ARCHER: THE LORD OF THE LIES; in the Wake of This, the Latest Story from the Great Storyteller, How Can We Ever Again Believe Anything He Says?

Daily Mail (London), November 22, 1999 | Go to article overview

ARCHER: THE LORD OF THE LIES; in the Wake of This, the Latest Story from the Great Storyteller, How Can We Ever Again Believe Anything He Says?


Byline: GEOFFREY LEVY

LIKE so many old aphorisms, the one that proclaims Cheats Never Prosper is based more on wishful thinking than on reality. No one proves how credulous and gullible we have become more than Jeffrey Archer.

All his life he has lied and cheated to better himself. Usually his fabrications have been accepted without question, and when questioned he has been given the benefit of the doubt.

Long after he was first exposed as a serial liar with major question marks against his character he was still being treated like one of the great and good. He was appointed deputy chairman of the Conservative Party, elevated to the House of Lords and, currently, was the popular choice to represent the Tories in the race to be the first Mayor of London overseeing a budget of billions.

He had also made an estimated [pounds sterling]60million largely from writing novels. Not bad for a man with no A-levels and who failed English O-level, personal details that were, as we shall see, denied his early employers.

Not even Jeffrey would have dared invent a fictional figure so outrageous, so untruthful, as himself.

So completely has he created confusion about his life that the only safe way to separate fantasy from reality is to go back to his beginnings, about which the noble Lord has talked in detail and at length.

For example, Jeffrey Archer has always said he was born in Somerset. In fact he was born on April 15 1940 in the City Road area of inner London and taken off to Somerset by his mother, as were thousands of other children, to avoid the Blitz.

His late father, William Archer, described himself as a journalist on Jeffrey's birth certificate.

At various times when Jeffrey Archer was a young politician of growing celebrity, he would talk with swelling breast about his family's military traditions, though the details sometimes changed.

His father was variously described as a First World War medal-winning sergeant in the Somerset Light Infantry, a colonel in the same regiment, a British consul in Singapore and an officer invalided out of the service.

In fact his father, who was 64 when Jeffrey was born, was a solicitor's clerk and a Stepney councillor who was a bigamist, a conman and - like Jeffrey - a fake. He evaded arrest for fraud by leaving England for New York in 1914 when other men were leaving for the trenches.

Archer made other spurious claims about his forebears, including one that his grandfather had been mayor of Bristol.

Still, what's an antecedent or two when a young man is on the way up?

Although, of course, while a fascinating family hinterland was useful, his fantasy family was never, by itself, going to take him where he wanted to go.

Clearly, he had to create qualifications which he'd never earned, to go with the family background that never existed.

When he presented himself at Dover College, Kent, for the advertised post of PE master, he was able to show them a glowing CV that told a story of considerable academic and physical success.

In addition to three A-levels (in Geography, History and English) that he didn't have, the CV said that he was the holder of an Honours Diploma International Federation of Physical Culture from Berkeley University, California.

Berkeley has no record of Archer's stay there. Not surprisingly, since he obtained his 'Honours Diploma' from a correspondence course run from a single room in Chancery Lane, near London's law courts.

The CV also said he had spent a year at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, doing an Army PTI course and had also been a member of the Duke of Wellington regimental basketball team. Sadly, neither Sandhurst nor the regiment has any record of this.

Archer had been educated at Wellington School, a minor public school in Somerset, not to be confused with the famous Wellington College in Berkshire with its strong military tradition, though Archer has never objected to any confusion. …

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