While it’s understandable that Nigel “Thirsty” Farage and his fellow saloon bar proper-uppers at UKIP might want to get some seasoned political operators on board, to give them a little more gravitas and bring their experience to the table, the decision to appoint the deeply ambiguous Mostyn Neil Hamilton as a deputy chairman looks rather like someone is taking the piss.
Perhaps Farage and his pals think that the electorate has short memories, but in the North-West, I can assure him that we do not: the electoral humiliation delivered to Hamilton – losing the fourth safest Tory seat in the country to former war reporter Martin Bell in 1997 – lingers long in the memory, along with the former MP’s earlier humiliation at the hands of the deeply subversive Guardian.
Hamilton had been successful with his all too ready recourse to legal action in the 1980s, after the BBC unwisely caved in over the case brought by the Tatton MP and his fellow Tory Gerald Howarth against the Corporation following the broadcast of a Panorama investigation into entryism in the party, titled “Maggie’s Militant Tendency”. It was to be different a decade later.
You want him as a deputy chairman, Nige?
The Guardian obtained evidence that Hamilton had been taking cash payments from the singularly unsavoury Mohamed “you can call me Al” Fayed, in exchange for asking Parliamentary questions on Fayed’s behalf. Another Tory MP, Tim Smith (the man who beat a young Tony Blair in the Beaconsfield by-election in 1982) was implicated. Smith owned up and later resigned his seat.
After Smith admitted taking money from Fayed, the Guardian’s next front page lead was titled “The Dishonourable Member”. Hamilton, after his action against the paper collapsed, fared infinitely worse: the unflattering photo of the Tatton MP, and the description “A Liar And A Cheat”, were sufficiently seared into the memory of his electorate to deliver Bell a majority of over 11,000.
Still want him as a deputy chairman, Nige?
Worse was to come for Hamilton: he continued the legal actions, and continued to lose them, being forced into bankruptcy in 2001. Yet he keeps proclaiming his innocence, and, more relevant for UKIP, keeps popping up and garnering attention. One might think that, after disposing of Godfrey Bloom, Farage would choose his party officials more carefully.
Instead, we now have the spectre of this long-ago-damaged has-been hauling himself round media outlets promoting what is supposed to be an up-and-coming party. Farage might appreciate the irony of that situation a little better after a few re-publishings of that Guardian front page appear and remind the electorate just where his deputy chairman is coming from.
And all in time for next year’s European Parliament elections. Cheers Nige!