Nazis, Aidan Burley and memories of the bad old days

13 December 2011

4:48 PM

13 December 2011

4:48 PM

News of the antics of Aiden Burley and his friends at a Nazi-themed stag party in France made me think about the strange ways some Tories
like to have fun.

When I was at university in the mid-1980s the Tories were in their pomp. My time at Cambridge was sandwiched between the two Thatcher-era landslides of 1983 and 1987 and those of us on the left
felt pretty embattled. Through a mixture of ignorance and accident I ended up at a particularly ‘traditional’ college, Magdalene, which was then all-male and proud of its public school
rugger-and-rowing reputation. I was seen as something of a pinko because I went on few marches against grant cuts, dyed my hair, wore an earring and didn’t eat meat. The college culture
revolved around the bar and the chaps were very proud of a competition they devised to see how many ten pence pieces they could fit under their foreskins. One charmer once threatened to break my
legs when I suggested giving some money from the vast funds the boat club received to set up a poetry magazine. It was that kind of place.

My small group of friends concentrated on academic work and keeping our heads down: a successful strategy for the most part. But I do remember one particularly rowdy evening when I was kept awake
by drunks outside my room challenging me to discuss my revolutionary politics with them. At least I think that’s what they were doing. I eventually drifted off to sleep but woke in the
morning to the sound of scraping noises outside. When I opened the door I found a student with a bucket of soapy water and a sponge cleaning off graffiti from the night before:  the word
‘left’ has been sprayed in pink letters. ‘Terribly sorry about this,’ said a very contrite student. ‘The boys got a little out of hand.’ That student is now the
Conservative MP for Gravesham in Kent, Adam Holloway. He was, and still is, one of the good guys. He was genuinely furious about what had happened. Over the years at university we had some great
conversations about politics — he always despised the boorish tendency on the right.

So when Adam was elected in 2005, and backed David Cameron for the leadership, I was convinced he was just the sort of new Tory the party needed if it was ever to regain power. I had great hopes
for the Cameroons on this score — despite the Bullingdon background.


This is why I find the Aidan Burley episode so depressing. The behaviour of his friends is way beyond anything I experienced during the glory days of Thatcherism. Is it possible that Tories of the
younger generation (Burley is 32) are more blind to the rules of decent behaviour than those of mine? I hope not.

The Conservative leadership needs to act quickly to demonstrate its abhorrence of Burley’s behaviour and sack him from his government post as PPS to Justine Greening. Anyone in public office
should understand that it is not acceptable to pay the bill at a Nazi stag night. No. Anyone should understand that it is not acceptable to pay the bill at a Nazi stag night.

Perhaps the most depressing element of this whole episode is the decision by Conservative Friends of Israel to exonerate Burley. CFI’s director Stuart Polak said:

‘I have worked closely and travelled to Israel with Aidan Burley. I know him well and he does not have an antisemitic bone in his body.

The actions of his friends in France were unacceptable and inexcusable. Aidan should not have been associated with this. However, Aidan is both a friend of Israel and a friend of the Jewish

This is an abdication of responsibility. Burley was a guest of CFI on a recent trip to Israel and he has brought deep shame on the organisation. His photo and an account of his visit take pride of
place next to messages of support for the work of CFI from David Cameron and William Hague in their latest publication. But there was no mention of his behaviour at the £500-a-head business
lunch held by CFI this week, where George Osborne was the guest of honour.

Much has been made of Labour MP Paul Flynn’s comments about the alleged ‘dual
loyalty’ of the UK’s ambassador to Israel, Matthew Gould. And rightly so.

The Conservative Party now needs to show that the era of the boorish Tory oaf is well and truly over, and deal with Aidan Burley accordingly.

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Show comments
  • rndtechnologies786

    Good blog.

  • sym

    The boorish tendency of the right?

    I lived in a socialist regime. You should have seen how mild-mannered and polite was the left in a police state as only the left can devise!

    What utter tripe. And let’s remember, “nazi” stands for “national-socialism”, i.e. The Left.

