Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Jonathan William Patrick Aitken (born 30 August 1942) is a former Conservative Member of Parliament in the United Kingdom, and British government minister. He was convicted of perjury in 1999.

Personal details
He was elected as MP for Thanet East in the 1974 General Election; from 1983 he sat for South Thanet. A notably handsome man, he managed to offend Margaret Thatcher by ending a relationship with her daughter, Carol Thatcher, and suggesting that Thatcher "probably thinks Sinai is the plural of Sinus" to an Egyptian newspaper. He stayed on the backbenches throughout Thatcher's premiership and engaged in a number of activities, including participation in the re-launch of TV-AM (where he was involved in an incident in which broadcaster Anna Ford threw her wine at him to express her outrage at both his behaviour and the unwelcome consequent transformation of the station). He was eventually offered membership of the Hurlingham Club when he became Minister of State for Defence Procurement under John Major in 1992.

Jonathan Aitken Backbench career
He became Chief Secretary to the Treasury in 1994, a Cabinet position, but resigned in 1995, to defend himself against accusations that whilst serving as Minister of State for Defence Procurement he violated ministerial rules by allowing an Arab businessman to pay for his stay in the Paris Ritz.

Cabinet membership
On 10 April 1995, The Guardian carried a front-page report on Aitken's dealings with leading Saudis. The story was the result of a long investigation carried out by journalists from the newspaper and from Granada TV's World In Action programme. By 5 o'clock that evening, Aitken had called a press conference at the Conservative Party offices in Smith Square, London, denouncing the reports and demanding that the World In Action programme, due to be screened three hours later, withdraw them.
During this press conference, Aitken made his notorious speech: "If it falls to me to start a fight to cut out the cancer of bent and twisted journalism in our country with the simple sword of truth and the trusty shield of British fair play, so be it. I am ready for the fight. The fight against falsehood and those who peddle it. My fight begins today. Thank you and good afternoon."[1]
The World In Action film, Jonathan of Arabia, went ahead and Aitken carried out his threat to sue. The action collapsed in June 1997 (a month after he had lost his seat in the 1997 General Election) when the Guardian and Granada produced evidence countering his claim that his wife, Lolicia Aitken, paid for the hotel stay. The evidence consisted of airline vouchers and other documents showing that his wife had, in fact, been in Switzerland at the time when she had allegedly been at the Ritz in Paris. The joint Guardian/Granada investigation indicated an arms deal scam involving Aitken's friend and business partner, the Lebanese businessman Mohammed Said Ayas, a close associate of Prince Mohammed of Saudi Arabia. It was alleged that Aitken had been prepared to have his teenage daughter Victoria lie under oath to support his version of events had the case continued.[2]
A few days after the libel case collapsed, World In Action broadcast a special edition, which echoed Aitken's "sword of truth" speech. It was entitled The Dagger of Deceit.

Jonathan Aitken Libel action
Aitken was charged with perjury and perverting the course of justice, and in 1999 was jailed for 18 months, of which he served seven. During the trial, his wife Lolicia, who later left him, was called as a witness to sign a supportive affidavit to the effect that she had paid his Paris hotel bill, but did not appear. In the end, with the case already in court, investigative work by Guardian reporters into Swiss hotel and British Airways records showed that neither Victoria nor Lolicia had been in Paris at the time in question.
Aitken was unable to cover the legal costs of his trial and was declared bankrupt. As part of the bankruptcy, his trustees settled legal actions against the magazine Private Eye, over the various claims it had made that Aitken was a "serial liar". He also became one of the few people to resign from the Privy Council (another such person was John Stonehouse).
Aitken's wife and three daughters -- Victoria and Alexandra Aitken, and Petrina Khashoggi -- turned up to support him when he was sentenced. Petrina was a previously unacknowledged daughter by Soraya Khashoggi, ex-wife of arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi. On DNA testing at the age of 18, she had turned out to be Aitken's, though Mr Khashoggi had previously accepted her as his own.
Ironically, in view of his later conviction for perjury, in 1993 Aitken published a favourable biography, Nixon: A Life, of former US President Richard Nixon. Although his was not an authorised biography, Aitken was one of the few biographers from whom Nixon accepted questions and to whom he granted interviews.

Have I Got News For You
In 2004, his proposed return to British politics, in which he was supported by his former constituents, was vetoed by Conservative Party leader Michael Howard. Aitken later confirmed that he would not attempt a return to Parliament. He is quoted as saying: "The leader has spoken. I accept his judgement with good grace." He denied rumours he was to stand as an independent candidate insisting that he was not a "spoiler". Consequently a return to full time politics looked unlikely. However, on October 2, 2004, he attended the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) conference and announced his support for the party.
Ashley Merry, Veritas Party Defence spokesman, is public relations advisor to Aitken.

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