Jeffrey Archer


Life. It’s so…implausible don’t you think ?
“Absolutely,” snapped back Jeffrey Archer, with a suave smirk. “Every single day of your life implausible things happen. I’m afraid that’s true.”

Where does one begin the story of Jeffrey Archer ? I thought I could begin at the end, but I couldn’t get the twist, the punchline. Or perhaps begin with an Archer-esque opening line, but then I read his new book of short stories and an opening line that went “Gerald Haskins and Walter Ramsbottom had been eating cornflakes for over a year” (‘Not The Real Thing’).
The idea of even hoping to match that seemed, well, implausible. Perhaps I could start in the middle, with Jeffrey Archer’s sudden hot loss of temper, a quick explosion that seemed more inevitable than implausible. Or maybe it was just implausibly predictable.

As this is what Jeffrey Archer, quoting Alistair Cooke, would call “an in-depth article written on a half-hour interview”, we could start with the wildly implausible idea that Jeffrey Archer is not interested in himself.
“I’m just not interested,” he claims. “I don’t study myself. I refuse to join in your game of being introverted.”

I had been trying to sneak in some insidious insults in the guise of debating Mr. Archer’s ‘public image’. It didn’t work.
“I’m not willing to discuss the public’s view of me, or any view of what I think the public thinks of me with someone I don’t know. The public treats me very kindly… The public’s idea is never accurate on any individual. The public know about one tenth. For example, I’ve never seen a really good assessment of Norman Tebbit or of Douglas Hurd. You can never really capture the human being.”

Could anyone capture the human being in Norman Tebbit ? It struck me as being almost as implausible as the idea of Jeffrey Archer telling me: “I adore Dennis Skinner”, or of asking me, with deep suspicion, as he does lately: “What does ‘symbolism’ mean ?”

Is this any more plausible than the fact that Douglas Hurd’s novel Palace Of Enchantments features a psychiatrist who recommends that the hero undergoes a course of “intellectual hydration – say a Harold Robbins or a Jeffrey Archer twice a month” ? Or the fact that the tape begins with Archer’s childish chortle and ends with an ingratiating: “Many thanks, most kind, much appreciated”, when only a few days later his querulous voice is thinly threatening me on the telephone, saying, “I wouldn’t want any unhappiness to come out of this…”

But then in a world of implausible characters (Norman Tebbit, Justice Caulfield, me), Jeffrey Howard Archer is the most implausible of them all. As we all know, if there’s anything more implausible than Jeffrey Archer’s stories, it’s Jeffrey Archer’s story. After all, look who’s writing the script.

A classic, clichéd Aries like myself, Jeffrey Howard Archer’s story began when he was born in London’s City Road, EC1, the only child of one Lola Cook and his enigmatic father, William Archer. Archer’s unauthorized biographer Jonathan Mantle reports that William Archer “described himself as a journalist”, although “the neighbours, for some reason, knew him as ‘Captain Archer’.”

Were you a spoilt child ?
“Spoilt in the sense that my mother was a very good mother, yes. But we were war babies. We were all on ration books. I never had clothes like the ones you’re wearing.”

When I tell him the clothes are cheap, he snaps back: “Sure. So I repeat, so it really gets home. I never had clothes like the ones you’re wearing… We didn’t possess your advantages and privileges. Oh ! I don’t envy you. Good luck to you ! The next generation will have even more.”

Your father died when you were 15.

Was that a pivotal episode in your life, one that strongly fashioned your character ?
“No ! That’s all psychological bunkum ! I don’t believe any of this rubbish and neither do you. You’re far too intelligent. Nothing to do with making me want to stand out, no ! I was very saddened, of course, but my mother had warned me for some years he had bad war wounds… I think losing all my money on one day and having to leave the House of Commons was not fun, no doubt that shaped the rest of my life.”

Because of the war, Archer spent nearly all his childhood in Weston-super-Mare and at the age of 11 went to Wellington, a Somerset boarding school – not, as some people would later freely assume, the distinguished Wellington College where the governors are approved by the Palace. He excelled at sprinting, rugby, tennis and reading aloud.

