As he climbs out of bed in his cell at Hollesley Bay open prison this morning, Jeffrey Archer will be able to count on one hand the days he has left to serve of his jail term. To those who were delighted to see the former Conservative Party chairman put behind bars it seems like only yesterday that he began his four-year sentence for perjury.
On his first morning in prison (Friday 20 July 2001), the seemingly irrepressible millionaire novelist rose at 6am to take his place behind his writing table - or so he boasted in his memoir A Prison Diary, published controversially under his inmate identity of FF 8282.
But two years later, it appears even Lord Archer, master of the bounce-back, may have lost a little of the spring in his step. Pictured last week walking through the prison library, the 63-year-old disgraced peer appeared to have aged badly during his period of incarceration. The notoriously stodgy prison diet seemed to have taken its toll on the waistline of the former athlete with a famous weakness for shepherd's pie.
But who can write off the prolific author who so many times before has emerged from scandal to strut brazenly back into the public eye in his Church's shoes and Aquascutum blazer?
Even in the past two years, when he was supposedly deprived of his liberty, he managed to cause outrage by going for pizza meals with members of prison staff. He landed a day-time placement at a local theatre, partied with Gillian Shephard and other Tory pals and managed to get his diaries into bookshops, courtesy of a leading publishing house. Lord Archer of Weston-super-Mare - as he remains, although MPs are calling for him to be stripped of his title - even presumed to tell one of his prison governors how to run his jail.
On the eve of his release, Archer is said to be driven by a desire to clear his name and to wreak vengeance on the erstwhile friends he feels have betrayed him. He may also be presumed to be bracing himself for a ferocious onslaught from his enemies in the media.
Next Monday morning, he will walk through the gates of Hollesley Bay on the Suffolk coast for the last time - and the media feeding frenzy will begin. History suggests that Archer will not hide away from the spotlight but that, on the contrary, he will use the opportunity to relaunch the Archer brand. But how exactly will he do so? Is rehabilitation even a remote possibility for one so steeped in disgrace?
We asked a range of experts from the fields of political image-making, public relations, self-improvement and rehabilitation to consider Archer's predicament, and suggest what strategy they felt was most likely to repair his damaged image. Here are their proposals...
Television personality, charity auctioneer, and former Conservative MP
From my point of view, I'm looking forward to his release enormously because he can return to his valiant work on the charity auction circuit. In his absence, I have been conducting charity auction after charity auction, not doing it nearly as well or raising nearly as much money. I look forward to handing the baton to him. One of the things you need if you are running a charity auction is to be fearless and remember who you are working for, which is the charity. He's very good at cajoling the punters. More seriously, I imagine he will return to writing his best-selling novels and I have no doubt he will share with us some thoughts relating to prison reform and improvement. Obviously, I don't think he has a political life ahead of him, but he does not need to have one; he can be a very successful and popular novelist.
PR executive and former adviser to Margaret Thatcher
I think he should go on a very long holiday. He should then sit down and think about how old he is and how much energy he has left. If there are things he would like to do that he has not done yet - do them. Most people have done something wrong and very few people pay for it. He has.
I think he should do the things he likes doing; he's entitled to enjoy his life. Go and have fun. He's got plenty of money and if I was him I would just go on holiday for the rest of my life and throw the odd party.
Reading the papers, it appears that he's made a list of people he's going to get back at. Why do it? It doesn't get you anywhere. What would be much more effective to deal with his enemies and critics would be to have a full, happy and enjoyable life. That would be much more frustrating to them.
Media personality and former Conservative minister
Jeffrey was once kind enough to say, à propos my problems, that one should go under a stone for six months and not re-emerge for that period. I think I might suggest to him that he goes under a stone for a rather longer period. I think he will be tempted to return to the House of Lords and I think that would be a monstrous affront. His choice is a pretty easy one. He can be reunited with his money, with Mary, with his writing and he will have his new passion for prison reform to pursue. Hopefully he can become engaged with those things without raising too many other things. It is inevitable that he will write a book, so we must prepare for it.
Lifestyle guru and author of The 10-Minute Life Coach
Really and truly, if Archer is concerned about being accepted by the public again - and I think he is - he's got to be mindful of being seen to have changed and to have thought very deeply about the reasons why he's in jail. It would be disastrous for him to come out with a bolshy attitude. He needs to do worthwhile, meaningful, purposeful activities. I don't think it would be enough for him just to bring out another thriller that he penned in prison. People would think it was distasteful just to use that time to come out with another blockbuster that will make lots of money. For him to be welcomed back into society in any real way he's got to show that he's absorbed lessons from those experiences. He's got to be a humble person. There's no question that he's a fascinating character and hugely talented. With a concerted push to apply that genius and cleverness for some good ends, he could be a real power, a real force for good.
