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Last Updated: Friday, 10 March 2006, 11:35 GMT
Former Tory minister Profumo dies
John Profumo on a trip to a scout centre. Picture courtesy of Toynbee Hall

Former Conservative minister John Profumo, who was at the centre of one of the UK's most famous political scandals, has died at the age of 91.

He passed away at midnight surrounded by his family, a spokesman for London's Chelsea and Westminster Hospital said.

The former War Minister was admitted two days earlier, following a stroke.

Mr Profumo was forced to resign from the Cabinet in 1963 for lying to the House of Commons over his affair with call girl Christine Keeler.

In the scandal, which happened at the height of the Cold War, it emerged that Christine Keeler had also been involved with Commander Yevgeny Ivanov, a Soviet intelligence officer and assistant naval attache in London.


Paying tribute to Mr Profumo, Tony Blair said: "He was a politician with a glittering career who made a serious mistake, but who underwent a journey of redemption and who gave support and help to many, many people."

John Profumo
Sleaze A picture of Christine Keeler, naked on a chair, became an image of the era.
Sex parties Ms Keeler lived with Stephen Ward at his flat, where he threw parties for the high-ranking and influential.
Soviet spy Christine Keeler had a fling with Mr Profumo, and had had relations with a Soviet intelligence officer.
Lies When the affair came to light in March 1963, John Profumo initially tried to deny it. Ten weeks later he told MPs he had misled them, and quit.
Government Prime Minister Harold Macmillan stepped down in October 1963 through ill-health, said to be made worse by the Profumo Affair. In 1964 the Tories lost to Labour.
Warheads Christine Keeler later claimed Ward was a Soviet spy and had asked her to get information from Mr Profumo about nuclear warheads in West Germany.

A charming and respected Tory politician who was educated at Harrow and Oxford, John Profumo was the rising star of Harold Macmillan's Conservative government.

He entered the Commons in 1940 aged 25, and in July 1960 was made Secretary of State for War.

His brief affair with Ms Keeler began after he was introduced to her by fashionable London osteopath and artist Stephen Ward at Lord Astor's Cliveden country estate in Berkshire in July 1961.

Sex parties

In an interview in 1989 she described the then minister as "a lot of fun".

"But he was too old for me. I really just went out with him because I was impressed with who he was."

In March 1963, Mr Profumo, who was married to the actress Valerie Hobson, made a statement to MPs denying any impropriety in his relationship with Ms Keeler.

Christine Keeler
He was a lot of fun. But he was too old for me. I really just went out with him because I was impressed with who he was
Christine Keeler

He resigned in June 1963 after admitting he had misled the House of Commons.

The Profumo Affair was one of the most sensational political scandals of the 20th Century, which was later dramatised in a film starring Sir Ian McKellen as John Profumo.

Stephen Ward - infamous for his sex parties involving the rich and influential - was prosecuted for living on immoral earnings. He committed suicide on the last day of the trial before the jury reached its verdict.

Ms Keeler was found guilty on unrelated charges - for not attending as a witness in the trial of a man shot at her home - and sentenced to nine months in Holloway Prison.

Charity work

Within days of his political departure, Mr Profumo turned up at Toynbee Hall, a charity in east London, and asked to help with the washing up.

He stayed for nearly 40 years, using his political skills to raise huge funds, and expanding the charity's activities to include social programmes and youth training.

His wife also gave her time to helping others, working until her death in 1998 for the leprosy charity Lepra.

John Profumo was awarded the CBE in 1975.

In 1995 Margaret Thatcher, who called him "one of our national heroes", invited him to her 70th birthday dinner, and seated him next to the Queen.

Lady Thatcher said then: "It's time to forget the Keeler business. His has been a very good life."

Obituary: John Profumo
10 Mar 06 |  UK Politics
MPs hail 'rebel' Profumo
08 May 03 |  UK Politics



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