British Conservative Profumo, scandal and musical

This video from Britain says about itself:

BBC News – Fifty years since John Profumo ‘sleaze’ resignation

5 June 2013

It is 50 years since Britain’s Secretary of State for War, John Profumo, resigned following an affair with Christine Keeler – who was allegedly also having an affair with a Russian spy.

The 1963 scandal, which is the subject of an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in London, laid bare the corruption at the heart of the British establishment.

Nick Higham reports.

At least in one respect, Profumo’s government was more honest than the present one in Britain and in many other countries. Profumo was Secretary of State for War; not for “Defense”.

By Peter Frost in Britain:

Tory scandals set to music

Tuesday 17th December 2013

PETER FROST looks back half a century to the Profumo Affair

THE case of Tory war minister Jack Profumo, good-time girl Christine Keeler and society osteopath and portrait painter Dr Stephen Ward first hit the headlines in the early summer of 1963.

Now some of that story is being retold in the somewhat unlikely guise of a West End musical with story and lyrics by Christopher Hampton and Don Black and music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, no less. It opens this week at the Aldwych Theatre, London.

This music video from Britain says about itself:

Stephen Ward Musical – You’ve Never Had it So Good (Andrew Lloyd Webber – New Musical)

Andrew Lloyd Webber launches his latest West End musical Stephen Ward, based on the 1960s Profumo affair between Christine Keeler and politician John Profumo.

The cast of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Stephen Ward perform an exclusive live version of You’ve Never Had It So Good at the West End launch event held by Andrew Lloyd Webber and the cast of Stephen Ward in London on 30 September.

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s hit West End and Broadway musicals include Evita, Cats, Jesus Christ Superstar, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, Starlight Express and many more.

The Peter Frost article continues:

Over the years the Tories have been no strangers to sleaze and sexual scandals.

Despite their hypocritical outpourings about “family values” they have a rich history of adultery and other transgressions.

Prime minister John Major and Edwina Currie kept their almost unbelievable adulterous affair secret for almost two decades.

Thatcher’s darling Cecil Parkinson got his secretary pregnant but kept his career.

Jeffrey Archer lied on oath about his relationship with a prostitute, yet remains a lord.

Operation Yewtree, the inquiry into Jimmy Savile’s paedophilia and necrophilia, will no doubt flush out a few more skeletons among Tory cupboards.

We do know Jimmy spent every New Year with Maggie Thatcher and her friends.

It was health minister Currie who appointed Savile to head a task force to run the secure hospital at Broadmoor, where he had his own accommodation and keys to wards and the mortuary.

More recently the Tory Party has been rocked by allegations of sexual assault against deputy speaker Nigel Evans. His case for sexual assault and rape will come to trial next March.

Today Tory politicians, caught at it, rush to the courts seeking injunctions or even superinjunctions to cover up their indiscretions.

Fifty years ago in 1963 they hadn’t invented superinjunctions, but then they didn’t really need them. A tame media and a few toothless judges that could produce a whitewash report worked just as well.

For nearly six months in 1963 the Profumo affair was headline news. Harold Macmillan and his Cabinet was shaken by Keeler’s revelations that she had had sex with both Profumo and Eugene Ivanov, a Russian intelligence officer and the Soviet assistant naval attache in London.

Profumo first met Keeler when she climbed naked out of the swimming pool at one of Lord Astor’s parties at Clivedon House beside the Thames. She was 19 and he was 48.

Minister Profumo was married to Valerie Hobson, beautiful star of classic Ealing comedies such as Kind Hearts and Coronets.

These Clivedon events were famous as a place where the rich and famous, including many Tory politicians, could meet pretty and available young ladies, or indeed boys, many who had been invited by Ward.

Prime minister Macmillan knew all about adultery and sexual scandals. His wife had a 30-year affair with another Tory MP, Robert Boothby. Bisexual Boothby also enjoyed a homosexual affair with one of the notorious Kray twins.

On March 22 1963 Profumo lied to Parliament. He delivered a personal statement to MPs denying any “impropriety whatsoever” in his relationship with Keeler. Downing Street hoped the scandal would go away.

By June 1963, however, Profumo was finally forced to resign when Ward was arrested and charged with living on immoral earnings.

For Profumo it was the end of a very promising career. He had been tipped to become foreign secretary and even a future prime minister.

His affair with Keeler was brief and casual. It was probably one of many such liaisons he and other Tory Cabinet ministers engaged in. It might have ended without becoming public but for a bizarre turn of events.

