Magazine article The Spectator

When I Was Furious with Mr Heseltine

Magazine article The Spectator

When I Was Furious with Mr Heseltine

Article excerpt

I AM not a supporter of Jeffrey Archer's candidature for mayor of London. Like all sensible Conservatives I support Ken Livingstone. The Tories have no chance of winning this election and Red Ken would be a thorn in more painful parts of Blair's anatomy than his side. So Jeffrey would not get my vote.

Nevertheless, I could not help sympathising with Archer last week as a multitude of well-aimed arrows pierced his body. The Tory establishment fired so many at him that by Sunday he was looking like a latter-day St Sebastian. Loyalty is traditionally `the Tory party's secret weapon'. In mv experience (which I may reveal one day), it is one of their best-kept secrets. Where the establishment is concerned, of course, loyalty is something expected of, not owed to, others.

McKinsey Man has decreed that Jeffrey has acquired rather too many cupboards bulging with skeletons in the course of a life which would have to be written up as fiction on the grounds that publishers would find it too incredible to publish as autobiography.

It has to be said that there have been embarrassments and mysteries. One in particular resurfaced last week. I refer to the question of Jeffrey's alleged insider dealing in Anglia TV shares. You remember the basic facts. In 1993 he recommended a Kurdish friend to buy some Anglia TV shares, which duly rose as though fuelled by Viagra when news of MAI's proposed takeover hit the streets a few days later, producing a quick profit of more than L50,000.

Jeffrey's Midas touch again. How does he do it? Some unkind folk suggested that, as Mary Archer was a director of Anglia at the time, it was all too obvious how he did it. They assumed Jeffrey had been caught `in fragrante' - passing on inside information obtained from his wife.

Thus it was that our paths crossed professionally. In 1994 I was corporate affairs minister at the DTI. As such I was the prosecuting authority in insider dealing cases (Michael Heseltine had delegated day-to-day responsibility for such technical jobs to me).

Well, there's a turn-up for the books! Hamilton responsible for prosecuting criminal infractions of business probity! The fox in charge of the hen-house and no mistake. No wonder Archer got away with it and was never prosecuted! So runs the mind of the Guardian conspiracy theorist.

When insider dealing is suspected, the DTI appoints inspectors (usually professionals from its investigations division) to report on the facts. They have draconian powers to compel the production of documents and the appearance of witnesses.

I received their exhaustive report in due course and decided to take no further action. Jeffrey has apparently been going around saying it exonerated him. The Guardian and other humble seekers after dirt have been calling for its publication.

Such reports are not just confidential. It is actually a criminal offence to communicate their contents to unauthorised persons. I would, myself, be criminally culpable if I spilled the beans here. As I am in enough trouble already my lips are sealed. But I can say this: such reports do not exonerate anybody, any more than they convict them. Their sole purpose is to see whether ther e is enough evidence to justify a prosecution. In this case there wasn't. …

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