“I was very energetic. Keen. Enthusiastic. All I wanted to do at that age was play cricket for England. I like to do things. I’m not interested in being somewhere for the sake of it.”
This is spat out with despising scorn.
“I was a revolutionary. A revolutionary of the Right. I remember at school daring to tell the English Master that I wanted to take the lead in my own play as well as produce it. This was incredibly revolutionary ! Children in your school wouldn’t have been given a second thought,” he gloats, erroneously – unsurprisingly given that he knows nothing about my school whatsoever.

“I was considered a revolutionary ! They tried very hard to stop me… I would say I was quite well read. I enjoyed Just William, Arthur Ransome, then just before University, I discovered Scott Fitzgerald, Graham Greene. The first book to really make an impact was A Tale Of Two Cities. My first love of literature came through theatre – at the Bristol Old Vic. Peter O’Toole was the bright young actor. We all thought he was the most exciting thing on stage.”

Were you political ?
“I can’t pretend I was that politically motivated, but I think I was always a Conservative. My mother was a local councilor, so I suppose I discussed politics with her. All those Fifties plays are period pieces today because the working class today are more middle-class than we’ve ever been ! They’re all off having a nice time in the South of France or Spain while I’m struggling here working !”

We both look around the room – his famous penthouse flat, with its stunning views of the river, the city and closely over-looking Westminster.
“…And I think that’s wonderful !” Jeffrey Archer says the word ‘wonderful’ as if it had three ‘w’s, as if it really was his favourite word.

You might think it unlikely, but Jeffrey Archer, in my mind almost as much as in his, is a very decent chap. Incredibly, he still thinks that the rest of the world is as decent-minded as he is. He assumes I am a ‘gentleman’ and when he realises I am no such thing, he panics, and snaps and snarls into an impetuous temper, as if angry at himself for being so naïve. I was shocked to see he is still so irascible, and that his temper is so vicious. Any questions referring to sex are met with expert caution.

Should Britain have a different attitude towards its sex laws, toward sex ?
“I haven’t given it a great deal of thought to be honest.”

I mention Italian porn-star politician Cicciolina, and ask him if he knows her. He hastily points out he knows of her, as any reputable man would do.

Archer has the cavalier confidence unique to the very rich. This, together with his old-fashioned chivalry and that suave smirk, will appear – to those who don’t like him – as glib superciliousness. Trying to be friendly, he ends up treating us like nine-year-old whippersnappers, barking at photographer Richard Dean: “You’re doing well, sir !” as if he wants to be everyone’s favourite strict uncle.

His opinions, always forthright, come in rapid, clipped tones; as stereotypically English as Bertie Wooster or Biggles. He dismisses John McEnroe, for example, in two words – “No manners.”

Jeffrey Archer is really playing the hero in his own Boy’s Own Adventure, fighting for principle, for honour, for decency. He’s terribly old-fashioned.

It’s a dreary day – a grey gale has blown all the colour out of the sky. Archer is “struggling away” in a spacious Sixties-modern Penthouse apartment that once belonged to groovy Bond-composer John Barry.

The building is a grey, featureless tower block opposite the Tate Gallery, with a famous panorama to which all Archer’s interviewers are encouraged to refer. Looking out at the stained office blocks that loom over the pop-up Houses of Parliament on one side, and the dying carcass of Battersea Power Station on the other, as a police riverboat chugs up the tired Thames, it seems that London hasn’t changed at all. It got left behind in the Seventies. It looks like a faded blow-up postcard of red-bus London, or the opening credits from an old episode of The Professionals.

Archer revels in the setting, loves being listened to, loves explaining which of the paintings on his wall is the Picasso and which the Pissaro.
Do you like Lowry ?
“Love him. I’ve got five.”

The walls are cluttered with art in a way that suggests someone rather over-eager to impress, to over-compensate. A classic landscape of Weston-super-Mare (“My mother’s house, here”) sits next to a lurid Pop Art picture of ketchup and chips. A neat, marble Henry Moore figure sits in on the interview. I ask him, for some reason, how much it’s worth.
“That’s a vulgar question which I shall not answer,” he huffs with a certain flair but not much seriousness.

He tells me his Desert Island choices would feature: Dickens, Blake’s biography of Disraeli, Mac Davis’ ‘Oh Lord It’s Hard To Be Humble (When You’re Perfect In Every Way)’, Mozart and Wagner – “because I’ve never understood him.”
He poses away happily in a blue shirt and yellow Conservative Party tie – no doubt envisaging another shot of the House of Parliament sitting subliminally on his shoulder. But later he expects any other details of the interview’s setting – the paintings and so forth – not to feature in the interview. This is, at best, implausibly naïve.

