Leading Article: Stranger than fiction

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The Independent Culture
THE REMOVAL of the Conservative whip from Lord Archer was, of course, as welcome as it was inevitable. But the alacrity with which William Hague and the rest of the Tory leadership have - rightly - dropped their old chum is hardly an edifying sight.

First, let us recall that, as with Robert Maxwell before him, the people who now rush to pour scorn on Lord Archer and distance themselves from him are the very people who, although they saw the same warning signs as the rest of us, were happy to sip his Krug champagne and devour the shepherd's pie at his famous parties. They were happy to invite Jeffrey to grace their Tory constituency association dinners and use his charm to loosen wallets and keep the local party solvent. Ted Heath tolerated him as a parliamentary candidate (until he resigned); Lady Thatcher saw fit to make him deputy chairman (until he resigned); and John Major put him in the House of Lords (where he has now lost the whip).

Until yesterday, and despite obvious evidence to the contrary, Mr Hague thought him a man of "integrity and probity". Now he faces expulsion from his party. Jeffrey Archer may not be a man of honour; but what are we to make of a party that was prepared to indulge him so extravagantly for so long?