The Archer Affair: Francis `has taped Archer for 20 years'

TED FRANCIS, the television producer and writer whose revelations caused Lord Archer of Weston-super-Mare to step down from the race to become mayor of London, has been taping his conversations with the Tory peer for 20 years.

Yesterday Mr Francis's publicist, Max Clifford, said the tapes contain a series of "sensational" revelations that could continue to damage Lord Archer's battered reputation.

According to Mr Clifford, his client is yet to decide if he will reveal the content of the tapes.

Mr Francis claims he decided to seek publicity after he came to believe his former friend could be elected as mayor. A source close to Mr Francis said: "Ted thought that Jeffrey Archer as author, playboy or even jack the lad was fine, but when he realised he could be Mayor of London he thought, `God help us all'.''

Mr Francis first met Jeffrey Archer in 1970 to discuss a potential adaptation of one of his novels.The two discussed a number of projects but none came to fruition.

Years later, Mr Francis, 66, of Cranleigh, near Guildford, Surrey, asked for help in funding a pounds 100,000 project to develop some Enid Blyton stories

Lord Archer arranged for his bank to give Mr Francis pounds 12,000 in notes. Mr Francis says he intended to give Lord Archer a percentage of the profits even though Lord Archer said he did not expect the money back. However, Ted Francis said he was later publicly humiliated at a party when Lord Archer claimed it had been borrowed and not paid back. The millionaire novelist said Mr Francis owed him pounds 20,000.

Mr Francis is believed to have been paid pounds 15,000 for the story by the News of the World. The paper confirmed it paid Mr Francis but declined to confirm the amount, saying only that Lord Archer's former friend had made a donation to charity equal to his payment.