How did Archer get where he is today ? (And he is exactly the sort of person who can – and will – launch into a vainglorious declaration, beginning ‘I didn’t get where I am today…’)

He left school without any A-levels, drifted through a series of jobs in hotels and cafes, worked as a deckchair attendant, and spent a brief spell in the army. He took a five-month police training course and was posted to Brixton, but left there after just four weeks (later denying to the Times Diary that he had ever been a policeman). Without qualifications, Archer would ‘get on in the world’ using his fierce ambition, his remorseless dynamism, his athletic abilities, his talent for cultivating influential contacts, and his crucial knack for winning over important ‘father figures’.

Still only 20, he became PE master at Dover College with a CV that made reference to Wellington, Sandhurst, and anHonours Diploma in Physical Culture from the University of Berkeley in California. Indeed, his biographer Jonathan Mantle quotes several occasions particularly early in his career, on which Archer might have been accused of “inaccurate précis”. His father, for example, has been reported at various times in interviews as being British Consul in Singapore, a Royal Engineer and a Colonel in the Somerset Light Infantry. Archer has been, at the very least, a little slow to correct other people’s assumptions about him.

His headmaster at Dover encouraged him to apply for a one-year Post Graduate Diploma of Education at the Oxford Institute. It seems to have been generally assumed that he had a degree. At ‘Oxford’ he became an Oxford Blue and, remarkably, the first President of the influential Oxford University Athletics Club not to have been an undergraduate. Sir Noel Hall, principal of Brasenose College, arranged for him to stay on for two years, doing “research into physical education”. He was appointed as a governor of Dover College and married the beautiful prodigy Mary Weeden (a Congratulatory First at Oxford University), whose invaluable presence helped him become the youngest-ever GLC member at the age of 27.

For the next few years, the ebullient and eager Archer devoted himself to an astonishing amount of self-publicity and fund-raising for the likes of the National Birthday Trust, the United Nations Association and Oxfam, where his daring, unorthodox schemes involved, at times, the participation of the likes of The Beatles and American President Lyndon B Johnson. Mantle records how, at the age of 11, he broke the Boy Scouts’ ‘Bob-A-Job’ Week record. Years later, and with equal determination, he would begin writing in an attempt at raising half a million pounds – for himself.

Together with Sir Noel Hall and two governors of Dover College, Major-General Sir George Duke and Sir William Oliver, he formed Arrow Enterprises, specializing in fund-raising and in organising large social functions for the United World Colleges, the British Empire and the Cancer Relief Fund. Help was enlisted from, amongst others, Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, Grace Kelly, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Queen Mother, the Prince of Wales and Lord Mountbatten. Arrow became the official fund-raisers for Ted Heath’s pro-EEC group, European Movement. The calibre of the contacts he generated in this period would, and surely will, prove invaluable. Inevitably, he was elected MP for Louth and finished the Sixties with his two most cherished and often-professed ambitions – to become Prime Minister and to be a millionaire before the age of 30 – both still intact.

Archer is a neat symbol for the way that the Tory philosophy of self-help and self-motivation will almost inevitably include a degree of Self Destruction. From nothing he creates a perfect world, from which he creates nothing. Etcetera.

On the strength of an investment of £180,000 already made by the Bank of Boston, Archer was persuaded to borrow £270,000 and invest it in a dubious share-promotion company registered on the notorious Montreal Stock Exchange. The scheme, however, turned out to be a clever and elaborate fraud. Three directors of the company subsequently went to jail after the fraud became apparent in May 1974, and Archer was faced with a bankruptcy notice and debts of £427,727. He resigned from the Commons, and his shocked wife Mary was moved to make a rare public comment: “life with Jeffrey is never dull.”

Archer’s conceit is considerable, of course, as well it might be. When I inadvertently make light of his recovery from debt, the eruption that follows is preposterously disproportionate. I casually remark that in my opinion Tories had no idea about what it was like to live on the dole.
“I have far more than you, young man. Far more than you will ever have.”

I don’t think so.
“That’s most unfair ! For an intelligent young man, that is a most unfair statement and if your article is going to be as unfair as that you shouldn’t write it !”

