When I heard about the verdict on Thursday, I couldn’t help but note that it occurred on the 51st anniversary of the resignation of Jack Profumo.
The glamorous and talented Profumo was a rising star of the United Kingdom’s Conservative Party. Elected as the youngest Member of Parliament while still serving as an army officer in World War II, he showed early mettle by helping to defeat the Chamberlain government in defiance of his own party whip.
After the war he married a beautiful film star and quickly rose through the ranks to become Her Majesty’s Secretary of State for War.
His trouble started with an affair. Worse, his mistress was also conducting an affair with a Soviet diplomat at the same time – adding a national security element to matters.
Then, fatally, he lied about the matter in a personal statement to Parliament.
Such statements were considered to be given under a strict code of personal honour, the breaking of which was unthinkable.
When he confessed the truth, it rocked the English-speaking world.
He immediately resigned from Parliament and the “Profumo affair” became the archetypal political scandal.
I hope John Banks can take some inspiration from what the British politician did next.
Shortly following his resignation, Profumo started working at a charity in the East End of London.
Contrary to modern expectations, this does not mean he took up a paid position as “issues director”, “communications manager” or “government relations liaison” for the organisation.
He insisted on scrubbing toilets – something one can scarcely imagine any contemporary politician doing.
For 40 years, he toiled in determined obscurity. Only with great reluctance could he be persuaded to put his considerable skills toward the running of the organisation. He never wrote a book about his experiences, he never gave another television interview and he never sought a comeback in public life.
The heart-warming thing is that, though he never sought it, he was rehabilitated by his good works.
He became a widely admired figure.
On the day that he died, his name had come to stand for atonement as much, if not more, than it had for scandal and infamy.
Few of us never stuff up. I am a big believer in the power of redemption.
Profumo lived until 2006. he became a CBE in 1975.Tags: Liam Hehir