DEREK Hatton has been called every name under the sun. Spiv, wideboy, scally and chancer were just a few hurled at the firebrand Trotskyist when he tweaked the tail of Margaret Thatcher’s government, becoming almost as famous as the Prime Minister herself.
A quarter of a century ago, the Armani-suited Left-winger with the Beatles accent seemed to spend every minute on television denouncing Mrs T (as well as Old Labour) from his Left-wing soap box as a leading light of the Militant Tendency group that dominated Liverpool Council in the Eighties.
The end result was that his belligerence made the Labour Party unelectable. In 1986, he was expelled from the party and forced to walk the plank as deputy leader of the city which he had almost bankrupted.
After his dramatic fall, few were surprised at what happened next. Raids by the police at the modest 1920s semi where he lived with his wife, Shirley, and their four children seemed to confirm the suspicions of his enemies (of which there were many) that he had been lining his well-cut trouser pockets while building 5,000 extra council houses on Merseyside.
A subsequent court case alleged that he had tried to defraud the council over corrupt land deals – although it eventually foundered through lack of evidence.
And that was the last most people heard of Degsy – as he is still remembered by Liverpudlians.
Yet this week he resurfaced when, out of the blue, Hatton attacked the now ailing Baroness Thatcher and – in the crudest terms – said she should have been aborted before she was born. Lord Tebbit (Thatcher’s friend and one-time political ally) called him a ‘low-grade slob‘.
Just why Hatton chose this moment to make those remarks is unclear. But certainly, the interview he gave to a small newspaper in Cyprus, where he spends much of his time and has copious business interests, propelled him back into the headlines.
Hatton, 61 today, is back in the news – just as he always liked it.
Asked by the Cyprus Mail if he really meant what he said about Thatcher, he proclaimed: ‘You can quote me on that word for word. In fact, I would like that.
‘She, more than anybody, destroyed the world we knew in England and created a situation which actually produced the financial problems we have now. She is responsible for the current mess.‘
So how does this affect our Degsy? Could it be that the credit crunch is hitting this former Trot who always said money was of no interest to him?
For today he is both a capitalist and a multi-millionaire. He may no longer have the Jaguar XJ6 which he used to drive like a pearly king through the streets of impoverished Liverpool. Now it’s a £60,000 Range Rover on his gravel drive.
And instead of the Liverpool semi, there is a £1.5million Mediterranean villa with an interior designed in sleek black-and-white.
Outside is an immense infinity swimming pool and a granite barbecue, with a view to die for over the blue sea and mountains of Cyprus.
Since he was ousted from politics 24 years ago, Hatton has tried his hand (often successfully) as a male model, a radio host, PR man, after-dinner speaker and chairman of his son’s website company, which the Hattons sold a few years ago to a national newspaper group for the best part of £6 million.
Now Hatton – chirpily looking a decade younger than his years and a self-confessed lover of Botox, which he uses to smooth out a line on his forehead – has other ‘irons in the fire’.
Divorced from Shirley in 2005, he and his 30-year-old girlfriend-cum-business-partner, Danielle Maxton, spend half the year in Cyprus and the rest in a rather grand apartment deep in the WAG country of Bowden, Cheshire.
He has a property company called Morpheus Investments – set up with friends five years ago – and makes his living (by all accounts, a very lucrative one) selling Cypriot apartments, villas and penthouses to English customers.
Always a good salesman, the blurb on his websites is typically brash and breezy. Full of Degsy enthusiasm, it is accompanied by clever graphics showing gorgeous homes set in sumptuous surroundings, with suntanned holidaymakers walking beside an azure sea shaded by mature green trees.
The images are designed to make you believe that everything in Degsyland is perfect; that the holiday homes are used by happy communities of English families living the good life.
According to Hatton, 200 off-plan properties marketed by him and his company have been sold. The sales pitch says: ‘With ten years’ experience in the market, unique property developments and first-class customer service, we guarantee that your investment in Cyprus properties will be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life.
‘Our reputation is our most important asset. You can be sure that by choosing Morpheus Investments you will benefit from peace of mind and expert advice from our experienced management team, who all own properties in Cyprus.‘
Another Hatton website called Buyintocyprus.com adds disingenuously: ‘The property market in Cyprus is still performing very positively and although the media love to talk about the credit crunch and all of the doom and gloom out there, we at Morpheus Investments don’t see it!
‘So if you’re looking to invest your hard-earned cash, to emigrate or to buy a retirement property in the sun, take a look at what we have to offer.‘
While it’s true that on these websites Hatton markets hundreds of fully-finished properties in delightful locations that have been enjoyed by thousands of people, look beyond the smoke and mirrors at Hatton’s recent personal property projects and a different story emerges.
This week I discovered that many of Hatton’s property developments in Cyprus are little more than building sites, and at least one has not even had a piece of turf turned or a single brick laid.