Sorry, have I missed something ?
“I am a Tory and proud of it and I was in debt for £427,000 and took seven years and three months to pay back with my own work. So don’t tell me what it’s like to be on the dole ! I know what it’s like not to be able to pay any bill that comes through the door !”

So do I. So do most people on the dole.
“Try that on someone else !” he explodes. “That is a grotesque statement ! Seven years and three months ! None of these people on the dole know what it’s like to be in debt for half a million !”

I try to point out the two situations are not comparable, but he is ranting indignantly.
“A wife and two kids ! Nowhere to live ! Debts of half a million ! Try that on someone who thinks his problem is that he’s unemployed !”

It becomes clear that, in fact, Archer is so proud of what he’s done, so pleased with himself, that he has simply seized the opportunity of reiterating it. Within minutes he is using the very opposite argument to this one and is shouting derisively: “How can I know what it’s like for a teenager to live on the dole !”

His tirade seems too implausible to be very convincing, and he soon calms down, telling me: “The reason I went for you is, don’t ever come at me about what it’s like to be down. If you find anyone who’s been lower down than I have, I want to meet him !”

I would later read in Mantle’s biography that the Archers survived by selling their 18th-century constituency cottage in Lincolnshire and his white Daimler (ANY 1). Archer gave his paintings to the bank as security and stayed at home in South Kensington with the two boys while Mary Archer, by now an international authority on solar energy, went on an American lecture tour, and subsequently took up the lectureship post at Cambridge University. Then Archer rang Sir Noel Hall and borrowed the room in which he sat down to write his first novel.

We return to his writing career. Only two of the twelve short stories in his new collection, A Twist In The Tale, are “totally the result of my own imagination”, he says. Certainly his writing is based very much on experience. His first novel was the story of a share-promotion fraud. It featured the names of several of his friends, as well as the real life Fraud Squad Detective who investigated the Montreal fraud, and the hero’s wife was named ‘Mary’. Other novels have featured political careers, bankruptcy, super-success, fatherlessness, and so on. This collection of stories is set in a world of cricket clubs, good food, good drink, good company, art, wagers, skiing, squash, power lunches. His world, in fact. Has he the imagination to write about anything outside his world ?

“Something about your generation you mean ? You mean, a punk-rock story about a drug addict ? No, I could not ! I know nothing about it. You must write about what you know about and what you experience. In the case of Kane and Abel, I wasn’t born in a forest in Poland or the most beautiful house in Boston. For things like that one has to do research.”

Archer’s success as a novelist is perhaps the most implausible phenomenon in British fiction. He has been published in over 80 countries, in 20 languages and can boast sales approaching 50 million. His agent, Deborah Owen (wife of Doctor David), assures me that “Jeffrey’s very big in Poland”, that “he’s a superstar in Japan” and that “he’s pirated in China”.

Then of course there’s America. Jeffrey Archer is one of Britain’s biggest-selling authors today. Consistent hardback sales of 170,000 are, I’m informed, “unparalleled”, even by the likes of Le Carré, Clavell, James Herbert, Stephen King and Jackie Collins. The BBC are currently adapting Not A Penny More… while Paramount will make A Matter Of Honour, the rights of which were bought by one Steven Spielberg, reputedly for a million dollars.

The new book of short stories, however, is almost implausibly appalling. Archer’s style ranges from a clichéd parody of Tales Of The Unexpected to the awkwardness of Michael Frayn’s Tin Men, with lines of stilted dialogue and idiosyncratic simplicity which surpass even Spitting Image’s Archer parodies: “’There aren’t many British boats’, said Christopher, sounding unusually patriotic, the way he always did, Margret reflected, the moment they were abroad.” Or “’Come off it Dad. The pay’s good and you’ve shown that there’s always plenty of extra money to be picked up with overtime. I don’t mind hard work.’”

Woefully inane, preposterous and predictable, only ‘The Perfect Murder’ – which masters an elementary sense of suspense – and ‘Christina Rosenthal’ have any of the weight or characterization of the far superior first collection, A Quiverful Of Arrows.

“I like ‘Christina Rosenthal’,” Archer says. “I think it will be a film. It’s not as good as ‘Old Love’, which is the best thing I’ve ever done. I will never find another story as good as that in my life. It’s sad when you’ve done something you will never equal.”

How good a writer are you ?
“I’m a story-teller. I like to tell a story that begins ‘once upon a time’ and ends with a good last line that makes you think. I’m not a Graham Greene or a Patrick White. I don’t have great literary style and I never will have. I tell a yarn and hope you enjoy it. That’s all I ask.”

