Return of scandal which rocked Stratford and the nation

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Ben Miles as John Profumo in the BBC drama. Photo: BBC

IT is the political drama that rocked the nation in the early 1960s and put Stratford-upon-Avon centre stage for something other than Shakespeare – and now it is back in the limelight as one of the BBC’s big dramas for the festive season.

The Profumo Affair, as it became known, has proven endlessly fascinating with its many layers of intrigue and the way it shone a light on the establishment at a time of Cold War tension.

And the man in the middle of it all was Stratford MP John Profumo, a high-flyer in political circles who was Secretary of State for War in the Conservative government.

He initially denied any wrongdoing but eventually resigned in June 1963, triggering a by-election here in Stratford – an occasion worth another entry in history as it was the first of many occasions Screaming Lord Sutch stood for election.

Among the other key players in the story was Christine Keeler, forever remembered for the famous black-and-white image of her on a chair but whose story gives the angle for the new TV series.

The Trial of Christine Keeler, written by Bafta award-winning screenwriter and novelist Amanda Coe, is in six parts and kicks off this Sunday, 29th December, at 9pm on BBC One.

It has an all-star cast with TV and RSC favourite Ben Miles as the MP and Sophie Cookson as Christine.

A spokesman for the BBC said: “At the centre of the storm was 19-year-old Christine Keeler, a young woman whom the powerful, male-dominated establishment sought to silence and exploit, but who refused to play by their rules.

“This six-part drama takes us behind the headlines to tell a human story about the sexual and cultural politics of one of the most revealing and iconic stories of modern times.”

The Herald reported on the MP’s resignation and the subsequent by-election.

Intriguingly, its coverage on 7th June, 1963, included a round-up of how the media had responded to his departure under the headline “Let this Profumo disaster sink into oblivion”.

With the enduring interest from stage and screen, there seems to be no chance of that.