Conservative Association chairman Alan Barnes said Mr Hamilton and his wife Christine were being "victimised" by the media.

"The response of the members of this association to this torrent of abuse was, first, anger - followed by intense sympathy for Neil and Christine," he said.

And he insisted there would be no emergency meeting about Mr Hamilton's future as Tatton's MP, dismissing reports in the national Press of arrangements being made.

"I have seen no evidence to suggest I should challenge the decision to endorse Neil as our candidate for the general election," he said.

"Neil has absolute confidence he will be exonerated. We have absolute confidence in him."

Mr Hamilton admitted receiving £10,000 from Ian Greer for introductions he made in 1988 and 1989.

"The commissions placed me under no obligation whatever, either to Ian Greer or his company. They were wholly unconnected to my position as MP and similar payments are frequently made throughout industry to people in all walks of life," he said.

He had not registered the payments at the time because the rules were unclear then.

And he said he had not told deputy prime minister Michael Heseltine about the payments because he did not believe they constituted a "financial relationship."

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