Can someone so fiercely competitive be satisfied with that ?
“I’m not capable of writing anything important. Never. I’d love to. But it doesn’t frustrate me one little bit, not as long as 50 million people buy them. The critics last time compared the stories to Maugham and Galsworthy and my wife quite rightly said, ‘They couldn’t write either !’”

Do you think you compare to Maugham ? I haven’t read him.
“If you enjoy these, you’d enjoy Maugham,” he assures me with admirable skill. “Have you read HH Munro ? You will really love him ! O Henry was probably the greatest American short story writer ever. Dahl ? Excellent, excellent. Of the modern writers, excellent. The last line is so often the whole story. You know what it is before you start. It’s the last line that has the magic… Economy’s very important. What you mustn’t do is bore in a short story. A short story is just that. There must be no flesh.”

Certainly, I think to myself, there’s no flesh on the characters. Is there room for symbolism ?
“What does that mean ?” he asks suspicious etched across his brow. For instance, in one story one character has the same suit as another and they turn out, against the odds, to have a similar mentality. That could be symbolism.
“Certainly not ! Certainly not ! I leave that to cleverer people like you. I’m not clever enough for that. I write to tell a yarn. Nothing clever about it.”

Realism ?
“Look. They’re fairy stories. I’m not in the game of realism.”
Again he seems to sneer at the word. Even so, he won’t accept that his stories, even though they’re ‘fairy stories’, are implausible.

“Barry Humphries had lunch with me yesterday. He told me a story.” The crisp, clipped tone tells you Jeffrey Archer is about to prove it’s the world that’s implausible, not his stories.

“Twenty years ago he bought a painting. When he got divorced from his wife they split the pictures. They lost one of them. He was broken-hearted because, although it wasn’t expensive, he loved it. Twenty years later he arrived at Heathrow, was driving back from the airport and it came out of a house with two workmen who threw it on a pile… Or, how about someone climbing the walls of Buckingham Palace, getting into the Queen’s bedroom and having a cigarette with her ! Every single day implausible things happen. Look at that Jane Eyre book where the whole story rests on a letter being put under a door and going under the carpet ? Ha. Not a bad writer either.”

Actually, it was Tess Of The D’Urbervilles, not Jane Eyre, but never mind. Myself, I find it highly implausible that Margaret Thatcher could win three elections. Jeffrey doesn’t.
“History will say she’s the best Prime Minister this century.”

Who will be the next leader ?
“Margaret Thatcher.”

No, the next leader ?
“Margaret Thatcher.”

How implausibly irksome.
Michael Foot, I begin to tell him… “The best speaker I ever heard,” he interrupts, immediately regretting it as I continue. Michael Foot told BLITZ that Mrs Thatcher had no sense of humour.
“That’s how little he knows her. It’s also a very unkind thing to say. She doesn’t have a ‘Have you heard the one about the Irishman, Englishman, Scotsman ?’ type of humour, but if you say something witty she’s very aware of it.”
No examples are forthcoming.

Politics, I suggest, is full of implausible characters.
“Hahaha, I wouldn’t dare say.”
Dennis Skinner is one of Jeffrey Archer’s favourites.
“He uses the system brilliantly, but he doesn’t cheat. He is no fool. He’s been cruel about me, but never unfair. I tease him back, sure – about him going to Oxford.”

Are there any aspects of Mrs Thatcher’s legacy you don’t fully support, any doubts ? A political question receives a politician’s answer: “We all have doubts. Where we’re going with the old, law and order, drugs and drink and how to control them while allowing people their freedom. That is a major problem for the Home Office and I hope and know that Douglas Hurd and John Patten are taking it very seriously.”

Is violence a symptom of the way the classes are polarising ?
“Competing you mean ? I’m sure that’s worthy of great intellectual discussion.” The ferocity of the sneer shows a considerable contempt and resentment for this notion.

England seems to have become a country where it’s easier to get rich and harder to stay poor.
“There may be an element of truth in that. There will always be those left behind in every society. I hope it’s not harder. The Government should be aware of that group and make their lives as good as possible. It doesn’t always work out.”

When I suggest how difficult it is to live with dignity on the dole, his snap response is: “You think it should be a life of luxury, do you ?”
The limit to Jeffrey Archer’s liberalism is soon apparent.

