1 The Profumo Affair

In 1963, John Profumo, the Secretary of State for War in the Conservative government, was accused of having an affair with Christine Keeler, a 19-year-old would-be model. Profumo denied a relationship, then admitted it and resigned from the government. Reports that Keeler was also involved with Yevgeny Ivanov, a Soviet naval attaché, created a possible security risk. Keeler knew both men through Stephen Ward, a socialite who, when implicated, committed suicide.

2 Boothby and Kray

In 1963, bisexual Conservative MP Robert Boothby was introduced to Ronald Kray, a notorious London gangster. Kray allegedly supplied Boothby with young men and arranged orgies, receiving favours from Boothby in return. When the connection was revealed by the Sunday Mirror, the paper backed down under pressure, sacked its editor and paid Boothby £40,000 in an out-of-court settlement. Letters discovered in 2009 prove there was a cover-up.

3 The Thorpe Affair

During the 1960s, there were rumours that the Liberal party leader Jeremy Thorpe was homosexual at a time when gay sex was illegal. In 1967, Norman Scott, a former male model, claimed to have had a relationship with Thorpe, who denied it. Scott claimed in court that Thorpe had tried to kill him by hiring a hit man. The politician stood trial and was found not guilty, but it ended his career.

4 John Stonehouse

On November 20th 1974, a pile of clothes belonging to Labour MP John Stonehouse was found on a beach in Miami and he was presumed dead. However, it later emerged that Stonehouse had faked his own death to escape business debts and begin a new life with his former secretary Sheila Buckley in Australia. He was convicted of fraud, theft and forgery and served seven years in prison.

5 Jeffrey Archer

In 1987, the Conservative MP Jeffrey Archer was accused of having sex with a prostitute. He had already avoided bankruptcy in 1974 by reinventing himself as a best-selling novelist. Archer sued the newspaper and won, receiving £500,000 in damages. In 1999, it was revealed that the politician had invented his alibi and he was charged with perjury. Archer went to prison for four years but he remains a peer in the House of Lords.


Two recent miniseries, A Very English Scandal and The Trial of Christine Keeler, tell the stories of the gay former-model Norman Scott (Ben Wishaw) and the nineteen-year-old nightclub dancer Christine Keeler (Sophie Cookson) from their point of view. Previously blamed for being the predators that brought down prominent politicians Thorpe (Hugh Grant) and Profumo (Ben Miles), they are presented as the victims of older, powerful men. An earlier movie, Scandal (1989), starred Joanne Whalley as Keeler in the more proactive role of a temptress. The moral hypocrisy of British politics has inspired other fictional miniseries: House of Cards (1990) starred Ian Richardson as an unscrupulous politician who becomes involved with a young journalist. The series was revived in an ongoing American adaptation. The 1980s political satire Yes Minister and its sequel Yes, Prime Minister are comic reflections on parliamentary intrigue, as MP and later PM Jim Hacker (Paul Eddington) is manipulated by his staff. The satirical black comedy series The Thick of It (2005-2012) and the Oscar-nominated film In the Loop (2009), both created by the Scotsman Armando Iannucci, caricature British politics with exuberant cynicism.