Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Was Neil Hamilton hard done by?

Following on from the previous post...a number of posters on Iain Dale's Diary today have posed the question whether the former Tory minister Neil Hamilton got a raw deal when the jury in the libel case arising from the cash-for-questions affair believed Mohammed al-Fayed's version of events rather than his.

Quite possibly so, in the sense that I doubt whether any jury would believe al-Fayed now. But if public preconceptions of the key protagonists did a play a part in deciding the original trial, Hamilton has only himself to blame.

For all I know, his experiences since 1997 may have made him a humbler man now, but throughout his time in the political frontline Hamilton appeared to revel in portraying himself as the sort of smug, arrogant, unpleasant Tory git who personified the "nasty party" during the Thatcher-Major years.

I had some experience of this during the early 1990s when I was a reporter on the South Wales Echo and attended the Welsh Press Awards. Hamilton, then a trade and industry minister, was the guest of honour, and began his after-dinner speech with some mildly amusing recollections of fighting election campaigns in the early 70s in various hopeless, Labour-dominated Valleys seats.

This was received with good humour, until Hamilton came to his punchline: "But we got our revenge on them later when we closed all their pits!" This bon mot, delivered to a Welsh audience at a time when Tower Colliery was threatened with closure, was predictably greeted by a stunned silence, followed by cries of "Shame!"
"Disgraceful!" and "Resign!"

I don't of course claim that this story proves Hamilton was necessarily guilty of all the charges which al-Fayed and the Guardian threw at him. But it does go part of the way to explaining why his fall, when it came, was so little lamented by the wider public.

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9 comments:

John said...

Just as I thought; the Welsh have no sense of humour.

Anonymous said...

actually it was taffy Heseltine who closed all the pits. I'll give Heseltine his due though, he did ask the arabs if they wanted to buy them first before he axed them.

Vicarious Phil said...

When Hamilton lost the libel case, the fact that Al-fayed is somewhat...eccentric, was already well known. Actually didn't Al-fayed make his views on the Duke of Edinburgh known during the case? And Hamilton still lost!

carol42 said...

I never believed that Hamilton was guilty of taking cash as accused. Greedy certainly but no evidence of his taking money was ever produced despite investigation. In fact he was convicted on 'evidence' of Al Fayed's employees and we now know just how reliable that is. I did not like Hamilton or his wife but I don't think justice was done.

Trumpeter Lanfried said...

My impression is that Hamilton is a bumptious little oik who nonetheless suffered an injustice. Unhappily I think juries are sometimes swayed by their affection or distaste for the person they see in the witness box. That's why it is notoriously difficult to convict celebrities. It is a weakness of the system.

lettersfromatory said...

I'm not an expert on Neil Hamilton by any means, but his legacy is not a pretty one. The Conservatives don't want to start harking back to those days!

The Daily Pundit said...

Wasn't David Steele also implicated in 'cash for questions' over fox hunting? It was hardly reported at the time.

Anonymous said...

Didn't Tim Smith admit to receiving the brown paper envelopes as claimed by Fayed?

Guido Fawkes Esq. said...

I have always believed the Hamiltons were not guilty of anything more than taking the piss out of Fayed at the Paris Ritz at his expense.