  • Halcyondaze

    Unless there is clear evidence that Burley is a Nazi sympathiser and that this has affected the way he carries out his professional duties – then it’s NO ONE’s BLOODY BUSINESS what goes on at a stag do that he happens to be present at. The self-righteous little weasels of the leftie thought police strike again!

  • Ghengis

    Martin – the fact that you openly admit to similar plonkerly behaviour as you now remonstrate about. I suggest that do us all a favour memorise – people in glass houses should not throw stones.

  • Ostrich (occasionally)

    Craig Strachan 14th, 2:04am

    “Real men use 50p pieces.”

    The old one or the new one?

    Sorry, couldn’t resist it.
    (Cheers, Rhoda)

  • CS

    Some people’s tendency to dress as Nazis or to black up at fancy dress parties is indeed crass. However, surely it calls into question their lack of awareness of how the rest of society thinks rather than whether they actually harbour Nazi views.

    It’s a bit of a cliché to ask whether Martin would have been as appalled at someone dressing as Stalin at a fancy dress party but it’s a form of hypocrisy that has never been properly answered. If anyone in the Tory party was nostalgic for Hitler after WW2, it was probably on the extreme fringes. But support for Stalin on the British Left was quite mainstream for many years after WW2. Are we to assume that this means that the Left supported mass murder? Or just that (like the prick in the SS uniform at the party) a lot of people on the Left at that time were fools in sore need of a good slapping?

    Two idiots at a party doesn’t make it “Nazi-themed”. Looks like Martin read the headline and nothing else.

    The name dropping of Cambridge was a bit sledgehammer – though of course he had to retrospectively excuse his choice of a college lest we follow his own logic and assume that Martin too is a macho, mysogynistic dickhead by association.

  • ROJ

    I hold no brief for Aiden Burley,but anyone who has ever watched, and laughed at, an entire episode of ‘Allo ‘Allo is really not in a position to judge Mr. Burley. It is doubtful if such a brutal organisation would ever be a suitable source for comedy, or fancy dress, but if it will, judging from the Life of Brian, it will take two thousand years

  • Cayce Pollard

    “what’s he supposed to do, walk out in disgust?”

    Yes. I would have.

  • John Foss

    Really! What was the outcome of the “Dekara” competition? A Dekara was a tenth of a Drachma, still used by the Greeks idiomatically “Den exw Dekara” – ‘I haven’t got a farthing’ in translation.

  • Yow Min Lye

    I wonder when the last time was that a media liberal-leftie got uptight about someone hanging a Che Guevara poster on their bedroom wall.

  • Noa

    That undergrad lifestyle story; where have I read that before…?
    Ah yes, make lurve not Waugh! Pride comes before Decline and Fall. You are Paul Pennyfeather and I claim my Ten er …Pounds!

  • Dinosaur

    I still don’t get it, the original incident with Aidan Burley. He was sitting NEXT to someone in SS uniform? Oh and someone else toasting the Fuehrer. Is that it? It’s a stag do, what’s he supposed to do, walk out in disgust?

  • Old Slaughter

    So if Hitler could choose between his ideas and symbols being banned (Germany/Austria) or his ideas and symbols being themes for fancy dress and stag do’s (UK), which would he go for?

    This is tosh. If I went a Chairman Mao should I be sacked.

    Besides, this kissing up to a representative of Jews every time is like kissing Jesse Jackson’s backside in South Park. The Jews do not have a monopoly on Nazism and are not arbiters of its discussion. We fought in the war and gave up much to destroy them and liberate the camps. We can take the piss out of it as much as we choose.

    Why are you trying to make it more powerful than it is Martin?

  • Redneck

    Have never understood those few pro-Israeli, Left-winger’s rush to tarnish anyone on the Right who is vaguely associated with Nazi nonsense like this.

    The Left’s visceral hatred of all things Israeli should surely be of much greater importance? Why don’t they criticise them?

  • daniel maris

    Andy – You have more chips on your shoulder than a chip delivery van man.

  • Patricia Shaw


  • Nicholas

    Can’t post, won’t post

  • Andy Carpark

    And if you are going to flaunt your credentials, at least do it properly, as in:

    ‘My time at Cambridge DON’TCHA KNOW …’
    That’s CAMBRIDGE in case there were two or more proles in the house who didn’t hear, intellectual powerhouse of the nation, that churns out, conveyor-belt style, such luminaries as Stephen Fry, Sandi Toksvig, and Nick Clegg.

