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Key Figure in Profumo Affair Dies at 75

Image: Key Figure in Profumo Affair Dies at 75
Christine Keeler at a New York nightclub, for a party celebrating the film “Scandal,” April 25, 1989. (AP/Mario Suriani)

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Wednesday, 06 Dec 2017 03:00 PM Current | Bio | Archive

In 1963, the scandal of the year was the showgirl who nearly took down the government of Prime Minister Harold MacMillan and rocked the Soviet empire.

Christine Keeler’s involvement with both British War Minister John Profumo and Soviet diplomat Yevgeny Ivanov forced Profumo’s resignation in disgrace and nearly brought down the government of the prime minister.

It also was ironic that news of Christine Keeler’s death on Dec. 4 came just as Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., was resigning over reports of his mistreatment of former female employees and a day before 10 Democratic senators called on colleague Al Franken of Minnesota to step down over similar accusations.

Keeler, who was 75, was one of the major players in a British scandal that — so far, at least — dwarfs the sexual harassment saga now beginning to envelope many members of the U.S. Congress.

The “Profumo affair,” as it became known, was high drama and its colorful cast and attention worldwide was paid to its colorful cast: “Lucky” Gordon, Keeler’s violent boyfriend, fellow showgirl Mandy Rice-Davies, and Dr. Stephen Ward, and the osteopath who had a secret business as procurer of companions for the rich and powerful (and who eventually committed suicide).

Sordid business, all right. But the Profumo affair also had a rather scandalous epilogue, one that might serve as a primer to the disgraced politicians of today.

Having at first lied to colleagues in the House of Commons about his involvement with Keeler, Profumo subsequently admitted all and, at age 46, resigned from the cabinet and parliament.

Unlike American politicians who fall from grace, Profumo never went on the television or radio circuit (such as former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer), wrote no books (former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich) or attempted a political comeback (former South Carolina Gov. and present Rep. Mark Sanford).

Instead, he cleaned toilets. That’s right: the Oxford graduate, one-time card-carrying member of the Conservative Party establishment devoted his life to charity work and began by cleaning toilets at venerable Toynbee Hall. Located in the East End of London and named for 19th century reformer Arnold Toynbee, the Hall’s goal was (and is) a future without poverty.

“Profumo overdid the contrition — way overdid it,” said veteran journalist Llewellyn King, who met Keeler when he was a junior executive at the Sunday Mirror and she came to confirm the scandal (“but we were scared to publish it”), “Had he given interviews, he could have told us a lot.”

Instead, Profumo continued his chores at Toynbee Hall until, as one friend put it, “he had to be persuaded to lay down his mop and lend a hand running the place.” Dipping into his vas rolodex and those of actress-wife Valerie Hobson (who remained with him until her death in 1998), Profumo soon became Toynbee’s top fundraiser.

In 1975, the former minister emerged from the shadows to accept appointment as commander of the British Empire (CBE) and his works—all as a volunteer—were hailed by Queen Elizabeth. In 1995, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher invited Profumo to her 70th birthday party and he was seated next to the queen.

When John Profumo died in 2006 at age 91, his role in the eponymous scandal was recalled in his headlines. But every obituary contained significant coverage of the good works he did to redeem himself.

“Would only more of our fallen politicians follow Profumo to restore the dignity of the office they disgraced!” wrote Dr. Christopher Manion, columnist and former educator at Catholic University.

"Profumo may have been one of the last politicians on either side of the Atlantic to feel shame, to know it was not enough to apologize but to do something spectacular by way of contrition,” said Llewellyn King, “Public morality seldom reaches these heights nowadays."

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.

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Christine Keeler’s involvement with both British War Minister John Profumo and Soviet diplomat Yevgeny Ivanov forced Profumo’s resignation in disgrace and nearly brought down the government of the prime minister.
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Wednesday, 06 Dec 2017 03:00 PM
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