After Profumo: Tories in turmoil

John Profumo
John Profumo

In the wake of the Profumo Affair in 1963, the political landscape nationally and in Warwickshire changed 
dramatically.

The disgraced Stratford MP and Minister of State for War, John Profumo, resigned in June 1963.

A by-election was held in Stratford in August 1963 when Angus Maude was elected but there was a dramatic fall in the Tory vote.

A Courier editorial questioned the timing of the poll, saying it denied the rank and file a real opportunity to influence the choice of candidate.

Maude was also criticised for a colourless campaign.

The Profumo Affair damaged the credibility of Harold Macmillan’s government.He survived a Parliamentary vote but leading Tories Rab Butler and Reginald Maudling declined to push for his resignation. However, the affair may have exacerbated Macmillan’s ill-health. He was taken ill on the eve of the Conservative Party conference, and diagnosed incorrectly with inoperable prostate cancer. He resigned in October 1963.

While the Conservatives were searching for a new leader the Courier canvassed local opinion. Three names were mentioned: Mr Butler and two peers, Lord Hailsham and Lord Home.

Macmillan was succeeded by Foreign Secretary Alec Douglas-Home in a controversial move. It was alleged that Macmillan had pulled strings and utilised the party’s grandees, nicknamed ‘The Magic Circle’, who had slanted their “soundings” of opinion amongst MPs and Cabinet Ministers to ensure that Butler was not chosen.

Macmillan retired from politics in 1964, a month before the 1964 election, which the Conservatives narrowly lost to Labour, led by Harold Wilson.

The Warwick and Leamington MP Sir John Hobson had been a key figure in the investigation into John Profumo. The Courier at the time questioned his failure to spot that Profumo was lying.

Hobson held his seat at the 1964 and 1966 elections but he died in office in 1967, at the age of 55. He had taken over the seat from former Prime Minister Sir Anthony Eden in 1957 and was succeeded by Sir Dudley Smith after a by-election in 1968.

Angus Maude was sacked as shadow aviation spokesman in 1967 by Ted Heath after criticising party policy.

An outspoken and independent character, he went on to be a key part of Margaret Thatcher’s leadership campaign in 1975. From 1979 to 1981 he served in the Cabinet as paymaster general, but stood down. He was made Baron Maude of Stratford in 1983 and died in 1993.