`Distressed' Aitken asks local Tories to forgive him

Disgraced former minister Jonathan Aitken has asked local Tories in his old constituency to forgive him for the embarrassment he has caused them.

The former chief secretary to the Treasury and defence procurement minister - who is facing a Scotland Yard investigation into allegations of perjury and attempting to pervert the course of justice connected with his failed libel action against the Guardian newspaper and Granada Television - sent the message of contrition through Major John Thomas, a close friend and former chairman of the Thanet South constituency that he had represented for 20 years before losing to Labour at the election.

Major Thomas also said that he has received a letter from Mr Aitken's solicitor, Richard Sykes, which claims that the former minister had acted for entirely "honourable" reasons. The major said: "It must not be assumed just because he was lying, he was guilty ..."

Major Thomas said that party members in the constituency would now like their ex-MP to come forward and explain exactly what lay behind his allegations of libel.

"Jonathan is asking the members to forgive him for the whole unfortunate situation, and all the embarrassment he has caused to his colleagues and friends.

"He is very distressed by what had happened, and obviously he would not be able to make a return to political life immediately.

"Everything has happened to him at once. The court case went wrong, his marriage collapsed, and now he faces severe financial problems.

"It is very sad state of affairs but he obviously feels he has to make this gesture. It shows that he is not taking all this lightly.

"Local party members are very surprised by what has happened. And we would like to know what happened.

"He has had a lot of support from local people, and we are keen to find out exactly what happened.

"So many members have members have contacted us to express sorrow and sadness. It must not be assumed because he was lying that he was guilty".

"I have received a letter from Jonathan's solicitor Richard Sykes who says Jonathan did what he did for entirely `honourable reasons'."

Major Thomas said he was given the message from Mr Aitken when he visited the former minister's office in London.

He added that in his view Mr Aitken may well have been forced to mislead the court because of reasons of "personal and professional honour".

And he added: "Maybe he thought Lolicia had paid the bill. And then when he discovered she had not, it was too late. He did the honourable thing and did not continue with the case.

"Lolicia is certainly rather a strange woman. She was not like your average political wife. Jonathan tried to protect her as much as possible. But you cannot, of course, do it forever.

"It could well be the case that he was also there at Paris on sensitive, and confidential government business which he could not really discuss in open court. He would have been put in an impossible position."

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