Neil Hamilton (politician)

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Neil Hamilton
Neil Hamilton (politician), March 2008.jpg
Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry
In office
14 April 1992 – 25 October 1994
Preceded by The Lord Reay
Succeeded by Jonathan Evans
Member of Parliament
for Tatton
In office
9 June 1983 – 1 May 1997
Preceded by Constituency Created
Succeeded by Martin Bell
Personal details
Born (1949-03-09) 9 March 1949 (age 65)
Fleur-de-Lis, Monmouthshire (historic)
Nationality British
Political party UKIP (from 2002)[1]
Other political
Conservative (1964-2002)
Spouse(s) Christine Hamilton
Alma mater University College of Wales, Aberystwyth
Corpus Christi College, Cambridge
Profession Barrister

Mostyn Neil Hamilton (born 9 March 1949) is a British politician and former barrister, teacher, and Conservative MP for the Tatton constituency from 1983 to 1997. In 1997, after becoming involved in a political scandal known as the Cash-for-questions affair, Hamilton was defeated and left politics until 2011 when he was elected to the National Executive Committee of the United Kingdom Independence Party. Hamilton and his wife Christine became media celebrities. In Who's Who, Hamilton is described as a writer, actor, broadcaster and entertainer.[2]

Early life[edit]

Hamilton was born in Fleur-de-Lis, a Monmouthshire pit village near Blackwood. His father was a chief engineer for the National Coal Board. His grandfathers were coal miners. Hamilton grew up in Ammanford in Carmarthenshire, West Wales. At the age of 15, in 1964, he joined the Conservative party.


Hamilton attended Ammanford Grammar School. He received a bachelor of science degree in economics and politics (BScEcon) from the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, in 1970 and a master of science degree in economics and politics (MScEcon) in 1975.[3] While at Aberystwyth, Hamilton was active in the Federation of Conservative Students, (a member between 1968 and 1974). In 1973, as a representative of the Federation of Conservative Students, Hamilton addressed a conference of the Italian Social Movement (MSI).[4] Hamilton went on to study law at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, where he attained a post-graduate law degree.[5][6]

Student activity and early political career[edit]

At the 1970 Conservative party conference, Hamilton called for mass privatisation. One year later, in 1971, he opposed Britain's joining the European Economic Community. In 1972, after several years' membership, Hamilton was elected to the executive council of the Conservative Monday Club. In 1973, he left the club and stood as chairman of the Federation of Conservative Students against David Davis and lost. In the February 1974 general election, Hamilton stood as the Conservative candidate for Abertillery and in the 1979 general election as a parliamentary candidate in Bradford North, but failed on both occasions.


Between 1973 and 1976, Hamilton was a teacher at St John's College (Portsmouth), Southsea. In his spare time, he studied for his bar practice exam. Hamilton also taught constitutional law at the Hatfield Polytechnic between September 1978 and July 1982.

Legal career[edit]

From September 1979, Hamilton practised as a barrister. He specialised in taxation law. However, after Hamilton lost his parliamentary seat in 1997, he vowed never to return to "that constipated profession". In April 2001 Hamilton said, "If I am bankrupt, [which he was the following month] I won't be able to return to the bar but even if I was able to do so, I couldn't contain myself from saying what I thought to some of the judges."[citation needed] Hamilton was also European and Parliamentary Affairs Director of the Institute of Directors during this time.[clarification needed]

Political career[edit]

Success in Tatton[edit]

On 12 March 1983, after unsuccessfully contesting Bournemouth West and other constituencies, Hamilton was selected as the Conservative candidate for the newly created Tatton constituency. Three months later, at the 1983 general election Hamilton was elected to Parliament as MP for Tatton.

Parliamentary career (1984 to 1994)[edit]

In 1984, against party policy, Hamilton opposed the abandonment of leaded petrol in Britain. He argued there was no evidence that leaded petrol was damaging the environment and that jobs would be lost in his constituency if leaded petrol was banned.[7] He also resumed his activities as a supporter of pressure-groups, notably the Western Goals Institute, where, along with other MPs Sir Patrick Wall, Bill Walker, Nicholas Winterton and the Revd. Martin Smyth he was on their parliamentary advisory board.[8]

Thatcher made Hamilton whip in July 1990. Despite initially supporting Michael Heseltine in the November 1990 Conservative Party leadership tussle, Hamilton strongly encouraged Thatcher to persist. At a meeting where Peter Lilley argued that Thatcher could not survive, Hamilton subjected him to a barrage of "sarcasm and heckling".[9] On 21 November 1990, Hamilton and like minded colleagues met Thatcher at Downing Street. Thatcher did subsequently resign. Hamilton voted for John Major.[10]

From April 1992 to October 1994, Hamilton was the "minister for deregulation and corporate affairs" in John Major's government.

