Stonehouse is a new ITV drama starring Matthew Macfadyen as John Stonehouse and Keeley Hawes as his wife Barbara, written by acclaimed writer John Preston.
The three-part drama relates how Stonehouse, a high-flying member of Harold Wilson’s Government, vanished from the beach of a large luxury hotel in Florida in November 1974, leaving a neatly folded pile of clothes as he swam into the sea, intent on faking his own death.
The MP for Walsall North left behind his loving wife Barbara and three young children as a shocked public and media presumed he had drowned or been eaten by sharks. Charismatic, oozing with charm and brimming with confidence, Stonehouse had impressed Prime Minister Harold Wilson and Labour stalwarts from an early stage in his parliamentary career.
From a working-class background, he’d graduated from the London School of Economics, was in the RAF during the War and seemed the ideal candidate for a life in politics.
As the drama unfolds, it becomes apparent his reputation as a devoted family man masked the truth, as he’d embarked on an extra marital affair with his secretary, Sheila Buckley, and acted as a spy for the Czech Secret Service in the 1960s.
His complex financial status and relationships eventually took their toll, with Stonehouse deliberately stealing the identity of a recently deceased constituent. Stonehouse applied for a passport in the dead man’s name and began to weave an elaborate conspiracy, seeking a new life in Australia.
But his plans soon turned sour as Stonehouse was arrested by Australian police who had been under the mistaken impression that he was the fugitive peer Lord Lucan. Brought back to the UK by Scotland Yard detectives, Stonehouse found that he was crucial to keeping the Labour government in power with its wafer-thin majority.
The drama will also star Emer Heatley (Showtrial) as Stonehouse’s mistress Sheila Buckley, Kevin R McNally (The Crown, Unforgotten) as Harold Wilson, Dorothy Atkinson (All Creatures Great and Small, Mum) as Betty Boothroyd and Igor Grabuzov (Voskresenskiy, No Looking Back).
Stonehouse begins Monday 2nd January at 9pm on ITV1.