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I was nearly 14 when the Profumo scandal broke, and I can remember most of my school salivating over it. The Establishment had already been assailed by the slings and arrows of TW3, and was now literally caught with its pants down (whether in congress with Stephen Ward's protegees, or - as Thompson tells us - as Ward's patients, e.g. Prince Philip and Churchill). Half a century on, young readers may find this tame stuff, but back then politicians were, supposedly, above reproach, and older generations were outraged. Thompson gives a fair amount of coverage to this, but is mainly concerned to build up the picture of how Ward developed a double life as fashionable osteopath and amateur procurer, eventually for it all to backfire on him.
The bottom line is that the public love a scandal, but the Establishment are always keen to use a scapegoat (there are parallels such as the conspiracy theory about the tragic death of David Kelly over the Iraq WMD dossier; there are many others, including of course Oscar Wilde). It has always been accepted that the Profumo scandal helped the Labour Party to win the 1964 election, but I hadn't realised until reading this book the role of George Wigg (described by Thompson as "Wilson's witchfinder-general") in stirring the pot on the Profumo case, and thus unintentionally contributing to Ward's downfall. Of course, had Profumo done "the decent thing" and not lied in the Commons, he might have gone quietly, and Ward might not have been brought down with him.
Thompson has evidently taken advantage of Cabinet papers released under the 50 year rule in 2013.
I haven't read any other books about the Profumo/Ward case, though I have seen the excellent film Scandal, which rang true for me. I am, therefore, prepared to take most of what Thompson says on trust. He quotes several sources, including extended interviews with some of the now elderly who were actually there. Christine Keeler's liaisons with both Profumo and the Russian agent Ivanov were seen as a security risk, but Thompson makes the fascinating claim that Ward proposed to MI5 that he use his connection with Ivanov to pass positive messages to Moscow with the aim of defusing Cold War tension. This would have turned Ward from a security risk into a security asset!
Philip Larkin famously alleged that sexual intercourse began "in 1963 between the end of the `Chatterley' ban and the Beatles' first LP." Be that as it may, Thompson highlights an ominous parallel between the Chatterley case and the Ward trial; they had the same prosecuting counsel. Mervyn Griffith-Jones, who had made himself look an out-of-touch snob in the first case, had no intention of repeating the failure, and tore Ward to shreds with an approach best described as prurient violence. Thompson skilfully portrays how Ward, already abandoned by all but a few genuine friends, suffered under this last hurrah of austerity morality.
My main reservation about this book is its salacious style. It's hard to tell neutrally a story with this much sex in it, and Thompson is justified in cataloguing the details of Ward's louche secret life from the 1940s onwards. However, in trying for effect he occasionally lapses into gutter press style, e.g. "Mandy Rice-Davies was in Rachman's pants and his Rolls-Royce the next day". There is also the gimmick used for chapter titles, all of which begin with "Doctor .."; the first three chapters actually use titles from the "Doctor" film series!
However, credit to Thompson's efforts to show us how Ward was a "hollow man". He quotes two different people as saying that Ward was the life and soul of any party, but was never missed in his absence. One of Ward's surviving friends makes this brilliant observation: "Going to his consulting rooms was like watching a Pathe newsreel; a famous face flickered past." Conversely, once Ward was gone, several well-known people heaved a sigh of relief, and it was almost as if he had never existed.
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on 20 April 2015
The best researched book on the affairs that surrounded the talented Stephen Ward that I have read. Stephen Ward was truly the scapegoat for a Conservative Party that was trying to save itself and equaly dubious Labour Party trying to bring it down. Shows up the corruption and hypocrisy that was endemic amongst those who controlled the country and justice system in post-war Britain. Writing style sometimes difficult to follow but extremely readable and engaging. Great book.
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on 20 March 2015
I enjoyed reading this book. I remember it all in the 60,s. I didn't take much notice at the time. I visited Cleveden in the nineties. And wondered about the story. I didn't see the famous swimming pool. But we had a look around the grounds. Beautiful place even today. A very interesting story and a sad end for Steven Ward. I would love to see an exhibition of his work.

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on 4 November 2014
A most interesting read which documents the extreme hypocrisy of the time and the way SW was badly let down by people who should have known better and were part of a sham.
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on 8 January 2015
This book was a little slow and drawn out for me at times. However there are some very interesting facts within the book.
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on 20 January 2016
I was in my teenage years during this era when there was little TV and certainly no 24 hour news, so missed a lot of this due to work and social life. Therefore to read about this scandal in depth was certainly an eye-opener. We looked up to the Establishment then and were told they were our betters which we hard-working people believed. What fools we were. What a difference now with social media etc nothing is hidden.
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on 31 January 2015
Excellent read and recommended to anyone interested in the subject. One of the best on the matter.
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on 6 March 2016
Tremendous story. As always, the establishment closed ranks to protect themselves. Including, I guess some newspaper chiefs. Had one of them been on Dr Ward's side, a lot more dirt and disgrace would have been revealed and the case against him would have collapsed
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on 6 September 2014
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on 11 April 2016
A good account of the scandal.
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