    Certificate of objectivity. Yes, I went to that other place up the Thames Valley. I had to drop something off there. I was back by 6:30. It was chock-full of louche, preening, narcissistic little toerags as well.

  • Richard of Moscow

    How did you feel about UK and US Government backing of ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia by Holocaust-denier Tudjman and convicted Nazi war criminal Izetbegovic?

    Oh Sorry, the above didn’t make any ignorant, pampered champagne socialists feel uncomfortable, it just resulted in the murder of thousands of foreign women and children by unashamed nazis.

    By all means moan about Tory Toffs, but don’t pretend you are of ‘the left’ – we all know that is not the case.

  • Simon Stephenson.

    Martin Bright : 12.46pm

    “Just to clarify, I think Ed Balls was stupid to dress up as a Nazi when he was a student. I can’t recall him doing it when he was an MP.”

    What on earth difference does this make? If dressing up as a Nazi (or not dressing up as one, apparently, in Mr Burley’s case) is evidence of possessing Nazi tendencies, then surely Balls’ escapades at Oxford should make him unacceptable to you and people like you?

    So why don’t you just admit to employing double-standards in this case, and we can move on to something of more importance?

  • Andy Carpark

    Martin Dim @ 12:46pm

    If there were a show called Strictly Come Clarifying, you would be kicked out after the first round.

    It was a pretty shite attempt at exculpation as well.

  • david welsh

    No one, so far as I can see, is suggesting Mr Burley acted wisely.Some say he acted stupidly and some seem to be suggesting that his actions represent something rather more sinister. He should be given the benefit of the doubt – though whether this should qualify him for membership of the legislature is another question.

  • Martin Bright

    Just to clarify, I think Ed Balls was stupid to dress up as a Nazi when he was a student. I can’t recall him doing it when he was an MP. Indeed, wasn’t he was a member of Oxford University Conservative Association at the time?

  • John Hall

    That’d be Namibia then if it’s former German SW Africa….

  • Ken

    @BC Its in Heilshoek around the corner from Windhoek in former German South West Africa and no its not on Google.

  • Minekiller

    Martin, What about Ed Balls and his Nazi dress up antics? Shouldn’t he be fired from the Labour party, or since Labour are a control freak totalitarian party, perhaps Balls was simply in his parade dress.

  • DavidDP

    “made me think about the strange ways some Tories like to have fun. “

    What about Ed Balls?

  • Andy Carpark

    There was a cartoon in Private Eye earlier this year, which I would attribute more accurately if I had it to hand.

    Frame 1: Lonely hearts ad: ‘Vegetarian, N/S, amateur artist, Wagnerian WLTM …’

    Frame 2: AH holding bunch of flowers, bounding up to gormless looking woman who is saying: ‘Ooh, you’re not at all like I expected!’

  • Simon Stephenson.

    BC : 11.23am

    No, I can’t find anything about this either, but you have to remember that fixed-opinion leftists must of necessity have vivid imaginations, since the realities of human life are so unsupportive of, and contradictory to, their beliefs. Without access to the well-worn track to fairyland, the left would be in a permanent state of psychological turmoil.

  • commentator

    Isn’t this just another boring article illustrating the left’s enduring fetish about Nazis? The Nazi Party and its acolytes were utterly destroyed over 65 years ago and its leading lights were killed or imprisoned. Either way Nazism was totally discredited as a creed while the architects of the left’s monstrous (and in many ways greater) crimes suffered no such fate. Yet in the best traditions of Joseph Mccarthy, the UK left would have you believe that there are closet Nazis everywhere….in, under and on the bed. It’s utter self-serving b******s which enables them to shift attention from the crimes committed by the left.

  • BC

    @ David Lindsay “apartheid South Africa, with its official monument to Hitler”. I am intrigued. South African born and bred and still here and I have never heard of this monument. Could you enlighten me? I wouldn’t put it past the bastards who ran the place then, but now, of course, the new South Africa lionises Gaddafi, Castro and various other socialist murderers.

