Publicity 'butterflies' escape the captivity of bankruptcy

Some of Neil Hamilton's more surreal public appearances over the past three years have been at the rear end of a pantomime horse, on the cover of
GQ magazine with his modesty protected by a fig leaf, and at last month's Erotica 2004 festival in Manchester as a master of ceremonies.

Some of Neil Hamilton's more surreal public appearances over the past three years have been at the rear end of a pantomime horse, on the cover of GQ magazine with his modesty protected by a fig leaf, and at last month's Erotica 2004 festival in Manchester as a master of ceremonies.

But on the stroke of midnight yesterday the former Tory MP was finally able to put behind him such humiliations. The hour marked the discharge of his bankruptcy, bringing to an end a three-year period during which he could obtain no credit above £250 and was compelled to pay all income above "reasonable domestic needs" to the official receiver.

Bankruptcy has not been easy for a man once tipped for great things in the Conservative party. Mr Hamilton's wife, Christine, revealed that her best recent holidays had been in Cornwall: a fact of life "when your husband is bankrupt and you are freelance". But release from the receiver's grasp has apparently put an end to that kind of abstinence already. "The bankruptcy term is over and they are out of the country," a family friend said yesterday.

Mr Hamilton, unable to undertake legal or political work, was forced to resort to less serious lines of work during his period of bankruptcy. His Manchester Erotica appearance, carrying a woman in pink underwear on his shoulders, confirmed how far he had travelled since his days as a trade minister. "It's dirty work but somebody's got to do it," he said.

That was the nearest the former Tatton MP has come to recognising his descent into parody, although the appearance was nothing compared to advertisements for the VH1 television channel's Valentine's Love-In programme, which featured him and his wife kissing at the cinema.

The period of bankruptcy was imposed at Macclesfield County Court after Mr Hamilton's failed libel action and subsequent appeal against the Harrods boss Mohammed Fayed left him with debts rumoured to total £3m.

It enabled the receiver to acquire the Old Rectory, the Hamilton residence in the Cheshire hamlet of Nether Alderley, which bears the Latin inscription Deus nobis haec otia fecit (God made for us this life of ease) above the door.

The couple held on to the place for three years as they struggled to find a selling price acceptable to the receiver, but when it finally went for £1.25m last year they turned to their bolthole, the Battersea flat that Mrs Hamilton has owned since 1961.

While Mr Hamilton has faced financial constraints, his wife's earning power has soared as she has established herself as the star of their bizarre media machine. A toe-curling appearance on the BBC's Have I Got News For You established the couple's utter lack of sense of how they appear to others. Greater humiliation followed on Who Wants to be a Celebrity Millionaire, but then Mrs Hamilton discovered an unexpected reality television niche, winning millions of unexpected votes during an extended stay in I'm a Celebrity ­ Get Me Out of Here! two years ago.

Her television appearances are sporadic but she is milking them for all they are worth. "I've been very busy recently commenting on the third series of I'm a Celebrity," she says on her website. "People often ask me how I describe myself now ­ to which I say 'media butterfly ... if it is legal, honest and faintly decent I am up for it'!"

Whenever possible Mr Hamilton doubles up with her, from the back of the panto horse to his book Neil Hamilton's Great Political Eccentrics, a sequel to his wife's Book of British Battleaxes.

How much he has earned in the past three years is difficult to establish, since details of any payments from him to the receiver are not in the public domain.

Erotica industry insiders suggested yesterday that someone "not particularly famous" such as Mr Hamilton might earn £3,000 for cutting a ribbon. His share of the pantomime proceeds may have been £6,000, but GQ indicated that its cover stars are not paid.

Mrs Hamilton's website suggests hers is no mean income. "As the solvent family breadwinner, I could have arranged to buy Neil's half [of the Old Rectory] had we wanted to stay," she says.

But their "forthcoming appearances" list suggests the diary is not packed. The single up and coming item is an appearance on Gordon Ramsay's Hell's Kitchen. "Neil and I ... are not taking part in the programme ­ just enjoying the food on that one evening!" Mrs Hamilton says on the website.

There was also a warning from the Bankruptcy Advice Centre last night that Mr Hamilton's discharge may not be the end of his penury.

"If you want to apply for more than £500 credit you have to tell the bank you have been a bankrupt and that usually means they won't let you have it," said the centre's Phil Stone.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Guru Careers: Lead Systems Developer / Software Developer

COMPETITIVE + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: A Lead Systems Developer / Sof...

Recruitment Genius: Social Media & Engagement Manager - French or German Speaker

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: The world's leading financial services careers...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Marketing Executive - 6 Months Contract

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Digital Marketing Executive...

Guru Careers: Account Manager / Senior Account Manager

40-45K DOE + Benefits: Guru Careers: An Account Manager / Senior Account Manag...

Day In a Page

A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory