You’ve Never Had It So Good!
Stephen Ward deals with the victim of the Profumo Affair – not, as is widely supposed, John ‘Jack’ Profumo himself, the disgraced Minister for War, nor even the fatally wounded Conservative government of Harold Macmillan, but the society osteopath whose private libertarian experiments blew up in his own and everyone else’s face.
In a trial as emblematic to the twentieth century as Oscar Wilde’s was to the nineteenth – from which he was the only protagonist to emerge with some dignity and honour – Ward became the targeted scapegoat of a furiously self-righteous Establishment.
By no means a hero, he was a reluctant martyr, thanks to an unholy alliance between Press and police of a kind we can all too readily recognise today; inadvertently, he was the hinge between two worlds and the harbinger of a revolution in manners, music and morals when the ordered, stuffy, respectful universe of the fifties gave way to the classless, truculent, unstoppable sixties.
Stephen Ward charts the rise and fall from grace of the man at the centre of the Profumo scandal. Written by Andrew Lloyd Webber, Christopher Hampton and Don Black, and directed by Richard Eyre, the musical centres on Stephen Ward’s involvement with the young and beautiful Christine Keeler and their chance meeting in a West End night club, which led to one of the biggest political scandals and most famous trials of the 20th century.
Ward was the society osteopath who became the scapegoat in the so-called Profumo Affair. His clients ranged from Winston Churchill, to Elizabeth Taylor and Gandhi. Ward became embroiled in the scandal having inadvertently introduced the then Minister for War, Jack Profumo, to a young showgirl called Christine Keeler, during a weekend at a rented cottage on the Cliveden estate, home of Lord Astor. She went on to have a brief affair with Profumo. Unfortunately she also had what appears to have been a rather vodka infused one-night stand with the Russian naval attaché to London, "Eugene " Ivanov, known to be a spy.
Over a year later, the press got hold of the story. The thought of a showgirl sleeping with the war minister and a Russian spy at the same time was quality tabloid fodder. It was the height of the Cold War with reds under every bed imaginable. What secrets were passed? MI5 subsequently said zero. But Profumo denied his affair in the House of Commons and, when it was proven, had to resign from an already embattled Tory government.
Still, though, the Establishment needed a scapegoat. Who better than the guy who introduced Keeler to Profumo and the Russian? Two prostitutes said in court that he was their pimp – claims they later withdrew blaming police pressure - and Ward's reputation was in ruins. He committed suicide before the jury returned its guilty verdict. The judge’s summing up has echoed down the decades since, described by many commentators as one of the most biased in legal history.
To this day it is impossible to obtain a copy of that summing up which I believe suggests that it was both flawed and unbalanced. Andrew Lloyd Webber