Magazine article The Spectator


Magazine article The Spectator


Article excerpt

Truth is on the march

Sir: Stewart Steven certainly hit the bull'seye, judging by the reaction of Neil Hamilton and Tiny Rowland to his article `The case for Mohamed' (12 October).

As Stewart is in hospital with other things on his mind, I must try to set these two chaps straight, starting with Tiny's assertion that Stewart did not read the files; he did, and that is why he wrote the article, not at my prompting but at that of the editor of this journal.

As for Mr Hamilton, if he is right, why did he not tell his tale to a judge before a jury? If they had believed him, he would have received so many wheelbarrows full of money in damages he could have retired in the luxury he adores. Instead of fighting his libel action, he attempts to rewrite history. It will not do.

Let me set the record straight. I wrote through my solicitors to the chairman of the Members' Interests Committee, Sir Geoffrey Johnson Smith, on 5 December 1994, setting out all the payments in cash and Harrods gift vouchers demanded by Mr Hamilton between June 1987 and November 1989, a grand total of 28,000.

Mr Hamilton is wrong about the gift vouchers - at the time they did not carry serial numbers.

He is wrong to question the reliability of three respectable witnesses who would have given evidence in court to support my testimony. Those witnesses - a trainee solicitor at a leading London law firm, a senior secretary whom no man could bend to his will and an experienced security officer - were prepared voluntarily to go into the witness box. Mr Hamilton has demonstrated that he was not. If he wants to challenge their veracity, he should have done so in court.

He is wrong to state that I uttered threats to try to secure a meeting with the Prime Minister in order to demand the withdrawal of the Department of Trade and Industry report into my acquisition of House of Fraser. A press release issued by the Crown Prosecution Service on 25 November 1994 stated that there was no substance to the charge of 'blackmail' which had been made against me one month earlier under the cloak of parliamentary privilege in the House of Commons. Mr Major was unwise to lend his credibility to that charge and has never apologised for it, nor has the parliamentary record been set straight.

Mr Hamilton is wrong to imply that I have bought Mr Steven's good opinion. He is a respected former editor of the Mail on Sunday and the London Evening Standard and his papers have won awards for exposing corruption. He needs no further defence from the likes of Mr Hamilton.

In making so much of an unconnected court case concerning a German lawyer and events in the Arabian Gulf, Mr Hamilton weakens his case further. Dubai is a long way from Big Ben and even further from Tatton.

There is much else in Mr Hamilton's article which could with profit be disputed and there are things he conveniently doesn't mention. His government colleague Tim Smith acted with honour by admitting he had received payments and promptly resigned. Mr Hamilton disputed the case against him until even the long-suffering Prime Minister had had enough and kicked him out.

What he writes must be between himself, his conscience and the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, Sir Gordon Downey, who is charged with investigating this matter not for the public but on behalf of Parliament. It is up to us whether we believe Mr Hamilton. He quotes poetry to denigrate the profession of journalism which has exposed him. Allow me to quote a renowned journalist, Emile Zola, who fought for truth in a case where those in power sought to suppress it: `Truth is on the march and no one can stop it now.'

As for the stirrings from Tiny's riverside retirement home, it is good to see the old boy is still alive, as I quite like him too. What he says about me (Letters, 19 October) he published in Hero from Zero eight years ago and it was discredited then. If I retailed such shopworn tat, I would be had up under the Sale of Goods Act. …

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