Saturday, September 18, 2010

Jonathan Aitken

I have just finished reading Jonathan Aitken's autobiography, Pride and Perjury which was written in 2000, ten years ago. Aitken was one of those 'future Prime Ministers' who had his legs chopped from under him by the über-sinister press. He was a person of privilege. Tall and handsome, Eton and Oxford, rich with connections (moderately rich anyway - he could lay his hands on a couple of millions); he was a great nephew of Lord Beaverbrook, owner of the Daily Express and Minister of Aviation in World War II. His grandfather was British Ambassador to wartime Dublin, and Jonathan was raised in the Embassy because his father was a Spitfire pilot, horribly burned and a guinea pig at Archie McIndoe's plastic surgery unit at East Grinstead, while his mother served in the WRVS.

Not all went smoothly because as a young child he caught TB and spent 3 years with his legs in plaster of Paris, but nevertheless, he profited from his background, becoming a journalist in Viet Nam and Biafra, then a Merchant Banker and an author (he penned a biography of Richard Nixon after Watergate).

He became a conservative MP like his late father, and he was tipped for high office. He became a minister of defence under John Major and later as Chief Secretary to the Treasury he joined the Cabinet. But things began to go wrong.

He had friends in the Middle East which displeased Left Wing journalists at the Guardian and Granada TV. Articles and TV programs began to put it about that he was a Saudi plant in Parliament, that he had acted as a pimp for Arabs, that he took bribes and kick-backs on arms deals and that he ran a brothel (perhaps several).

It seems likely that all these accusations were outright lies and Aitken sued for libel. Despite the obvious veracity of his case he was caught out in a different lie. On a trip to Paris he allowed his hotel bill to be paid by a Saudi friend and then denied it, creating a conspiracy of lies to cover up his falsehood, involving his wife and daughter. The libel case collapsed, he lost his office, he became bankrupt, and his wife divorced him.

Yet he sees this as a journey of redemption.

Spiritually he was the sort of token High Anglican that you get from Public Schools like Eton, but when his wife questioned the shallowness of his Christian beliefs he did a dangerous thing. He put himself in the hands of the Living God. He was already Warden of St Margaret's in Westminster and he joined a Lenten series of meditation. He was asked to think about Isaiah chapter 43:
1 But now, this is what the LORD says— he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.
3 For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I give Egypt for your ransom, Cush and Seba in your stead.
4 Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give men in exchange for you, and people in exchange for your life.
15 I am the LORD, your Holy One, Israel's Creator, your King."
18 "Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.
19 See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.
25 "I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.

Jonathan Aitken passed through deep waters, but God was with him. He had to forget the former things. His public life was lost. He was sent to prison for perjury in 1999 and served 6 months of an 18 month sentence. Before going to prison he attended an Alpha Course. He came to recognize that this was all necessary to cure him of his pride and arrogance. He emerged a much humbled man.

After graduating with Distinction in theology after two years at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford (2000-2002) he began a new career as a writer, lecturer, and broadcaster. He has completed a second autobiography about his time in prison, a biography of Chuck Colson, who greatly aided his Christian growth and a biography of John Newton.

His wider activities include being a director of Prison Fellowship International, executive director of The Trinity Forum in Europe; and Honorary President of Christian Solidarity Worldwide. In 2007 he was appointed Chairman of the Centre for Social Justice’s policy study group on Prison Reform. He has been a speaker at the Keswick Convention

As a Christian public speaker Jonathan Aitken is heavily in demand for lectures, talks, debates and after dinner speeches. He fulfils around 100 speaking engagements a year, many of them in the United States.

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