Archer’s mother was a journalist and his father a convicted fraudster and bigamist. He attended a private school in Somerset. Archer gained a diploma from Oxford department of education, but it is alleged that he gave false academic qualifications to get on the course. He was successful in university athletics and briefly represented Great Britain at running. Archer married Mary Weeden in 1966, and the next year he entered politics with a seat on the Greater London council. In 1969 he won a by-election for the Conservatives, but five years later he was forced to resign when he was declared bankrupt, after a fraudulent firm, in which he had invested, went bust.
In 1976 Archer published his first novel; it was not appreciated by the critics, but sold extremely well, as have his other novels, from which he has since made a fortune. He has also written a play, 'The Accused', which starred himself. In 1985, he was appointed deputy chairman of the Conservative party. Then Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, was warned he was “an accident waiting to happen”. In 1986 he resigned after it was reported that he paid for sex with a prostitute. However, he sued and was awarded £500,000 in damages. He was awarded a peerage in June 1992. Archer won the Conservative candidacy for London mayor in 1999, but was forced to stand down after reports that he persuaded a former friend to lie to court in the 1987 libel trial. He was suspended from the Tory party and a perjury investigation began.
He was arrested in 2000, and committed to stand trial on five counts, including perjury and perverting the course of justice. He was found guilty in July that year.
Christmas Day 2001
Christmas Day for those who are incarcerated can be summed up in one word: dreadful. I have learned during the last 159 days as a prisoner how perverse reality is. I go to work today, as every other day, and am grateful for something to do.
At the seven-thirty surgery, only six prisoners report for sick parade; you have to be really ill to get up at 7.30 am on Christmas morning and troop across to the hospital when the temperature on the east coast is minus two degrees. At eight-fifteen I go to breakfast, and even though it's eggs, bacon and sausage served by the officers (Mr Hocking, Mr Camplin, Mr Baker and Mr Gough), only around forty of the two hundred inmates bother to turn up.
On returning to the hospital, Linda and I unload bags of food from her car so I can hold a tea party for my friends this afternoon. She also gives me a present, which is wrapped in Christmas paper. I open it very slowly, trying to anticipate what it might be. Inside a neat little box is a china mug, with a black cat grinning at me. Now I have my own mug, and will no longer have to decide between a Campbell's Soup giveaway and a plain white object with a chip when I have my morning Bovril.
Linda leaves me in charge of the hospital while she attends the governor's Christmas party. Frankly, if over half the prisoners weren't still in bed asleep, I could arrange for them all to abscond. When the tabloids claim I have privileges that the other prisoners do not have, in one respect they are right; I am lucky to be able to carry on with the job I do on the outside. While everyone else tries to kill time, I settle down to write for a couple of hours.
12 noon Lunch is excellent, and once again served by the officers, and shared with a half dozen old-age pensioners from the local village; tomato soup, followed by turkey, chipolatas, roast potatoes and stuffing, with as much gravy as will go on the plate. I don't allow myself the Christmas pudding - several officers have kindly commented on the fact that I'm putting on weight (nine pounds in nine weeks).
After lunch I walk over to the south block and phone Mary and the boys. All things considered they sound pretty cheerful, but I can't hide the fact that I miss them. My wife is fifty-seven, my boys twenty-nine and twenty-seven, and today I'm surrounded by men sitting in their rooms staring at photographs of young children anywhere from six months to fifteen years old. Yes, they deserve to be incarcerated if they committed a crime, but we should remember it is Christmas Day, and it's not their families who are guilty. As I walk back through the block, I notice that those not in the TV room or on the phone are just lying on their beds willing the day to pass.
I have so much food in my fridge that I invite a dozen inmates over to join me in the hospital. They all turn up, without exception. We watch The Great Escape (somewhat ironic) and enjoy Linda's feast - pork pies, crisps, sausage rolls, shortbread biscuits, KitKats and, most popular of all with my fellow inmates, a chunk of my Cheddar cheese. This is accompanied not by Krug, but a choice of lemonade, Evian water, tea, coffee or Ribena.