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.