Approach to the Maastricht Treaty[edit]

Denmark rejected the Maastricht Treaty on 2 June 1992. Hamilton and some other conservative ministers had also opposed the treaty. Despite this, Hamilton remained, for a time, loyal to the Major government which endorsed the treaty. Hamilton urged his colleagues not to resign over the Treaty and other current issues. After Hamilton resigned in October 1994, he voted in a 1995 leadership ballot. Hamilton supported Michael Portillo, and when Portillo did not contest the leadership, he voted for John Redwood.

Loss of Tatton[edit]

Prior to the 1997 General Election, Hamilton determined to retain his parliamentary seat. His majority at the 1992 General Election had been almost 16,000 votes. In 1997, Tatton was the fourth safest Conservative seat in Britain. The Conservative Central Office said that selection of candidates was purely a matter for the local party and refused to intervene. On 8 April 1997, Hamilton became the Tory candidate for Tatton (182 for, 35 against, 100 abstained).

When Martin Bell, a well-known BBC war correspondent, announced he would stand as an independent candidate in Tatton, the Labour and Liberal Democrat candidates for the area stood down in order to give Bell a clear run against Hamilton. Bell trounced Hamilton, winning by a majority of over 11,000 votes. Although Hamilton vowed to return to parliament, this defeat marked the end of his political career. In March 1999, George Osborne was selected by the Tatton Conservative association to be their candidate for the next general election.

United Kingdom Independence Party[edit]

In September 2011, Hamilton attended the annual conference of the United Kingdom Independence Party and let it be known that he was available to assist it. The party's leader Nigel Farage pledged to support him in the election for the National Executive Committee.[1] Hamilton was elected to the committee on 1 November 2011.[11] He later become deputy chairman of the party.[12] Hamilton was demoted from his role as campaign director in April 2014.[13]

Controversy and legal cases[edit]

BBC libel case (1984 to 1986)[edit]

On 30 January 1984, a Panorama programme, "Maggie's Militant Tendency", was broadcast. The programme alleged that Hamilton gave a Nazi salute in Berlin while 'messing around' on a parliamentary visit in August 1983. In October 1986, Hamilton and fellow MP Gerald Howarth (one of his closest friends), sued the BBC for libel.[14] According to The Guardian newspaper, Hamilton admitted in The Sunday Times that he did give "a little salute with two fingers to his nose to give the impression of a toothbrush moustache."[14]

The prosecution was financed by Sir James Goldsmith[15] and Taki, The Spectator columnist. David Davis, then a director of Tate and Lyle, persuaded that company to donate a sum to the cause. Lord Harris of High Cross (who helped to finance Hamilton's failed libel action against Mohammed Al-Fayed 13 years later), also raised approximately £100,000.[16]

During the case, Hamilton said he saw himself as "the Mike Yarwood of the Federation of Young Conservatives",[17] and that he frequently did impressions of public figures such as Frankie Howerd, Harold Wilson, Edward Heath, Charles De Gaulle and Enoch Powell. Hamilton claimed he had coloured himself black in 1982 to look like Idi Amin and dressed as Canon James Owen on a boat on the River Cam.[18]

The BBC capitulated on 21 October 1986. The BBC Director-General Alasdair Milne, stated he was instructed to do so by the Governors of the BBC. The corporation was directed to pay the men's legal costs. Hamilton and Howarth were awarded £20,000 each and in the next edition of Panorama on 27 October, the BBC made an unreserved apology.[19]

In a Sunday Times article, Hamilton denied there was any malicious intent behind the salute. He also pointed out that one person present at the incident, Julian Lewis, was a Jew and that a "number of his relatives were killed by the Nazis during the war".[20] Hamilton and Howarth dropped their libel action against Philip Pedley, who was the principal source of the material in the programme. They said that extracting an apology from Pedley was not "worth the bother".[21] On 3 December 1986, Hamilton and Howarth agreed to pay Pedley's costs.[22]

In December 1986, Hamilton was appointed Parliamentary Private Secretary to David Mitchell.


