2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
A great read about the key sex & politics scandal of the 1960s,
This review is from: An English Affair: Sex, Class and Power in the Age of Profumo (Paperback)
I thoroughly enjoyed and learned quite a lot from this book, though I was already familiar with the threads of the Profumo/Keeler/Ward story, primarily through the John Hurt/Joanne Whalley-Kilmer movie about 25 years ago. The book fills in the rest of the tale in capturing the Tory-led politics of early 60s Britain, its starchy middle class morality and hypocrisy rooted in the class system and an establishment intent on preserving its own. It's a rather entertaining and lively examination of a country on the verge of Beatlemania and the sexual and social permissiveness that we know today.
In retrospect it's all too easy for today's generation steeped daily in tabloid celebrity and political shenanigans to wonder why there was so much fuss about an aristocratic Govt Minister sleeping with a young party girl, both of whom were connected to a society osteopath and an attache at the Russian Embassy. But this was indeed the sort of toxic mix that sparked an unprecedented scandal in post-war Britain and brought down a longstanding Tory government.
I enjoyed the excellent early thematic chapters that examine Macmillan's govt and Profumo's career, the tabloid press's relations with the establishment, crime and Rachmanism, British espionage failures at the time and London's aristocratic bohemia that so attracted glamorous young things like Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice-Davies and spat them out after services were rendered.
The author then carries us through the narrative of events which led to Profumo's resignation and Stephen Ward's trial on trumped up charges before he killed himself. The book describes in great detail how the latter was conceived in a concerted campaign of high moral censure rather than criminal investigation, mainly by agents of the govt, and through collusion between the tabloid press and the police (which gives the book rather a modern resonance). The author was clearly intent on filleting the various myths surrounding the scandal, principally the notions that Ward lived off immoral earnings and that Keeler was a prostitute, neither of which were ever proven to be true. Basically, I think he succeeds in providing the definitive account of the scandal that will stand from now on.