Lunch with... The Hamiltons

Written by Sam Macrory on 15 October 2014 in Culture
Sam Macrory heads to deepest Wiltshire to have lunch with Neil and Christine Hamilton

 After Neil lost his Commons seat to Martin Bell in 1997 following the cash-for-questions imbroglio involving Mohamed Al-Fayed, the Hamiltons reinvented themselves as media personalities. Neil is now looking to stand as a UKIP candidate in 2015.

The restaurant

The Vine Tree, Norton, Wiltshire

A country inn in deepest Wiltshire, The Vine Tree is an award-winning regular. Low-beamed ceilings and traditional ales mix with a light, airy restaurant feel.

The menu

Starter Caprese salad; Cajun-spiced Cornish sardines with creole tomato salad.

Main Mediterranean tartlet with beetroot, goats cheese and pesto; 8oz prime sirloin steak; a chilled collation of fresh, white crab meat and succulent baby prawns.

We drank Elmers Flying Monk bitter; Charles Henry Brut Champagne; Cabernet Sauvignon, Alto Bajo.

We discussed

Returning to politics 

NH It’s the stern call of public duty. Remember, I joined the anti-Common Market league in 1967. Farage was four at the time. I was well ahead of the curve. UKIP is the natural terminus for all I have fought for.CH I didn’t want to get back into politics. Frankly, been there, done that and got the t-shirts – ripped, blood stained t-shirts – many times. It wasn’t my idea, but hey…

Finding a seat 

NH I can’t really talk about that, I’m afraid. We’ve all been sworn to silence. I’ve been careful to ensure that I was regarded as an asset rather than a liability to UKIP and I’ve been given the go-ahead. CH It’s all in the hands of selection committees. UKIP is a very democratic party. NH I’m just fighting for a cause I’ve believed in all my life. This is the final chapter – it may be quite a long chapter. Who knows? That’s why, against her better judgment, I’ve plunged myself back into the cesspit.

Racists and fruitcakes 

CH All parties have eccentrics. OK, we’ve got a loop in outer whatever who believes... I don’t care. I still believe in the core of the party and it makes no difference. There are people in every party who are racist or homophobic. NH We believe in allowing people to have odd opinions. What does it matter to us, or anybody, that we have a donor who has eccentric views on how women should be turned out? He certainly wouldn’t take umbrage to Christine’s skinny  jeans. This has nothing to do with real politics.

Reinventing themselves 

CH The big break was going on I’m a Celebrity… in 2002. On reality TV you can’t hide, and people thought, “Shock horror, she’s a human being, and we rather like this woman; she’s kind to dumb animals”. NH That’s not an oblique reference to me... CH I wouldn’t have had Neil be ejected from politics in the way that he was, but had he not been, we wouldn’t have had this amazingly rich tapestry. So, thank you, Al-Fayed – you’ve given me this fabulous chapter in life.


NH Martin Bell was a puppet, managed and manipulated by his minders in the Labour Party and The Guardian.CH We don’t hate anybody. Life ebbs and flows. Several people have tried to do us down. All I would say is, where is [Max] Clifford now? Where is [Mohamed] Al-Fayed? NH The main thing in life is to survive… and enjoy their discomfort in due course. It’s amazing how retribution appears in some shape or form. But, mustn’t gloat…


NH We’re a professionally happily married couple. CH It’s luck, it’s lust, it’s love, it’s laughter. It’s not a bed of roses. There’ll be times when you think, “What am I doing?” It’s the clichés. It’s the give-and-take. NH Inertia is the strongest force in nature…

Perfect for Dining in the countryside.

Not suitable for Urbanistas. Martin Bell.

The cost Pricier than run-of-the mill pub fare, but a good-value treat. ■

To book a table at The Vine Tree, call 01666 837654

To purchase a signed copy of Christine Hamilton’s autobiography For Better, For Worse: Her Own Story for £15 (inc p&p), please email


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