As Brooks Newmark checks into a psychiatric hospital it is worth remembering that it is exactly a month since Boris Johnson was selected as the Conservative Parliamentary candidate for Uxbridge.
Mr Johnson is one of the most popular of all politicians and opinion polls regularly show that if he was the party leader Conservative prospects would, in the short term at least, be a great deal better than they are at present.
Mr Johnson, of course, is a man with a rather chequered marital history – he has even fathered a child out of wedlock. When it was alleged that he had had an affair with Petronella Wyatt. He famously denied it, saying:
“I have not had an affair with Petronella. It is complete balderdash. It is an inverted pyramid of piffle. It is all completely untrue and ludicrous conjecture. I am amazed people can write this drivel.”
In fact the story was completely true.
The two most popular American Democrat Presidents in history make Boris look like a trappist monk: Bill Clinton’s sexual indiscretions are well known, while John F Kennedy’s tomcatting was notorious:
“… as compulsive as Mussolini. Up against the wall, Signora, if you have five minutes, that sort of thing.” Another woman he dated just before he became president was told, “I wish we had time for some foreplay.”
Mussolini, of course, perfectly illustrates the principle that a voracious sexual appetite does not guarantee good governance (something almost as well demonstrated by Musso’s spiritual successor Berlusconi), while Hitler’s apparent celibacy shows that it’s also possible to be a bad ruler but sexually respectable.
In other words there is absolutely no relationship at all between a politician’s sexual behaviour and his ability to do the job.
Brooks Newmark, the Conservative MP for Braintree, has resigned as the Minister for Civil Society and yesterday announced that he would not be contesting his seat at the next election. The reason is that two weeks ago the Sunday Mirror published an account of how he had met someone he took to be an attractive woman online, but who was in fact the Guido Fawkes journalist Alex Wickham who managed to persuade the Minister to send him an explicit picture. That dealt with Mr Newmark’s ministerial career.
Unfortunately for him he had also sent graphic photos of himself to another woman who seems to have contacted the Sun, which yesterday printed a decidedly ungraphic selfie of the former Minister in a hotel bathroom. The other photos, according to the Sun on Sunday were “too filthy to print” although it duly printed one of them in its Monday edition. It showed the unfortunate Minster posing in another hotel bedroom. It is not entirely clear whether the “relationship” with the recipient of the pictures, which is said to have lasted for two years, ever became physical.
It is odd that Boris, who committed adultery in a pretty flagrant way, and publicly lied about it, has continued with his political career; while Newmark, whose behaviour was certainly no more reprehensible has been driven out of public life.
The latest developments have also – unsurprisingly – led to the apparent breakdown of his marriage with the Daily Mail reporting today that Mrs Newmark has left what lawyers would now call “the former matrimonial home,” while Mr Newmark is said to be preparing to enter a residential psychiatric hospital for treatment for depression and anorexia. His mental fragility, incidentally, was something noticed by the journalist Damian Thompson several months ago, long before the latest storm broke.
The puritans were out in force over the weekend, keen to throw stones at the man caught in something which might or might not have been adultery. Someone called Dominic Dyer, for example, who used to promote pesticides and now promotes badgers, primly declared:
“Wealthy, successful, wife & family on political rise only has himself to blame should be a lesson to others.”
Similarly stern rules should apply to Judges, according to Mr Dyer, though not necessarily in their full rigour to Chief Executives:
Mr Dyer, it should be pointed out, is a Chief Executive of the Badger Trust. As such he is a role model for millions of children and environmentalists and must be assumed to be leading a private life of exemplary virtue, albeit he appears to allow Chief Executives like himself a little more latitude than judges or Members of Parliament.
The Badger Supremo reminds me slightly of the Fifteenth Century Florentine friar and dictator, Savonarola who:
“… disapproved of jokes and frivolity, of poetry and inns, of sex (especially the homosexual variety), of gambling, of fine clothes and jewellery and luxury of every sort. He denounced the works of Boccaccio, nude paintings, pictures of pagan deities and the whole humanistic culture of the Italian Renaissance. He called for laws against vice and laxity. He put an end to the carnivals and festivals the Florentines traditionally enjoyed, substituting religious festivals instead, and employed street urchins as a junior gestapo to sniff out luxurious and suspect items. In the famous ‘bonfire of the vanities’ in 1497 he had gaming tables and packs of cards, carnival masks, mirrors, ornaments, nude statues and supposedly indecent books and pictures burned in the street.”
Mr Dyer is not just the Savonarola of the smelly, consumptive and almost entirely nocturnal world that badgers inhabit. He is also, in his own words a “leading expert on wildlife protection and conservation issues,” as well as boasting a range of expertise which might make Lord Harley of Counsel blush:
He is not a “leading,” but still an ordinary “expert on the importance of plant breeding, crop protection and biotechnology to agriculture.”
Obviously all this scientific, agronomic, diplomatic and meline expertise makes Mr Dyer a man who demands to be listened to especially as he is also (he says) a specialist in “high level public affairs and communications … with expertise of working at a senior level in Government, Industry and Non Profit sectors.”
It is unclear what actual qualifications Mr Dyer possesses, other than his self-appointed status of “leading expert” in just about everything, but he would certainly be entitled to a Masters Degree in kicking a man when he is down.
Likewise, the journalist Milo Yiannopolous, who used his platform on Breitbart today, of all days, to reveal that a few years ago Newmark was “spreading the most appalling, malicious and untrue story about a colleague,” as a result, wrote Yiannopolous, “I find this morning’s orgiastic hand-wringing about his terrible plight a tad unconvincing.” Well sorry, Milo, I find spreading a nasty rumour about Newmark only after he has become an object of ridicule, after his marriage has disintegrated and once he is patently unable to answer back both cruel and cowardly.
People make sexual mistakes constantly. It is part of what makes us human beings. That does not make Mr Newmark’s behaviour right. Of course it was reprehensible to have an affair.
But it is repulsive to join a pack of bullies determined to stamp metaphorically on the face of a broken man. In my book it is much worse than killing badgers.