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The BBC's Robin Oakley
"Party officials say Archer has thrown himself onto the scrap heap"
 real 28k

Sunday, 21 November, 1999, 23:07 GMT
Tories to re-run mayor contest
Conservatives are struggling to find a replacement candidate

The Tories have begun the hunt for a new candidate for mayor of London to replace the disgraced Lord Archer.

Jeffrey Archer quit as the party's candidate for next May's election after admitting he had asked a friend to provide a false alibi for him before a libel trial.

I would want to be given a pretty clear steer that I was the candidate the party was looking for
Steven Norris
Those hoping to step into his old shoes are being invited to apply by 6 December to be considered for a one-member, one-vote London party ballot.

The Tories plan to name their new candidate by mid-January, before the Labour candidate is announced.

Party chairman Michael Ancram said they had considered giving the nomination to former transport minister Steven Norris, who was heavily defeated in the original ballot.

But they decided he would always be regarded as a "second-best" candidate if they did, he said.

"I would hope Steven Norris would apply," he added.

But Mr Norris told the BBC he would only consider re-entering the race if given a "clear steer" from the Conservative Party that it will back him as its choice for London mayor, in the same way that Labour is backing Frank Dobson.

Norris had been the frontrunner
"If it is pretty clear there is that confidence there and the conditions are right I shall talk to my colleagues and come to a decision in due course," he said.

He said he would have preferred to be given the candidacy outright, but was convinced the party was not being "malign".

Mr Norris was dismissive about his own colourful media reputation.

"In professional and technical terms I am probably far and away the best candidate for the job," he added. "People know me individually, they can take me or leave me, it's their choice."

Threat of criminal charges

Scotland Yard has confirmed it is considering criminal charges against Lord Archer after the weekend's revelations.

It is thought he could be prosecuted for conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

The matter will now be considered to determine whether any further action is necessary
Scotland Yard
A friend of Lord Archer's, Ted Francis, told the News of the World that the peer had asked him to say he had dined with him at a Chelsea restaurant on 9 September 1986.

Lord Archer was suing the Daily Star for libel after it accused him of sleeping with prostitute Monica Coghlan. He has always denied the allegations and was awarded 500,000 damages.

The Daily Star originally claimed the alleged assignation with Ms Coghlan was 9 September 1986, but changed the date to 8 September in court, meaning Mr Francis was never needed as a witness.

In his statement, Lord Archer said: "Of course I should not have asked Ted to cover for me, even though it was beyond question that I was in the restaurant that night; I was simply trying to protect the person I was with."

The Mail of Sunday has reported that Lord Archer was dining with his then personal assistant, Andrina Colquhoun, on the night in question.

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See also:
21 Nov 99 |  UK Politics
Q&A: Archer's legal dilemma
21 Nov 99 |  UK
Love is: Marriage to Jeffrey
21 Nov 99 |  UK Politics
Hague under pressure over Archer
20 Nov 99 |  UK Politics
Profile: Jeffrey Archer
20 Nov 99 |  UK Politics
Archer statement in full
20 Nov 99 |  UK Politics
A mayor for the millennium

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