Archer asks for pounds 50m gifts to be credited to his account

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The Independent Online
Lord Archer of Weston-Super-Mare bounced back off the ropes again yesterday, saying he was neither genius nor saint, but he had raised more than pounds 50m for charity.

A potential Tory candidate for the post of mayor of London, Lord Archer's background has been referred for investigation by the Tories' new ethics and integrity committee - set up by William Hague in order to protect the reputation of the party.

Last night, in the London Evening Standard, Lord Archer replied to charges that had been levelled against him by Paul Foot, the campaigning journalist, on 26 March, headlined by the Standard at the time: "Why this man is unfit to be mayor."

Describing the allegations as "trivialities", Lord Archer said: "Heaven knows I made mistakes in my life. I am neither genius nor saint. But perhaps future profiles might mention that over recent years, I have raised more than pounds 50m for charity, never once claiming even my expenses. Just last year, I raised pounds 2m as a charity auctioneer."

He accepted that in a democracy anyone seeking public office opened themselves up to "endless attacks - some fair, some unfair" - but he indicated that he had not yet made his mind up about mayoral office.

As part of his replies to Mr Foot, Lord Archer said:

He never claimed his father had won the Distinguished Conduct Medal until the DCM League had mistakenly informed him that he had.

He did not get any A-levels, nor did he mislead Oxford University by telling them that he had, but he was a full member of Brasenose College, and did obtain a full blue in athletics.

He did not pass himself off as a research graduate for his marriage certificate, but the chaplain who had conducted the wedding ceremony must have misunderstood.

He had mistakenly thought he was the youngest member of the Greater London Council in 1967, and he had helped some councillors with their expense claim forms, "and the sums would have been minuscule".

Yes, he had mistakenly claimed that he was the youngest MP in the Commons after he won the Louth by-election in December 1969.

It was complete fiction that he systematically fiddled his expenses when fund-raising for the UN Association. He had raised several million pounds for the organisation and there had been an expenses "discrepancy" of around pounds 80.

In the early Seventies, he had been "conned" into making a bad investment in a Canadian company, Aquablast. He had refused to become a bankrupt, had taken up novel-writing, and had paid off his creditors over seven years.

He had been innocent of insider dealing over Anglia Television shares; DTI inspectors had investigated the matter, and he had not been charged.

And he had been awarded pounds 500,000 libel damages over the Monica Coghlan "matter", and had given the money to charity.

Lord Archer also said that he had been stopped in a Toronto store 25 years ago. "I was carrying two suits on their hangers over my shoulder, and was looking for the shirt department ... I had no intention of taking anything without paying... and I was not arrested, charged, nor did I admit to any theft because I had not stolen anything ..."