Sex scandals will always hit the Tories hardest | Matthew d’Ancona

As with the Profumo affair in the 1960s, accusations of sexual misconduct chime with broader perceptions of the party

In June 1963, Frederick Bellenger, a Labour MP who ploughed an independent furrow, wrote to the Conservative chief whip, Martin Redmayne, warning him of the corrosive effect upon Tory party discipline of John Profumo’s resignation: “If I am seen speaking to you again today I shall be judged your permanent spy. Yet I must tell you that at dinner tonight Margaret Thatcher made clear that she was for the prime minister [Harold Macmillan] going at once and stuck to her guns when challenged by Julian Critchley and myself on behalf of the loyalists.”

The vignette of Thatcher, an MP for less than four years, conspiring against Macmillan illustrates a truth that holds good more than half a century later. The Profumo affair and Lord Denning’s report upon it helped to ignite the moral and sexual revolution of the 60s. But what concerned the future Iron Lady were the scandal’s immediate political ramifications – for herself, her fellow backbenchers and the survival of the government.

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