Keeler was also sharing her affections with the Russian Ivanov, whom she met through Ward, and with a West Indian petty criminal called Johnny Edgecombe.

Christine sharing pillow talk with Ivanov and the minister of war was seen as a potentially serious threat to national security.

Westminster and Fleet Street gossip went further than Profumo. It linked other leading Tory politicians with call-girls and sex orgies.

Macmillan and his Cabinet secretly feared Ward would use the publicity about his trial to name other Establishment figures involved in these sexual scandals.

However the story did not really break until the jealous and mentally unstable Edgecombe started to stalk Keeler.

Finally Edgecombe fired a revolver into Ward’s London mews home where Keeler was staying.

The whole story unravelled and became public.

The rumours surrounding the case, including one that a Conservative minister attended an orgy wearing only a maid’s frilly apron and a mask, led to an inquiry by Lord Denning, the master of the rolls.

Not surprisingly Denning’s whitewash found all the rumours to be completely untrue.

The media were quick to condemn the women in the case, implying that Keeler and her friend Mandy Rice-Davies were clearly prostitutes.

Misogynist Fleet Street couldn’t even contemplate that these might be feisty young women making their own decisions on their choice and numbers of sexual partners. That was what rich and powerful men did.

After all, if they were not prostitutes then how could Ward be prosecuted as a pimp and for living on immoral earnings?

The Establishment who had been so keen to get an invitation to Ward’s orgies turned on him, blaming him for bringing down the “decent minister” Profumo.

Persecution and eventual prosecution drove Ward to take his own life. He committed suicide after being found guilty on some, but not all, charges.

The Establishment had successfully hounded him to his death and silenced him forever.

What of Profumo? A dozen years of charity work in the East End won him a CBE in 1975.

He received the honour from the Queen herself, signalling his return to respectability. He lived well on his substantial inherited wealth.

In 1995 Thatcher invited him to her 70th birthday dinner, where he sat next to the Queen. Jack Profumo died, aged 91, in 2006.

One good thing came out of the scandal. It ended 13 years of unbroken Tory rule.

Labour leader Harold Wilson won the 1964 election with a majority of just five.

Now half a century later one version of Ward’s colourful, if tragic, life is being played out on the West End stage set to music.

It might make a good night out, but I doubt it will tell the whole wicked but fascinating story.

9 thoughts on “British Conservative Profumo, scandal and musical

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  6. Tuesday 28th November 2017

    FORMER Tory minister John Profumo had a long-running relationship with a nazi spy who may have tried to blackmail him, declassified papers reveal today.

    Mr Profumo, who was forced to quit Harold MacMillan’s government in 1963 in a notorious sex scandal involving 19-year-old model Christine Keeler, met fashion model Gisela Winegard at Oxford in the early 1930s.

    According to MI5 files, Ms Winegard was “on intimate terms with the German military attache in Paris” in 1938, leading the Home Office to recommend she be barred from Britain, and worked for German intelligence in Paris during WWII, having an affair with a high-ranking German officer.

    The papers include allegations by her US husband Edward Winegard in 1950 that the couple separated in September that year due to her “endearing letters from John Dennis Profumo” written on House of Commons notepaper.

    At the height of the Profumo Affair in 1963, MI6 sent a letter and files to MI5 about Ms Winegard’s wartime and postwar exploits and referring to her “association” with Mr Profumo.

    The 1963 letter goes on to discuss a rejected 1951 application by Ms Winegard, now reunited with her husband, for a British visa.

    The visa application, for a six-week “pleasure visit,” listed “Jack Profumo, MP for South Cattering [sic, Profumo represented Kettering from 1940 to 1945 before taking the Stratford-on-Avon seat in 1950]” as a reference, the files show.

    At the time of the application, authorities believed her visit may be connected to “blackmail activities” the Winegards had recently been involved in.

    However, the papers did not say who the intended target of blackmail might be.

    Mr Profumo himself told MI5 about Ms Winegard, the archives reveal.

    A memo reveals that in 1941 he admitted meeting her in 1936 “and got to know her well.”


  7. Tuesday 12th December 2017

    PETER FROST muses on the recent death of Christine Keeler

    IT’S the same the whole world over,/Ain’t it all a bleeding shame,/It’s the rich what gets the pleasure,/and the poor what gets the blame.

    Did the Swinging Sixties really exist? Did anything really change as post-war Tory austerity — always a Conservative favourite — metamorphosed, as the 1950s died, into Tory prime minister Harold Macmillan’s memorable but inaccurate slogan: “You’ve never had it so good”?

