Week 4: Prat – Aidan Burley MP

by Jackie_South on January 26, 2014

Burley_pratNot for the first time, the Member of Parliament for Cannock Chase wins our award for being the biggest prat of the last week

Tory MP Aidan Burley’s political career first shot up into the air like a rocket, before falling back to earth as a burnt-up stick.

After working for Philip Hammond and Nick Herbert when they were in opposition and a stint as a councillor in Eric Pickles favourite council (Hammersmith and Fulham) he was elected as MP in marginal Cannock Chase in 2010, on one of the biggest swings of the night, at the tender age of 31. After a few months on the Home Office Select Committee, he became PPS for first his former boss Hammond and then his successor at transport, Justine Greening.  The future seemed bright for this uber-right MP.

Quite how uber-right became clear at the end of 2011: two Mail on Sunday journalists were covering a story in the French ski resort of Val Thorens when they spotted a rowdy stag party in their restaurant. One of the group, the groom Mark Fournier, was wearing an SS uniform and on investigation the journalists discovered that one of the party was Aidan Burley. The group made Nazi salutes and toasted the Third Reich. It transpired that it was Burley himself who had obtained the uniform.

Fournier was prosecuted by the French courts for wearing the uniform and Cameron, after a few days delay, sacked Burley as a PPS.

The following year, Burley caused further offence with his tweets dismissing the Olympic Opening Ceremony as “leftie multicultural crap“.

Last week, an internal Conservative Party inquiry on the Nazi stag party incident finally reached its conclusions after two years (my, these internal party inquiries take their time, don’t they). Lord Gold found that Burley had “caused deep offence” and had done too little to stop the Nazi chanting, but was not a racist. The Mail on Sunday journalists were not questioned and Burley’s testimony that he had left the restaurant shortly after the incident and did not continue with the stag party to the bar was accepted as true.

Today’s Mail on Sunday shows that Burley’s testimony is not, in fact, truthful. He went on with the party to The Frog and Roastbeef bar and only left the restaurant with the other guests. Photos and recordings show that Burley carried on. Indeed, the original MoS story makes clear that the journos only discovered that Burley was in the stag party after they had left the restaurant and continued their saluting in the street.

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And that is why Burley is such a prat: he made up some mitigating facts that did not really detract from the main charges which were always going to be open to challenge, not least because he was claiming that some of the MoS story was untrue. He took a big gamble that the MoS could not back up its story and pretty much backed the paper into a corner where they had to come out with further evidence.

There is of course some prattery here also by Lord Gold and the Conservative Party as a whole: if they were going to take two years to carry out an inquiry you would think they would have asked the journalists to testify, which of course should have yielded the further evidence published today.

But for telling a fairly pointless lie that always had a high chance of blowing up in his own face, Burley is rightly our Prat of the Week.

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