Friday, May 28, 2010

John Profumo confidente de la Mata Hari Danzarina

John Profumo, , Former British Minister Caught in Sex Scandal.

Published: December 5, 2004


BRITISH government officials probably do not, on balance, have more extramarital affairs than government officials in other countries; it only seems that way. For various reasons -- its tabloid press, its adolescent obsession with naughty behavior, its long dark winters -- Britain has become the unofficial world capital of the salacious politico-sexual scandal.

The most notorious such affair took place at the height of the cold war, when John Profumo, then the war secretary, resigned in disgrace after it emerged that his sometime girlfriend, Christine Keeler, was also the sometime girlfriend of a Soviet spy. But romantically restless British officials (male, always) have invariably proved spectacularly incompetent at three things:

1) remaining faithful to their wives;

2) keeping embarrassing details of their extramarital affairs out of the newspapers;

3) and, as a consequence, keeping their jobs.

The latest imbroglio, concerning the bitter demise of a three-year affair between David Blunkett, the divorced British home secretary, and Kimberly Quinn, the married publisher of The Spectator magazine, is different on a number of counts, starting with the 57-year-old Mr. Blunkett's singular position in British politics.

With a broad portfolio that includes immigration, criminal justice, social welfare and antiterrorism, the tough, combative Mr. Blunkett is among the most powerful people in the government and one of Prime Minister Tony Blair's closest allies.

He is also blind. He does not like to make an issue of his disability, a fact of his life since birth. He uses a guide dog and reads government documents by having them transcribed into Braille or recorded onto audiotapes.

His blindness, and the way he used his prodigious intellect and steely determination to overcome a childhood of nearly Dickensian grimness (among other things, his father died after falling into a vat of boiling water at the factory where he worked) mean that he inspires unusual personal sympathy even among his opponents.

''I hope they will clear him,'' Michael Howard, the Tory leader, said. ''I bear him no ill will.''

It is a complicated situation, full of media-fueled feints and counterfeints, but here is a trimmed-down version. In 2001, Mr. Blunkett, who had been divorced for years, began an affair with Mrs. Quinn, who had just married her second husband. They appeared in public together; he began wearing a wedding ring; they spent weekends and took vacations together.

While this was going on, Mrs. Quinn was trying to have a child. Her husband, Stephen, had an operation to reverse an earlier vasectomy; the couple had fertility treatments and she became pregnant. Two years ago, she gave birth to a son, William, whom Mr. Blunkett regularly saw until August, when his affair with Mrs. Quinn collapsed.

Mr. Blunkett claims the boy is his son, saying that he ordered a private DNA test and that Mrs. Quinn herself told him at the time that the results were positive. He is now fighting Mrs. Quinn in court for the right to have regular access to William.

This, of course, is the opposite of the usual scenario, where a married man toys with the affections of his unmarried mistress but stays with his wife, and then runs screaming for the hills at the first hint of paternity. In 1982, Cecil Parkinson, the British trade secretary, returned to his wife (and lost his job) after his mistress of 12 years, Sara Keays, said she was expecting their child.

Last week, Mrs. Quinn's supporters threw a little bomb Mr. Blunkett's way. In leaks to the newspapers, they accused Mr. Blunkett of improperly intervening last year in a visa application by Mrs. Quinn's former nanny. The visa, which gives her the right to remain in Britain indefinitely, was granted in an unusually short time.

Mr. Blunkett has admitted to having an aide check the application, but has said he did nothing else. An independent investigator is examining the matter.

But it's even more tortuous. Mrs. Quinn, 44, is now seven months pregnant with a second child, of whom David Blunkett may or may not be the father, and she is in the hospital suffering from stress. Her husband has stuck by her, telling reporters that he considers William and the unborn child to be his own, no matter who their biological father is.

Obituario John Profumo 91 dies
Published: March 11, 2006
LONDON, March 10 — John Profumo, whose highflying political career in Britain ended in a cold war scandal of sex and espionage that gave way to a lifetime of atonement, died about midnight on Thursday. He was 91.

Jimmy Sime/Central Press
John Profumo, a British leader whose career ended in a Cold War scandal of sex and espionage that gave way to a lifetime of atonement, has died. He was 91.

Associated Press

Christine Keeler in 1963, when she was seeing Mr. Parfumo and a Soviet intelligence agent.
He had suffered a stroke two days earlier, according to Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in London, which announced his death.

For a land that has since become renowned for ministerial misbehavior, Mr. Profumo's imbroglio in 1963 set a standard, and became known in newspaper headlines as the Scandal of the Century.