It’s worth remembering that, despite all appearances, Jeffrey Archer is not really in politics anymore. He lasted just over a year as Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party, before the News Of The World splashed its sordid story across the front page: TORY BOSS ARCHER PAYS OFF VICE GIRL. The Star haplessly followed suit, provoking a libel suit that proved more gripping, hilarious and implausible than anything Archer has ever written. That court case finished a year ago. Rather implausibly, the new short stories feature an Old Bailey trial, something on the techniques of adultery and a teasing game of chess-sex.

“Coy ? I think naïve’s a better word. Perhaps the public likes my being coy. It’s really only in the eyes of people trying to be mischievous. If I can’t write about a series of things that I’ve been through, you’ll cut out half the things the public are interested in !”

Would you behave like the man in ‘Checkmate’, a story about a game of strip-chess with a girl of whom you say, “shaking her hand was a sexual experience” ?
“That story was given me by a friend,” he answers, ignoring my impertinence. “I don’t play chess. I had to research that very hard. I talked to a couple of Masters.”

Do you enjoy wagers ?
“Not particularly. I don’t need to.”

The trial seems to have aged Archer considerably. His face appears grey and squinting, and his forehead is scratched with a deep lattice pattern – enough squares for a Noughts and Crosses tournament. I ask if there was any lasting effect on him.
“No. Absolutely not. Possibly it made me more skeptical. I’m by nature a trusting person. I give people the benefit of the doubt, perhaps too often. I refuse to become a cynic. I don’t think about the trial now, no. I can’t be bothered.”

I suggest the judge was quite an implausible character. There is a certain smirk but no comment. In one part of his summing-up he referred to the colour-blind TV presenter Aziz Kurtha in imagery that touched on Cardiff Park, the Grand National, Peter O’Sullivan, Lord Oaksey, Iain Rush and Pot Black, adding: “If he did play snooker, you would not mind a game with him, would you ? Would you not lay guineas to gooseberries you would win ?”

Could you see any humour in any of it ?
“No. We took the trial very seriously. You’re innocent of the charge. You go to court to clear your name. There was no ‘worst moment’, no. It was a very, very tiring, very boring period.”

Implausibly, the alluring, elusive Mary Archer at this point appears as if on cue, and Archer, in rather extraordinary fashion shouts out to the former Oxford don: “Hello darling, just having my photograph taken !” as if this was neither obvious or unusual.

Is it any more plausible than the fact that in his 1984 novel First Among Equals, a candidate for Prime Minister is blackmailed by a prostitute, refuses to pay and becomes Prime Minister. Or that the opening night of Archer’s court case play Beyond Reasonable Doubt was attended by Michael Cane, Leon Brittan and prostitute Monica Coghlan. It’s true. A cute touch by former editor of the News Of The World, David Montgomery, now editor of Today, who sent Coglan to give her ‘review’.

Almost two years after the court case, the Archers still live at the Old Vicarage, Grantchester, complete with its Victorian folly. His sons are at Eton and Rugby and he has bought a £1.2 million interest in the Playhouse Theatre – “a great honour for a Weston-super-Mare boy to own one of London’s most beautiful theatres.”

What about politics ?
“I remain firmly involved in politics. Many of the people I was in the Commons with are now on the verge of the Cabinet. They remain friends… I’m interested in achieving something in life and you can’t achieve anything if you have no power. I’m interested in making things go forward – it may be through influence or being able to influence others. At the moment I try to do the best I can at a very low level.”

The week we meet, among other things, he has had lunch “with a man doing some work on young people and drink/drugs for the Home Office, listening to what he’s telling the Home Secretary. This particular weekend I’m spending with the Home Secretary.”

How implausible is it to think that Jeffrey Archer might yet achieve his second goal and become our Prime Minister ?
Perhaps it’s not implausible at all. Think back to Cecil Parkinson (a scandal that was never contested) and where he is today – in the role of Cabinet Supremo.
And consider Jonathan Mantle’s report that just three months after the Coghlan revelations – and still months before the subsequent court case that cleared Archer’s name – Margaret Thatcher spent Christmas Day entertaining Mr. and Mrs. Cecil Parkinson, and spent Boxing Day entertaining Mr. and Mrs. Jeffrey Archer. Who knows what the twist in the tale of Jeffrey Archer might be ?