Jonathan Aitken

From Wikispooks
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Person.png Jonathan Aitken   Littlesis Powerbase Sourcewatch Website WikiquoteRdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
(politician, deep politician)
BornAugust 30, 1942
Dublin, Ireland
Alma materEton, Wycliffe Hall (Oxford), Christ Church (Oxford)
Criminal charge
Perjury, Perverting the course of justice
Criminal penalty
18 months
Criminal status
Children • 4
• including
• Alexandra
SpouseLolicia Olivera Azucki
Member ofLe Cercle
PartyUK Independence Party, Conservative Party
UK deep politician, Cercle chair, convicted perjurer

Employment.png Chairman of Le Cercle

In office
1993 - 1996
Preceded byChristian Schwarz-Schilling
Succeeded byNorman Lamont
The start date is conjecture, based on [1][2] and [3]

Employment.png Chief Secretary to the Treasury Wikipedia-icon.png

In office
20 July 1994 - 5 July 1995
Preceded byMichael Portillo
Succeeded byWilliam Waldegrave

Employment.png Minister for Defence Procurement

In office
14 April 1992 - 20 July 1994
Preceded byAlan Clark

Employment.png Member of Parliament for South Thanet

In office
9 June 1983 - 1 May 1997
Succeeded byStephen Ladyman

Employment.png Member of Parliament for Thanet East

In office
28 February 1974 - 9 June 1983

Jonathan William Patrick Aitken is a UK deep politician and former Conservative Member of Parliament and government minister. He chaired Le Cercle from 1993-1996. After exposure by World in Action, he sued for libel, but the action collapsed. He was convicted of perjury in 1999 and received an 18-month prison sentence, of which he served seven months.


Aitken's parents were Sir William Aitken, a former Conservative MP, and Penelope Aitken, daughter of John Maffey, 1st Baron Rugby. Aitken is a great-nephew of newspaper magnate and war-time minister Max Aitken, 1st Baron Beaverbrook (Lord Beaverbrook). His sister is the actress Maria Aitken and his nephew is the actor Jack Davenport. His god-children include James Abbott, the son of Labour left-winger Diane Abbott.

In 1999 it was confirmed by DNA testing that Petrina Khashoggi, daughter of billionaire arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi, was in fact Aitken's biological child, stemming from an affair with Soraya Khashoggi, née Sandra Daly, then wife of Adnan Khashoggi.[4]

Early life

Aitken was born in Dublin, Ireland. His grandfather, Baron Rugby, was in 1939 the first British representative of the newly independent Irish state, at a time when Anglo-Irish relations were strained but improving. Aitken's baptism took place on 16 October 1942 at St Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin, an Anglican church, at which he was named "Jonathan William Patrick Aitken". The third name, "Patrick", was included at a late stage owing to the unexpected international importance of the occasion – one of the Irish papers reported "British envoy's grandson is a real Paddy". The Taoiseach, Éamon de Valera, who knew his grandparents, asked to attend the christening and his presence at the baptism symbolised improving Anglo-Irish relations. By attending a Protestant Cathedral, it also made a statement that the Irish Government was secular. Also attending was Princess Juliana (later to become Queen Juliana of the Netherlands) as his odmother].[5]

Aitken went to Eton College and read law at Christ Church (Oxford).[6] His career initially followed a similar path to the post-war career of his father, who became a journalist and then the Conservative Member of Parliament for Bury St Edmunds. [5]


He was a war correspondent during the 1960s in Vietnam and Biafra and gained a reputation for risk-taking when he took LSD in 1966 as an experiment for an article in The London Evening Standard and had a bad trip "..this drug needs police, the Home Office and a dictator to stamp it out..."[6] [7]

He was also a journalist at Yorkshire Television from 1968 to 1970, presenting the regional news show Calendar. Aitken was the first person to be seen on screen from Yorkshire Television when it started broadcasting. [8]

In 1970 Aitken was acquitted at the Old Bailey for breaching section 2 of the Official Secrets Act 1911 when he photocopied a report about the British government's supply of arms to Nigeria, and sent a copy to The Sunday Telegraph and to Hugh Fraser, a pro-Biafran Tory MP. As a result of the case he was dropped as a candidate for the Thirsk and Malton Parliament constituency. [9][10]

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.

Parliamentary career

He was elected as MP for Thanet East in the February 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 TV station).

