Archer `a victim of Tory snobbery'

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The Independent Online
LORD ARCHER of Weston-super-Mare was expected to resign from the Conservative Party last night. Local and national officials called for him to quit before he was expelled.

He is almost certain to end his 32-year membership of the party to pre-empt an investigation by its Ethics and Integrity Committee. William Hague ordered the inquiry after Lord Archer's admission that he persuaded a friend to lie for him before a libel trial 13 years ago.

Lord Archer's press spokesman, Stephan Shakespeare, admits in an article in today's Independent that his boss was a "sinner", but claims the novelist has been a victim of "snobbery and prejudice at the hands of some senior Tories". He stresses that when party chairman, Michael Ancram, asked Lord Archer this summer if he had any skeletons in his cupboard, he gave what he believed was a true answer.

"As it turned out, the lie was never used. The lie (and it was a lie which nobody would seek to excuse) was for the understandable motive of protecting his marriage. So 13 years later, when asked by Mr Ancram, I can't imagine Jeffrey even thinking of it as a skeleton."

Yesterday the Tories were in turmoil over a replacement as mayoral candidate. Steve Norris, the favourite, was awaiting a "favourable response" from Central Office that his candidacy would be strongly welcomed.