Have you lost the plot?; A three-part series that explains the issues behind the news

Whatever happened to Jonathan Aitken?
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Jonathan Aitken's "sword of truth" has become somewhat blunted since he raised it in anger last April. After the Independent revealed that BMARC, an arms company which counted him among its directors, had supplied arms to Iran in defiance of an embargo, Mr Aitken, then Chief Secretary to the Treasury, found himself at the centre of a political storm.

Some sections of the Tory press rallied to his cause, claiming intelligence reports showed there was no truth in the story.

In April, a World in Action programme, trailed in the Guardian, highlighted his Middle East business dealings; this led to the issue of writs against them both. They are claiming justification and the case has yet to be set down for trial.

Michael Heseltine, then President of the Board of Trade, confirmed that intelligence reports showed BMARC arms had gone to Iran. The statement, delivered without warning, totally undermined Mr Aitken. Two inquiries were launched which are ongoing - one by Customs & Excise, the other by the Commons Trade and Industry Select Committee.

In July, after his public relations adviser Patrick Robertson warned - in a fax that was sent to the wrong number and was passed to the Independent on Sunday - of the danger of another damaging story, one duly appeared in the Sunday Mirror, accusing him of having had sex with a prostitute. Mr Aitken resigned from the Government, claiming he was leaving to concentrate on his legal battles.

Now consigned to relative anonymity on the Conservative backbenches, he cuts a forlorn figure. Tories are generally sympathetic to his plight. But even if he wins his libel actions - and on those, the ball remains very much in his court - he is unlikely to recover his former pre-eminence. Great and lasting damage was caused by Mr Heseltine's surprise statement on BMARC. Mr Aitken is expected to appear before the Trade and Industry Committee shortly.