Captain Moonlight: Jonathan Aitken

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The Independent Online
THE CAPTAIN has always been a sucker for the underdog, so I must say my old heart went out to poor Jonathan Aitken as venom and vilification descended on the new Chief Secretary to the Treasury when he happened to point out in passing that many people on housing benefit were living in houses too big for them. As if Aitken's 10- bedroomed house in Westminster and six-bedroomed house in Kent had anything to do with it. Or the dining-room that can seat 50. What these people forget is that Jonathan is a self-made man. After Eton and Oxford, he had to face the world with only pounds 5,000 inherited from his MP father. True, his uncle, Lord Beaverbrook, gave him a job on the London Evening Standard, but the contacts he forged with the Saudi royals, which have proved so successful in his subsequent career as a financier, were all his own. I asked Philip Beresford, who produces an annual work on the rich, how much Aitken was worth. An impenetrable matter, said Dr Beresford, but, he estimated, oh, at least pounds 30m. While I'm here, I should also pass on Mrs Aitken's tips for entertaining: rotate your menus and use a butler. Spinach roulade with prawns and Grand Marnier mousse used to be favourites, but I expect they're on that Sainsbury economy diet now.