PROFUMO AFFAIR — Cover-ups Revealed in Secret Files

“Mr Profumo told me that Ward, in his practice as an osteopath, sees a number of people who are prominent in public life, including one or two members of the present government.”

Norman Brook — Cabinet Secretary

Mandy Rice-Davies and Christine Keeler were key figures in the Profumo affair

The UK establishment’s well-known tendency to cover up its own scandals is on full display in the latest releases from Whitehall’s files. Follow us on Twitter: @INTEL_TODAY

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The “top secret and strictly personal” files, known as the cabinet secretary’s miscellaneous papers, date back to 1936 and include material on double agents Kim Philby and John Cairncross, the Profumo affair and corruption concerns over a future Tory home secretary, Reginald Maudling.

They were kept unregistered and uncatalogued under lock and key in the Cabinet Office until their existence was officially acknowledged for the first time in 2015.

The files show that it was believed that “at least 40” ministers or MPs were patients or had met Stephen Ward, the osteopath and “fixer” with strong links to the Soviet embassy who was at the centre of the 1960s Profumo sex and spy scandal.

The Profumo file shows that the cabinet secretary and MI5 had serious concerns about Ward’s links with senior political and Whitehall figures in autumn 1961, two years before the scandal was made public.

The file includes a note of the cabinet secretary’s warning in August that year to the then defence secretary, John Profumo, of Ward’s friendship with Yevgevny Ivanov, a Soviet spy attached to the Russian embassy. Profumo confirmed he had met Ivanov at Lord Astor’s Cliveden estate where Ward had a cottage and use of the swimming pool. As a result of the warning Profumo broke off his affair with Christine Keeler, to whom he had been introduced by Ward.

“Mr Profumo told me that Ward, in his practice as an osteopath, sees a number of people who are prominent in public life, including one or two members of the present government,” cabinet secretary at the time, Norman Brook, recorded.

He spoke to one of them, the chancellor of exchequer, Selwyn Lloyd, who told him that Ward was also an artist and had recently done a drawing of him. “[Lloyd] agrees that Ward is in a position to chatter with a number of notabilities – and that it would be be a good thing if we could put people on warning about him.”

In November 1961 a government whip who had met Ward at a Soviet embassy party where “the latter seemed very much at home” reported “he knew, or believed, that his patients included at least 40 people who were ministers or members of parliament”.

It was not until the scandal became public in 1963 that anything much seems to have happened as a result.

Even then the home secretary, Rab Butler, decided “it was not necessary to institute any special inquiries at the moment” into “the security implications” of Ward’s possible links with MPs and ministers, but “if he hears of any parliamentary contacts he will let us know”, recorded the cabinet secretary.

Instead senior civil servants of the rank of undersecretary and above – as it “would not be worthwhile unless they were pretty high-standing”– were all asked whether they had ever come across Ward. Unsurprisingly, none told the cabinet secretary they had.

About the “Profumo Affair”

The resignation on 5 June 1963 of John Profumo as minister of war in Harold Macmillan’s Conservative government was a great event in postwar British history. It decisively influenced the 1964 general election – which was almost as momentous in its repercussions as the Labour victory in 1945 or Margaret Thatcher’s win in 1979.

Harold Wilson’s Labour party won in 1964 by just four seats. It did so because of a brilliant campaign run by the Daily Mirror in the fortnight before polling day.

The Mirror harked on memories of the recent Profumo affair to depict the traditional Conservative ruling class as out-of-touch, over-privileged, effete, depraved, amateurish and backward-looking – “toffs”, in fact. Ironically, the Labour leadership, with its reliance on trade union bosses, its fudged economic strategy and commitment to nationalised industries was just as narrow and regressive as the Tories.

The Profumo affair, ultimately, was a national crisis from whose aftershocks we are all still suffering. [Guardian]

keeler

Lewis Morley’s 1963 portrait of Christine Keeler became an iconic image of the cold war.

 

The SCANDAL Story

THE MEDIA SHOW: ‘THEY WOULD SAY THAT WOULDN’T THEY’ – Superb 1989 C4 documentary recounting the events of ‘The Profumo Affair’ (including contemporary interviews with protagonists Christine Keeler and Johnny Edgecombe, plus Lord Denning, along with archive interview clips of Mandy Rice-Davis, Stephen Ward and Lord Hailsham) and the protracted struggle to make it into first a TV mini-series and eventually a film (including interviews with script-writer Michael Thomas, TV executives Linda Agran and Brian Cowgill, plus film producers Stephen Wooley & Joe Boyd, and stars John Hurt, Ian McKellern and, briefly, Joanne Whalley and Bridget Fonda). Also various authors and journalists.

[FORGIVE THE SLIGHT SOUND FAULT AT AROUND 32 MINUTES, IT ONLY LASTS ABOUT 20 SECONDS.]

REFERENCES

Government cover-ups revealed in secret files on Profumo and Philby — Guardian (July 20 2017)

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PROFUMO AFFAIR — Cover-ups revealed in secret files

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