Champion of the battleaxes prepares to confront her husband's formidable foe

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The Independent Online
DURING THE acrimonious cross-examination of Neil Ham-ilton by George Carman QC at the High Court last week, the former Tory MP for Tatton bristled at a couple of questions concerning his wife, Christine.

Asked about her lavish eating and drinking habits at the Paris Ritz hotel, Mr Hamilton retorted: "I think you had better save your insults for my wife. As you know, she can answer for herself." Asked about her alleged links with the lobbyist Ian Greer, his response was "Don't try to launder your smears about her through me."

Today, the formidable Mr Carman will indeed have the chance to put these questions to the formidable Mrs Hamilton. In a trial which at times has resembled a variety performance, the encounter promises rich entertainment.

Mrs Hamilton is expected to be in the witness box immediately after her husband in his libel action against the Harrods owner, Mohamed Al Fayed, over claims that he had accepted cash, gifts and free holidays in return for asking questions in the Commons.

Ever since the cash-for-questions scandal broke, leading to Mr Hamilton's resignation as a minister, he and his wife have provided a "double act" highly lucrative for the media.

Mrs Hamilton has become a public figure who is as famous as - or more than - her husband. Few will forget how the hardened veteran war correspondent, Martin Bell, appeared to blanch as a furious Mrs Hamilton charged towards him at the Battle of Knutsford Heath during the last general election.

Since then, she has written a book on Famous British Battle- axes, and others have experienced flashes of her fury. In a London bookshop, noticing a book of cartoons by Peter Brookes that had been mostly withdrawn until after the court action, she ripped out two drawings - portraits of her husband as a toad, and herself as a vixen.

Mr Hamilton has said he is virtually unemployable in either politics or commerce because of the allegations. Instead, he and his wife have acted as dinner-party cook and butler, and Mrs Hamilton has put the two of them forward as stand-ins for Richard and Judy in the Granada television programme This Morning.

She also made the news in a moment of tenderness. In May, there were pictures of her kissing a 19-year-old student, Will Goodhand, at a dinner of the Oxford University Conservative Association. The Sun said she snogged him. She replied: "If he regards that as a snog then he has a lot to learn. A lot of admirers ask me for a kiss... darling, I have been known to kiss many strangers, including Sun journalists."