Man at centre of Archer scandal breaks his silence

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The man at the centre of the Lord Archer scandal was today breaking the public silence he has kept since disclosing that the disgraced politician asked him to provide a false alibi in a libel case.

The man at the centre of the Lord Archer scandal was today breaking the public silence he has kept since disclosing that the disgraced politician asked him to provide a false alibi in a libel case.

Ted Francis's first interview this morning will add to Lord Archer's growing sea of troubles as he remains hidden from sight at his Cambridgeshire home.

The millionaire author, who was forced to pull out of the race to be Mayor of London, yesterday had the Conservative whip removed by Tory leader William Hague who accused him of giving "false assurances" about his integrity.

To add to Lord Archer's misery, an appeal was launched last night by the Daily Star against his libel victory over its claims that he slept with a prostitute.

The newspaper, which paid £500,000 damages and £700,000 legal costs in the case, issued a statement saying it had instructed its lawyers to prepare an appeal on the basis of "fresh evidence".

It added: "Our lawyers have today written to Lord Archer asking him to repay to us the £500,000 damages plus costs awarded in this action plus interest."

Editor Peter Hill estimated the money to be "a small matter of £3 million".

Mr Francis sold his story to the News of the World, prompting the peer to stand down on Saturday from the London mayoral race.

Since disclosing that Lord Archer asked him to provide a false alibi in a libel case Mr Francis has kept a public silence, but he is due to give his first interview to Talk Radio between 11am and noon.

Meanwhile, publicist Max Clifford, who is acting as Mr Francis's agent, says there may be more scandal to come.

"I have had two other people who have come to see me over the last year or so about Jeffrey Archer," Mr Clifford said yesterday.

"Both of them contacted me after the allegations came out at the weekend saying they now want to see me to talk about what they know and their experiences of Jeffrey Archer.

"What happens now depends on what they've got to say, what they can prove and what they're prepared to do about the situation," he told Sky News.

Journalist Adam Raphael, who was closely involved in the original libel case, indicated too that he had fresh details to disclose.

He cast doubt on whether Lord Archer's dinner companion on the night the Daily Star originally accused him of sleeping with prostitute Monica Coghlan was in fact his aide Andrina Colquhoun.

"It would be absolutely perfectly natural for him to be dining with her and indeed it would not cause him much embarrassment and indeed it certainly wouldn't cause her much embarrassment, so I think that was just another name he invented really to get him out (of trouble)," Mr Raphael said.

He told Channel 4 News: "There is a reason, which I am not in a position to disclose at this point, why he put forward Andrina's name rather than the person he really was dining with that night.

"I know the name of that person he was dining with that night, at least I know what was in his diary."

The Conservative Party announced that aspects of the allegations against the millionaire would be referred to the party's ethics and integrity committee.

Lord Archer will also lose the Tory whip in the House of Lords, effectively expelling him from the Parliamentary party.

Mr Hague said last night: "This is the end of politics for Jeffrey Archer. Let me make this clear - I will not tolerate behaviour like this is in my party.

"He has let the Conservative Party down badly. He misled the party chairman and the new allegations were cause for us to take the action that we took and refer him to the ethics and integrity committee."

Meanwhile, Scotland Yard confirmed that the senior detective who helped jail Jonathan Aitken for perjury has been called in to investigate Lord Archer.

Detective Superintendent Geoff Hunt has been assigned to examine the allegations of conspiracy to perjure made against Lord Archer.

A Scotland Yard spokeswoman said an investigation was opened after a letter was received from the Daily Star.

She said: "The Star wrote to us and asked us to investigate. The same Detective Superintendent Geoff Hunt is leading the investigation, but I think you will find that it is purely coincidental. He was not appointed because he led the Aitken case."

At Lord Archer's home in Grantchester, Cambridge, his assistant Stephan Shakespeare told reporters last night: "He knows he has done wrong and he is exceptionally sorry."

Mr Shakespeare said Lord Archer had spent the day writing letters of apology. He said: "He's extremely upset, extremely sorry, couldn't be more sorry. He's on the floor."

Michael Crick, Lord Archer's unofficial biographer, said there were many stories about the novelist that were "worse" than the weekend disclosure about the alibi.

Mr Crick said he expected some of the stories would come to light in the next few weeks.

The Daily Star today says Lord Archer has three days in which to return the money he won in libel damages or face legal action.

Publishing its deadline, the newspaper says it has instructed a firm of solicitors to write to the peer advising him that an application is being prepared for the Court of Appeal to re-examine the libel case verdict in light of his admission that he asked Mr Francis to provide a false alibi.

On its front page, the paper says: "We have given him until 5pm on Thursday to pay up voluntarily."