According to the Cyprus Land Registry, the number of property sales between January and November last year fell by 27 per cent compared with the previous year, while contracts exchanged in November were 60 per cent lower than 12 months earlier.
On top of that, the price of villas has plummeted by 20 per cent and the governor of the Cyprus Central Bank, Athanasios Orphanides, has warned that investors must be prepared for ‘a worst-case scenario’ in 2009.
So where does this leave Degsy? In recent interviews to promote his company, he has boasted that he is involved in launching a prestigious new golf resort in the hills above the port of Larnaca, in what was once a village called Tersefanou.
Many property companies are involved in selling homes there, with prices starting at £250,000. One development is called Morpheus Heights and it is Hatton’s brainchild.
As his company’s website proclaims: ‘Morpheus Heights is on a beautiful raised plot of land, overlooking the PGA-branded golf course. The development consists of exclusive villas and penthouses. Each has its own generous plot and private pool.
‘Both the villas and the penthouses have a highly prized one year’s membership of the golf club itself. They are set in a private, quiet and exclusive development. This is a unique project. There is nothing like it on the island. It’s not only a dream holiday home, but also an incredible investment opportunity.‘
However, when the Mail visited the site this week we found nothing of the sort.
Yes, there was a large billboard advertising Morpheus properties, covered in pictures of completed villas and apartments. But behind it there is nothing more than a very large empty space.
Elsewhere on the Tersefanou ‘golf complex’, the few developments of finished villas are nearly all empty. Some already have ‘for sale’ signs posted on the windows, but strips of half-built apartments make it look like a ghost town. Even the few blocks with builders at work are months away from completion.
Last night, Hatton admitted that construction of the ‘exclusive villas and penthouses’ on the Morpheus Investments site has not begun, despite what his website claimed.
However, there is another problem. According to Aphrodites Koufterou, of the Cyprus Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism, no decision has been made on whether a golf course will ever be built at Tersefanou.
Because of a recent history of droughts on the island, the future of all water-guzzling golf courses is under review by the government. In fact, any ruling on plans for Tersefanou golf course is months – if not years – away.
As a result, messages of discontent are being posed on website forums used by English buyers of Cypriot properties. One says: ‘We were led to believe two years ago that it was just a case of rubber-stamping the golf course.‘
Another complained: ‘How can you build golf apartments on a golf resort that has not even been started? It was one of the reasons we bought it.‘
A mile away from Tersefanou, near the beach, is another Morpheus development. One day it will – apparently – have 66 apartments with price tags of more than £100,000.
Yet today it is a building site. Breeze blocks cover the properties and there are neither windows nor doors.
Yet the firm’s website, with attractive graphics of completed properties, states: ‘Kiti Apartments, also known as Morpheus Apartments, are based in the beautiful village of Kiti.
‘If you are looking for an apartment for sale in Cyprus, then look no further than here. Kiti is a prestigious location and . . . a popular place for young professionals looking for an investment that will grow as well as add value to their lifestyle.
‘With only a 15 per cent deposit needed – and nothing to pay until completion in December 2009 – it’s no surprise that these are our fastest selling range of properties.‘
This breathless sales pitch adds that the apartments are a stone’s throw from ‘the new five-star PGA-approved [Professional Golfers’ Association] luxury golf property development in Tersefanou.‘ Really?
So what does Derek Hatton have to say about all this? Has the old loudmouth exaggerated the attractions of his properties? Is he trying to hoodwink buyers in what is plainly a difficult time to make a sale?
And was his outburst about Baroness Thatcher really just a clever way of getting his name into the news and a free bit of advertising for his Cyprus venture?
Contacted by the Mail, his only comment was uncharacteristically short and sweet: ‘Everything on our websites is absolutely true. I have been shown letters written by the government that the golf course will go ahead. It is just waiting final approval.‘
Of course, the former Liverpool tailor’s apprentice has never worried about criticism. He has a thick skin. If not, he would never have survived being banned for life from his own political party and being subjected to a seven-year police probe into his finances.
In a recent interview to promote his company, Hatton recounted an incident at a smart London garden party when he met Peter Mandelson, who knew him in the old days.
Hatton said: ‘He comes straight over to me and says: “Derek, do you remember the last time we met? It was at Walworth Road [the former Labour Party headquarters in London] in 1986 when you turned up for your final hearing on party membership.”
Hatton then claimed Mandelson recalled that he offered him directions on how to find the meeting. ‘You grabbed me by the lapels,’ Mandelson said. ‘You said: “F*** off out of the road, Mandelson.” ‘ Hatton says that he has since apologised to Mandelson for his behaviour.
Today, as Derek Hatton celebrates his birthday and counts his fortune, it will probably not occur to him that he would never have been able to prosper without the culture of wealth creation that his nemesis – Margaret Thatcher – was responsible for restoring to this country.
© 2009 Associated Newspapers Ltd