    Christine Keeler’s teenage 1950s certainly hadn’t been great. Home was an old railway carriage at Wraysbury near Staines. Her stepfather didn’t just sexually abuse her at 15 but encouraged his mates to do the same for cash.

    She was certainly an attractive young girl even if her waif-like figure was officially diagnosed as the result of malnutrition. At just 16 that figure was on display for all to see in Tit-Bits magazine.

    At 17, she tried to abort her first pregnancy with a pen. She failed, but the child died at six days old.

    By now she realised just what men wanted from young women like her and decided she had no option but to make the most of it.

    She found a job dancing topless in a posh but still sleazy London nightclub and earned extra drinking and sleeping with clients.

    In the club she met up with a policeman’s daughter, even younger than herself, from Birmingham called Mandy Rice-Davies. They became inseparable.

    The two were talent-spotted by upmarket pimp, society osteopath, caricature artist and part-time British intelligence officer Stephen Ward.

    Ward would procure young and attractive women for orgies and parties where government ministers, aristocrats, criminals and entertainers lived the debauched life they would so publicly condemn as part of what they called the threat of the so-called permissive society.

    By the time she was 19, Keeler was swimming naked in the pool at a posh party at Cliveden, the luxury riverside mansion of another of her lovers, Tory Lord Astor. Her die had been cast.

    At the party were two men who would become the main players in one of the most notorious scandals of the last century.

    One was 46-year-old secretary of state for war Tory MP John Profumo. The other was Yevgeny Ivanov, a Russian naval attache and Soviet spy stationed in London.

    It wasn’t long before Keeler was having separate sexual liaisons with each of them. Even John Le Carre never envisioned pillow talk like this.

    Profumo and Ivanov would be the most famous of many other men who used and then rejected the young woman from Wraysbury.

    Ward moved Keeler and Rice-Davies into his flat.

    Keeler also had affairs with Notting Hill slum landlord and gangster Peter Rachman, drug dealers and jazz club habitues Lucky Gordon and Johnny Edgecombe as well as many others.

    In 1963, after Labour MPs voiced concerns about national security implications of the liasons, Profumo told the House of Commons he and Keeler were “on friendly terms” and there was “no impropriety” in their relationship.

    Eventually Profumo admitted lying to the house and resigned. He was not sacked for having sex with young girls but for lying about it in Parliament.

    Prime minister Macmillan appointed Lord Denning to enquire into the events and the resulting whitewash surprised nobody.

    The scandal would be a major contributing factor in the Tories losing the 1964 general election to Labour’s Harold Wilson.

    After he resigned Profumo lived on his extensive family wealth, not needing to work. He tried to re-establish some kind of respectability doing charity work.

    He always remained friends with top Tories and the royal family, dining often with the Queen Mother.

    He was appointed a commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1975 and in 1995 he sat right next to the Queen on the top table of the dinner celebrating Margaret Thatcher’s 70th birthday.

    No such forgiveness for Keeler. In 1963 the Establishment got its own back when they sentenced her to nine months’ imprisonment for perjury and Ward was tried for living on her immoral earnings but died in suspicious circumstances the night before the verdict was to be announced.

    After Keeler’s release from prison in 1964, she had two brief marriages that each produced a child.

    She published several accounts of her life. In one she told how she became pregnant by Profumo and how he arranged and paid for an abortion.

    Seeking some privacy, she changed her name to Sloane and did various menial jobs. Every now and again a tabloid would snatch and print a contemporary photograph commenting on how old and faded she now looked. During the 1970s, she declared: “I was not living, I was surviving.”

    Now in the last few weeks we have discovered there is even more to Profumo’s nefarious deeds. Recently released MI5 papers indicate that he had a lifelong relationship with a high-ranking female nazi.

    She was German-born model Gisela Winegard, who met undergraduate Profumo in Oxford in 1936. They kept in contact for more than 20 years, including while she ran a secret information service for the nazis in occupied Paris. She was imprisoned for her nazi activities in 1944.

    When Winegard applied for a visa in 1951 to visit Britain she gave Profumo as a reference. Her husband said they had separated because she had been receiving love letters from Profumo on House of Commons paper.

    Profumo’s death aged 91 in 2006 was marked by sympathetic tributes and now Keeler has died aged 75.

    Theresa May tells us that thorough-going inquiries are moving ahead to finally reveal the whole truth about the current and historical issue of widespread sexual abuse and scandals so common among the upper and ruling classes. She promises that the whole truth will be revealed. I’m not holding my breath.


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