He knows a thing or two about power and ambition, has seen them up close as a friend of Margaret Thatcher’s and captured them in the novel that gave him his literary breakthrough nearly 40 years ago.
Jeffrey Archer, who returns to the Edinburgh Festival to mark the 100th edition of Kane And Abel, said he sees Thatcher’s steely determination in another leading woman in the Conservative Party – but it isn’t Theresa May.
Archer said Ruth Davidson was “unquestionably a star” and claimed he singled her out as exceptional in her early days leading the Scottish Conservative Party.
Davidson is increasingly being spoken of as a kingmaker behind the scenes in the Conservative Party, and last week broke with May’s policy on immigration in a move seen as boosting the Prime Minister’s pro-EU rivals in cabinet.
“She’s a one-off,” Archer said. “She’s her own woman, and they like that and admire that. She’s unquestionably a star. I did say to Lord Sanderson about five years ago – he used to be chairman of the Conservative Party in Scotland – we were at a cricket match, and I said, ‘I like the look of this Ruth Davidson,’ and he told me: ‘Keep your hands off, she’s ours.’”
Archer, who entered the House of Commons and became a peer alongside Thatcher, said: “I see the same ability to believe in herself, and stick by it. She doesn’t strike me as someone who wavers. She makes opinions and stands by them. And that’s very much Margaret Thatcher.”
Archer also briefly served as deputy chairman of the Conservative Party during Thatcher’s premiership in a political career dogged by controversy that eventually saw him serve a two-year prison term for perjury.
He claimed the Conservatives could have avoided defeat in this year’s general election if they had limited Jeremy Corbyn to a shorter campaign.
“Margaret Thatcher was very firm – three weeks, three days,” said Archer, above. “If you give seven-and-a-half weeks to a man who all his life has been a campaigner, all his life has fought for causes he believes in, you’ve given him seven free weeks on the stage.
“It should have been three weeks and three days, then out. If we’d gone on the day of the local elections, and we have the local elections to prove it, the Conservatives would have won by 50 or 60.”
Audiences will have the chance to quiz the best-selling author, whose books have sold more than 330 million copies, on his career and famously disciplined writing style.
He says he keeps to a strict schedule of writing between “six and eight, ten to 12, two to four, six to eight, in bed at ten and up again a five thirty”.
“It’s amazing how many people want to write a book, or are thinking about writing a book, and want to talk about that,” Archer added.
A new volume of 12 short stories collected while he was writing the epic seven-novel Clifton Chronicles will be published in November.
Tell Tale is based on snippets of true events “picked up from individuals around the world”, including the story of the Italian town where police investigating the murder of the local mayor get a confession from every resident.
An Audience With Jeffrey Archer, Pleasance Forth, 22 August, 3.45pm, and 23 August, 5.30pm. All proceeds go to the English National Opera’s learning and talent development programmes