  • fergus pickering

    Real men are circumcised. The Bible tells me so. And John Milton. ‘A thousand foreskins fell that day.’

  • Ian Wright

    As JP J O’Rourke once said “Say what you like about the Nazis, no woman has ever had a fantasy about being tied up and ravished by a man dressed as a liberal.”

  • Craig Strachan

    Real men use 50p pieces.

  • daniel maris

    The wearing of the SS uniform was bad enough. But there was the toast – to the Nazi ideology. And Burley’s complicity in that.

    There has always been a Nazi undertow in the Conservative party – remember ALan Clarke who used to honour Hitler’s birthday?

  • David Lindsay

    It is hard to believe that Aidan Burley MP is younger than I am. He must have had a very tough paper round.

    But is not at all hard to believe that he is a participant in a drunken Nazi subculture. That generation of Conservatives came up, fuelled by undergraduate levels of alcohol consumption, through first support and then nostalgia for apartheid South Africa, with its official monument to Hitler, and for the Nazi-harbouring pioneers of monetarism in Latin America. The crossover was enormous with the Continent’s overtly Nazi drinking clubs and worse.

    As recently as October 1997, a friend who was high up in the Young Conservatives showed me the catalogues sent out automatically to everyone on that organisation’s mailing list. It featured everything from works of neo-Nazi economic thought to cassette recordings of the marching music of the Luftwaffe and of the Waffen SS.

    It was the much-maligned Iain Duncan Smith and David Davis who put an official stop to all of this. That would not, and could not, have happened under Bullingdon Dave.

  • fergus pickering

    Heavens, poetry. Could I tough you for twenty quid for a poetry magazine? From your vast funds, don’t you know?

  • Simon Stephenson.

    william wood QC : 5.05pm

    Maybe Mr Bright’s got some solid evidence that Burley is a closet Nazi, and is using this incident to bring this fact into the public eye.

    Or maybe he hasn’t got any such evidence, in which case perhaps he could indicate the sort of private behaviour for which someone should be hounded out of his job, and also whether or not he feels that this sanction should apply to everyone, or just to those of a political persuasion with which he doesn’t agree.

    Guido Fawkes has a snippet (*) showing Charlotte Hale spending time in very close proximity to someone in a Nazi uniform. I wonder if Mr Bright has called elsewhere for the dismissal of this Labour Party staffer.


  • Jeremy

    Is this the left-wing version of boasting about how you went to Cambridge?

  • In2minds

    What would you charged for poetry magazine, 10p?

  • Kennybhoy

    Martin Bright aka Lionel Zipser! lol

    Many thanks Maister B! What with first Monbiot and then MacKenzie befouling these pages I needed a laugh!

  • John Hall

    Did you rush to write any pieces when Ed Balls was shown in full SS regalia? Fer Chrissakes, Burley was at a fancy dress party where SOMEBODY ELSE was dressed up in WW2 German uniform. Very poor taste but hardly a hanging offence and certainly not as egregious as the tide of ill-informed black ink the incident has spawned since amongst the commentariat.

  • Sui Juris

    You find it depressing that he was present at this event; I find it depressing that he so cravenly apologised for it. It was, after all, perfectly innocent.

    By his fruits know him! The Nazi theme (actually only one person’s choice of costume, as far as I could see) does not indicate that Burley has any sympathies with Nazi politics. Nor does it give any credibility to those who do – in fact, it probably lessens the credibility of the real neo-Nazi that the symbols of Hitlerism are reduced to a comic party costume. Nor do I see, in any case, why you and I should get to pontificate on this. Get over it.

  • william wood QC

    While I deplore the foolish fashion for extravagent and even competitive stag nights, it seems very unfair to castigate a promising MP whose genuine and creditable interest in the Middle East is not in doubt for going along with childish behaviour on an isolated occasion. We should please respect the imprtant distinction between public conduct and what happens in private.

  • Martin Bright

    Sharp as a tack as ever, Rhoda. It was the old ten pence piece. So even more impressive I guess

  • Rhoda Klapp

    The old ten pence piece, or the new one?