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Last Updated: Friday, 4 February, 2005, 17:27 GMT
Faces of the week
Faces of the Week

Our regular look at some of the faces which have made the news this week. Above are Neil and Christine Hamilton (main picture), with Robert Kilroy-Silk, Pete Doherty, "Baby 81" and Ivan Noble.

Neil and Christine Hamilton

Neil and Christine Hamilton, the couple who have used their humiliation as a breakdown recovery vehicle, are seemingly firing on all cylinders again after success against publicist Max Clifford in a lawsuit.

He has agreed to pay an undisclosed amount to the Conservative ex-minister and his wife over comments he made in 2001.

Clifford's remarks concerned a woman he was representing who was later jailed for perverting the course of justice after falsely accusing the couple of sexually attacking her.

Reports suggested the damages amounted to 100,000, although the Hamiltons, as brash as ever, maintained that was "a wild underestimate".

Milking their moment of publicity is what the Hamiltons do, ever since they determined to jump through media hoops to regain the lifestyle they once enjoyed.

The downfall of the Tory Minister for Corporate Affairs began in 1994, when he quit over allegations that he had accepted cash from Harrods' boss Mohammed Fayed to ask questions in the Commons.

Controversial views

Three years later, it led to Hamilton losing his parliamentary seat to former BBC correspondent Martin Bell, who stood as an anti-sleaze candidate.

And Hamilton's financial ruin was apparently complete when, after losing a disastrous libel case against Fayed, he was declared bankrupt in May 2001.

The ship might have been full of holes, but the Hamiltons determined to keep it afloat. Interviewers have formed the impression that it's normally Christine at the helm.

Her husband's origins are not as one might imagine. Born into a coalmining family in south Wales and attending state schools, Mostyn Neil Hamilton "reacted against everything in my upbringing".

The Hamiltons on a theme park ride
Another day, another photo-op, for the Hamiltons

He qualified as a barrister. But, from the age of 12, he'd wanted to be a Conservative MP, an ambition he realised in 1983 by winning Tatton in Cheshire.

While he was decidedly to the right, he and another MP won a libel case against the BBC over a Panorama programme which claimed the the pair were supporters of extreme right-wing groups in what Hamilton said was a "preposterous" misrepresentation of student pranks.

But there were other controversies. He dismissed the reaction to his idea that people should be allowed to sell their body organs as "humbug", admitted making a tasteless suggestion to a Labour MP that his IRA friends could shoot pensioners dying of cold and insisted that General Pinochet's takeover in Chile was "a good thing".

But it's Christine who's worn the trousers since before they married nearly 22 years ago: "I proposed to Neil. It was not a question. It was an order."

A doctor's daughter, she was better-versed in political life than he, after working as an MP's secretary for 25 years. And, after hard times arrived, it was she who took charge of the survival strategy.

She played up the caricature of tartar, with a book called Christine Hamilton's Bumper Book of Great British Battleaxes.

Reinvention

Both recognised they could make money by being a laughing-stock, appearing on television dressed as butchers' hams and, for charity, on a magazine cover wearing only fig leaves.

Other engagements included suspender-clad roles in The Rocky Horror Show and Christine's appearance in I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!

She makes no secret of her pleasure in flirting, as she did with Louis Theroux on the show which unexpectedly featured the Hamiltons' arrest for the phoney sex charge.

"The greatest joy about being middle-aged and happily married is that you can flirt outrageously and nobody takes you seriously," she says.

She also admits she likes a drink, especially to cope with stress: "Gin really hits the spot."

By "mining the rich seam of popular culture", as Neil Hamilton puts it, including a healthy advance for his wife's autobiography, to be published in the spring, the couple are on the crest of a financial wave.

From the dark days when they re-used birthday cards, they have now acquired a new home in Wiltshire, a seven-bedroom pile set in 11 acres.

Christine Hamilton reflects: "We've managed to reinvent ourselves and I think we're incredibly lucky, at the age we are, to have been able to start again."


Kilroy: New party
Robert Kilroy-Silk

The Euro-sceptic MEP and former chat show host, Robert Kilroy-Silk, has launched a new political party called Veritas, the Latin word for "truth". Mr Kilroy-Silk, who represents the East Midlands in the European Parliament, resigned from the UK Independence Party last month. Vowing to clamp down on immigration and end what he called the "nonsense" of multiculturalism, he says he will stand in the Labour-held Derbyshire seat of Erewash in the forthcoming general election.

Arrested: Pete Doherty
Pete Doherty

The former frontman with the rock group The Libertines, Pete Doherty, has been charged with robbery and blackmail. The singer, said to be currently dating supermodel Kate Moss, was taken to a police station in north London following an alleged scuffle with a film-maker. The self-confessed crack cocaine addict, who recently formed a new band, Babyshambles, has claimed to have spent 1,000 a day in the past to feed his habit.

Confusion: Baby 81
"Baby 81"

A Sri Lankan baby who survived December's Indian Ocean tsunami has been given police protection after a couple claiming to be his parents tried to snatch him from hospital. The boy, dubbed "Baby 81", was admitted after being found under a pile of debris on December 26. Since then, nine women have said the child is theirs, although only the arrested couple, currently awaiting the result of a DNA test, has formally claimed custody.

Ivan Noble: Praised
Ivan Noble

Tribute has been paid in the House of Commons to the BBC News journalist Ivan Noble, who has died from a brain tumour aged 37. Noble, who was diagnosed with cancer in August 2002, wrote a regular online diary about living with the illness which provided inspiration and hope to people around the world. A Commons motion, signed by nine Liberal Democrat MPs, speaks of its "admiration for his courageous fight".

Compiled by BBC News Profiles Unit's Chris Jones


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