Times Column Mocks Rent-a-Quote MP Andrew Bridgen: Some Observations

Profile fails to note link to Mike Veale, and possible contact with Jon Wedger

Times columnist Matt Chorley has written celebrated profile of rent-a-quote MP Andrew Bridgen, inspired by the Tory backbencher’s recent call for Theresa May to resign over her Brexit deal:

If May is ousted nobody would be more surprised than Bridgen himself, having led unsuccessful efforts to unseat David Cameron, John Bercow and Keith Vaz…But then he’s not what you would call a details man. He’s one of those who thinks a trade deal could be struck “in an afternoon”. 

Chorley mocks Bridgen for making continued predictions of the imminent political demise of May, and for dud interventions such as his recent claim that English people have a right to an Irish passport. He also notes the wide-ranging scale of Bridgen’s punditry:

In recent months he has spoken to the press on the burka, the Archbishop of Canterbury, drugs, midwifery, immigration, a National Trust memorial to executed gay men, the Scottish tax system, aid for India, gagging orders, bonuses, university credit cards, uninvestigated burglaries and the BBC 6 Music presenter Cerys Matthews.

Chorley claims that “unkind Tory colleagues” have described him as “thick as mash”, in mocking reference to his intellect and his business background in the potato industry. A text exchange between the two men followed publication. Bridgen: “You have massively increased my standing and at the same time spurred my constituents to rush to my defence .Especially your implied support for Keith Vaz…”; Chorley: “I can’t imagine how low your standing was for it to be improved by being called a liar and a fantasist in a national newspaper…”

This is all good fun, but it risks obscuring a less amusing aspect to Bridgen’s publicity seeking. First, it should be remembered that Bridgen is a vociferous supporter of Mike Veale, the weird former Chief Constable of Wiltshire Police who decided to plough limitless police resources into a fruitless attempt to establish grounds for believing the former Prime Minister Edward Heath, who died in 2005, had got away with child-sex crimes decades before (including Satanic Ritual Abuse).

Bridgen dismissed criticism of the investigation as “the Establishment” seeking to “shelve” investigations into historic VIP abuse, and as a “chilling“campaign against the police; and it is more than likely that he was the conduit by which leaks favourable to Veale reached the media (in particular, the Mail on Sunday‘s political editor Simon Walters). Veale also provided Bridgen with an advance copy of the final report into Heath, which the MP commended in the media before the rest of us were allowed to see it. And when Veale was recently censured after lying about how he had come to smash his police mobile phone, Bridgen was on hand to condemn “spurious and vexatious allegations”.

More disturbing than this, however, is the possibility of contact with Jon Wedger, a self-described “police whistleblower” whose allegations of police child-sex abuse cover-ups have become increasingly wide-ranging and lurid, to the point that he is now promoting and working alongside “Satanic Ritual Abuse” conspiracy theorists; Wedger’s website also carries a cut-and-paste of an article published by conspiracy website UK Column in support of Tommy Robinson – presumably added because Wedger agrees with it.

Wedger recently posted a photo of Bridgen to Facebook, with the following commentary:

I’ve been contacted today [26 October] by a prominent anti child abuse MP Andrew Bridgen. He is willing to start a Westminster debate to highlight the local authority cover ups regarding children’s homes.
I need factual evidence to present to him. I also need assistance. Any takers

This is a subject that is already currently being considered by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, and it has also featured prominently in the media. It is difficult to see what would be gained by Bridgen holding a “Westminster debate” (presumably he means a Westminster Hall debate) on the subject, beyond self-publicity and the promotion of dubious conspiracy theories.

Of course, we only have Wedger’s word that he was indeed contacted by Bridgen, but it should be recalled that a year ago Bridgen wrote a letter “to the policing minister Nick Hurd asking him what support is currently available to officers who raise concerns over criminality within their force”. This was reported by James Fielding in the Sunday Express, and formed the climax of several articles by Fielding about Wedger and Maggie Oliver as  “police whistleblowers”.

Hurd’s response to Bridgen is not known, although Wedger has published a reply from Hurd to what appears to have been a similar query made more recently by his own MP Mike Penning (who is also known for his support of Wedger). Hurd wrote to Penning (who passed the reply to Wedger) that “Although I note Mr Wedger’s concerns, the police are operationally indendent of Government, and it would not be appropriate for Ministers or officials to comment on, or intervene in, a specific case, investigation or complaint”.

Footnote

Chorley is not the only journalist to have recently offered a scathing assessment of Bridgen; a recent interview with the LBC host James O’Brien in the Independent includes the detail that

Andrew Bridgen… and MP Nadine Dorries are picked off as “some of the most profoundly ignorant people ever to disgrace public life”.

As far as I am aware, Bridgen did not respond publicly to this, although Dorries accused O’Brien of a “creepy obsession” that she might report to the police and warned ominously that “We have begun collating comments etc”. This tired refrain is unlikely to be well-received by her local force – perhaps Bridgen should point her in the direction of Veale instead…

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