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Tuesday, 23 November, 1999, 18:06 GMT
Archer affair takes new twist
Ted Francis denies profiting from Archer affair

By political correspondent Nick Assinder

The Jeffrey Archer affair has taken a new twist after the man who ignited it admitted he was writing a book which might draw on his experiences of the disgraced peer.

As Lord Archer faced the ultimate humiliation of expulsion from the Tory party, his former friend Ted Francis insisted he was not about to make new revelations about him.

But he also confessed his new book could include fictionalised accounts which drew on his personal experiences of the millionaire author.

His words came during an hour-long radio interview in which he insisted he had broken his 13-year silence because Lord Archer was standing for the job as London Mayor.

But when asked by interviewer Derek Hatton - the former Militant boss of Liverpool council - whether he was planning to reveal more about Lord Archer he said: "No."

Any other stories he had were anecdotal and of no great relevance, he insisted.

New book

But his publicist Max Clifford interrupted to ask him: "Do you think that all the things that were going to be in part two of the News of the World article will ever come out in any form - possibly in a fictitious book?"

Mr Francis suggested his forthcoming book would do exactly that and replied: "You write from what you know."

He rejected claims that his revelations about Lord Archer had been part of a campaign to plug his book.

But, when Mr Hatton said the book would now be a great success, he replied: "I hope so."

While that led some to question Mr Francis' motives, there was no doubt that the damage done to Lord Archer is terminal and that there may still be more to come.

Speaking on the same programme, Mr Clifford suggested other people had now come forward with further revelations.

He also said he had spoken to Lord Archer earlier this year and warned him that, now he was standing as mayor, he must know what was going to happen.

He claimed the peer had replied. "I know. I must be mad."

Fair game

And there is little doubt that Lord Archer is now "fair game" and can expect his entire past life to be trawled over for other incidents.

Meanwhile Tory leader William Hague was facing renewed attacks on his judgement for failing to block Lord Archer's candidacy in the first place.

He acted swiftly to punish the millionaire novelist once he admitted persuading Mr Francis to lie for him 13 years ago in a desperate attempt to limit the damage and appear decisive.

Lord Archer has had the Tory whip in the Lords withdrawn, may be kicked out of the party and, according to some, could even face having his life peerage taken away from him.

All eyes are now turned on the disgraced peer himself. He has still failed to appear in public since the devastating revelation and is said to be at home writing letters of apology to those he believes he has let down.

But the overwhelming view in parliament is that, this time, there is no way back for him.

Even if he escapes punishment through the courts, he has already done enough damage to the Tories to ensure he never makes a comeback.

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