SUNDAY 19  MAY 2024


What a state of affairs, scandalous Wragg bag of MPs who lose whip

BIZARRE: Tory MP William Wragg has resigned from the party

Today the former DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson faces magistrates in Newry, Co Down charged with 11 historical sexual offences including one of rape. All eyes will be focused on that hearing even though, like so many at the magistrates’ court stage, it may last less than five minutes. We shall see.


But it has reminded me that Donaldson is just one of 18 current Westminster MPs who have been suspended by their party or have lost the whip. This group is in effect the fourth largest party with three more members than the Lib Dems. And without passing any comment on the guilt or otherwise of the man arraigned at Newry, this is a funny old state of affairs.


The old adage that if it’s a Tory scandal it’s bound to involve sex, and with Labour it will be money, is only partly true. Since the Johnson ‘government’ of 2019 there have been 10 Conservative MPs (including the pro-Tory DUP) who have lost their party’s support because of complaints, proved, pending or otherwise, of a sexual nature. Two others lost the whip for non-sexual alleged offences, including our old friend Andrew Bridgen who compared Covid jabs to the holocaust (I told you he was an eejit) and Bob Stewart, because of a racial abuse conviction which he appealed against and won.


The remaining eight are a ragbag of Labour, SNP and Plaid Cymru and just two involve sex (Labour’s Geraint Davies for unwanted sexual advances) and Plaid’s Jonathan Edwards (domestic violence.)    


The better known recent Tory scandals either involve gay men or in one case a tractor (gay or otherwise.) The William Wragg and Mark Menzies incidents are truly bizarre, particularly poor Menzies who not only escaped those ‘bad men’ who had locked him in a room but had previously had an unfortunate encounter with a Brazilian male escort and some Class B drugs. He really has no luck.


So well done Matthew Parris, former Tory MP and Times columnist (the best writer not on the illustrious staff of the Drone), who confessed at the weekend to parking his car on one side of Clapham Common 40 years ago to walk late at night to the other side where he lived. He was a newish MP in his 30s and was returning from dinner with Douglas Hurd. Parris knew the risks of the Common after dark because he had ‘cruised’ there himself.


Result: a brutal attack by two young thugs leaving him with a broken jaw, kicked ribs and a determination to stand up for gay rights, not to hide in the mythical closet and to confess the incident to his constituents.


Parris was a decent MP who eschewed ministerial office, a fine parliamentary sketch writer and now the columnist I most admire at The Times. He is a regular broadcaster with his Great Lives series. Compare and contrast with the appalling bunch of thick exhibitionists masquerading as politicians these days.


 Well done Dismore. He rightly points out that the police incident with the ‘openly Jewish’ Gideon Falter was not all it seemed to be. What if:


It’s 1972 on the Falls Road, deep in the heart of republican West Belfast. A march is in full progress with men in balaclavas and carrying the Irish Tricolour flag. At one side of the street is a chap in a bowler hat and swathed in an orange sash. Despite the clear blue sky he is carrying a tightly furled umbrella. Behind him is another man carrying a new-fangled video camera.


The Orangeman, for that is what he is, is spoken to by a member of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, the old and predominantly Protestant police force who advises: ‘I wouldn’t try to cross over there fella because yon lot might not take kindly to yous. They’ll recognise ye as openly Unionist.’ (*translation on receipt of £5,000 — I’m being held here by bad men).


My observation: the cop was doing the Orangemen a big favour. And yer man with the sash was trying to make trouble with his pal filming it.


Ten years earlier in Hicksville, Mississippi, a black man tries to enter a whites-only bar where members of the Ku Klux Klan are drinking. He is restrained by a cop who tells him to go home while he still can ‘because them good old boys will tear you apart. Literally’.


So tell me, what exactly is the difference here with the incident involving a helpful and very patient Met officer and the openly Jewish (there, I’ve said it) Gideon Falter, wearing his kippah skull cap, who tried to cross the road through a pro-Palestine march in Aldwych?


 Good news! Donald Trump is not looking well. His daft satsuma coloured face is now offset with huge bags under the eyes (surely ex-presidents have people to carry those bags). But his daily stints (and stunts) at court in New York show just what a different planet the US really is. Trump appears free to say what he likes by way of running commentary, something which would land you and I in a cell for contempt.


Worse are some of his supporters outside. One (inevitably) fat woman told a TV reporter that if a) he doesn’t win his case and b) he doesn’t return to the Oval Office she would ‘go home and get my gun and fight, fight, fight. I’d die for that man. Make no mistake, there will be civil war.’


She is probably right.


24 April 2024