Inside the sex and spying scandal that brought down a Prime Minister

With Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson facing calls to resign over Partygate, many are being reminded of a previous controversy which took down a Tory PM – The Profumo Affair.

Arguably one of the biggest scandals in British political history, the Profumo Affair led to jail sentences, suicide and the fall of a government.

It took place in the 1960s, when the Conservatives held the office of the Prime Minister through Harold Macmillan.

John Profumo, the Secretary of State for War in Macmillan's government was found to have had an affair with 19-year-old model Christine Keeler beginning in 1961.

Profumo denied the affair in the House of Commons, but was caught out when a police investigation uncovered the truth – leading to the public losing faith in the credibility of Macmillan's government.

The disgraced minister was later snapped looking humiliated as he drove away from Parliament and out of politics.

The Secretary of State had denied the affair repeatedly, telling his fellow MPs: "There was no impropriety whatsoever.”

But his web of lies began to untangle when it emerged that Keeler had kept one of his love letters.

Profumo had wrote: "Darling, In great haste because I can get no reply from your phone — alas something’s blown up tomorrow night… I won’t be able to see you again until some time in September. Blast it. Please take care of yourself and don’t run away. Love J."

On Tuesday June 4, 1963, Profumo confessed the truth to Timothy Bligh, Macmillan's private secretary and resigned from Parliament, with the official announcement coming a day later.

Naturally, the affair was the talk of the country at the time, particularly when there were reports that Keeler had been having another fling with a Soviet naval agent, Yevgeny Ivanov. That represented a huge risk to the national security of the UK at a time when the Cold War was starting to heat up.

An inquiry by a senior judge, Lord Denning, initially concluded that there had been no breaches of security arising from the Ivanov connection, but it was later described as superficial and unsatisfactory.

However, that wasn't the only cause of concern. Enter Steven Ward.

Ward, a gifted osteopath by trade, faced trial for living off the immoral earnings of Christine Keeler and another woman involved in the scandal.

Keeler asserted that Stephen Ward was in fact a Russian spy and had amassed information about British establishment figures and informing Vladimir Putin in Moscow.

Ward was never found guilty – he took an overdose of sleeping pills while the trial was ongoing and died three days later.

Keeler also claimed that the late Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, was unfaithful to the Queen.

She alleged that he was linked with Steven Ward after nightclubs together in the 1940s.

After the Profumo scandal erupted, a series of portraits were discovered at Ward's home – which included members of the Royal Family such as Prince Philip and the Queen’s sister, Princess Margaret.

The damage done by the affair to the reputation of the Tories lead to Macmillan resigning as PM in October of 1963 – citing ill health – and is believed to have caused the Labour Party to win the subsequent general election in 1964.

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