Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Thursday 8 October 2009

Champagne Super no-no

There is a story today in the Manchester Evening News (brought to my attention by @AlixMortimer via @Peter_Henley on Twitter) about a Tory party member, Philip Whittington who got into a spot of bother yesterday at the conference Midland Hotel after he was accused of failing to pay the bill on a £150 bottle of champagne. He was arrested on suspicion of theft but he claimed that he thought it was a free bar and that he was entitled to it. The police decided to take no further action and Mr Whittington was released at 6am this morning without charge.

So far, so good. An apparent mistake led to an unpleasant few hours for a man who will probably be more careful in future. I expect he has learned an important lesson.

Except apparently that is not good enough for the Conservative party. According to the report:

A Conservative Party spokesman said: "We have banned the individual from attending any further Conference events and are considering what further action may need to be taken."

So despite the fact that as far as the police are concerned, no action is required and despite the fact that the gentleman protested that it was an innocent mistake the Conservative Party have unilaterally banned him from any further conference events! Not only that but they are looking to see what else they can do to the unfortunate man. What? Kick him out of the party? Make him wear a sandwich board proclaiming his unworthiness and parade up and down Market Street?

I can understand the Conservatives being a bit jittery about this sort of thing but this sort of reaction is way over the top. It does not befit a party who just a couple of weeks ago were trying to claim they were truly liberal.

If they were, they would reinstate Mr Whittington's right to attend future conference events.


Stephen Glenn said...

I understand, trying to substantiate it, that Tory PPCs have been limited to one unit of alcohol per night at conference. Wonder how that is being policed?

Mark Thompson said...

WTF!! One unit per night!? I look forward to hearing if that is true and how the hell they are enforcing it if it is!

Liberal Provocateur said...

Hang on just a minute..

This was taking something and not paying for it, surely any reasonable person would ask before they take 150 quid worth of champagne, rather than just helping themselves.

I've attended (non political) conferences and workshops where there has been a free bar, funnily none of us took the piss and ordered a bottle of champagne, and certainly didn't pretend to have any misunderstandings when there wasn't a free bar.

Liberal Provocateur said...

.. I mean the old "I thought somebody else was going to pay" scam that crooks play in restaurants.. I'm sure they're all genuine misunderstandings too.

Of course if he had realised there was a mistake or misunderstanding the reasonable thing to do would be to apologise and pay - obviously that didn't happen, hence a night in cells and somebody from the tory party smoothing over the "misunderstanding".

Mark Thompson said...

LP - Well I know as much as you do, i.e. what's in the report I linked to. He was arrested and released without charge.

Seems pretty illiberal to mete out punishment to people who have not even been charged with a crime, let alone convicted of anything. Innocent until proven guilty anyone?

Joe Otten said...

Surely the most embarrassing factoid here is that free champagne is quite plausible at the Tory party conference.

And Joe Public will suspect that ultimately he is paying for it, one way or another. It won't be where the party's tombola and whist drive money goes.

Constantly Furious said...

Come on, everyone, this is obvious.

He's not being banned for "theft", because he's been judged innocent of that.

He is being banned for being a twat, for being pissed, and for causing huge embarrassment to the Tories.

They are completely free to do that, and I don't blame 'em.

To put it another way, if someone came to your party and drank all the expensive booze, slagged off your mate and groped your missus, would you take him to court for theft, slander and sexual assault? Probably not.

Would you tell him wasn't coming to any more of your parties? Yup.

Fizzy Rascal said...

Perhaps it is because Tory chairman Eric Pickles imposed a champagne ban on visitors to the party's annual conference.

In an interview with the Evening Standard, he said it was their duty to look "humble" and avoid offending voters with shows of extravagance.

"Basically, I want to see less champagne bubbles and more bubbling activity,"

Paul W.E. Ingham said...

I've only just spotted your blog Mark. I actually know the chap in question. He is much more of a computing geek than a "Horray Henry" and is probably feeling very foolish indeed. This is an example of the modern Conservative Party's "zero tolerance" policy. Its a good job though that he told me this summer he wasn't planning to stand as Council candidate any time soon.