The hysteria, blind panic and the whiff of McCarthyism that has gripped all political parties in Westminster is unedifying and deeply damaging to all politicians. Two news items this morning that sent shivers down my spine and put anger in my belly was the way the Whips Office have treated Charlie Elphike and Anna Soubrey’s interview in the Times.Let’s deal with Charlie first. A serious accusation has been made and rightly referred to the police. It is now entirely a matter for them. At some stage the usual, ‘a forty five year old man is assisting us with our enquiries’, statement will appear. The press get a tip off and the horror of photographers camping out side his house begins. The accused at least knows what he has been accused of and can take advice, preferably from a solicitor rather than some dodgy ‘ reputation damage limitation expert’, on how to deal with it. My simple advice would be make a denial and say nothing more. Never give a story legs. But the Tory whips office took it upon themselves to brief the press. They didn’t warn Elphicke. They didn’t even tell him what had happened. He didn’t even know that he had been suspended until he saw it on the news. He has been publicly accused, and until the police interview the complainant and then knock on Elphicke’s door in the early hours, he won’t have a clue what his crime is meant to have been or even who his accuser is. That not rough justice. It’s no justice at all. He has been tainted. He has been tried, convicted and sentenced in the highest court of the land. The most unpredictable and unfair. The court of public opinion.
This is not a good start for our new chief whip. He is meant to be calm under fire and sound in judgment. Not to behave like a panicky little shit.
So before the police bang on his door in the full glare of the cameras, Elphicke will be asked by his wife, his kids, his friends, his constituency association and his local newspapers, what the hell this is all about. He won’t be able to answer. And that in the court of public opinion is a clear sign of guilt. But if he hasn’t been told how can he know? Utterly disgraceful and a terrible stain on the whips office.
What are colleagues going to think? The whips are going to expect them to jump through hoops, vote on ludicrous party lines, be encouraged to support a policy one day and denounce it the next and be general lobby fodder for a government who couldn’t arrange a piss up in the Sports and Social. If backbenchers think that they will be shafted by them at the drop of a hand on knee accusation which could destroy their careers and everything they hold dear, why should they bother? This McCarthyite treachery is terrible for what ever morale is left.
Whilst mentioning the Sports and Social, I do wish John Mann would shut up. He’s a decent and well meaning old cove, but the idea of safe places, banning MPs from this bar and suggesting that no employee to be in Parliament after six pm is a naivety to the point of drivelling.
And now for Anna Soubry. I know it’s terribly flattering to be feted and interviewed by two of Fleet Street’s finest, but the reason they are so good is because they always get a story, and poor boobies like her and Loathesome don’t realise How good it is until they see it in cold print.
Anna, your heart is in the right place, but as I have been told by senior civil servants that used to work for you, you don’t all ways engage mouth and brain in an orderly fashion. A throwaway remark in a tea shop about a sexual assault by Fallon, a criminal offence, would normally be libellous. But as a lawyer you know that once a man has had his reputation destroyed he will never sue. So you took advantage for a cheap headline that Fallon hasn’t got a clue how to defend because he doesn’t know what the accusation is. Kicking a man when he is down is appalling, reprehensible, unforgivable, beyond shitty, behaviour. And your comments that Green should be suspended on the flimsiest of evidence from the flakiest of sources was incomprehensible, deeply damaging and unnecessary. Your defence of Loathesome? Bordering on the deranged.
Who on earth would want to be an MP? People think that you are corrupt, lying, sex pests. And today is going to be hell. Awaiting for that dreaded five PM call from Simon Walters or Nigel Nelson. But at least they will tell you what you are accused of unlike a treacherous whips office and slack mouthed MPs on the make. Thanks God I am no longer part of this vile pantomime.