Telegram from the British Embassy in Paris to the Foreign Office about the publication of the Denning Report on the Profumo affair and its impact in the Parisian press, September 1963 (FO 953/2108)
INWARD SAVING TELEGRAM
FROM PARIS TO FOREIGN OFFICE
Sir P. Dixon
No. 242 Saving
September 28, 1963
R: September 29, 1963
Addressed to Foreign Office telegram No. 242 Saving of 28/9
R.F.I. Saving to: Washington
No doubt the more sensational Paris papers had been hoping to find new provender in the Denning Report. Some have done their best with the little they found. The pro-Gaullist Paris Presse, for example purports to be publishing the complete text: the tabloid Paris Jour adorned its centre page account with no less than 7 pictures of Miss Keeler in various stages of undress. But other equally popular papers (Parisien Liberé, for example) recognised from the outset that the material for sensationalism was disappointing and played the story down (“Report not worth 7 shillings”). The official Gaullist broadsheet La Nation went so far as to headline “Denning Report Damp Squib: Macmillan Acquitted: Ward Posthumously Executed”. The normally sedate Figaro went through contortions deciding how to handle the story: early editions were confined to an assessment of political consequences but the editor had second thoughts and later editions covered the Report in a way which will certainly bring complaints from parts of the paper’s rather squeamish public.
2. With regard to the political consequences, almost the only serious comment has so far come from Correspondents in London. A despatch from Henri Pierre in Le Monde published under the headline “Lord Denning’s Report contains a severe indictment of Mr. Macmillan and his colleagues and the Government” speaks of “a new stock of dynamite” for the Opposition and of the “casualness, incompetence of Mr. Macmillan’s direct associates”. Paris Presse under the heading “Stricken Macmillan goes to see Churchill” describes the Prime Minister as “madly incompetent … The report is hard, very hard, on him and his team that the only real censure…..is addressed”.
Capuano in L’Information adopted a rather similar line in a despatch headlined “Denning Report may offer Labour opposition good electoral platform”. “If the content … is no surprise, it nevertheless calls in question the Prime Minister’s foresight and authority. The political repercussions that this aspect of matters might have, is not to be under-estimated.” Bertrand in Le Figaro in reporting that elections would not take place before next Spring at the earliest, nevertheless speaks of the electoral battle as ”virtually begun”.
3. On the other hand the Prime Minister’s television appearance was reported in Le Monde under the heading “Mr. Macmillan defends himself in masterly fashion”. “He defended himself and defended his colleagues with such masterliness that Mr. Wilson is going, as is usual, to ask the right to reply to him. Mr. Macmillan was in fact excellent, making a bludgeon of his honesty and sincerity and even of his naivety”.
Information Policy Department