The Black Book trial of 1918 exposed the extent of anti-gay feeling in a British society at war. And, writes Noel Halifax, it gave us Noel Pemberton Billing, the Nigel Farage of his day.
On 29 May 1918 a libel trial began which engrossed the nation and became the high point of the short but dramatic political career of Noel Pemberton Billing MP. Now a forgotten name in history, at the time he was the figurehead of a nasty far-right movement which had all the same features as groups in Germany that were to give birth to the Nazi party — ultra-patriotic, anti-Semitic and awash with conspiracy theories. What distinguished the British version from the German one was its obsessive homophobia.