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Not safe in taxis — until his late conversion

by
27 February 2015

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From Sally Muggeridge

Sir, - Much has appeared in the media this last weekend about my uncle Malcolm Muggeridge, castigated as a "serially incontinent groper" while he was at the BBC.

For those who have read extensively words written either by Muggeridge or about him, this so-called revelation in the new book Pinkoes and Traitors should come as no surprise whatsoever. While the media may have popularly labelled him a saint in his later life, this was always a name given to him in irony. The biographies written after his death both make clear that he had been anything but a saint in his first 60 years.

What I would question is the timing given to his clearly inappropriate behaviour. In 1969, his book Jesus Rediscovered was published, and, in 1975, Jesus: The man who lives. In the 1970s, he had already taken a new pathway.

The Malcolm Muggeridge Society, of which I am International President, republishes several of Muggeridge's bestselling religious books. The Society has never sought to paint Muggeridge as other than a man with remarkable gifts and spiritual insights but also some serious character flaws, carried through the earlier part of his life before finding his faith. Indeed, it was rightly said by Christopher Hitchens that my uncle Malcolm gave up the sins of the flesh only when they were at the point of giving him up.

Unlike others, Malcolm never sought to hide his many past philanderings, and freely admitted to having a seemingly insatiable sexual appetite. Frequent reference is made in his own writing in genuine remorse for leading such a dissipated life. Indeed, disgust with himself almost led to his committing suicide during the war. Who, then, would deny that inappropriate gropings and sexual advances took place while he was at the BBC, and that, in the words of Anthony Howard, this was once a man definitely labelled NSIT - not safe in taxis.

All of us are fallen. But it is the very contradictions so apparent within the life of Malcolm Mug-geridge which have been the subject of much media interest and commentary. It is, therefore, all the more remarkable that this conflicted man, eventually finding God, was able to effect such a life-changing transition in his sixties to born-again Christian, adopting a convincing ascetic lifestyle - not only giving up sex, smoking, and drinking, but also becoming a vegetarian.

Perhaps the timing of his conversion was particularly fortunate for me, since he was to have a profound effect on my own life and spiritual journey. It was as a pretty drama student in my teens that I came to know my uncle well. I knew him to be a deeply devout and thoughtful man of faith.

Like many others, I enjoyed long country walks alone with him in conversation about religious matters in the woods surrounding Robertsbridge. In my case, sexual impropriety was certainly neither feared nor encountered.

Sally Muggeridge
Reader (LLM)
Member of General Synod
Flat 8, Hayfield House,
Hayfield Passage, 
London E1 3LQ

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