On 20 October 1994, The Guardian published an article which claimed that Hamilton and another minister, Tim Smith, had received money, in the form of cash in brown envelopes. It claimed the money was paid to the men by Mohamed Al-Fayed, the owner of Harrods. In return, the men were to ask questions on behalf of Al-Fayed in the House of Commons. Smith admitted his guilt and resigned immediately. Hamilton claimed innocence but was forced to resign five days later, on 25 October 1994.

The action against The Guardian[edit]

Hamilton brought legal action against The Guardian regarding a case of libel. Hamilton joined Ian Greer, a parliamentary lobbyist as a co-plaintiff. In the process, the Bill of Rights 1689 was amended by the Defamation Act 1996. It allowed statements made in Parliament to be questioned in court.

On 30 September 1996, one day prior to the start of the trial, Hamilton and Greer settled, citing a conflict of interest and lack of funds. They each paid £7500 towards The Guardian's legal costs. All the "cash-for-questions" evidence was sent to Sir Gordon Downey, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards. On 1 October 1996, Hamilton appeared on the evening television program, Newsnight. He engaged in a live debate with Alan Rusbridger, editor of The Guardian.

The cash for questions enquiry[edit]

The "cash for questions" parliamentary enquiry took place in 1997, led by Downey. Hamilton vowed that if the "Downey report" found against him, he would resign.

Edwina Currie, a former health minister, gave evidence. She told the inquiry that in May 1988, Hamilton had been unmoved by a set of photographs that depicted smoking related cancers; that is, harm to young people which might be caused by a product (tobacco) that he promoted.[23] Hamilton argued the pictures were irrelevant. Both Hamilton and Michael Brown had received a £6,000 honorarium and hospitality from Skoal Bandits.[24] In late 1989, Thatcher banned the sale of Skoal Bandit products in the UK.

Downey reported that he found the evidence against Hamilton in the case of Al-Fayed "compelling". Hamilton received over £25,000 and had deliberately misled Michael Heseltine, then President of the Board of Trade, in October 1994, when he said he had no financial relationship with Ian Greer. In a phone conversation, Hamilton gave an absolute assurance to Heseltine that there was no such relationship. In fact, he had received two payments from Greer in 1988 and 1989, totalling £10,000.[25] Hamilton had asked for payment in kind[clarification needed] so the money would not be taxable. He also failed to register his stays at the Hôtel Ritz Paris and at Al-Fayed's castle in Scotland in 1989.

On 3 July 1997, the enquiry found Hamilton guilty of taking "cash for questions". Hamilton, Smith (also found guilty), Brown and Michael Grylls were harshly criticised. If Hamilton and Smith had remained in parliament, Downey said he might have recommended long periods of suspension for both. Hamilton rejected these findings, whereas Smith, who had stood down, accepted them, apologised for his conduct, and retired from politics altogether.

The libel action against Al-Fayed[edit]

Hamilton also brought a legal action for libel against Mohamed Al-Fayed. On 16 January 1997, Al-Fayed appeared in an edition of the Dispatches documentary series on Channel 4.[26] He claimed that Hamilton had demanded and had accepted cash payments of up to £110,000,[27] Harrod's gift vouchers and a free holiday at the Hôtel Ritz Paris in 1987, in return for asking questions in Parliament on behalf of Harrods. While Hamilton did not deny the holiday, he continued to maintain that he was innocent of improper conduct.

On 31 July 1998, Hamilton's action was approved for listing. Funds for the action were donated by Lord Harris of High Cross, the Earl of Portsmouth and Taki, who raised £50,000.[28] Other contributors to the fund included Simon Heffer, Norris McWhirter (a Scots Tory), Peter Clarke, Lord Bell, Gyles Brandreth and Gerald Howarth (Hamilton's co-plaintiff in the BBC action). Some Tory MPs (approximately 40 of the 165) also made contributions. In total, approximately £410,000 was raised.[29]

