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except my £33,000 MP's pension' & Financial Library

2017-06-04 20:04 [BANK] Source:Netword
Guide:Fame amp; Fortune: The disgraced former Conservative MP on divorce, prison, bankruptcy - and how he can still afford pound;15,240 for his Isa each year

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Jonathan Aitken, 72, is a former Conservative MP and Cabinet minister, who served seven months in prison for perjury in 1999 after he sued The Guardian for libel. He lives in Kensington with his second wife, Elizabeth, who is also in her seventies, and has four children.

How did your childhood influence your work ethic and attitude towards money?

I spent a lot of my childhood in hospital as a tuberculosis patient. When I was about four, I fell ill with TB and was then immobilised on an iron lung for three-and-a-half years, looked after by nuns. It made me very competitive because a lot of the children on the TB ward died. I was very keen not to die – so I worked hard at the breathing exercises and I enjoyed my schoolwork. I certainly had no interest in money.

Your father was the Conservative MP Sir William Aitken, a nephew of Lord Beaverbrook. Was your family very well off?

For a long time, we weren’t particularly. I grew up in the era of food rationing, so no one seemed to be. I remember eggs were rationed and minding a bit that I only got two eggs a week.

As a family, we were quite frugal and careful. Going to the cinema or the theatre was a big treat.

We did become more prosperous when I was in my teens. My father somehow or other made money and bought a very nice moated house called Playford [in Suffolk]. When you live in an Elizabethan moated manor house, you realise that your father’s done all right.

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Did you get any pocket money?

Yes, something like sixpence a week. Those were the days when you could still buy a packet of crisps for a farthing. I was always a bit cautious with my pocket money – I’ve always been a saver.

What was your very first job?

Assistant tennis and funerals reporter for the East Anglian Daily Times. It was a school holiday job – I was 17. I was paid £4 a day. That was riches in those days.

Has there been a time in your life when you didn’t know how you were going to pay the bills?

After I went bankrupt, there were two very rough years when I was out of prison and on a bankrupt’s allowance. I had £200 or £250 a week to live on. I had to make economies like travelling by bus and buying food in the supermarket after midnight, because prices halved due to sell-by dates.

I wasn’t desperate, my mother used to help out occasionally. I eventually settled my debts under an IVA [an individual voluntary arrangement].

What’s the worst thing about being broke?

Adjusting. I had a dramatic reduction in my standard of living. I’d been rather rich. Through the Eighties and Nineties, I was the chairman of a small merchant bank which I had founded. I had banking deals in the Gulf and Saudi Arabia. My car was a Jaguar. One minute I’d been having lunch at Claridge’s and I had a big house in the heart of Westminster and a country house in Sandwich Bay in Kent and then, crash, I had a big fall.

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Was it painful?

It was, in many ways – I went through defeat, divorce, disgrace, bankruptcy and jail. That’s a royal flush of crises by anyone’s standards. It was painful Financially, certainly, but not as painful as getting divorced or going to jail. I’d put being broke third or fourth.

The worst thing was not being able to provide for my children. I minded not being the provider of the family, but I managed.

How did you cope?

I went back to Oxford as a student, to study theology. Most of my fellow students were training to be priests and were almost poorer than I was.

It was hard, but although I was broke, it wasn’t a breaking experience – I accepted that life had changed and got on with it. I learnt how to manage quite quickly. I exchanged Mammon for God.

How much have you had to pay out in legal fees since 1997?

I think it was £4m. That, and an expensive divorce, was what brought me to bankruptcy.

What’s your main source of income nowadays?

Pensions. In a good year, I used to put £20,000 away into my pension pot, so I have a good occupational pension from the investment bank, as well as a parliamentary pension of £33,000 a year [he was an MP for 23 years].

I still earn money as a business consultant and an author – I’ve always found it possible to earn money with my pen. I write quite a bit for newspapers, and I had a biography out on Margaret Thatcher which sold well last year.

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What is the most lucrative work you have ever done?

I must have made £250,000 from my book on Nixon [published in 1993].

After I came out of prison, I was paid $15,000 to make a speech in the United States.

Worst money mistake you’ve ever made?

Suing The Guardian for libel. It cost me my reputation, my home, my parliamentary career and my lifestyle.

Are you a spender or a saver?

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