IT ended in tears all round as British Tory MP David Ashby lost his libel case against The Sunday Times, which had branded him a homosexual, a hypocrite and a liar. There are, in the run of things, cases one might feel obliged to take up in the cause of justice. There are other grievances which only the insane would argue are worth taking up, things which are better let lie, forgotten about. David Ashby's was one such case. Conservative Party whips had urged him not to go ahead with the legal action, fearing the worst. After all, with years of so-called scandal around their necks it is extremely hard for a Conservative MP in a spot of bother nowadays to complain he is entirely innocent. The low-key Tory MP for Leicestershire North West was exposed in The Sunday Times as sharing a double bed with a man friend during a holiday in Goa, India, in 1993. It was a tasteless accusation on the part of what is usually seen as a responsible newspaper. But from the start it was difficult to deny. Ashby had admitted sharing a different double bed, with a Dr Ciaran Kilduff, in a hotel in France, claiming the couple were saving money. The paper accused him of being a hypocrite for stressing the importance of the family in his last general election address. It also called him a liar for denying to his wife and the public that he was having a homosexual affair with Dr Kilduff. Until recently those going to the libel courts could hope for enormous payouts, but only if their case stood up in court. David Ashby's did not. The result is he is left with anything between GBP350,000 and GBP500,000 (about HK$6 million) in legal costs, ruin and potential bankruptcy. To make matters worse, the Tory Party has been drawn into the sordid affair. If David Ashby were declared bankrupt, as he might well be, then he would have to stand down from parliament. There would be a by-election, and if the Tory candidate lost then John Major's already paper-thin majority would be reduced to just one. Ashby has three properties, but he is not a wealthy man. He revealed in court that he was in 'negative income' for three years because of losses incurred at the insurers Lloyd's. So, calls are going out to big Tory benefactors to help this most desperately unhappy of men. David Ashby was not the most affable of Westminster characters, he was always something of a loner with few friends. MPs will gather around him, not to save his position, but their own. To make matters worse for poor beleaguered Mr Ashby, his wife testified against him in court, doing considerable damage to his case. But when she attempted to place her arm around his sobbing shoulders as the case ended he brushed her away saying: 'Just leave me.' She walked away, buried her head in her hands and began sobbing, declaring that she loved him still. Curiously, they would turn up outside the court each day, embrace, exchange kisses on both cheeks and then within minutes be giving damning evidence against each other. But poor David Ashby must also know that even if his party saves him this time, his political career is probably in ruins. His constituency party may very well decide to de-select him as candidate at the next general election. The case developed into an embarrassing expose of the deep divisions between Mr Ashby and his wife, while lawyers explored his friendship with the male doctor. Indeed Mrs Ashby asked him on several occasions to drop the action, claiming it would not be in anybody's long-term interests. It certainly was not in their relationship's interests. During the case he described how his wife had cut off his friends, not shown him enough affection, broken his glasses, made him the victim of her domestic violence, and on one occasion shouted obscenities for 20 minutes, to such an extent that it had driven the family dog, trembling in fear, to incontinence on the carpets. He and their daughter Alexandra accused her of having affairs. For an MP from a party which claims to defend family values it was a disgrace. The Tories, having cheered him when he had the guts to return and sit in the House of Commons chamber within hours of his defeat, are privately fuming. The whips keep a close watch on anyone they believe might be harbouring scandal and even log a black book of MPs' misdemeanours and aberrant behaviour. But when Mr Ashby could so easily have ridden out the storm quietly his actions in going to court just made everything so much worse. And for a man who shared a bed with his male friend, claiming they were saving money, it has all cost him dearly.