Page 2, 21st June 1963

21st June 1963
Page 2
Page 2, 21st June 1963 — Attitudes to the Profumo case THE week saw a distinct
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Organisations: Tory Party
Locations: Wellington

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Attitudes to the Profumo case THE week saw a distinct

-11change in attitude towards the Profumo affair. It would be idle to deny that most people had not read everything they could, savouring all the spicy details of gunplay, implied espionage, commercial vice, girls, and a prominent man's career wrecked almost overnight. There were reminders of past scandals, of Parnell, Sir

Charles Dilke, the Duke of Wellington and Lloyd George. Most men had pecadillos of one kind or another, it was suggested, and it behoved no one to be too censorious.

The Evening Standard ("No Need To Panic") had seen it as a shock to the Tory Party, but at least the air had been cleared. The end of the affair could be a new beginning for the Government with a decision to forget the mistakes of the past and start afresh.

The Guardian thought it would be as well if the disaster could be allowed to sink as quickly as possible into oblivion, security permitting.

The Observer suggested that were it not for the conventional assumption that a politician's sexual morality was relevant to his public role, it was probable that Mr. Profumo would not have felt it necessary to deny so explicitly that he had had an affair with Miss Keeler. A wiser man would have said nothing about this relationship and simply limited himself in the Commons to denying that he had had anything to do with her failure to appear at the Old Bailey in the Edgecombe case.

Irrelevant

But by Tuesday, the tone was hardening, Dr. Arthur Reeve, Bishop of Lichfield, referring to an article in the Sunday Express by Lord Lambton. in which the latter said that Mr. Profumo's morals were of no concern to anyone except himself and his family and were almost totally irrelevant to the issue, said that if this were so. "the time has come to ask ourselves where we are going," and that the outlook for the country was very grave.

Tuesday was also the day The Times thundered with a leader: "It Is A Moral Issue". Everyone had been so busy assuring the public that the affair was not one of morals, said The Times, that it was time to assert that it was. Morals had been discounted too long. A judge might be justified in reminding a jury "This is not a court of morals," but the same exemption could not be allowed public opinion without the rot setting in and all standards suffering in the long run. The British were not by and large an immoral nation, but through their pathetic fear of being called smug they made themselves out to be one.

The Times attacked the Government who had been eleven years in power. Nothing else, they seemed to think, mattered, compared with the assertion that the nation had never had it so good. The early ardent hopes and eager expectations had been belied.

Frank

On Wednesday, Cassandra, in the Mirror, who had earlier referred to "a slip of a girl", was writing of Mr. Macmillan's reputation being destroyed by a slut he had never heard of. The Mirror and Daily Herald reprinted parts of The Times editorial, and demands were growing that Mr. Macmillan should resign. The Liverpool Daily Post said that time and the Government had fumbled and seemed less than frank. Vassal], Enahoro and now Keeler were only highlights of the sorry story. The time had come when either the Government had to go en bloc or there had to be a change at the top.

The Press had been patting itself on the back, pointing out that had it not been for the newspapers probing away. the issue would never have been brought to light. There was the spectacle of the Beaverbrook Press praising Mr. Gavin Astor of The Times (which it had attacked a few weeks earlier over the Vassal) case) for his speech defending the Press's role of disclosing matters of public interest.

Vital

Francis Williams, in the New Statesma.n, however, thought the Sunday Pictorial (Mirror) had been less than courageous. While the rest of the Press had depended chiefly on reports and enquiries which might have been difficult to substantiate, the Sunday Pictorial had in its possession a vital piece of documentary evidence—which it had suppressed. Indeed, the letter from Mr. Profumo to Keeler, dated August 1961. beginning "Darling" and ending "Love J", which had been given by Keeler to the Pictorial in January of this year, had not only been suppressed, but handed back to Mr. Profumo's solicitors. The Pictorial did keep a photostat copy.

This evidence, said Mr. Williams. was, it is true, not final evidence of "improper relationship" in the legal sense, but it was certainly evidence—and evidence not depending on Keeler's word but on the written word of the War Minister himself. Not to have published the letter at the time Mr. Profumo made his denial in the Commons seemed a dereliction of journalist responsibility.

Miss Keeler is reported to have been paid £15,000 by the News of the World for her story, while Dr. Stephen Ward, before his arrest, was negotiating through his agent for a reported figure of £50,000. On the other hand, it is said that the Mirror Group. which owns the People arid Sunday Mirror (now serialising the Duchess of Argyll's story) is likely to announce that as far as its newspapers are concerned. people accused of criminal offences wil1. in future, not profit from stories of their activities.




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