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"Pride and Perjury" is an auto-biography written by the former Cabinet Minister, Jonathan Aitken. Until 1995 Aitken was the Chief Secretary to the Treasury and tipped by some as a possible future leader of the Party.
Aitken resigned from his position in the Treasury in 1995 to fight a libel trial against Granada Television and the Guardian newspaper. They had accused him of organising arms deals, acting improperly as an MP by acting on behalf of certain Saudi Arabian interests and a series of other allegations.
Aitken however by his own admission lied in the libel trial, which led to the Guardian winning the court case. In 1997 Aitken lost his Parliamentary seat in Thanet and in 1999 was sent to prison for perjury. He spent time in Belmarsh, Standford Hill and Elmley prisons.
This book covers in depth Aitken's court case, the divorce from his wife, his re-discovery of religion and ends with his bankruptcy and despatch to prison. It doesn't cover his period in prison, having originally been published in 2000.
Before reading this book, I didn't have a great deal of time for Jonathan Aitken, as what he had done in the 1990s did a great deal of damage to politicians generally. However, after reading it, I do respect Aitken much more for his subsequent honesty and attempts to correct what he had done wrong.
The court case which Aitken fought against the Guardian was actually going well for him. The claims that Granada and the Guardian had made had been proved in court to be nearly entirely incorrect. However George Carman, the Guardian's formidable QC, started to uncover a problem with who had paid Aitken's hotel room bill.
This hotel room was in the Ritz in Paris, which was owned by Mohammed Al Fayed. The room bill was paid for by one of Aitken's Saudi Arabian friends. This should have been confidential, but the Guardian admitted fraud in obtaining a copy of the room bill, which showed that Aitken hadn't paid for the room. By a series of deceptions, Aitken effectively lied in court involving members of his family in the dispute.
That's the very basic background of the book. Aitken says in his own words about his deception, "Why did I do it? The answer to that is two words: fear and arrogance". The whole book accepts that he knew he had done wrong, but that the lie he had told he thought at the time was a necessary one to win the entire libel action. This is something he nearly got away with.
I can see from Aitken's book that what started out to be a small white lie soon became much worse because that small lie turned into something bigger. Ironically it seems that if Aitken had admitted the hotel room had been paid for by someone else, it was likely he would have won the libel trial and maybe returned to politics.
Across the whole book, it was hard not to feel slightly sorry for Aitken, as that white lie cost him his Cabinet position, and led to bankruptcy and prison. It also led to the divorce from his wife and the media chasing him around the world.
The book also contains Aitken's re-discovery of religion. There is quite a sizeable mention of this voyage, and the various prayer groups he worked with and the help he was given in his spiritual travels. This isn't laid on too heavily however, it is spread throughout the book and doesn't make the book a little bit heavy on faith. He also records a super-natural experience of his own when he was walking down the beach.
Despite all of this, Aitken comes across as a competent individual, who just got a little arrogant. The book is well worth a look to read through the challenges which Aitken faced, and also because of the way the British media of the 1990s was working, which is actually quite worrying in itself.
Overall, a very interesting read, honest and open. Not too long, but a good record of the time that Aitken had to live through, which must have been a living hell for him and his family. He doesn't come across as a man who feels sorry for himself, just a man who knows he has done wrong and tried to discover a new path for himself.
The book was published by HarperCollins of London in 2000 and retailed at 19.99 pounds. The ISBN is 0002740753. The book is still in print and available at a cheaper price from Amazon.
In 1994, Jonathan Aitken was hotly tipped to succeed John Major as the next leader of the Conservative Party, but within a year he was buried beneath accusations of pimping, arms dealing and corruption. In this text, he tells his own story.