Lord Archer asked journalist 'to forget their conversation'

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Indy Politics

Lord Archer's dinner on the evening of 9 September 1986 has proved to be his costliest ever. What happened at the Sambuca, a small bistro near Sloane Square, in fashionable south west London, has destroyed his dreams of a political career and left him with the real prospect of prosecution and a prison sentence for alleged conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

Lord Archer's dinner on the evening of 9 September 1986 has proved to be his costliest ever. What happened at the Sambuca, a small bistro near Sloane Square, in fashionable south west London, has destroyed his dreams of a political career and left him with the real prospect of prosecution and a prison sentence for alleged conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

It was the revelation last weekend by his former friend Ted Francis that Lord Archer had asked him to falsely say he was at the meal, which led to the peer pulling out of the contest to be the mayor of London in ignominy. Now the latest allegations by Adam Raphael, a distinguished journalist, about the same dinner, at the same restaurant, have heaped more trouble upon the author.

Mr Raphael's claims go further. In an article in The Economist magazine, Mr Raphael says that Lord Archer, then deputy chairman of the Toryparty, asked him to "forget" a conversation that would have major bearing in the court case the peer was facing. When Mr Raphael refused, Lord Archer is alleged to have perjured himself in the witness box.

Lord Archer had been accused by the Daily Star newspaper of sleeping with a prostitute, Monica Coghlan. The newspaper claimed, at first, that it happened on the night of 9 September 1986. Itlater changed that to the previous evening, the 8th.

But before this happened, Lord Archer had been busy getting himself an alibi for the 9th. He asked Mr Francis to lie and say he was dining with him at the Sambuca that night. When this deception unravelled last weekend, the peer claimed he had been trying to protect his real dining companion, a woman, from unwelcome publicity. He steered the media towards Andrina Colquhon, his former personal assistant. It was suggested that the reason for his apprehension was that he had promised his wife Mary that he was no longer seeing Ms Colquhon, and promised Margaret Thatcher that she had no reason to fear any embarrassing publicity emanating from him.

Mr Raphael has discovered that Lord Archer's office diary stated he was dining with Terence Baker, a theatrical agent. This was potentially a far more dangerous scenario for Lord Archer if it ever came out. Mr Baker was his key alibi for the night of the 8th and testified in court that Lord Archer had been with him at the Le Caprice restaurant and then driven him back to his home in Camberwell, South London, when the Daily Star claimed he was seeing Monica Coghlan. Mr Baker's version of events was accepted by the jury and Lord Archer went on to receive £500,000 in damages as well as £700,000 in costs. Mr Baker died in 1991.

Mr Raphael's other extremely damaging claim is that Lord Archer asked him to forget a conversation which was potentially extremely helpful to the Daily Star's case. The journalist, then with The Observer, and a colleague, Rupert Morris, of the now defunct Sunday Today newspaper, both say they had been told by Lord Archer that he had met Monica or "Debbie" Coghlan "casually" six months previously.

Mr Raphael refused, and went on to be a witness for the Daily Star. He also gave a detailed account of the conversation with Lord Archer to the Observer's then in-house lawyer, Julia Braybrook.

Mr Raphael also claims that Lord Archer had in effect prepared an "A-list" and "B-list" of alibi witnesses for the 8th and the 9th, something the jury were not told. Mr Raphael's allegations not only raise more questions about Lord Archer's veracity, and the judgement of William Hague in backing him as the Tories' mayoral candidate - detectives from Scotland Yard, who are already investigating the peer, are also, it is believed, taking a keen interest in the latest claims.

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