Profumo Affair

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Harold Macmillan (1894—1986) prime minister


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A British political scandal which suggested that national security might have been breached. The person at the centre of the affair was John Profumo, the Minister of War. In March 1963, he had told parliament that he had not had any ‘improper’ relationship with a call‐girl, Christine Keeler. In June, it emerged that she had been his mistress, while having a similar relationship with Lieutenant‐Commander Yevgeny Ivanov, an assistant naval attaché at the Soviet Embassy in London. In response to the public outcry that followed, Profumo resigned from parliament. The resulting inquiry by Lord Denning concluded that national security had not been compromised. However, the affair weakened Prime Minister Macmillan, who was criticized for not having investigated Profumo fully, and it contributed to an atmosphere of sleaziness and decadence at the end of a long period of Conservative government (1951–64).

Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).

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