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Sunday, October 31, 1999 Published at 12:29 GMT


UK Politics

Archer accuses Labour of smear campaign

Lord Archer with wife Mary: Blair is "orchestrating plot against him"

Lord Archer has accused the government of conducting a smear campaign to prevent him becoming mayor of London.

The Conservative candidate for the post made the claim after a report appeared in The Guardian newspaper suggesting a new inquiry was to be held into a controversial share deal.


[ image: Stephen Byers: Reports say he has asked for investigation into share deal]
Stephen Byers: Reports say he has asked for investigation into share deal
The paper said Trade and Industry Secretary Stephen Byers had a senior civil servant examine whether fresh disclosures about the affair from the former Tory party chairman warranted a full inquiry.

The millionaire novelist reacted by accusing Mr Byers of leaking the report as part of a "pre-planned Labour smear campaign".

'Bribes and smears'

He claimed Prime Minister Tony Blair was orchestrating the plot to smear both him and Labour rivals to the prime minister's preferred candidate, former Health Secretary Frank Dobson.

Lord Archer said: "Over the last few weeks, we have seen the prime minister see off Nick Raynsford, bribe Trevor Phillips, rubbish Glenda Jackson, smear Ken Livingstone, and now it's my turn."

The row was sparked by a letter to The Economist magazine from a City law firm over the 1994 deal which saw Lord Archer buy £250,000 worth of Anglia TV shares while his wife Mary was on the board.

Acting for Kurdish associate Broosk Saib, the peer was involved in the purchase of 50,000 shares days before a takeover bid by media tycoon Lord Hollick was accepted, and sold them within hours at a profit of £77,219.

A Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) investigation into the deal was set up, but no action was taken against Lord Archer.

'No money from deal'

But The Guardian said Mr Byers felt the letter from Lord Archer's lawyers Eversheds differed from previous explanations of the transaction.

The letter said Lord Archer made no money from the deal, following an article in the magazine's September edition.

A DTI spokesman refused to comment on the newspaper report, but in a statement Lord Archer said: "There will be no new inquiry, only a leak from Mr Byers.

"In spite of their spin there is no new information to base this on."

Lord Archer defeated former Conservative transport minister Steven Norris to secure the nomination as Tory candidate for London mayor.

His opponents in next May's election will be Frank Dobson, Glenda Jackson or Ken Livingstone (Labour) and Liberal Democrat Susan Kramer.





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