Farewell then Christine Keeler. Like her former friend Mandy Rice-Davies, who died in 2014, Keeler’s name is forever tainted by the notorious Profumo Affair, one of the biggest political and sex scandals of modern times
This imbroglio, which rocked the British Conservative government of Harold Macmillan in 1963, involved several cabinet ministers who had enjoyed intimate relationships with this pretty pair of ‘models’ (oh, alright then, prostitutes) who also happened to be fooling around with Yevgeny Ivanov, a Soviet naval attaché with connections to a Russian spy ring.
War Minister John Profumo’s brief but dangerous liaison with Keeler was at the centre of the affair that caused him to resign from the government in June of that year, though Rice-Davies herself never met him. There were also some wonderfully indiscreet photographs taken of nude goings-on at the poolside of Viscount Astor’s gargantuan stately home, Cliveden.
Cliveden is on the Buckinghamshire/Berkshire border near Taplow, close to where I grew up. Funnily enough, who had just moved to Taplow when she released the song that is essentially the Profumo Affair in four and a half wonderfully descriptive minutes? Yup, the legendary Dusty Springfield.
Nothing Has Been Proved was written and produced by Pet Shop Boys Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe for the 1989 film of the Profumo affair, Scandal. The events as described in the song, though necessarily abbreviated and vague, are essentially accurate. The main thrust of the lyrics are that, indeed, nothing—at least nothing that indicated actual treachery by the cabinet members involved—had been proved. Just an overflowing of sexual indiscretion.
Yet it was enough to cause an uproar in the press, to rattle the government so much the Prime Minister himself resigned three months later, and to cause one of the central figures in the affair, the well-connected osteopath Stephen Ward, to kill himself. Formally charged with having served as a “procurer” and living off the profits of prostitution, Ward figures as the principal character in Tennant’s lyric, and his suicide its central event. He died before sentence could be pronounced at trial; hence, “Nothing Has Been Proved.”
The refrain “Please Please Me’s number one” is the song’s timestamp. Throughout the whole hoo-ha in the press, The Beatles’ second single became la Fab Four’s first number-one hit in the UK (based on both the widely recognised Melody Maker and New Musical Express charts the time)
Nothing Has Been Proved was later included on Dusty Springfield’s Reputation album of 1990, as was her follow up single, the dance floor banger In Private, also originally written for the film but ultimately kept back. You don’t need to remind you that both songs are widely regarded as two of the greatest Tennant/Lowe compositions of their long and varied career.
Keeler’s story will be told in The Trial of Christine Keeler, a major six-part BBC1 series to air in 2018. But if you want to whet your appetite for all things sixties before that, the climactic second series episode of Netflix’s royal fact and fiction epic The Crown attempts to link Prince Phillip to the whole sorry shebang later this week. Plot contrivance or Buckingham Palace cover up?
Nothing has been proved. Yet.