The jury trial commenced in November 1999. Hamilton (and his wife) were cross-examined by George Carman QC. Carman put to Hamilton that he had acted corruptly to demand and then take £10,000 from Mobil Oil in 1989 for the tabling of an amendment to a finance bill. At the time, Hamilton was a member of a Commons select committee on finance.[30] Al-Fayed said Hamilton had taken the money either in brown envelope cash payments or through Ian Greer. Hamilton said in his own evidence: "I have never received a penny from Mr Fayed; I have never asked".[31] His counsel, in the closing comments, argued that Al-Fayed's assertions had destroyed his client's reputation.[32] On 21 December 1999, the jury unanimously decided in favour of the defence.[33]

A year later, Hamilton lost an appeal against his loss of the libel case.[34][35]


On 14 October 1997, Hamilton made an appeal to a new committee. On 6 November the committee only partially endorsed Downey's report, but still criticised Hamilton's behaviour whilst an MP.

In April 2001, Hamilton was refused leave to appeal to the House of Lords. On 22 May 2001, unable to pay his legal fees and with costs amounting to some £3m, Hamilton declared bankruptcy. He was discharged from bankruptcy in May 2004.

Wrongful rape accusation[edit]

On 10 August 2001, the Hamiltons were arrested by police who were investigating an alleged rape. The investigation against the couple was dropped when it became apparent that the accusations were entirely false. This event was recorded on film by Louis Theroux, who, at that time, was embedded with the Hamiltons for an episode of his documentary series When Louis Met....[36]

In June 2003, the woman who had fabricated the accusation of rape, Nadine Milroy-Sloan, was sentenced to three years in jail for perverting the course of justice.[37][38] In February 2005, the publicist Max Clifford, who had acted for Milroy-Sloan, settled, paying Hamilton an undisclosed sum.

Television personality[edit]

Hamilton's career took an unusual turn on 9 May 1997 when he and his wife, Christine, appeared on the current affairs satire quiz Have I Got News For You. The episode was recorded one week after Hamilton lost his seat. Angus Deayton, the presenter of the panel game, wore a white suit instead of his usual brown one. This was a humorous reference to Martin Bell, who wore just such a suit throughout the 1997 general election campaign. As a further taunt, at the end of the show, the Hamiltons were handed their "fee" in brown envelopes. At one point Hamilton quipped, "I've found it's much better making political jokes than being one."

Since then, the Hamiltons have appeared on chat shows. They have also appeared on programmes such as The Weakest Link and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, as well as in pantomime. In an appearance on a celebrity edition of Mastermind on Boxing Day 2004, Hamilton described himself as being "an object of professional curiosity". He appeared in Da Ali G Show in 2000.

Political ideology[edit]

Hamilton held strong conservative views. He opposed trade unions, immigration and child benefits. He supported free market economics, privatisation of public bodies and the continuance of capital punishment. Hamilton was in favour of coal mine closures and the development of nuclear power as an alternative. He also encouraged the preservation of the Welsh national language.

Hamilton argued for the individual's right to smoke and to sell their organs (which the Thatcher government did not). In April 1986, Hamilton was one of ten MPs to vote against the government on an EEC bill. Hamilton was a member of the "No Turning Back group", a part of the Conservative Party calling for the privatisation of schools and the National Health Service, which he described as "vast monoliths".

Parliamentary wit[edit]

Hamilton was a provocative and outspoken parliamentarian. He was combative in the House of Commons. Although he made jibes against the Labour Party, he respected Eric Heffer and a few others.[39] (Hamilton attended Heffer's memorial service on 10 July 1991). In November 1989, Hamilton won the Spectator parliamentary wit of the year award. He jokingly remarked that when told of winning the award, he thought it was for being the "Twit of the year".[40]

  • During a debate about amputees: Frank Dobson "does not have a leg to stand on". (January 1987)[41]
  • To Jeremy Corbyn: "some of [his] IRA friends could be used to get rid of pensioners by shooting them."(1987)[42]
  • During a debate when Greville Janner said he had lost half of his family in the Holocaust: "Unfortunately, the wrong half." (2009)[43]

Personal life[edit]

On 4 June 1983, five days before polling day in the 1983 general election, Hamilton married Mary Christine Holman in Cornwall. She was the secretary to the Tory MP, Michael Grylls.[44] In September 2003, after living in the Tatton constituency for twenty years, the Hamiltons moved to Hullavington, Wiltshire. They purchased a home there in October 2004.


