The story behind a story that sold 4,000 copies an hour after mid-night and 100,000 by the end of the day

It was on Wednesday 25th September 1963 that the most hotly anticipated report in British history hit the shelves.  Official reports – known as Blue Books – are usually dull affairs but this one was different – VERY DIFFERENT.  Public interest was so great, remarked ‘The Spectator’ newspaper that the Stationary Office “opened half an hour after midnight to satisfy the crowds who wondered just how blue a blue book could be”.  In the first hour 4,000 copies changed hands; in the first day it was more than 100,000.  So what this all about?

It was Lord Denning’s report into the Profumo scandal that had gripped most of the country during the summer of 1963.  Now it seemed like a cheap crime thriller – especially when you looked at the various headlines.  These ranged from “Christine tells her story” through “He’s a Liar” to “The man without a head”.  So what was it all about?

Three months or so previous Prime Minister Harold Macmillan had asked Lord Denning to examine the national security implications of the alleged affair between Jack Profumo – a Conservative minister – and a ‘young girl’ Christine Keeler.  It was quickly established that there was nothing to consider.  HOWEVER Lord Denning had become aware of, and sucked into, a whirlpool of sexual gossip that wasted his time investigating rumours of “perverted sex orgies” – things that had nothing at all to do with the case he should be following!

Overall the whole thing had been a waste of time.  The government had minimal criticism while MI5 and the police were clear of everything.  Lord Denning directed most of his report to Christine Keeler’s friend Stephen Ward – and by the time the report was published he had killed himself!

Stephen Ward had been friendly with Yevgeny Ivanov – a Russian military attaché known by MI5 to be an intelligence officer – which drew him to the attention of British intelligence, who wanted to use Ward in an attempt to secure Ivanov’s defection. The matter became complicated when, through Ward, Ivanov met Christine, raising the possibility of a Profumo-Keeler-Ivanov triangle.

We’ll leave this story now – but perhaps we’ll come back to it again with a different slant.


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