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Thursday, 19 July, 2001, 15:54 GMT 16:54 UK
'Rascal' will return, say friends
Lord Archer
Before the fall: Archer in his London penthouse
Lord Archer's friends and onetime Conservative Party colleagues have reacted with little surprise to the guilty verdict passed on the disgraced peer.

While many expressed sympathy for the novelist who is now starting a four-year prison term for perjury, there was a wide consensus that his public disgrace was inevitable.


I hope at this difficult time everyone will also remember the many kind and generous things Jeffrey has done

John Major

Several of them questioned the judgement of a succession of leading Tories who had been taken in by Archer's combination of charm and hospitality - despite warnings of lack of integrity.

And there were questions as to whether his jailing will knock the standing of the party.

Former Conservative MP Matthew Parris described him as a "rogue and a rascal but a very human character".

"He's been knocked down often enough, sometime by chance sometimes by his own actions, and he has spun back often enough."

Mr Parris said the perjurer gained the trust of Tory party leaders John Major and William Hague "when any one of us could have told them what everybody knows about the man".

'Much cherished' at dinner tables

He added that when Archer leaves prison he would not be shunned by his close friends in political circles and would remain "a much cherished guest" at the dinner tables of London.

Tory MP Peter Bottomley
Peter Bottomley: Archer is like a rubber ball
Mr Major, who has remained a loyal friend to Lord Archer since granting him a peerage, commented: "I am deeply, deeply sorry at the outcome.

"I hope at this difficult time everyone will also remember the many kind and generous things Jeffrey has done."

Peter Bottomley MP, a friend of Archer's, said the peer was "a rubber ball" who "has ways of bouncing back that most of us would envy".

Describing the former Tory party vice-chairman as a "complex person", he said he was partly a victim of the media and partly a victim of himself.

Resilient

He urged those writing about the peer to remember some of the good he had done.

Lord McAlpine, a former treasurer of the party, said: "This is just another twist in a tangled and deceptive career."

Jonathan Aitken, another senior Tory jailed for perjuring a libel case, said: "A prison journey can be a positive experience."


And I can assure you there will be no tears shed in this village following the verdict

Len Baynes, a regular at Lord Archer's local pub
He said that Lord Archer, who like him was due to be sent to Belmarsh prison in East London, would face some "rough customers both in uniform and prison uniform".

Mr Aitken said that someone with the "resilience and courage" of Lord Archer would manage to make his sentence "a life enhancing experience".

Labour MP Andrew Mackinlay called for Lord Archer to be stripped of his peerage.

"For some reason that is inexcusable and indefensible, when he comes out of prison he could be back in the House of Lords chamber on the same day," he said.

A Downing Street spokesman said there were no plans to introduce laws to allow life peers to lose the right to sit on the Lords.

Trust

Bernard Ingham, press secretary to Lady Thatcher when she was prime minister, said: "It's not done the Conservative Party any good at all."

But he sought to exonerate his former boss and others who promoted Archer, saying: "You have to go through life on the basis of trust or otherwise life is impossible."

Regulars at the Blue Ball Inn in Lord Archer's home village of Grantchester, Cambridgeshire, had little sympathy for him.

Regular customer Len Baynes said: "I wasn't surprised at the verdict.

"The man has been a man of power and riches and he has shown the arrogance of all men who have power and riches.



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