Keeler secrets my father took to his grave

Keeler on left and Freddie Baldwin on far right..jpg

                    BUGGED: Christine Keeler in 1963 with solicitor Freddie Baldwin, right


By FRANK BALDWIN

Former Labour leader Ed Miliband’s recent tweets that he was very disappointed for the victims of phone-hacking and Press abuse brought a wry smile to my face.

I believe there is a case of the pot calling the kettle black here.

My late father Freddie Baldwin told me that government spooks were indulging in similar dark arts during the Profumo Affair back in 1963.

The scandal, which eventually brought down Harold Macmillan’s Conservative government, was back in the headlines recently following the death of Christine Keeler. 

For newspapers, the story had everything. Top officials in the form of Secretary of State for War John Profumo lying to parliament, Russian spies, good-time girls Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice-Davies, sex, and a juicy court case during which all the spicy details were revealed and laid bare in the media.

These details have been revived over the years through various books, films such as Scandal and more recently in Stephen Ward, a West End musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber about one of the other characters caught up in the drama, which was staged a few years ago to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Profumo Affair.

2006al2240 christine keeler arno.jpg

But despite the massive coverage given to the scandal at the time, which included an iconic photo of Keeler posing nude on a Arne Jacobsen chair, have all the secrets surrounding the Profumo Affair been told?

I think not — and the likelihood of them being revealed are now even slimmer following the death of my mother Millie a couple of years ago. 

the scandal that toppled macmillan’s government

The Profumo affair was a political scandal which eventually brought down the Macmillan Tory government.

It originated with a brief sexual relationship in 1961 between John Profumo, the Secretary of State for War, and Christine Keeler, a 19-year-old would-be model. 

In March 1963, Profumo's denial of any impropriety, in a personal statement to the Commons, was refuted a few weeks later with his admission of the truth. He resigned from the government and from Parliament

The repercussions of the affair severely damaged Macmillan's self-confidence, and he resigned as Prime Minister on health grounds in October 1963. His Conservative Party was marked by the scandal, which may have contributed to its defeat by the Labour Party in the 1964 general election.

betchley

During the 60s, my father Freddie was fast becoming one of the best-known criminal lawyers in London and worked on several high-profile cases including defending Edward Betchley, pictured right, who was accused of stealing the World Cup which was found by Pickles the dog.

When the Profumo scandal broke, Freddie was thrust into the limelight again when Christine Keeler approached him to act for her in the court cases that followed.

Dad was always a great story teller but for some reason he and my mother never talked much about the background to Keeler and the Profumo scandal. I suspect it was out of some deep-rooted sense of duty.

I do remember my father being very upset several years ago when he went to dig out some of his own personal paperwork and newspaper cuttings from the Profumo case, which he had stored at the family home in Kent, to find that they had been attacked by mice and disintegrated with age.

When my father died so did many of the links to the Profumo Affair but I did manage to get my mother to talk about it a little before she died. She remembered that shortly after Freddie was taken on by Christine Keeler their phones at home and at work started making all sorts of funny noises when they picked them up. They suspected they were being tapped by government spooks. 

So, Freddie would organise "on the spur" meetings with Keeler in random places where they could not be overheard or recorded.

Freddie also had to visit Christine’s London flat on a few occasions and often found her still in bed which Millie was NOT very happy about.

John Profumo 1960

                 John Profumo pictured in 1960 before he resigned in shame 

For some reason Freddie also had control over Keeler’s finances for a while so she would call him at odd times asking him to release some cash so she could buy something.

Keeler, who was only in her late teens at the time, did get a big pay out from a national newspaper for her story, so I suspect once the enormity of what she had started began to hit home she may have been worried that this money could somehow be taken away from her.

I wonder what other details my mother and father have taken to the grave with them. Before Christine died I tried to contact her to fix up a meeting as I thought it would be interesting to hear what she remembered of my father.

But my requests were met with silence. Although I suspect even if she had agreed to meet me she would still keep those other untold secrets to herself.

Plus, from what happened at the time, it just shows you that phone hacking and lying politicians are not anything new!

*Frank Baldwin is owner and director at Mountain Marketing Ltd, publishers of the Skier & Snowboarder magazine plus contract titles. He started his journalistic and publishing career at the Fleet Street News Agency in the 1970s.

 

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