The Archer Affair: Hague comes out fighting

As the Tory leader launches a damage limitation exercise, the party braces for fresh revelations
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The Independent Online
WILLIAM HAGUE, the Tory leader, last night refused to back down on his decision to withdraw the party whip in the House of Lords from Lord Archer.

As the millionaire novelist waited in his Grantchester, Cambridgeshire, home for further revelations about his personal life to be aired in today's papers, Mr Hague vowed his party would not tolerate individuals whose behaviour "casts a shadow over us all".

Speaking at the Conservative Women's Committee in Solihull, West Midlands, Mr Hague also criticised Labour for allowing Peter Mandelson to return to the Cabinet after the disclosure that he received a private loan from the former paymaster-general Geoffrey Robinson.

Mr Hague said the Conservative Party had achieved "an enormous amount", with victories in the European elections and the Eddisbury and Kensington and Chelsea by-elections.

He added that he had not taken the decision to expel Lord Archer from the Conservative Party in the House of Lords lightly. "I won't pretend it's been easy. But we've got something straight - this leader and this party will not tolerate individuals whose behaviour casts a shadow over us all," he said.

The whip was withdrawn from Lord Archer on Monday after it emerged that he had solicited a false alibi from a friend as he faced a libel trial over false claims that he slept with a prostitute. Mr Hague also ordered Lord Archer to face an investigation by the Tories' Ethics and Integrity Committee which could expel him from the party.

Mr Hague was criticised by Labour in the aftermath of the disclosures about Lord Archer for not having barred the best-selling novelist from standing as Tory candidate for mayor of London.

But the Tory leader retaliated yesterday by highlighting Mr Mandelson's appointment as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. "This week hasn't been easy, but I'll tell you something - we'll take no lectures from Labour," he added. "This is a Labour government where multi-million-pound donors become ministers, where government policy is apparently changed in return for big donations, where the man with offshore trusts [Geoffrey Robinson] is made the Treasury minister responsible for offshore trusts, where everything is governed by leaks, half-truths and straight lies.

"The difference between Tony Blair and me is that when I catch someone lying I kick them out of the party; when he catches someone lying, he re-appoints them to his Cabinet."