Why Nazi stag party MP Aidan Burley is quitting politics
Former high-flier had no hope of a future role in a Tory government after embarrassing his party, say insiders
AIDAN BURLEY, the young Tory MP labelled "stupid and offensive" for organising a Nazi-themed stag party in the French Alps, has decided to stand down from his Staffordshire seat at next year's general election. It marks the crashing to earth of a one-time Conservative Party high-flier.
Announcing his decision, 35-year-old Burley made no reference to the Nazi row, saying only that he had endured “a difficult time”. But Westminster insiders say it will have been made very clear to him that the embarrassment the incident brought to the Conservatives meant he had no future in government.
It all dates back to December 2011 when Burley, as best man, helped organise a bachelor party for his accountant friend Mark Fournier at a restaurant in the French ski resort of Val Thorens.
Burley's first mistake was to agree with Fournier's friends that there should be a Nazi theme, not thinking that this is exactly the sort of boys-will-be-boys nonsense the modern Conservative Party wants to avoid.
His second mistake was to personally organise the purchase of a Nazi outfit to be worn by the groom, unaware that in France the donning of a Nazi uniform – unless you're an actor making a film - is illegal.
His third and most crucial error was not to realise that journalists take skiing holidays too – and in the restaurant, notebook at the ready, was a reporter who witnessed the whole thing, including the drinking of toasts to the Third Reich, and who wrote it up for the Mail on Sunday.
At the time, Burley was just 32 and had only been an MP - for Cannock Chase - since the 2010 election. But he had already progressed to being parliamentary private secretary to the then Transport Secretary, Justine Greening. He seemed destined for the heights of government.
But within a week of the story coming out, he was sacked by David Cameron and he has spent the past two years waiting to see (a) whether he would be prosecuted by French police and (b) whether a Conservative Party internal inquiry would recommend that the Tory whip be withdrawn.
Two weeks ago, he learned that the French authorities had finally decided not to pursue him, after fining Fournier himself E1,500 for wearing the uniform and ordering a further payment of E1,000 to an organisation representing the families of Holocaust victims.
As for the internal inquiry, led by Lord Gold, it accepted Burley's claim that there was "no political motivation whatsoever" in the choice of the stag party theme. And although Burley had proved himself "stupid and offensive", he was "not a bad man" nor a racist. David Cameron had been right to sack him as a PPS, but the inquiry was happy for him to continue to be a backbench MP.
Behind the scenes, it seems Burley was told the backbenches were where he would stay.
It will not have helped his cause that he got involved in another controversy over the much admired opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games.
In a tweet at the time, he described the content of the show as "leftie multicultural crap". He later tried to explain himself with a further Twitter message: "Seems my tweet has been misunderstood. I was talking about the way it was handled in the show, not multiculturalism itself."
By then the damage was done – which might be the epitaph on his political gravestone.