Tory MP Burley: Sorry for Nazi stag party


By Martin Bright, December 15, 2011
Aidan Burley, far right, talking to Mark Fournier  in SS uniform

Aidan Burley, far right, talking to Mark Fournier in SS uniform

The Conservative MP at the centre of a row over his presence at a Nazi-themed stag night in a French ski resort has made an "unreserved, wholehearted and fulsome apology" in a letter to the JC.

Aidan Burley, who has a government job as a senior aide to Transport Secretary Justine Greening, was filmed celebrating at a restaurant in Val Thorens by journalists from the Mail on Sunday.

One friend, Mark Fournier, was dressed in a replica SS officer's uniform and the party was heard to shout pro-Nazi slogans. Another guest proposed a toast to the "ideology and thought processes" of the Third Reich.

Mr Burley initially issued a limited apology "for any offence caused". The MP for Cannock Chase was then thrown a lifeline by Conservative Friends of Israel, which said Mr Burley did "not have an antisemitic bone in his body".

A picture of the 32-year-old MP and an account of a recent trip to Israel including a visit to Yad Vashem appeared in the latest CFI publication, next to tributes to the organisation from David Cameron and William Hague.

However, others in the community were not so forgiving. The Board of Deputies issued a statement which said: "We find it alarming that Aidan Burley MP did nothing to confront friends who were dressed in Nazi uniforms and were behaving so appallingly. Mr Burley, who has confessed to have learned a great deal from visiting Holocaust Museum Yad Vashem, clearly still has much to learn."

The Holocaust Educational Trust added: "It should be obvious to anyone that this kind of shameful behaviour represents an appalling insult, both to those who survived the Holocaust and to those who fought to defeat Fascism in Europe." The HET regularly invites MPs to attend its visits to Auschwitz and Conservative sources have told the JC that Mr Burley would be well-advised to take up the offer.

The Conservative Party had hoped to draw a line under the matter after the intervention from CFI but Labour MPs pressed the Prime Minister to sack Mr Burley from his post as Parliamentary Private Secretary to Ms Greening.

Fellow West Midlands MP Ian Austin has raised the issue three times in the House of Commons and challenged Home Secretary Theresa May to say if she thought the Prime Minister should remove Mr Burley from his government post.

Mr Austin told his local radio station, BBC WM: "The fact that we stood up to the Nazis, we fought for freedom and democracy is our country's finest hour. The idea that a Member of Parliament sits next to somebody making toasts to the Nazis, while his friends are chanting 'Hitler Hitler Hitler', I just think it's incredible. I think he should be sacked from his job… I don't know how he can show his face in public."

On Wednesday, as the pressure increased, Mr Burley issued a letter to the JC in which he apologised for failing to intervene. "On reflection, I wish I had left as soon as I had realised what was happening," he wrote. "What was happening was wrong and I should have completely dissociated myself from it. I had a choice, and I made the wrong choice NOT to leave. I apologise for this error of judgment."

Downing Street confirmed that Mr Burley remained in post as PPS to Ms Greening and at the time of going to press the Transport Secretary had made no comment on his actions.

Mr Burley is the second MP in as many weeks to apologise for offence caused to the Jewish community. Last week the JC ran a letter from Labour MP Paul Flynn for comments about the alleged "dual loyalty" of the UK's first Jewish envoy to Israel, Matthew Gould.

Last updated: 10:31am, December 16 2011