It helped bring down the Conservative government to which Mr. Profumo belonged and put an abrupt halt to his political ambitions, which, some said, could have made him prime minister. The scandal titillated millions of Britons with tales of misbehavior that had the hallmarks of a salacious thriller: nobility and spies, call girls and country estates, sex and suicide, guns and lies.

Suave and debonair, married to a glamorous movie star, Valerie Hobson, Mr. Profumo seemed to be leading a gilded life.

But after his fall, he withdrew permanently from public office, refused to discuss the scandal and, instead, turned to charitable work among the poor in the hardscrabble East End of London. He achieved a degree of rehabilitation in 1975 when he was honored as a Commander, Order of the British Empire.

Unlike more modern politicians, he had refrained from publishing memoirs or even rebutting allegations about his association with Christine Keeler, a prostitute he met at an upscale party.

"Since 1963, there have been unceasing publications, both written and spoken, relating to what you refer to in your letter as 'the Keeler interlude,' " he told a correspondent in 1995. "The majority of these have increasingly contained deeply distressing inaccuracies, so I have resolved to refrain from any sort of personal comment, and I propose to continue thus."

To the very end, though, he could not escape his past. In a banner headline on Friday, The Evening Standard proclaimed, "Profumo the sex scandal minister is dead." It showed a large photograph of a seemingly naked Ms. Keeler astride a chair — and a much smaller mug shot of Mr. Profumo — both taken around the time of scandal.

"Profumo's fall marked the loss of innocence, the death of respect for the establishment and the explosion of sex into the very center of public life," The Evening Standard said.

But there was another side of the story: redemption. By working in the East End, washing dishes and tending alcoholics, Mr. Profumo's friends said, he paid his dues. One friend, Lord Deedes, told the BBC on Friday, "He atoned for his mistakes and I think will, on death, receive his reward for that."

His wife, Ms. Hobson, stood by him throughout. She died in 1998.

Mr. Profumo was secretary of state for war in the government of Harold Macmillan in 1963 when rumors began to build of sexual romps among the nation's elite.

In March 1963, he went before Parliament to deny any "impropriety whatever" with Ms. Keeler. But just three months later, he was forced to resign as details of the relationship began to emerge and he admitted he had lied to Parliament.

Stephen Ward, an osteopath accused of running what the newspapers called a "top people's vice ring," was said to have introduced Mr. Profumo to Ms. Keeler in 1961 at a party at Lord Astor's country home in Berkshire. She was still in her teens; he was in his 40's. As the story went, he first caught sight of her climbing naked out of a swimming pool.

Some people thought the relationship might have remained secret, but it was much too explosive to stay hidden as rumors swirled.

Most dramatically, Ms. Keeler's other clients included Cmdr. Eugene Ivanov, the assistant naval attaché in the Soviet Embassy in London, whom she had also met through Mr. Ward. Government figures and MI5, the domestic intelligence agency, feared a grave security breach.

Ms. Keeler sold her story to newspapers but, at first, they refrained from publishing the details.

A third figure in the plot was Johnny Edgecombe, described as a petty criminal who was also sleeping with Ms. Keeler. When he became jealous and fired seven shots outside Mr. Ward's home, where she was staying, the story broke, opening a floodgate of reports about sexual misbehavior in high places involving Ms. Keeler and a colleague, Mandy Rice-Davies. Mr. Ward committed suicide in 1963 near the end of his trial on charges of living on immoral earnings, where he was found guilty.

The whole affair set off such an array of stories and rumors that the government had Lord Denning, a senior judge, conduct an inquiry. His report dismissed some of the juicier rumors — like one relating to a cabinet minister appearing at an orgy wearing only a maid's frilly apron and a mask, as The Press Association reported on Friday.

Within a year, the Conservative government had fallen. Years later, in 1989, the events inspired a movie, "Scandal," starring Ian McKellen as Mr. Profumo.

John Dennis Profumo was born on Jan. 30, 1915, to a wealthy, aristocratic Sardinian family that had immigrated to Britain 30 years earlier. He was educated at Harrow, a top private school, and at Oxford.

In 1940 he became the youngest lawmaker in the House of Commons, representing Kettering in central England. He lost his seat after World War II, during which he achieved the rank of brigadier, but returned to Parliament in 1950 representing Stratford-upon-Avon.

He was appointed secretary of state for war in 1960, charged with promoting military recruitment after the draft was abolished.

After Mr. Profumo's death was announced on Friday, Prime Minister Tony Blair said: "I think he will be remembered not just for the events that brought his political career to an end, but also he will be remembered with a lot of gratitude and respect for what he achieved in his later life."

"It must have been very difficult to do it, but he did do it," Mr. Blair added. "He and his family showed a lot of dignity and a lot of honor in the way they behaved."