Rare sense of unanimity
1FOR a brief while, the world seemed a brighter, cleaner and friendlier place. Despite his death, the extraordinary generosity and all-pervading love of Pope John still held men in thrall.
There was the odd, cool Catholic voice pointing out Pope John's limitations and referring to his predecessor's, Pius XII's overlooked qualities, but the world remembered with unprecedented affection the man who had left the splendoured magnificence of the Papal chambers to visit prisoners in gaol (" You could not come to me, so I have come to you"); to visit children in hospital, to visit the poorest in his parish, and who had embraced all men.
Pope John's words, said the Observer, like Christ's Sermon on the Mount, spoke to the heart of every man because they expressed simple but vital truths.
Protestant church leaders in Britain paid unprecedented respects. The Russian Orthodox Church, in their first such gesture, was sending representatives to Requiem Masses in Rome. From Communist leaders in Russia, Poland, Yugoslavia and Hungary came condolences. In Cuba a three-day period of mourning was decreed.
Whatever Pape John's limitations may have been, men still stood amazed at what one old man could do in 4i years to cause so many of different faiths and of no feligious beliefs to mourn the passing of a great Christian.
The change was not long in coming. Most people in Fleet Street and Westminster (except Mr. Macmillan?) had been aware of the Profumo time-bomb. Around mid-March, the acute reader might have noticed headlines hinting at Mr. Profumo's resignation and, in the next columns, stories of Miss Keeler who was wanted as a witness in the case of a West Indian, John Arthur Edgecornbe, accused of shooting at her.
To the casual reader there was nothing to link the two stories, but it was as near as the papers dared go without fear of a libel suit.
One particular aspect of the case had long worried many people. It was known that the Soviet assistant naval attache, Commander Eugene Ivanov, shared Mr. Profumo's mistress. Miss Marilyn Rice Davies, a friend of Miss Kecler's wrote in the Daily Sketch last week that the farcical thing about it all was that on more than one occasion, as Mr. Profumo, Minister for War, left Miss Keeler at the flat where she stayed, the Soviet attache walked in. "In fact, it was something of a standing joke among us."
Was Ivanov merely a playboy who shared some of the same friends as a senior British Minister? If so, he was unique among Soviet diplomats. In fact, as Lord Arran revealed in the Daily Mail. Ivanov was no ordinary manabout-town diplomat, but apparently received direct instructions from Moscow.
Lord Lambton, Tory MP for Berwick, related in last Thursday's Evening . Standard that he had early on heard the Profumo rumours and had even had a letter from a friend in Washington mentioning them. He conveyed his doubts to an authority in the Conservative Party "who refused to entertain them seriously." The authority, said the Sunday Times, was the Tory Chief Whip, Mr. Martin Redmayne.
Indeed, the Sunday Pictorial (now the Sunday Mirror) had had a letter from Mr. Profumo to Keeler in its possession since January of this year. Miss Keeler, who last week shed crocodile tears over Mr. Profumo's downfall, had related to the Pictorial that among. her lovers were Mr. Profumo and Commander Ivanov. She then handed over Mr. Profumo's letter to her dated August 9, 1961.
In view of Mr. Profumo's denial in the Commons of any improper association with Keeler, and of his threat of libel proceedings. newspapers were warned that, despite what Keeler might say, her unsubstantiated word could not stand up against Profumo's, and .publication could not be risked.
Miss Keeler had violent as well as influential friends (Edgecombe had been sentenced to seven years for possessing a firearm with intent to endanger life. He had four previous convictions including living on immoral earnings and possessing dangerous drugs). She had, meanwhile. been attacked again by another former West Indian friend, Aloysius Gordon.
And then events moved rapidly. With questions tabled in the House regarding a letter from Dr. Stephen Ward, friend of Keeler, Profumo and Ivanov, and inquiries being pursued by the police, Mr. Profumo made his dramatic resignation. Gordon, who had 13 previous convictions, was sentenced to
three years, the judge remarking that he was sorry he could not deport him. (Deportation is restricted under the Commonwealth Immigrants Act to people who have been less than five years in Britain.) And Dr. Ward, a leading society osteopath, at whose flat Keeler stayed, was arrested on a charge of living on immoral earnings.
The Government was facing a crisis, all papers agreed, Mr. Macmillan and his party were likely to pay dearly for what was, after all, the greatest political scandal of modern times, said Hugh Massingham in the Sunday Telegraph. The British people were not likely to take kindly to the bizarre company of Soviet attaches and models and coloured men and high company. Mr. Macmillan had made matters worse by failing to advise the Queen not to receive Mr. Prcifunto. It was osld, to say the least, said many papers, that the man who runs the country should be so blind as to what was going .on in his own Government, and, above all, that the Minister responsible for Her Majesty's Army should have been under observation (as had been alleged) by the Secret Service. Was it true, too, that a wellorganised call-girl racket existed in top London society?
Either the Prime Minister did not know what his intelligence officers knew, said the Sunday Times, in which case he was responsible for an obvious breach on the part of his subordinates, or he was told and failed to take positive action. The Prime Minister and his Chief Whip had exposed themselves to Opposition charges of contempt, said the Sunday Telegraph, contempt not only for the Commons, but also for the feelings and views of ordinary, decent people who struggled to maintain standards of behaviour against the current tide of licence and laxity.
The Times Washington vimspondem reported the concern of many Americans that such a thing could have happened in Britain. Corning so soon after the Vassal case and the Argyll divorce action. Britain today was portrayed as a mixture of life at the French court before the Revolution, wood in its worst days, an Se a Latin American country known for its political cynicism. The Washington Post reported that "a picture of widespread decadence beneath the glitter of a large segment of stiff-lipped society is emerging."
And the last has not been heard of Miss Keeler. Apart from her confessions in the News of the World, Mr. Nicholas Luard, of the Establishment Club and devotee of the "sick" comedian Lenny Bruce, is to make a film based on Miss Keeler's life story and starring Miss Keeler. "I am going to condemn the decadence of modern English society," said Mr. Leant