  1. ^ a b "Neil Hamilton joins UKIP's Nigel Farage show". BBC. 9 September 2011. Retrieved 12 September 2011. 
  2. ^ "HAMILTON, (Mostyn) Neil", Who's Who 2013, A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc, 2013; online edn, Oxford University Press, December 2012; online edn, November 2012, accessed 19 September 2013
  3. ^ Aber Copnnect: Mr M N Hamilton
  4. ^ "Notes of the month:180". Retrieved 5 May 2012. 
  5. ^ [1][dead link]
  6. ^
  7. ^ "Petrol (Lead and Benzene Content) (Hansard, 4 December 1984)". Retrieved 5 May 2012. 
  8. ^ Labour Research, November 1988, p.2.
  9. ^ Bruce Anderson – John Major – Making of the Prime Minister (1991)
  10. ^ Christine Hamilton's autobiography – 2005
  11. ^ "Hamilton back with NEC post". UKIP. 1 November 2011. Retrieved 2 November 2011. 
  12. ^ "NEC", UKIP
  13. ^ "Ukip demotes Neil Hamilton as party fears over sleaze grow." The Observer, Politics. 19 April 2014 Accessed 19 April 2014.
  14. ^ a b Wilson, Jamie (22 December 1999). "Who will listen to his story now?". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 26 March 2010. 
  15. ^ Marcel Berlins "Price of backing a loser", The Guardian, 31 january 2000
  16. ^ Sengupta, Kim (22 December 1999). "The Hamilton Affair: The cost – Right-wing donors united by their loathing of Fayed". The Independent (London). Retrieved 20 May 2010. 
  17. ^ Daily Telegraph – 17 October 1986
  18. ^ The Telegraph – October 1986
  19. ^ The Times newspaper – 28 October 1986
  20. ^ The Sunday Times – 26 October 1986
  21. ^ The Times newspaper – 27 October 1986
  22. ^ The Financial Times – 4 December 1986
  23. ^ The Independent – 5 July 1997
  24. ^ The Committee Office, House of Commons. "House of Commons – Standards and Privileges – First Report". Retrieved 5 May 2012. 
  25. ^ The Independent – 4 July 1997
  26. ^ "Appendix 33 - continued: Appendix 1 Channel 4 and Fourth Estate Press Releases", Select Committee on Standards and Privileges First Report, House of Commons, January 1997
  27. ^ "Hamilton loses libel case", BBC News, 21 December 1999
  28. ^ [2] ("The odd couple behind the odd couple"), BBC News Online, 23 December 1999
  29. ^ The Independent – 23 December 1999
  30. ^ "The undoing of Neil Hamilton". BBC News. 22 December 1999. Retrieved 26 March 2010. 
  31. ^ Matt Wells "'I lacked candour but I am not corrupt'", The Guardian, 11 December 1999
  32. ^ "Hamilton's 'tragedy' was to help Al Fayed", The Guardian, 16 December 1999
  33. ^ Matt Wells, et al "A greedy, corrupt liar", The Guardian,22 December 1999
  34. ^ "Neil Hamilton loses libel appeal", 21 December 2000
  35. ^ "Neil Hamilton loses libel appeal". BBC News. 21 December 2000. Retrieved 26 March 2010. 
  36. ^ "Theroux hits gold with Hamiltons". BBC News. 2001-12-11. Retrieved 2013-04-02. 
  37. ^ "Hamiltons relieved as accuser jailed". BBC News. 13 June 2003. Retrieved 26 May 2009. 
  38. ^ "Nadine Milroy Sloan, Christine and Neil Hamilton, false accusation". Retrieved 5 May 2012. 
  39. ^ Hansard – 15 December 1989
  40. ^ The Times, 22 October 1994
  41. ^ 3.32 pm (29 January 1987). "J. E. Hanger and Co. Ltd. (Hansard, 29 January 1987)". Retrieved 5 May 2012. 
  42. ^ "ELIMINATION OF POVERTY IN OLD AGE ETC. (Hansard, 1 December 1987)". 1 December 1987. Retrieved 5 May 2012. 
  43. ^ [3][dead link]
  44. ^ Andrew Roth, [4] (Sir Michael Grylls: Conservative MP exposed in cash-for-questions investigation (obituary), The Guardian, 24 February 2001)

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
New constituency Member of Parliament for Tatton
Succeeded by
Martin Bell