The Aitken affair: Glittering prizes out of grasp
The wilderness years
Wednesday 20 January 1999
Some of his friends said his determination to make his own way without the Beaverbrook millions led him into the Arab business dealings which were to prove his downfall.
His first big money-spinning venture was with the company Slater Walker (Middle East) Ltd, and there also were banking connections with the Middle East.
Although he won his Thanet seat in 1974, he languished on the backbenches for 18 years. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was implacably opposed to making the Tory young turk one of her ministers throughout her 11 years in office.
He was a patrician Tory, and a member of the "blue chip" set, whom she gradually weeded out of her government.
Having been regarded as the Commons pin-up for two decades, Mr Aitken, a Eurosceptic, joined forces with another troublesome thorn in Thatcher's side, Sir Teddy Taylor, who acted like her conscience on Europe from the backbenches.
Together Aitken and Sir Teddy formed a two-man ginger group to oppose the perceived slide towards Europe, leaving Aitken oddly forgotten on the fringes of the Tory Party in the Commons.
It was not until two years after Mrs Thatcher's resignation in 1992, that he was plucked from the backbenches and appointed a minister by John Major.
Why did the then prime minister lift Aitken into his government? He was appointed - from the relative obscurity of the backbenches - the Minister for Defence Procurement, and put in charge of the arms deals worth billions of pounds to Britain.
This was a mystery to many colleagues.
Some ministers privately claimed the Arab princes in Saudi Arabia had made it clear to Downing Street they would prefer not deal with Malcolm Rifkind, the then defence secretary, a Jew, in the sale of Tornado jet fighters to their country.
Aitken, who had impeccable Arab contacts, was the obvious choice to sell arms in the Middle East.
It was the job that led to his downfall.
- 1 Apple has installed security backdoors on 600m iPhones and iPads, claims security researcher
- 2 UK pirates will get four warning letters a year
- 4 Is Gideon Levy the most hated man in Israel or just the most heroic?
- 5 Israel-Gaza conflict: Deadly flechette shells 'used by Israeli military in Gaza Strip’
Hacking Trial: Rebekah Brooks, Raisa and a new twist in the saga of a horse fit for a Prime Minister
Israel-Gaza conflict: Palestinian death toll now exceeds 500 – but Israel fights on
Income tax league: Revealed - the UK towns where people pay the most and least tax
Israel-Gaza conflict: Deadly flechette shells 'used by Israeli military in Gaza Strip’
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Blogger captures footage ‘showing BUK missile launcher that shot down jet’ now back in Russia
Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crash: 'Nine Britons, 23 Americans and 80 children' feared dead after Boeing passenger jet is 'shot down' near Ukraine-Russia border
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Vladimir Putin is given 'one last chance' to end hostilities in Ukraine
The 'scroungers’ fight back: The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Ukrainian military jet was flying close to passenger plane before it was shot down, says Russian officer
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: victims’ bodies bundled in black bags and loaded onto trains
Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Scheme Manager (BREEAM)...
Flexible, depending on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: T...
£850 - £950 per day: Orgtel: Programme Director - Conduct Risk - Banking - £85...
£100 - £110 per day: Orgtel: Project Coordinator/Order Entry Hampshire