Miss Ordinary and Me, by Her Steamy Seducer; Last Week Anne Diamond Told for the First Time of Her Affair with the Former Tory Minister Jonathan Aitken. Here, He Responds with His Own Memories of TV-Am's 'Perky Girl Next Door'

Article excerpt

Byline: JONATHAN AITKEN

By Jonathan Aitken pictured at the time of his affair with Anne Diamond in 1983

JUST over a week ago I was dozing peacefully in bed on Saturday morning only to be roused by the unusually piercing voice of my wife Elizabeth asking: 'How is the steamy seducer today?' This is not Elizabeth's normal style of address before breakfast to her faithful husband. The shrill tone of her question was equally abnormal.

I was puzzled. The only clue was that my wife was reading the Daily Mail with intense concentration. 'What's up?' I asked sleepily.

'The game's up,' retorted the fierce voice.

'You're all over the papers for having an affair with Anne Diamond.' Logic was noticeably absent for the next few minutes in the Aitken household, with my wife's insistence on using the present tense about these goings on with Miss Diamond.

After I had repeated: 'But these things happened 22 years ago,' about 16 times, Elizabeth's interrogation took an unexpected turn.

'Were you going out with me at the same time?' she enquired.

'No,' I replied. 'As the paper says, I met Anne Diamond in 1983. You and I first went out between 1976 and 1977.' (It was not until 2001 that we got back together before finally marrying in 2003).

'Well, you shouldn't have let the story get out,' said Elizabeth, dropping her voice to a lower level of decibels. I made the point that I had let absolutely nothing get out. This did not stop my wife from reading aloud the jewels of Miss Diamond's Mills & Boon-like prose.

After listening to lines like 'I was lying in the Jacuzzi peering through the steam at my handsome boss . . . intimate dinners shared in chic London restaurants . . . expertly and subtly seduced', I was cringing.

My embarrassment grew when I remembered that, that same evening, I was scheduled to speak at an evangelistic event at St George's Church in Ashtead, Surrey. How many of the 400 worthy folk expected to be present would have read these ancient revelations and react disapprovingly, I wondered?

My life had moved on but an episode from my past had caught up with me. For a while I felt irritated and upset. Yet, as I thought more about Anne Diamond, and later in the week actually read her book, I came round to the view that I should see her life story in a fairer perspective.

When I first saw Anne she looked like a miraculous answer to prayer. It was not religious prayer, nor were my initial reactions to her looks coloured by the faintest feelings of romantic interest. All that concerned me was the question: Is Anne's the face that will save 600 jobs and an entire TV station from going bankrupt?

The background to these looming catastrophes and Anne's role in preventing them is quite a story.

Although TV-am eventually became successful and profitable, in 1983 it was a disaster zone. The viewing audience for the first experiment in breakfast television, expected to be more than three million, was below 300,000.

Advertising revenue dried up to a trickle. Costs spiralled out of control.

The celebrated line-up of presenters dubbed 'the Famous Five' (David Frost, Michael Parkinson, Robert Key, Angela Rippon and Anna Ford) jumped ship, or were in some cases pushed overboard, as was the chief executive Peter Jay.

Amid boardroom rows, losses of [pounds sterling]1million a month and media mayhem, I was parachuted in as acting chief executive to make a fresh start - which required fresh faces.

I hired Greg Dyke as director of programmes. I approved Roland Rat as the star of the children's slots. I promoted Nick Owen from sports reporter to frontline presenter. All three of the new boys done good. But we desperately needed a new girl.

One morning Greg Dyke and I were looking at tapes of young women reporters and newscasters working for various ITV regional programmes. …