Aidan Burley Denies Accusations Of 'Texting And Dozing' During Holocaust Event
Tory MP Aidan Burley has been accused of showing disrespect towards Holocaust survivors, after a Labour MP alleged he was "dozing and texting" during a holocaust lecture, as part of a two-day trip to Berlin and the Auschwitz concentration camp. However Burley has been defended by the Holocaust centre on Thursday afternoon, who told HuffPost UK that the incident had been "blown out of all proportion."
Ian Austin raised the point during Business Questions in the Commons on Thursday morning.
He told MPs: "I'm sorry to say a student present at a lecture by a holocaust survivor has complained about the conduct during that lecture of the member for Cannock Chase. Is it not about time the government sorted this whole affair out and organising a debate on the investigation the Prime Minister announced?"
During this time Aidan Burley, who was present in the chamber, was shouting that the comments were libellous. Friends of the MP utterly reject claims that he was disrespectful, but they don't deny that he might have used his phone during the speech.
The Speaker intervened and told Burley to behave himself before asking whether Austin had contacted Burley about the allegations. Austin said his office had contacted the Tory MP's office.
Leader of the House Sir George Young said it was a matter for the Conservative party, not the government.
A source close to Burley told HuffPost UK: "Aidan didn't doze at all, not once. That is completely untrue. Aidan went on a two-day trip that included Auschwitz and other places to gain a fuller understanding of the Holocaust. He found it a very moving and humbling experience.
"Aidan behaved utterly respectfully throughout the talk and throughout the visit. Some people at the visit realised who Aidan was and behaved aggressively towards him, which is incredibly sad.
"They now appear to be making political capital out of this. Aidan was sitting at the back, these people were sitting at the front and were more intent on watching Aidan than listening to the lecture. It is an absurd and malicious allegation to say he was behaving disrespectfully.
"It's not impossible that he briefly answered an urgent message from London, but the suggestion that he was just sitting there texting willy-nilly is just ugly and malicious."
The Huffington Post UK contacted the Conservative MP, who did not want to comment, however HuffPost UK also contacted Dr James Smith, Chairman of the Nottinghamshire-based Holocaust Centre, who was on the trip and who has defended Burley.
He says: "After an invitation by the Galicia Jewish Museum to attend a talk by a survivor from Auschwitz, Aidan requested we return to hear his account. Everything we did in these two days was in need of respect and attention, though as an MP we agreed he may have certain urgent work to respond to.
"When he replied to a text from London, he was at the back of the hall, out of sight of the survivor. I was sitting next to him and though I was concentrating on the survivor's talk, not Aidan, if he were asleep as has been said, I am sure I would have noticed.
"This was not an isolated trip. Aidan planned to visit The Holocaust Centre to meet with survivors and observe educational programmes about the Holocaust.
"I don't minimize the stag night whatsoever and take the Holocaust extremely seriously –which is why I've spent nearly twenty years and given up my medical career to promote education about it and respect for victims of the Holocaust. It is also why I went to Poland with Aidan.
"Finally I'm conscious that today tens of thousands of people in South Kordofan, Sudan, are under attack by people accused by the ICC of committing genocide. I am struck that while all this attention is given to one backbench MP who is now investing his time to learn about the Holocaust, there is hardly any outrage or interest in the fate of these Sudanese people suffering genocide today.
"We have to get some perspective and I think the Burley story is being blown out of all proportion."
The Birmingham Post has reported that David Cameron will decide if further action is to be taken against Aidan Burley. Iain Austin wrote to the PM this month to urge Cameron to reach a conclusion.