As Kiran noted earlier, it was Michael Gove, while at the Times, who went out on the airwaves over a decade ago to defend Tom Baldwin over his investigation into Michael Ashcroft.
Here is must a sample of Gove’s prose back in 1999, long before he was Tory education secretary – referring to both Ashcroft and Lord Archer:
Rich men need playthings. Whether they are performance-enhanced cars or surgically-enhanced women, goods of ostentation help stimulate capitalism. But there are limits. I hope it’s not puritan to believe that political parties should not become millionaires’ pets. Yet that is the position the Tory party finds itself in – recumbent on the chaise-longue, a glass of Krug in one hand while it tickles the plutocrats’ fancy with the other. The role of kept woman is never dignified but the Tory party is playing particularly fast and loose in its choice of sugar daddy.
Gove was asked about these and other quotes on Newsnight early last year: his response was that he was “paid to entertain” while at the Times, and merely seeking to “amuse and provoke”. He had since realised that Ashcroft did not have a financial hold over the Conservatives, he elaborated.