Magazine article The Spectator

There's More to Lord Archer Than You Will Read in the Evening Standard

Magazine article The Spectator

There's More to Lord Archer Than You Will Read in the Evening Standard

Article excerpt

What did you do in the Archer years, Daddy? I hope I can give an acceptable account of myself. On one occasion, in 1990, I think, I was refused entry to Jeffrey Archer's party at the Imperial Hotel in Blackpool during the Tory party conference. Quite a distinction, I would submit: the man who could not even get into an Archer party. Another time, probably during the late 1980s, I chatted with the great novelist for a few moments at a party in a garden square in Chelsea. He struck me as a rather obnoxious fellow; he may well have felt the same about me. So far as I can recall, I have never exchanged another word with him, or written a single line about him.

Will this do? I'm not sure. Over at the London Evening Standard our old friend Sir (if I may anticipate the honour) Max Hastings has been building up an enormous head of steam. Like most of the rest of humanity, Sir Max spotted some time ago that Lord Archer is a bit of a bounder. The difference is that, while most other people thought the point too obvious to be worth mentioning again and again, for several months Lord Archer's hopes of becoming mayor of London have made Sir Max rage like a bear with a bad foot. On Monday he uttered a great cry, partly of anguish and partly of triumph, in the leader column under the headline, borrowed from Trollope, `The Way We Live Now'.

Sir Max's point was that 'a man who has lied, bamboozled and battered a path to public office' should never have been given houseroom by the establishment - that's chaps like Max. He couldn't for the life of him understand how sensible people could have attended the awful little man's parties and eaten his shepherd's pie. On another page of the Evening Standard there was a list of those foolish people who have taken nosh at Lord Archer's place. Among the journalists listed were Michael White, political editor of the Guardian, and Charles Moore, Sir Max's successor as editor of the Daily Telegraph. It's a bad show, according to Max, a very bad show. At the end of his diatribe, he called Lord Archer 'a small man whose chief asset was limitless cheek, who never achieved real power'. Aha! Are we to infer from this that if he had been truly powerful Max would have had more respect for him?

Of course Sir Max Hastings is right, as he bludgeons the political corpse of Jeffrey Archer, to tell us that such a man was unfit to be mayor of London. (In the old days someone like Michael Ancram would have had a quiet word with him and told him that it was not on.) But I fear that Max does not grasp the whole point. We don't expect the News of the World or the Daily Star to show any imagination, but Max - well, I had my hopes. Surely the question he should have asked himself was why high-minded people like Michael White and Charles Moore ate Lord Archer's shepherd's pie and doubtless drank his Krug. Was it because they were corrupt? Of course not. Or in search of a free meal? It seems unlikely. Nor was it Lord Archer's power which drew them to his penthouse overlooking the Palace of Westminster, since, as Max has pointed out, he didn't have much of that.

So what was it? Michael White offers us some clues in a piece he wrote about Lord Archer for the Guardian on Monday. `Pushy, manipulative and ambitious, his vices were obvious to most people, including friends and colleagues. So were his virtues. When it suits him he can be funny, charming, hard-working (always), enthusiastic and loyal.' So Max was not, in fact, the first person in the world to notice that Lord Archer does not have the manners of a gentleman. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.