Poor old Jeffrey, a victim of so many misfortunes

Jeffrey Archer wants to be a big-city mayor. Let him take his place among his true peers - Koch, Daley, Sonny Bono

SHORTAGE OF MONEY, lack of job opportunities, or even a preference for living a long way away from theatres and cinemas, may mean that many of you reading this column are not currently living in London. Well, that's no reason for you to miss out on what is becoming a local cause celebre, namely the battle over whether or not millionaire author, Jeffrey Archer, is fit to be the Conservative candidate as the capital's first elected mayor.

The London Evening Standard says that he is not. In fact, that newspaper has said so twice. The first time, a few weeks ago, prompted Lord Archer to reply at length on Tuesday in his own defence, answering many of the charges laid against him. But yesterday, the Standard repeated its dim view of Lord Archer's probity, arguing that "again and again he has shown an absence of judgement".

The Times, with a lofty perversity, has meanwhile recommended Archer to submit himself at once to the Conservative Party's Ethics and Integrity Committee (sic), despite the fact that the committee has neither been constituted nor awarded with its terms of reference. Perhaps, said The Times, Lord Archer could prostrate himself before the new chairman of the committee, when that person is appointed "within the next few weeks", and they could sort of take it from there.

In my view he should do no such thing. Lord Archer has my full support to add to that of (according to him) "several Shadow Cabinet members and Tory peers". For I have read all the material published recently, and my conclusion is that Archer is merely a victim of a series of accidents and misfortunes such as any of us might well experience (if not all in the same lifetime).

Nor do I say this as an admirer of his writings. "Have you read any of the works of Jeffrey Archer?" has long been a trick question for applicants wishing to join the BBC's News directorate. If the answer is "yes", the candidate will - whatever his or her other qualifications - be sent a polite letter of rejection. (The exact reverse is true in BBC Light Entertainment.) I was able to take my place among the Paxmans and the Sissonses because I have never read a word that Lord Archer has written. I gather that sex takes place in his novels, and I have no wish to contemplate the author involved in energetic, but unfragrant, research for these passages with his lovely wife, Mary.

Charge one is that he is a fantasist, who awarded his huckster father an undeserved DCM and claimed his grandad was Lord Mayor of Bristol when he wasn't. Archer replies that it was the DCM league that first suggested that pa Archer was a hero in the 1914-18 war (rather than a fraudster in the USA and Canada), and that - for the rest - he simply believed what he was told by the family.

It's easily done, isn't it? I have for years told everybody that I am related to the man who first swam the Channel and who went over Niagara Falls in a barrel. I'm a bit hazy, but I think my mother told me about this; however, if it turns out to be romantic nonsense, does that mean that I too will be forced to book an all-day appointment with the Ethics and Integrity Committee?

Then there's the question of how Archer, who left school A-level-less, managed to get into Brasenose College, Oxford (there is, unfortunately, no Braseneck College) on a CV which claimed passes in A-level English, history and geography. And how the impression was given that he had been awarded a BSc degree from an American university, when in fact he had merely attended a summer school on campus.

Archer does not admit it, but what else was a guy supposed to do? Imagine that you had failed academically at school. Now also imagine that the world outside was so pedantic and pernickety (as, in the mid-Sixties, it was) that it regards a lack of the appropriate qualifications as an absolute brake on future progress. Why not gild the lily a little?

Let us turn to the issue of the disputed expenses, claimed while Archer worked for the United Nations Association in the late Sixties. Archer says that - over three years - he might have made pounds 80 more than he was theoretically entitled to, that this hardly amounts to a fiddle, but is down to administrative complexity. And, of course, he is quite right. I have never managed to get the hang of the Independent's expenses system, and it has cost me thousands of pounds. How I have longed for someone to do what Archer did for his colleagues at the GLC at around the same time, which was to fill in the forms for them in return for a 10 per cent commission.

On rapidly to Toronto and the shoplifting case. In 1975, Jeffrey Archer (then down on his uppers) was apprehended by store detectives in a Toronto mall apparently walking out of a store with an armful of suits. They didn't charge him. He was, he said, confused by the store layout and was looking for the shirt department when he inadvertently exited the store. Again, I have done something similar, once wandering into the food section of M&S, still clutching a pair of boxer shorts.

We turn now to the famous Coghlan case. Now, I have not myself had the experience of paying a prostitute - with whom I have not had sex - to go away. But I can see how it might come about. A distressed woman phones you out of the blue, tells you the tabloids are manufacturing a story about the pair of you, but that this can be avoided if she can go away for a bit. Might you not...? No? Well, look, no one could possibly make it up.

And, finally, there's those pesky Anglia shares. Here's a guy worth 50 million quid who makes a measly 70 grand for a pal on shares in a company upon whose board his wife sits. Sure, he can't quite remember who told him that they were a good bet. He says it was Sir Nicholas Lloyd and Sir Nicholas Lloyd says it wasn't. But even suppose that the fragrant Mary had - one morning in Grantchester - passed the kedgeree with the observation that interesting things were afoot down 't mill, would that really be such a scandal? Can't couples talk to each other these days? Is this Russia?

No. Archer is colourful, but then, we have decided to have an American- style city mayor. Well, the ones that I can recall are Ed Koch, Sonny Bono, Clint Eastwood and Mayor Daley. And I don't think that Jeffrey Archer sounds so very out of place in that list, do you?

Arts and Entertainment
Tate Modern chief Chris Dercon, who will be leaving to run a Berlin theatre company
arts
Arts and Entertainment
Tasos: 'I rarely refuse an offer to be photographed'
arts + ents
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Girls on the verge of a nervous breakdown: Florence Pugh and Maisie Williams star in 'The Falling'
Film
Arts and Entertainment
Legendary charm: Clive Owen and Keira Knightley in 2004’s ‘King Arthur’
FilmGuy Ritchie is the latest filmmaker to tackle the legend
Arts and Entertainment
Corporate affair: The sitcom has become a satire of corporate culture in general

TV review

Broadcasting House was preparing for a visit from Prince Charles spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: There are some impressive performances by Claire Skinner and Lorraine Ashbourne in Inside No. 9, Nana's Party spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Glastonbury's pyramid stage

Glastonbury Michael Eavis reveals final headline act 'most likely' British pair

Arts and Entertainment
Ewan McGregor looks set to play Lumiere in the Beauty and the Beast live action remake

Film Ewan McGregor joins star-studded Beauty and the Beast cast as Lumiere

Arts and Entertainment
Charlie feels the lack of food on The Island with Bear Grylls

TV

The Island with Bear Grylls under fire after male contestants kill and eat rare crocodile
Arts and Entertainment
Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Quicksilver and Elizabeth Olsen as Scarlet Witch, in a scene from Avengers: Age Of Ultron
filmReview: A great cast with truly spectacular special effects - but is Ultron a worthy adversaries for our superheroes? spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Ince performing in 2006
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Beth (played by Jo Joyner) in BBC1's Ordinary Lies
tvReview: There’s bound to be a second series, but it needs to be braver spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry, the presenters of The Great Comic Relief Bake Off 2015

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A still from Harold Ramis' original Groundhog Day film, released in 1993

Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Christopher Eccleston (centre) plays an ex-policeman in this cliché-riddled thriller

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey looks very serious as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

TV This TV review contains spoilers
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Wiz Khalifa performs on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park in Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury

music

Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars creator George Lucas

film

Arts and Entertainment

music

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

    Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
    Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

    Aviation history is littered with grand failures

    But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

    Fortress Europe?

    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
    Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

    Never mind what you're wearing

    It's what you're reclining on that matters
    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence