Tributes flow in after death of disgraced politician Profumo

BRITISH Prime Minister Tony Blair yesterday described John Profumo, who has died aged 91, as "a politician with a glittering career who made a serious mistake, but then underwent a journey of redemption".

Mr Blair said Profumo should be remembered not only for the scandal which ended his career in politics, but for his later work with the disadvantaged in east London.

The former Secretary for War, whose affair with Christine Keeler led to the most notorious political sex scandal of the 20th century and contributed to the collapse of the then Conservative government, died in hospital on Thursday night after suffering a stroke.

Profumo, who spent four decades atoning for his disgrace, died peacefully at about midnight surrounded by members of his family, a spokesman for London's Chelsea and Westminster Hospital said. He had been admitted to hospital two days earlier.

Speaking during a visit to Czech capital Prague, Mr Blair said: "I think he will be remembered not just for the events which brought his political career to an end, but also I think he will be remembered, and should be remembered, with a lot of gratitude and respect for what he achieved in his later life."

Profumo was forced to resign from the Government for lying to the House of Commons over his affair with call-girl Keeler.

His departure in 1963 signalled the downfall of Harold Macmillan's Conservative Government, which lost the general election the following year.

Following his departure from politics, Profumo dedicated himself to charity work in the east end of London and was awarded the CBE in 1975.

He was shunned for many years by many of his former colleagues, some of whom blamed him for the Conservatives' decline in the 1960s.

Macmillan's Cabinet was sent into crisis by Keeler's revelations that she had sex with both Profumo and Commander Eugene Ivanov, a Russian intelligence officer and the Soviet assistant naval attaché in London.

In March 1963 Profumo made a dramatic statement to MPs, in which he denied any "impropriety whatever" in his relationship with Keeler.

He was forced to resign on June 4, 1963 after admitting that he had misled the House of Commons.

Friends yesterday said the former minister should not be remembered just for the affair which brought his downfall, and was turned into the film Scandal in 1989, with Sir Ian McKellen playing the role of Profumo.

Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith said: "For years after he stood down as a frontline politician he dedicated his life to helping the many devastated people in London.

"His enormous efforts will have changed the lives of many people over the years and he will be sadly missed by them and many of us who knew the other Jack Profumo."

Mr Profumo was heavily involved with Toynbee Hall, a charity supporting people in the east end.

Its chief executive, Luke Geoghegan, paid tribute to him yesterday: "John Profumo was an inspiration to us all. His tireless commitment to the organisation's development, and particularly fundraising, continued to the end."

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