Last year I was disgusted to see the ex-mining town that I grew up in elect a Tory MP. Today that disgust was amplified as news broke that Aidan Burley, the Tory MP for Cannock Chase, had been involved in a stag party that involved Nazi uniforms, taunting a French waiter, chants of ‘Hitler, Hitler, Hitler,’ and toasting The Third Reich. The MP even happily picked up the tab for this charming little soirée. Members of the group could face prosecution for their behaviour.
Now maybe it hasn’t quite sunk in to whatever it is that Burley uses for a brain but the people of Cannock Chase, like pretty much everyone else in Britain, fought against the Nazis. Indeed members of my own family who came from that area fought them. I can’t imagine that there will be too many people in the town who are terribly impressed by his antics. Indeed right now he is probably in severe danger of being chased out of town with sticks.
The town of Cannock is home to both Commonwealth and German war cemeteries and to several significant war memorials. There was also an RAF base in the district, RAF Hednesford, where air force mechanics were trained to maintain the aircraft that were so vital in defeating the Luftwaffe. Now Cannock Chase is represented in the Mother of Parliaments by a man who thinks that Nazism is the kind of thing that can be enjoyed by the lads on a stag do.
In opposition David Cameron appeared to be trying to detoxify the Conservative Party brand. To shed the image of the ‘nasty party’ and make it electable. But since the last election it’s become abundantly clear that this supposed detoxification was merely a cosmetic exercise. There was no deep cleansing. The Tories are still a haven for people with the most odious kinds of right-wing attitudes. Aidan Burley is another example of the loathsome twits who still infest the party.
Now some might argue that we all have friends who do and say stupid things and that they can sometimes be beyond our control. This, of course, is true. But you should at least have a go. Aidan Burley could have rebuked his friends. He didn’t. He could have got up and left the table. He didn’t. No, instead he stayed and laughed along with them, and then picked up the tab for the whole sorry episode at the end of the evening. He clearly thought that what went on was perfectly acceptable.
On this blog I’ve all too often found myself commenting on the company that David Cameron keeps. So it is of no great surprise to find out that he is (perhaps now was) mates with Aidan Burley. Apparently they high-five each other when they meet. Although to be fair to Cameron maybe it’s Burley giving a stiff-arm salute to his leader and Dave is mistaking it for a high-five. Whatever the case this is yet another example of David Cameron’s spectacularly poor judgment of people.
It so often leaves him in no position to take the moral high ground on issues where it should be dead easy. He couldn’t say much about the expenses scandal because he’d put it in a dodgy claim himself. Couldn’t convincingly attack the rioters because of what him and his Bullingdon mates got up to. He couldn’t condemn Andy Coulson, Rebekah Brooks, or Jeremy Clarkson because they were all mates of his. The case of Aidan Burley looks like another one to add to the list.
Supposedly Burley was referred to as the member for Berlin East. Frankly, by the time people are finished with him, that’s about as close as he should ever get to Westminster again. The lame apology that he offered is too little, too late. He should resign immediately. If he won’t resign then he ought to be kicked out by David Cameron. Although perhaps it will fall on his local Conservative Party in Cannock Chase to do the right thing and get rid of him instead.