You’re an MP at the top of your game. Elected just 18 months ago, already a high-flyer. You’re 32, Oxford-educated and part of a new breed of caring Conservatives. You’ve got a bright political future ahead of you. Now, how best to torpedo it?
Anyone considering that conundrum should call Aidan Burley, the Cannock Chase MP and former PPS to Transport Secretary Justine Greening. Last week it emerged that he’d been at a particularly raucous stag party in a French ski resort. It wasn’t that the group got obscenely drunk – though who knows, perhaps they did – or that they harassed the waitresses, or even that they ran up exorbitant bills and then neglected to pay them.
The crime – as it may well be in France – was that the party was themed; a nostalgic night during which guests donned SS garb and toasted high-ranking members of the Third Reich. Unfortunately for the stags, they were in a public restaurant and another diner, a journalist, caught the soirée on film.
For Burley, it was something of a last supper. The Prime Minister has now called for an investigation into his “offensive and foolish” behaviour and Burley has been removed from his post.
He is, of course, still part of the Conservative Party and his career will most likely recover. Politicians have bounced back from far worse. But, even as Westminster convulses over Britain’s future in Europe, it is right that this story and this scandal didn’t just disappear.
Let’s refresh. This was not a mere slip of the tongue. A few days earlier, Burley’s fellow freshman Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith was berated for a careless – but, I believe, absolutely unintentional – reference to Auschwitz. He was scolded, he apologised immediately, and the matter was put to rest.
Burley also said sorry, more than once. So why not forgive him, too? Aside from the suggestion in the Mail on Sunday that he was responsible for hiring the uniforms, the answer lies in his own apology; “I wish I had left as soon as I had realised what was happening,” he said.
This comment piece was first published in the Telegraph. Read the rest of it here