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Tuesday, 23 November, 1999, 15:11 GMT
Ted Francis - Archer whistleblower
Ted Francis: Thought he was protecting Archer from divorce

TV producer Ted Francis and Lord Archer's friendship goes back nearly 30 years.

During that time Mr Francis became a close confidant of Lord Archer - close enough for him to agree to lie for Lord Archer.

So why did Mr Francis blow the whistle on the millionaire writer this week?

The story of their fateful friendship goes back to 1970 when the two men first met to discuss a movie deal that Mr Francis was trying to put together.

Lord Archer: "Humiliated" Ted Francis
Mr Francis was a trained actor who had worked in the City before embarking on a career in TV and Lord Archer was then an up-and-coming Conservative MP.

Although Lord Archer could not help - and left him with a hefty restaurant bill after their meeting - the pair kept in touch.

A few years later Lord Archer was down on his luck having resigned as MP for Louth following the loss of 400,000 at the hands of fraudsters in a business deal in Canada.

He arrived at Mr Francis's West End office with a sheaf of longhand notes he hoped would bring him renewed riches.

False alibi

Within months, Not A Penny More, Not A Penny Less became Lord Archer's first published work and eventually a best-seller and TV series, netting millions.

As the author and politician made a fortune from a string of best-sellers, Mr Francis became a trusted confidant.

He assumed he was being asked to protect Lord Archer from a possible divorce when the peer requested him to lie and say they had been having dinner together on a night in September 1986.

But Lord Archer wanted an alibi in the run-up to the libel case in 1987, in which he was accused by a newspaper of having sex with a prostitute, Monica Coghlan.

In the end Archer won the case and the false alibi about the pair of them dining together was not needed.

Mr Francis said: "I arrived at the restaurant and we were sitting down with small talk.

"He (Lord Archer) said, `What were you doing on September 9 last year?' I said, `God, I don't know', bearing in mind this was four months later.

"I said `I don't know, I could check in my diary' and he said, `Could we have been having dinner?'

The Monicagate thing wasn't on my mind. I didn't put the two together
Ted Francis
"`I want you to do me a favour and say we were having a dinner. I was having dinner with somebody else on that night but it would embarrass me with Mary' (Lady Archer).

"`So will you say it was with you and not with Andrina (Colquhoun)' as it turned out."

Mr Francis said: "I was a bit reluctant to do it at first.

"As a friend it didn't have any of the characteristics of a plot as such. It was, would you do me this favour as a mate?

"I said `yes, but if it's going to end in divorce or anything, I'm not going to commit perjury for you'."

Mr Francis added: "The Monicagate thing wasn't on my mind. I didn't put the two together.

"I knew that he (Lord Archer) and Andrina were close and I connected it automatically with that. I guess there had been strains put on his marriage by his relationship with Andrina."

Soon afterwards, Lord Archer was initially receptive to Francis's development work for a children's TV series based on some Enid Blyton stories.

Mr Francis said he needed 100,000 for the project and Archer promised a 25,000 investment.

"Jeffrey told me he would like to invest 25,000 personally," Mr Francis reportedly told newspapers.

'Deeply hurt'

But when Mr Francis collected his promised money from the bank it was 12,000.

Mr Francis said Lord Archer told him the money was a gift not a loan, saying: "I don't expect to see this back, you know."

However, the arrangement was eventually to sour their friendship. Mr Francis said he was invited to one of Archer's famous 'champagne and shepherd's pie' gatherings in his penthouse overlooking the Thames in 1990.

Mr Francis was approached by Lord Archer as he was chatting to an actress, he said. Archer reportedly said: "You want to watch this man, you know. I lent him 20,000 once and I'm still waiting to get the money back."

Mr Francis said: "She was dreadfully embarrassed and I was deeply hurt. For a start it was untrue, it was only 12,000, and it was an investment, not a loan.

"He humiliated me in front of my peers. I didn't understand why."

Max Clifford's brother was at school with Mr Francis
Father-of-four Mr Francis, from Cranleigh, Surrey, went on to make the eight-part series, starring Susan George and Brian Blessed, and it was broadcast to rave reviews.

But the damage had been done and the relationship began to unravel.

When Lord Archer became the Conservative's candidate for London mayor, Mr Francis decided to sell his story.

Publicist Max Clifford, brother of Bernard Clifford, with whom Mr Francis had been at school, helped him make a 20,000 deal with the News of the World.

Mr Francis said: "I disapproved of the idea of Jeffrey Archer becoming Mayor of London. That basically is the motivation."

However, his decision to sell his story could backfire.

Legal experts said Lord Archer could be taken to a civil court and ordered to pay back the 500,000 awarded to the novelist by the Daily Star for libel, plus 13 years of interest.

But should the authorities decide to launch a prosecution for conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, Mr Francis could be targeted as well as Lord Archer.

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See also:
22 Nov 99 |  UK Politics
Repay money, newspaper tells Archer
21 Nov 99 |  UK Politics
Q&A: Archer's legal dilemma
21 Nov 99 |  UK Politics
Hague under pressure over Archer
20 Nov 99 |  UK Politics
Profile: Jeffrey Archer
22 Nov 99 |  UK
Bullseye for Clifford's arrow
20 Nov 99 |  UK Politics
Hague left fuming as Archer falls
21 Nov 99 |  UK
Love is: Marriage to Jeffrey
20 Nov 99 |  UK Politics
Archer statement in full
20 Nov 99 |  UK Politics
A mayor for the millennium

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