Senior Tories, past and present, are tying themselves in knots over Jeffrey Archer's efforts to rejoin the party. Central Office first denied that he was back in the party, then confirmed that he had submitted an application. Michael Howard said that it would be up to his successor to decide what to do about it, while David Cameron, the man most likely to succeed him, said that, even if Lord Archer did rejoin, he - Cameron - would not allow him to retake the whip.
Entertaining though this spectacle is to watch - David Mellor's uncompromising stand against Lord Archer's rehabilitation offering one of the weekend's more pleasurable diversions - the better course is surely magnanimity. Lord Archer was suspended from the party for five years after his conviction for perjury. Having served his prison term, he deserves the same chance to resume his life as any other ex-offender.
The reluctance of some senior Tories to welcome Lord Archer back into the fold is understandable. The man is not just a rogue, he is an incorrigible self-publicist and unlikely to stay out of the headlines for long. But if it is legal for him to sit in the Lords - which it is - why should he not rejoin his local party? He can manage without the whip.
Strange to say, had the Government proceeded with its plans for further Lords reform, Lord Archer would have found it harder to resume his political career. As someone sentenced to more than 12 months in prison, he would automatically have lost his seat. But the reform plans were shelved. Perhaps ministers knew, when they abandoned them, that this bane of the Tory party would be the first beneficiary.