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Thursday, 19 July, 2001, 11:33 GMT 12:33 UK
Lord Archer: A twist to every chapter
Lord Jeffrey Archer
Archer's London flat: scene of lavish parties
Jeffrey Archer has come back from disaster more often than anyone in British public life.

But this time the truth has caught up with him and there will be no bouncing back.

Key dates
1940: Born in Somerset
1969: Elected Tory MP for Louth
1974: Resigns as MP after losing 500,000
1975: First novel huge success
1985: Deputy chairman Conservative Party
1987: Wins libel action against Daily Star
1992: Life peerage
1994: Anglia TV shares row
1995: 20m book deal with publisher
1997: Becomes favourite to be mayor of London
1999: Resigns mayoral nomination in disgrace
2001: Perjury trial
That it was perjury which finally brought about his ruin will not surprise the countless detractors and observers who felt he always had a strained relationship with reality.

Even his long-suffering wife Mary once spoke of his talent for "inaccurate precis".

There were questions over the academic qualifications that won him a place at an Oxford college, and a long-standing extra-marital affair with his former personal assistant Andrina Colquhoun.

Finally, there was the false evidence he presented to a libel jury in 1987, which he hid for 12 years before it was finally revealed to the public and courts.

Jeffrey Archer was born in Weston-super-Mare in 1940 and attended Wellington school in Somerset - not as many believed, when Lord Archer described his education, the more distinguished Wellington College in Berkshire.

Sprinter

Pushy and arrogant he may have been but his competitive streak as a sprinter took him into the British Olympic team where he ran the 100 yards in under 10 seconds.

It was at Brasenose College, Oxford, where he signed up for a teacher training certificate, that he wooed student Mary Weedon, who successively became his wife and a highly respected chemistry lecturer at Cambridge University.

Jeffrey Archer with the Beatles
Celebrity endorsement for an Archer charity campaign
Archer became a Greater London councillor for the Conservatives and then - in a by-election at Louth, Lincolnshire, in 1969 - the youngest MP in the House of Commons, aged 29.

In 1974 came his first disaster: he lost 500,000 in a fraudulent Canadian company taking him to the edge of bankruptcy and forcing him to resign his seat.

With Mary expecting their second child, he wrote a thriller with a twist at the end of every chapter: Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less.

Critics were not impressed. (As one publishing insider put it: "Jeffrey is a great story teller, it just takes a year of hard work to turn it into proper English".)

The public were, buying 25,000 copies a month at one stage. Archer's next 14 novels and three plays would net him 60m.

Fortune restored, he returned to politics, shaking hands and signing books on the constituency party circuit to boost Tory coffers.

A grateful Margaret Thatcher appointed him deputy chairman of the Conservative Party.

Fragrant

In 1986 disaster struck again in the form of tabloid revelations that he had slept with and then paid off prostitute Monica Coghlan.

Denying the more serious charge, he sued the Daily Star for libel.

Summing up, Mr Justice Caulfield's mused why a man married to the "fragrant" Mary Archer would pay for "cold, unloving, rubber-insulated sex" from a prostitute.

Mary and Jeffrey Archer
The Archers at their Cambridgeshire home
Archer won back his reputation and 500,000 damages.

Returning to public life, his Christmas parties at his penthouse apartment in London became famous, with politicians, journalists and celebrities mingling over Krug champagne and shepherd's pie.

One guest noted how the host would give directions to the toilet: "Past the Picasso and left at the Matisse."

In 1992 he was back in parliament, this time as with a peerage granted as reward for service to the party.

Scandal reared its head again two years later. Archer bought shares in Anglia Television for a friend and then sold them again yielding a profit of more than 70,000. The catch was that Mary Archer was a director of the company which was at the time subject to a take-over bid.

Dream job

Archer denied that there was any insider trading and no charges were brought, but Archer's lawyers admitted he had made a mistake.

Jeffrey Archer acting in his play The Accused
In his own play, The Accused
By 1999, after a long personal campaign, Archer had come to within striking distance of his dream job, the newly created Mayor of London.

That was the start of the final unravelling of his public life.

Appalled by the thought of Archer gaining high office, his friend Ted Francis made a sensational revelation.

He told how before the libel trial of 1987, Archer had asked him for an false alibi - that the two had been having dinner at a West London restaurant on a particular night in September 1986.

Francis thought it was to help save his marriage by covering up Archer's affair.

In fact the lie was to be used as potential evidence in his court battle with the Daily Star.

Archer resigned from the mayoral race and was stripped of his membership of the party.

After he refused to pay back damages to the Star, the police began a perjury investigation which has now ended in his conviction.

As if a conviction for perjury were not enough, Lord Archer's 87-year-old mother Lola Hayne died during the judge's summing up, forcing the peer to leave the dock to attend her bedside.



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