It was a small step for a man, but a giant leap for a former Tory behind. Lord Archer of Weston-Super-Mare's long road to political rehabilitation began in earnest yesterday when he plonked his pin-striped bottom on the Conservative benches of the House of Lords for the debate on Section 28.
Less than than seven weeks since he was expelled from the party for "dishonest" behaviour, the millionaire novelist was allowed back in his usual seat as an "independent Tory".
His previous attempt to rejoin the active life of the Lords ended in humiliation a fortnight ago when crossbenchers and Tories, it was claimed, refused to allow him near them. However, Lord Strathclyde, the shadow Leader of the House, decided yesterday to show some compassion. The Lord Chancellor raised an eyebrow on spotting him, while Lord Bragg's bouffant barnet quivered in mild disgust. But otherwise, true to the Lords' tradition for civility, the reaction to his presence was muted.
With the Tories keen to defeat the Government on its plans for revising Section 28's ban on the promotion of homosexuality, Lord Archer was welcomed as an extra supporter. But the Conservative Central Office deniedthere would be any rapprochement. "We obviously want to win this vote... There's no question of him coming back early," a spokesman said.
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