Minister of State for Defence Procurement

Full article: Minister for Defence Procurement

Prior to joining the cabinet he became Minister for Defence Procurement under John Major in 1992. He was later accused of violating ministerial rules by allowing an Arab businessman to pay for his stay in the Paris Ritz, perjured himself and was jailed. Aitken had previously been a director of BMARC, an arms exporter from 1988 to 1990. [11] In 1995 a commons motion showed that as minister he had signed a controversial Public Interest Immunity Certificate (PIIC) certificate in September 1992 relating to the Matrix Churchill trial; and that the 'gagged' documents included ones relating to the supply of arms to Iraq by BMARC for a period when he was a director of the company.[12] In February 1994, while Aitken was Minister for Defence Procurement, his parliamentary private secretary, Stephen Milligan, was found dead in suspicious circumstances.

Chief Secretary to the Treasury

He became Chief Secretary to the Treasury in 1994, a Cabinet position, but resigned in 1995 following the allegations that he had violated ministerial rules. He was defeated in the 1997 election. Within a year he had be appointed as a representative for the arms company GEC-Marconi,

Libel, arrest and prison

Libel action

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.

Aitken had called a press conference at the Conservative Party offices in Smith Square, London, at 5 o'clock denouncing the claims and demanding that the World In Action documentary, which was due to be screened three hours later, withdraw them. During which he notoriously said: [13]

"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."

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, via their counsel George Carman QC, 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.[14]

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.

During this time it emerged that Aitken was chairman of the secretive pan-European group Le Cercle[15] when he was being encouraged to resign.

Perjury conviction and imprisonment

Aitken was charged with perjury and perverting the course of justice, and in 1999 was jailed for 18 months,[16] of which he served seven. During the preceding libel 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 his daughter nor his wife had been in Paris at the time in question.

Aitken was unable to cover the legal costs of his libel 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 was John Stonehouse.

Aitken's wife and three daughters - twins 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 Khashoggi had previously accepted her as his own.

Prison stay and theology study

Aitken attended the Alpha Course in 1997, which he claimed stirred his interest in Christianity. He attended the course on further occasions prior to imprisonment.[17] After being imprisoned in 1999, he began to study the Bible, learned Greek, and became a student of Christian theology at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford. This part of his life is covered in two autobiographical works called Pride and Perjury and Porridge and Passion. He married his second wife, Elizabeth Harris in June 2003.

Since release he has given talks to support the Alpha Course, such as "I Want to Break Free" at Holy Trinity, Brompton in January 2006 where Nicky Gumbel, Alpha founder, described him as a "great friend". [18] On Sunday 13 July 2008 he gave a sermon at Kings Church International entitled 'Finding God in the Depths' where the Senior Pastor Wes Richards introduced his coming as a great privilege and described Aitken as a friend to both himself and the church.

Have I Got News for You

After serving his prison sentence, Aitken appeared on an episode of the BBC satirical quiz show Have I Got News for You. During this appearance, Ian Hislop produced a letter confirming Aitken's bankruptcy and announced that Aitken still owed Hislop's magazine (Private Eye) £13,702, several years after the bankruptcy.

Political comebacks

In early 2004, some constituency party members in Aitken's former seat of South Thanet proposed that he should return as Conservative candidate for the seat. This was vetoed by Conservative Party leader Michael Howard.[19]

Aitken later confirmed that he would not attempt a return to Parliament, saying that "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".

Aitken later declared his support for the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP)[20] a week before the party's strong performance in the 2004 European elections. On 2 October 2004, Aitken attended the (UKIP) conference and re-iterated his support for the party.

Ashley Merry, Veritas Party defence spokesman, is public relations advisor to Aitken.

In November 2007, with the approval of senior members of the Shadow Cabinet, he took charge of a task force on prison reform within Iain Duncan Smith's Centre for Social Justice to help formulate Conservative policy.[21] Aitken stated this was not part of a political comeback. Conservative spokesmen pointed out that the task force is independent of the party, even though the organisation is run by Iain Duncan Smith, who is a former Tory leader. The report Locked Up Potential: A Strategy to Reform our Prisons and Rehabilitate our Prisoners[22]

In April 2008, The Observer's diary reported that Aitken was writing a biography of the President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, with the president's cooperation.[23] Aitken completed the biography and published it in 2009, under the title Nazarbayev and the Making of Kazakhstan.


Events Participated in

Le Cercle/1990 (Oman)30 November 199030 November 1990Oman
Al Bustan Hotel & Al-Baraka Palace
Start/End dates uncertain
Le Cercle/2000 (Lisbon)20002000Portugal
Security and Defence Learning/201130 November 201130 November 2011Berlin
Hotel InterContinental
Many thanks to our Patrons who cover ~2/3 of our hosting bill. Please join them if you can.