NEIL HAMILTON

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Mostyn Neil Hamilton (born 1949) is a former Conservative MP in the United Kingdom. Since his fall from grace and subsequent bankruptcy, Hamilton and his wife Christine have become minor media celebrities.

He was elected to Parliament in 1983 and served as the MP for the Tatton constituency.

On October 20, 1994 The Guardian, a noted left-leaning publication, published an article claiming that Hamilton, and another minister Tim Smith had received money from the Harrods owner Mohamed Al-Fayed for asking questions on his behalf in the House of Commons. The subsequent furore became known as the "Cash-for-questions affair". Tim Smith admitted his guilt and resigned immediately. Neil Hamilton claimed innocence but was eventually forced to resign his position as Corporate Affairs Minister.

During the election of 1997, Hamilton, still claiming his innocence of any wrong-doing, was determined to hold onto his parliamentary seat in what was then one of the safest Conservative constituencies in the country. Conservative Central Office said that selection of candidates was purely a matter for the local party and refused to intervene. The well-known BBC war correspondent Martin Bell was persuaded to stand as an independent candidate. Martin Bell won the seat with a majority of over 11,000 votes, after the Labour and Liberal Democrat candidates stood down to give him a clear run at Hamilton's seat. The media coverage surrounding Neil Hamilton and his refusal to stand aside, along with other allegations of sleaze levelled at the party, severely de-railed the Conservatives' election campaign and contributed to the worst defeat the Conservative Party had suffered for 150 years.

Hamilton took Mohamed Al-Fayed to court for libel in 1999, but he lost the trial and the subsequent appeal. In 2001, unable to pay legal fees and costs amounting to some 3m, he was declared a bankrupt. He still has supporters who believe him to have been unfairly treated by the "left-leaning media".

Friday, 10 August, 2001, 17:00 GMT 18:00 UK

Profile: Neil Hamilton

hamiltons

Neil Hamilton: Political career ended in scandal and disgrace

Neil Hamilton's name first came to public attention over the cash for questions scandal.  Mr Hmilton is quoted as saying: "My primary concern in fighting the case is to clear my name, but I am also determined to remove the slur the cash-for-questions case has cast over Parliament as a whole."

He went to court to try to salvage a reputation that had become synonymous with Tory "sleaze"; he failed leaving it in tatters.

The former MP had wanted to clear his name of accusations that he had accepted envelopes stuffed with cash from Harrods boss Mohamed Al Fayed in exchange for asking parliamentary questions.

The allegations effectively ended his ministerial career and led to Mr Hamilton becoming a political pariah even to many of his Conservative colleagues.

Having entered Parliament in 1983 as MP for Tatton, he had risen through the ranks to become a government whip and corporate affairs minister.

But the cash-for-questions row led to him being booted out of Westminster at the 1997 general election in disgrace - unseated by the former BBC correspondent Martin Bell running on an anti-corruption ticket.

bell

Martin Bell: Defeated Mr Hamilton on an anti-sleaze ticket

Conference ban

Then in 1998 Tory leader William Hague singled Mr Hamilton out as one of the MPs who had brought the party into disrepute and asked him to stay away from that year's Conservative conference.

However, Mr Hamilton refused to go quietly - even after he dropped his libel action against the Guardian on the eve of the case coming to court.

With his formidable wife Christine always by his side, he continued to protest his innocence to anyone who would listen.

The Hamiltons became regular guests on daytime TV. Such was their thirst for publicity that they even attempted to launch their own celebrity cooking series.

While many observers regarded the couple with increasing amusement and scorn, Mr Hamilton appeared deadly earnest about clearing his name.

As an MP, he had successfully defended his reputation in a libel action against the BBC in the mid 1980s over allegations about his right-wing views.

And with the financial backing of wealthy Tory sympathisers, he fended off Mr Al Fayed's attempts to prevent the cash-for-questions allegations from going before a jury. In the end though, the jury did him no favours.

In May 2001 Neil and Christine Hamilton were arrested by police investigating an alleged rape, with an inevitable blaze of publicity. The investigation against them was dropped in August of that year. In June 2003 their accuser, Nadine Milroy-Sloane, was jailed for attempting to pervert the course of justice.

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Wealden District Council insure with Zurich Municipal and still have no Whistle-blowing policy in place - coincidence or not?