Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Sunday 18 December 2011

Aidan Burley should not have been fired

I realise this is unlikely to be a popular blog post but yet again I find myself compelled to stick up for a politician who has done something highly inadvisable in their private life and who has paid for it with their political career.

Aidan Burley, the Conservative MP for Cannock Chase has been fired by David Cameron as a PPS to Justine Greening because he attended a stag do where some guests were wearing SS uniforms and during which there was a toast to "the ideology and thought processes of the Third Reich". The story broke last week but he seemed to be weathering the storm claiming he was merely an attendee and should have left when he realised what was happening but in the last day or so it became apparent that he had hired one of the SS suits, hence he had clearly been deemed part of the organisation of the event and therefore fired.

Now I fully appreciate that some people will have been offended by what he did. The problem from my perspective is that the reporting of the event and the subsequent sacking take no account of nuance and the highly likely fact that the participants were doing this in a totally misguided attempt at irony. I do not believe that any of them actually do agree with the thought processes and ideology of the Nazis. If evidence emerged that Burley actually did hold these beliefs then it would be a different matter. Instead he went on a stag do where a few people wore distasteful fancy dress costumes and made a few comments almost certainly for shock effect in an attempt at humour. And for that he has now likely paid with his political career.

The reporting by the Mail on Sunday today also tries to show a pattern of behaviour by Burley. They have gone through his history as a student and dredged up the fact that he was kicked out of halls of residence because of an "undisclosed incident" involving a female and a dance floor, that he once stole a sign from outside a dentist's surgery and that he once dressed up as Timmy Mallett and was pictured licking a woman's face.

I've no idea what the "undisclosed incident" was, but until it is substantiated in some way it is frankly immaterial. Stealing a sign from outside a dentist's is stupid of course but how many graduates have done similarly stupid things involving traffic cones etc. when they were students? As for the Timmy Mallett thing, that is where the MoS's agenda becomes crystal clear. They had him on the ropes because of the stag do so they are just pouring as much shit over his head as they possibly can to try and smear him to the point where his position becomes untenable. And they seem to have succeeded. If it had not been for the main story, these other elements would never have been deemed newsworthy as of course they aren't.

Burley did a very stupid thing. He should have known that attending a party like that could easily come back to bite him. His apologies should really have been enough though. I am sure he will not do anything like that again. But to have to pay for it with his career seems disproportionately harsh.

Sadly it is par for the course. We've seen time and again how any transgression can be fatal for political careers. And then we wonder why we so often end up with automatons as MPs who struggle to relate to ordinary people and often seem to have had a sense of humour bypass.


Anonymous said...

"We've seen time and again how any transgression can be fatal for political careers."

Fatal for a good reason - because these people have shown themselves to be unfit for public life.

"And then we wonder why we so often end up with automatons as MPs who struggle to relate to ordinary people and often seem to have had a sense of humour bypass."

Since when has dressing up in a Nazi uniform and praising the third reich had any element of humour? Burley is not an automaton but his severe lack of judgement has shown that he is not fit to be a Private Secretary and not fit to be an MP.

Anonymous said...

As a Tory hater, I hold no particular brief for Aidan Burley, but I wonder who is out to get him?

He was made a PPS to the Transport Secretary early on, which must be a sought after position among young Tory MPs looking to burnish their right-wing credentials. It leaves a vacancy for some other young man in a hurry.

Or what about forcing a by-election in Cannock, a seat that Labour have a good chance of taking?

Very thought provoking.

martijn said...

I absolutely agree with you, Mark.

The whole affair reminded me of John Cleese, who once remarked that the Fawlty Towers episode about The Germans didn't mock the Germans, rather it mocked the British attitudes towards the War.

Anonymous said...

It's not what was printed that did for him. It's what wasn't printed - as anyone who was at college with him will tell you.

Please don't cry for a scumbag like Burley. He really doesn't deserve your tears.

Anonymous said...

I think the fact that he was seen with someone in a SS uniform is now immaterial. He fed the Prime Minister an explanation (that he was put in an awkward position by his friends and not culpable) that has subsequently turned out to be a lie. Lie to your boss when he's trying to cover your back and you will feel the toe end of his jackboot.

Anonymous said...

What a frightening article.Mr Burley, as anyone will agree, including himself by his own admission acted stupidly. His behaviour is now under investigation by a French legal process. It is not the mark of an intelligent man who should be a leader in his country to go to a party where the express purpose was to shock. Indeed the stag party succeeded as would someone imitating a terrorist at ground zero. The area of the Alps where this took place was especially strong as a base for the French resistance movement where memories are still very strong and many local towns are twinned with German towns in valiant efforts to overcome the horrors of the Nazi regime. To argue that Mr Burley should not have been sacked for the sake of preserving a more colourful type of MP for he UK is crass and a very poor judgment on your part. That in fact all that he lost was a post in the government and not his post as MP is the shame, to be visited on the Tory leader and his coalition. Are you really trying to defend the man's political career? His behaviour locally has brought great shame in many areas of French thinking. Do you know the region where this happened or do you just read secondhand reports and form an ignorant opinion based on this? To bring your country into serious contempt by your action is hardly worthy behaviour for an MP is it? The weakness of the Tory leadership, Mr Burley's lack of dignity in not offering his esigntion and the coalition Liberal shallow response is the real shame. He should have been fired, and not just from his post. A man who brings his country into disrepute is not my idea of a man worthy of being an MP. Maybe you have different standards?