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Thursday, 23 December, 1999, 14:50 GMT
The odd couple behind the odd couple




Commentators have often dubbed Neil and Christine Hamilton "The Odd Couple".

Libel Trial
But attention is now focusing on what might seem as their "odd couple" of backers. Lord Harris of High Cross and the Earl of Portsmouth (aka "Q") are two maverick peers identified as the key financial backers of Mr Hamilton's libel action against Mohamed al-Fayed.

Lord Harris, 75, organised the fighting fund that raised 410,000 to enable Mr Hamilton to take his libel action to court.

He is a director of Times Newspapers, owned by his fellow free-marketeer Rupert Murdoch.

He has a well-established reputation for being a hard-right Thatcherite. Indeed, he was ennobled by Margaret Thatcher in her first honours list in 1979 - the year she became prime minister. He sat on the crossbenches in the Lords as a demonstration of his independence.


Mohamed al-Fayed wants to pursue Hamilton's financial backers in order to retrieve his costs
After Tottenham Grammar School he went to Cambridge, where he won a first in economics. A period as a lecturer at St Andrews University followed, during which time he also twice unsuccessfully stood in Scottish seats for election to Parliament.

In 1957 he helped found the Institute of Economic Affairs, the right-wing think tank that mapped the course of Thatcherism throughout the 1980s. He is currently the IEA's president.

He has served as chairman of the fiercely anti-Europe Bruges Group, on the board of the Ross McWhirter Foundation and is on the board of the pro-smoking outfit FOREST. In the latter capacity, he was heavily involved in the unsuccessful campaign to reverse smoking bans on train services - even though he admitted he never commuted by train himself.

'Q'

Less is known about the Earl of Portsmouth, or "Q" as Lord Harris at first cryptically referred to him. His family name is Quentin Gerard Carew Wallop.

In a letter to the Telegraph newspaper on Thursday, the 54-year-old earl confirmed he had made a "substantial contribution" to the Hamilton fighting fund.

His financial support for Mr Hamilton is not the first occasion the 10th earl of Portsmouth - the title dates back to 1743 - has bankrolled an individual who goes on to lose a high-profile libel case.

The peer gave generously - 376,000 - to the historian Nikolai Tolstoy for his libel trial after he falsely accused Lord Aldington of sending Cossacks to their death at the end of the second world war.

But the earl can easily afford to dole out the cash in this way. Estimates put the family wealth at around 120m, including Farleigh House and 3,500 acres near Basingstoke.

He was educated at Eton and Millfield. Since 1992 he has been president of the Basingstoke Conservative Association.

He is a non-executive director of and the largest shareholder in Grainger Trust plc, the family property company. Last year the firm registered a profit of 8.4m.

Between 1981 and 1984 he was married to the author Candia McWilliam, with whom he had two children. He remarried in 1990, and had another daughter.

In the House of Lords, where the earl no longer has the right to sit and vote following the ejection from the second chamber of most hereditary peers, he kept a low profile. He asked no questions and spoke a mere 52 words in the 1997 parliamentary session.

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See also:
23 Dec 99 |  UK
Libel fighting funds under scrutiny
22 Dec 99 |  UK
Hamilton 'brought it on himself'
22 Dec 99 |  UK
Q&A: Legal options left to Hamilton and al-Fayed
22 Dec 99 |  UK
Hamilton legal bill soars
22 Dec 99 |  UK Politics
Who is the new Q?
22 Dec 99 |  UK
Hamilton's 1m hang-up
22 Dec 99 |  UK
The undoing of Neil Hamilton
22 Dec 99 |  UK
Hamilton: I'm a broken man
22 Dec 99 |  UK
Al-Fayed to show no mercy
21 Dec 99 |  UK Politics
Christine and I
21 Dec 99 |  UK Politics
A victory for Parliament
21 Dec 99 |  UK
Hamilton: I'm broke
21 Dec 99 |  UK Politics
Tories just glad it's over

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