Archer's hopes for mayor slip away

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The Independent Online
LORD ARCHER'S dream of becoming mayor of London was fast turning to nightmare yesterday, after his detailed rebuttal of charges made against him began to fall apart.

Senior MPs believe that the chances of the best-selling novelist being nominated to run for mayor are "dead in the water".

Lord Parkinson, the Conservative Party Chairman, suggested yesterday that any official party investigation into Lord Archer by the party's new ethics and integrity committee would take time because the candidate selection process had not yet been agreed, and there would be no rush to judgement.

However, a lethal alliance has now emerged against Lord Archer, which appears certain to block his chances of winning the official Conservative nomination as candidate for next year's mayoral election.

Detailed journalistic investigation of Lord Archer's colourful past, combined with a deep-seated high Tory snobbery, make it likely that Lord Archer will be advised not to put his name forward - in spite of his undoubted grassroots popularity with the Tory ranks.

Even if he decided to defy his opponents, something that would be entirely in character, allegations about his past would dog any campaign he managed to muster.

Lord Archer's problem was best illustrated yesterday by the fact that his central defence against a charge of insider dealing in Anglia Television shares in January 1994 was instantly shot down by his prime witness for the defence.

In an article for the London Evening Standard on Tuesday, Lord Archer said: "At no time did I receive any information from my wife, Mary, who was a director of Anglia Television. What happened was that at a dinner party given by Sir Nicholas Lloyd [former editor of the Daily Express], he suggested that if he had money to invest, he would buy shares in the smaller independent British television companies, because they must all be ripe for takeover."

Sir Nicholas was reported in yesterday's Express as saying that Lord Archer had indeed been present at a dinner party at his home, but that was on 18 January - five days after Lord Archer ordered 25,000 shares in Anglia. He ordered a further 25,000 shares the following day - four days before the Lloyd dinner party.

At 8am on the day of the dinner party, it was announced that Anglia had accepted a bid of 637p a share from MAI - and Lord Archer's deal reaped an instant pounds 77,219 profit when the shares were sold less than three hours later.

Confronted about the contradiction by the Evening Standard, Lord Archer said: "I've checked my diary and I saw him [Sir Nicholas] twice in December and twice in January. But I can't remember exactly what happened four and a half years ago. I may have been wrong."

Speaking on LBC's Breakfast Show yesterday, Sir Nicholas was more cautious, saying that there had been a general dinner party conversation about the reshaping of British television. "It was a long while ago and I can't remember when and how and what."

Lord Archer did not respond to a call from The Independent yesterday.

Leading article,

Review, page 3

David Aaronovitch, Review, page 4

Who is telling the truth?

THE CHARGES against Lord Archer, his replies in Tuesday's London Evening Standard and counter-charges by Michael Crick, Archer's biographer.

Education:

Charge: Archer misled Oxford, saying he had A-levels.

Answer: Yes, he was at Oxford; no, he did not have any A-levels; and no, he did not mislead the university.

Counter-charge: Oxford University archives contain CV "in which it is stated that he had A-levels in English, history and geography".

Anglia shares:

Charge: Insider dealing on information supplied by wife, Mary Archer, a director of Anglia TV.

Answer: Takeover tip had come from Sir Nicholas Lloyd at dinner party.

Counter-charge: Dinner took place days after shares bought; in evening of the day shares sold.

Expenses:

Charge: While serving on Greater London Council, Archer helped colleagues fill in expense claims, charging 10 per cent commission.

Answer: "I did help with forms". Nothing illegal done.

Counter-charge: "Glosses over" commission-taking. "Problem wasn't the original deed, but the attempted cover-up since."

Toronto suits:

Charge: Archer detained on suspicion of shop-lifting in Toronto.

Answer: Held while carrying two suits on hangers - in search of shirts in passage between two shops. Misunderstanding.

Counter-charge: Archer wrote to newspaper lawyers in 1987 that he had "never been involved in any such incident".

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