• Tory organised hypocrisy
The Trial of Christine Keeler, photo BBC

The Trial of Christine Keeler, photo BBC   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

Derek McMillan

Benjamin Disraeli, two-time Tory prime minister in the nineteenth century, once said: “A Conservative government is an organised hypocrisy”. The Christine Keeler story on BBC1 would seem to bear out that analysis.

I will avoid spoilers, but all the main events are in the public domain already. The politicians, press and police all come out of this disgracefully tarnished.

On the one hand, John Profumo, the defence minister (played by Ben Miles), lost his job in the Macmillan Tory government, in 1963.

On the other, of course, he remained a millionaire who did a bit of charity work on the side to salve his conscience. He received a CBE in 1975. You will be astonished to learn that Christine Keeler did not receive any such honour!

Christine Keeler, then a working-class 19-year-old aspiring model (played by Sophie Cookson), and her showgirl friend Mandy Rice-Davies (played by Ellie Bamber) both got jail time. Christine Keeler was accused of perjury.

Yet the series suggests that the police pressured both of them to give fake evidence against Stephen Ward, the society surgeon who introduced Keeler to Profumo. If that isn’t perjury, what is?

The racism of the Met Police is also a feature of the series. If only things had changed!

The press routinely referred to them (without evidence) as “prostitutes”. Prostitution was not a criminal offence. They were vilified in the media and the Conservative Party has never forgiven them. The scandal contributed to the Tories losing the 1964 election to Harold Wilson’s Labour Party.

Stephen Ward (played by James Norton) found the ruling class closing ranks against him. The extraordinary waste of police manpower in ‘gathering (very little) evidence’ against him caused his patients to go elsewhere. He was driven to suicide and, for many people, his blood is on Conservative Party hands.

All of the performances are superb and bring this bit of history to life. But is it history? Or is the Conservative government an organised hypocrisy to this day?