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Tuesday, 21 December, 1999, 18:07 GMT
Tories just glad it's over

Neil and Christine Hamilton: Lost libel case

After yet another blow to its reputation the Conservative reaction to the Hamilton libel verdict was simply to be glad it had come to an end.

The jury hearing the case in Court 13 at the High Court had proved unlucky for former Tory MP Neil Hamilton. They ruled he had taken cash to ask parliamentary questions.

Michael Ancram: "End of episode"
Conservative Party chairman Michael Ancram responded quickly to the verdict, but kept his comments brief.

"I have noted the verdict of the jury and I hope that this is the end of a sad and unpleasant episode which has been damaging to our party," he said.

He also issued a stern reprimand to Mr Hamilton and his wife Christine to abandon their crusade to convince people they had been wrongly accused.

"I trust that the personalities involved will now retire from the scene," Mr Ancram said.

"They certainly can expect little understanding from this party if they do not."

'Genuine sorrow' - Bell

Martin Bell, who defeated Mr Hamilton at the last general election to become MP for Tatton, said it was not a time for triumphalism.

Martin Bell: "Genuinely sorry for Neil and Christine Hamilton"
He said: "I feel genuinely sorry for Neil and Christine Hamilton, I am after all their constituency MP.

"I supported their right to contest this matter in court, although I'm a bit surprised they did."

He said that Sir Gordon Downey, whose committee found against Mr Hamilton, was vindicated as were the people of Tatton.

Mr Bell said Mr Hamilton could consider a future career in television.

"He's had his day in court, he's lost and no doubt he will find another way to earn a living," said Mr Bell.

"He has celebrity, he's clever, he's witty, maybe a career in television perhaps."

Support from Tatton Tories

Mark Stocks, chairman of the Tatton Conservative Association, said the court verdict drew a conclusion to an unsavoury episode for the association.

Libel Trial
Reading out a statement, he said the local Conservative Party was surprised by the High Court verdict.

He said he did not want Mr and Mrs Hamilton to leave the constituency and wished them well in the future.

Mr Stocks said: "I think it's fair to say this draws to a conclusion what has been an unsavoury period for the association and I hope this is the final instalment of what has been for those in politics a bizarre story."

A statement by George Osborne, who has been chosen to fight Tatton at the next general election for the Conservatives, said: "Today's verdict speaks for itself. There can be no place for corruption of any kind in British politics.

"Long before this court action Tatton Conservatives had drawn a line under the past and we're now looking to the future with confidence.

"That's why I was chosen as the new prospective parliamentary candidate earlier this year. In the months since I have set about listening and learning and rebuilding the bond of trust between the Conservatives and the people of Tatton."

Nick Harvey, the Liberal Democrat campaigns manager, said: "This is a timely demonstration of the decay which has rotted the modern Conservative Party right up to ministerial level.

"The Archer resignation, the Ashcroft saga, the Woodward sacking, the Norris fiasco, the Woodward defection, and now the Hamilton humiliation.

"This grim month for the Conservatives shows how remote from power and bereft of hope they now are," he added.

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See also:
21 Dec 99 |  UK
The al-Fayed libel trial
21 Dec 99 |  UK
Profile: Mohamed al-Fayed
21 Dec 99 |  UK
Hamilton loses libel case
21 Dec 99 |  UK
Hamilton verdict - reaction at-a-glance

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