Loyal to scandal minister

A FORMER war minister whose affair with a teenage call-girl caused one the biggest political scandals in modern history has been remembered as a "charming person".

John Profumo, the MP for Stratford-upon-Avon in the 1950s and 60s who lived in Shotteswell, died last week aged 91.

He hit the headlines after lying about his month-long affair with Christine Keeler in 1961 in a statement to the House of Commons.

The affair raised security concerns because it emerged that Miss Keeler had been having simultaneous affairs with Mr Profumo and a Russian naval attache.

He was finally forced to admit the relationship and resigned from the Cabinet and as an MP in 1963. The episode hastened the downfall of Harold Macmillan's government.

When the affair became public, national journalists offered local people 100 to reveal where he was. It later emerged he had spent 13 days hiding at his friend Air Commodore Victor Willis's home in Radway.

The Banbury Guardian's coverage of the affair made news all over the world. In an editorial, the paper's owner Woodrow Wyatt called for tolerance and understanding of the disgraced politician and vowed the Guardian would not judge him.

A survey of hundreds of people in south Warwickshire was carried out and revealed while they did not condone Profumo's lie in the Commons, they did not condemn him for his affair. This coverage made the front pages of most national newspapers in the country and was mentioned in the press in Washington, Sydney and Moscow.

Bernard Levin, on ITV's What the Papers Say, said instead of "seething with horror and revulsion, the Banbury Guardian took the revolutionary step of going out and asking the constituents.'

Former Banbury Town Mayor Rosemarie Higham bought Cherry Lodge in Shotteswell from Mr Profumo in 1987. She said: "When I bought it I couldn't have wished to deal with a nicer person. He was very charming and straightforward."

Mrs Higham said Mr Profumo and his wife Valerie had used the house as a constituency home when he was a Tory MP. It was a cottage owned by his sister which he had extended by Cherry's of Cropredy after his family home, Avon Carrow in Avon Dassett, was sold.

He had been a keen member of the Warwickshire Hunt and Mrs Higham said her dining room had been a drying room for hunting boots and clothes. Equestrian prints were all over the house.

She added over the years numerous people who had been entertained by the Profumos, including a Spanish ambassador, had knocked at the door asking if he still lived there and people have been to see the house to take photographs.

Mrs Higham said: 'I thought the house had a very good feel about it from the moment I came through the door and I feel extremely lucky to live here."