IF YOU were to write an epic novel set inside the Conservative Party over the past 20 years, Neil Hamilton would be your central character.
In the Eighties when greed was good and the Tories consistently won elections and law suits, Hamilton put out the writs and dined at the Ritz. He became a minister, and in what must have been a particularly thin year, was named "Parliamentary Wit of 1990". Ten years on he is a ruined man, his party is in tatters but bizarrely, neither of them really believe that they have done anything at all wrong.
The level of self-deception is almost heroic. Christine Hamilton is the upper-middle class equivalent of those angry mums who storm into the head teacher's office shouting, "My Darren never done nothing! He always gets picked on by you teachers for burning down school buildings just 'cos he happened to have some firelighters and a box of matches in his pocket." Against all the evidence Christine still believes that her husband is being picked on. Never mind that Parliament found him guilty, never mind a jury found him corrupt, never mind that 60 per cent of voters in a safe Conservative seat voted for the anti-sleaze candidate. She's his little boy and they're all ganging up on him again.
There is an enormous arrogance that comes with this refusal to admit the error of your ways. When you consider how great Neil Hamilton's fall has been, only then do you get a sense of the level of pride that came before it. Unlike John Profumo who accepted his fate and threw his life into charitable works, today's Tories are proven to be dishonest and then just carry on lying about their innocence. The bizarre thing is that when Hamilton and Archer and Aitken look indignant and victimised they really seem to believe it. They've heard their own lies so often that they have finally become convinced by them. The look of outrage and injustice on the Hamiltons' faces outside the High Court reminded me of the incredulous expression of Mr and Mrs Ceausescu when they were executed in Romania 10 years ago this week. They really can't see what they have done wrong.
Neil Hamilton has now achieved the almost impossible task of making Mohamed Al Fayed look like the good guy. Of course, as a Fulham supporter, my problem with Al Fayed is that he is not nearly corrupt enough. All season I have been appalled by our club chairman's consistent failure to bribe referees. Week in, week out, outrageously fair decisions are made in favour of the opposing teams. Not one visiting goalie has been sent off for handball. Not one penalty has been awarded for blocking a Fulham shot on …