JEFF THE LITERARY LAG
Former Conservative MP who disclosed details of her affair with former Prime Minister John Major in her autobiography
He should go back to the word processor. I know his agent very well. His agent will keep his nose to the grindstone, I'm sure. The past 30 years of Jeffrey's history have shown he can turn almost any experience into a story. I think most of us would much rather he earnt his living honestly rather than by another means. He's got a story to tell. My hope is that it would be a story told with some humility, with grace - perhaps, like Oscar Wilde's experiences in jail, it may come to be something that he's remembered for. If he can help transform our prisons, good luck to him. I hope he's successful, I really mean that. He will have heard stories to make his hair stand on end. It makes a difference if someone of Jeffrey's position says it.
GOOD WORKS JEFF
Journalist and former Conservative Party head of communications
He should do a Profumo. Put him somewhere where it's difficult to get to, where there's some serious work to do. Send him to Botswana and make him prove he's someone we can respect. If he wrote about those experiences, and those he had in prison, we could begin to rebuild our relationship with him. He could then write: "What I've seen first-hand and what crime and drugs do to young men." He should stay there for a year, not accepting any interviews, not shagging any blondes, but really finding some humility.
Image consultant with Absolute Image
If he's going to be heading towards a television career, we are looking at a more casual appearance. Not the tailor-made shirt and shoes and bespoke everything. I don't mean driven by fashion, I don't mean a Beckham look. I mean a more casual look.
He needs to lose the uniform. A uniform is something we have to wear; our clothes are something we choose to wear.
The public have got to see him as somebody who has learnt his lesson. I think he should soften the look, because he's not going to get on the board of one of the top companies. The pin-stripe suits can all go because they are irrelevant - he's not going to get many positions offered to him.
He also needs to wear colours that are more approachable, such as softer blues and lavenders. It's a good idea for him to dress in red just at the moment; that would look too overpowering. He needs the calmer shades that are not so threatening.
JEFF THE FOX
Chat-show and Fame Academy host
I've got the perfect solution. If fox-hunting is actually made illegal, then we should have Archer-hunting instead. It could almost be like the chain gangs in the southern states of America when they let someone off and then chase them. I like the idea of him being followed by lots of toffs and hounds - although, obviously, I don't want any physical harm to come to him.
Celebrity PR guru
There are a lot of qualities about Jeffrey Archer the British public sneakingly admire. As a loveable rogue he can rehabilitate himself as long as he's prepared to put his hands up. He should be hosting a new game show called What's My Lie?, in which everyone pretends to be something they are not and there's one genuine person there. Archer would be the expert on the panel of people who have conned their way.
I'd also put him forward as host for Have I Got News For You?. At the end of a series, when Ian Hislop and Paul Merton have gone to town on him week after week, the British public would feel sorry for him. Mary is his biggest problem; she's become increasingly unpopular in the past few years. She could host a programme on cosmetic surgery.
But there's no way that they'll follow this advice. They can't see the reality. How can you change their image if they themselves can't see the problem?
Advertising executive. Former MD of Saatchi & Saatchi, now head of edge<ideas
Archer doesn't need an agent. He's his own best agent and is fantastically capable of recognising opportunities and rising to challenges. He will quite rightly bounce back. The minimum you would expect is a chat-show host.
My advice would be: "Don't pretend to be somebody you're not. Don't do a Hague baseball hat." "Know thyself" is the best advice that anybody can have.
The thing he's going to be most famous for is prison and even someone as self-confident as he is may feel vulnerable and susceptible to the ministerings of the snake-oil salesman. But he doesn't need to change. I think that the enlightened society we now have is more and more accepting of humanity, which is accompanied by frailty.
Chairman of Euro RSCG Wnek Gosper advertising company
It all depends on what his aim is, but it strikes me that the most successful comeback route people go down when they do these things is the born-again route. It's fool-proof. It's like when you are a kid and playing games; you can press a button that makes you invisible for a crucial 30 seconds. The born-again route is like that. It's what Aitken did. Archer has got the chutzpah to carry it off, by carrying a Bible with him whenever he's photographed.
They cannot touch you for it, once you've gone born again! It has been the fall-back of mass murderers since time immemorial, never mind small-time con artists like him.Reuse content