged in “gross indecency”, sodomy was already a crime, but the amendment made it easier to punish gay people if it could not be proved that they had sex. The amendment allowed Oscar Wilde to be sentenced to two years' hard labour for homosexuality, though Labouchère regretted the leniency of the sentence and would have preferred seven years.

However, Labouchère was soon the subject of controversy when he was accused of using Truth to defame companies to persuade shareholders to sell their shares and then buying them for cheaper than the original price. Possibly as a result, he was denied a cabinet seat by the Liberal government and resigned to live the rest of his life in Florence, where he died three years later.

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Labouchère, besides being fiercely anti-gay, was a virulent anti-Semite who campaigned against “Hebrew barons” and their “Jewish cowardice”. He also used Truth to attack and belittle women who wanted the vote.