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UK Politics

Andy McSmith's Diary: Aidan Burley is not anti-Semitic - he's just stupid and very convincing


Aidan Burley, the Tory MP who bought a Nazi uniform for a friend to wear at a stag party, is presumably relieved by the conclusions of a report by Lord Gold, a Tory peer who was asked by the party to look into the affair. He concluded Mr Burley “is not a bad man, still less a racist or an anti-Semite” but he is stupid.

Too stupid, that is, to realise that parading in a Nazi uniform in a country that was once under Nazi occupation might be offensive; or to check if it was legal; or to attach “any political motivation whatsoever” to being dressing like an SS officer.

Given he was dealing with someone who had behaved in a “stupid and offensive” fashion, Lord Gold seems to have been surprisingly willing to believe what he was told.

Burley told him his mate Mark Fournier (or ‘Fornier’, as Lord Gold spells it) gave a Nazi salute for the camera “only at the prompting of the Mail on Sunday journalist.” Lord Gold believed him. He may have been right to do so, but you would think he would take the elementary step of putting this allegation to the journalist in question, or his employers, before committing it to print, but he did not. The general thrust of Lord Gold’s conclusions is that Aidan Burley has suffered enough, and the fact that he has been “stupid and offensive” is no bar to carrying on as a Tory MP. How kind.

Farage ‘forgets’ Bloom

The best-known member of Ukip, after Nigel Farage, is Godfrey Bloom, the MEP from Yorkshire who has views on women who do not clean behind fridges, and who once whacked Michael Crick, of Channel 4 News, with a rolled-up manifesto. You would think Mr Farage would know that.

But writing in The Independent, he implied that Mr Bloom had been dealt the same penalty as David Silvester, the Henley councillor with an unusual take on the cause of bad weather, whose membership of Ukip has been suspended. Mr Bloom is no longer part of the Ukip group in the European Parliament, but insists in today’s Letters that he is still an active party member, something he says Mr Farage would have known “if he ever left the Home Counties”.

Saloon bar secrets

Years ago, when the Labour government was young, I received a stream of abuse from Gordon Brown’s thuggish spin doctor, Charlie Whelan, because I had written he had been overheard in the Red Lion pub, in Whitehall, barking out details of government policy towards the euro on a mobile phone.

I did not know why he was so put out, until it emerged he had been talking to Tony Blair. Blair was so furious to learn that Whelan had conducted this sensitive conversation in a pub that he demanded that Brown sack Whelan, which the then-Chancellor refused to do.

This happy memory came flooding back when I noticed Whelan on Twitter boasting: “Told Red Lion closed & turning into trendy wine bar. Yuk. The pub is where Blair found out we were not joining euro – from me!”

Top-secret union bashing

Tonight, MPs will be debating a very old court case which might have been forgotten had one of the convicted not gone on to have a very familiar face: Ricky Tomlinson, star of the The Royle Family.

Forty years ago, he was on a picket line in Shrewsbury during a national builders’ strike, when police moved in and made 24 arrests. He and another man, Des Warren, were convicted of “conspiracy to intimidate”. Even after 40 years, researchers have been denied access to papers on the grounds of national security. A suspicion is they would show the police were under political pressure to stop the picketing.