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?

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Chocolat author Joanne Harris has spoken about the financial struggles most authors face

books
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from How To Train Your Dragon 2

Review: Imaginative storytelling returns with vigour

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Josh Hutcherson, Donald Sutherland and Jena Malone in Mockinjay: Part 1

film
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
A waxwork of Jane Austen has been unveiled at The Jane Austen Centre in Bath

books
Arts and Entertainment
Britney Spears has been caught singing without Auto-Tune

music
Arts and Entertainment
Unless films such as Guardians of the Galaxy, pictured, can buck the trend, this summer could be the first in 13 years that not a single Hollywood blockbuster takes $300m

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has her magic LSD brain stolen in this crazy video produced with The Flaming Lips

music
Arts and Entertainment
Gay icons: Sesame Street's Bert (right) and Ernie

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Robin Thicke and actress Paula Patton

music
Arts and Entertainment
The new film will be shot in the same studios as the Harry Potter films

books
Arts and Entertainment
Duncan Bannatyne left school at 15 and was still penniless at 29

Bannatyne leaves Dragon's Den

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The French economist Thomas Piketty wrote that global inequality has worsened

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant and Benedict Cumberbatch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck plays a despondent Nick Dunne in David Fincher's 'Gone Girl'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty (L) and Carl Barât look at the scene as people begin to be crushed

music
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Caral Barat of The Libertines performs on stage at British Summer Time Festival at Hyde Park

music
Arts and Entertainment
Ariana Grande and Iggy Azalea perform on stage at the Billboard Music Awards 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Zina Saro-Wiwa

art
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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.

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

    A writer spends a night on the streets

    Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
    Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
    Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

    Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

    Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
    Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

    Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

    This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
    Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

    Why did we stop eating whelks?

    Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
    10 best women's sunglasses

    In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

    From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice