Click to follow
The Independent Online
"THIRTEEN YEARS ago, I asked a friend of mine, Ted Francis, to cover for me by saying that we were having dinner together, on the evening of September 9th 1986, when in fact I was having dinner with a close female friend at a restaurant in Chelsea. This was the day before I was accused by a newspaper of having slept with the prostitute Monica Coghlan.

"That accusation was false and, in the libel action that followed, I was fully vindicated and awarded pounds 500,000 in damages (which I donated to charity).

"I am saddened that years later Ted Francis has decided to profit from selling his story to the News of the World. The dinner on the 9th was not relevant to the trial, and it did not form any part of the evidence. Of course I should not have asked Ted to cover for me, even though it was beyond question that I was in the restaurant that night; I was simply trying to protect the person I was with (whose identity is known to the News of the World).

"I learned of the attack yesterday, on the same day that I was informed by the DTI of their response to Mr Byers' question on a letter sent to the Economist concerning Anglia. The DTI has decided there is no new evidence, and therefore no need for a third enquiry, the first two having concluded that there was no case to answer.

"During the selection process I made it quite clear that I had made mistakes in my life, and asked to be selected on the basis of having worked hard to develop new ideas to improve life in the capital. Again, I repeat, I have made errors, some serious, some trivial. I have always hoped that my good points outweighed my bad, and that I could make a positive contribution to public life.

"However, although I would like to be mayor of London, I am unwilling to put my family or the party through six months of sustained attack. I am grateful to be able to rely on the strong support of my wife and children as I withdraw my candidacy, and return to my writing career, my work in the House of Lords and my involvement with charities."