Louise Mensch is highly caffeinated when we meet on Wednesday afternoon, having been mainlining coffee for much of the day. Our interview with her took place mostly before her revelation of taking Class A drugs on Question Time on Thursday night, although there were a couple of follow-up questions over the phone on Friday.
Even though coffee is probably about as racy as it gets for Mensch these days, there is a nervous energy to the MP for Corby in Northamptonshire, a super-marginal seat she will struggle to retain unless there's a dramatic change of fortunes for the Tories. Although Mensch had stuck her neck out a couple of times before the News International drama - including a Twitter campaign against the BBC's alleged bias in coverage of the Israel and the Palestinians - she hadn't gained a major profile at Westminster until the phone hacking scandal, and had (unfairly) been dismissed in some quarters as just some chick-lit author who'd decided to turn her hand at politics.
Sitting in the main atrium of Portcullis House next to Parliament, the coffee means she's talking quickly - maintaining cool but firm eye contact with me when listening to my questions, but looking away into the mid-distance when answering them, her hands frequently touching her face and gesticulating.
She acknowledges that the phone hacking scandal has been something of a trial-by-fire, and that she hadn't expected in joining the committee for Culture, Media and Sport (CMS) to be working on the biggest story in the world when it broke a year ago in July 2011. And although well-qualified to cover that brief - a chequered career in the music industry, experience of the publishing sector - Mensch says some people thought she was mad to focus on culture, hitherto viewed as a bit of a Parliamentary backwater.
"People said to me at the time, 'Aren't you ambitious, why do you want to waste your Parliamentary career in the department of fun?'," she says. "And then, you find yourself in the middle of the biggest story in the world, and that's the way the cookie crumbles, sometimes. I think a lot of junior ministers would have liked to have swapped places to be on that committee, to have that moment."
She is in some ways a blizzard of contradictions; the woman who clearly knew how to party hard in her twenties but who has been a member of the Tory party since she was a teenager. She briefly switched to Labour in 1996 before coming back to the Tory fold as an A-list candidate. She champions feminism on Twitter, but after her secret second marriage last year changed her name on the official House of Commons register from Louise Bagshawe to plain-old "Mrs Mensch".
Many find her honesty refreshing; others attack her relentlessly and viciously as a Murdoch stooge. Her supporters point to her frankness as a sign of the sort of integrity people claim they want from politicians, a few complain that she only gets the attention she does because of her looks.
For what it's worth, I find her impressive and in a world of careerist politicians with little real-life experience the sort of person we could do with more of sitting in Parliament. Whether David Cameron would ever take a risk and promote her to ministerial office is less clear. What seems more likely is that after 2015 she'll go and do something equally interesting, but away from front-line politics. She's just launched a new social network, Menshn, which is designed to encourage people to "talk on topic". Like Twitter, but with more structure.
When the phone hacking scandal broke Mensch along with a dozen other MPs found themselves charged with both grilling two of the most powerful media proprietors in the world, but also under pressure to show that Parliament was capable of getting answers from tricksy people. Did they feel out of their depth?
"It was the most extraordinary thing, and so nerve-wracking," she says. "It's being globally televised, it was CNN, everywhere. And it was an unprecedented opportunity to expose what had happened not just in News International, but across the press.
"To be at the heart of it has been an amazing thing, and put me in a position I never expected to be in as a junior backbencher."
I wonder what her perception of the Murdochs had been before the revelations that brought down the News of the World?
"Before The Guardian story about Milly Dowler's phone, it did seem that it hadn't gone anywhere," she says. "It's hard, really, for someone who isn't close to it, to disbelieve a police inquiry. Since the police themselves had investigated it and said, 'Nothing to see here, move along'.
"People might not trust the Press Complaints Commission, but when the PCC and the police are saying the same thing, you do have trust that somewhere, someone has made a thorough investigation and think it's all a bit overblown."
That said, the phone hacking allegations were still reverberating, even in early 2011. They cost Andy Coulson his job as the head of communications at Number 10. Mensch maintains that Coulson was "a very good pick."
"He was considered purely as a communications director easily the best the Conservative Party's ever had, we miss him terribly in terms of the pure ability at his job. Unfortunately you can't take somebody in isolation but I think it's worth saying that Andy Coulson was very, very good at what he did, and transformative for us in difficult times in government."
This is the sort of thing that Tories will say off-record all the time but rarely will acknowledge when cameras and MP3 recorders are rolling. Mensch doesn't really do off-record - does she think the world of briefings and shadowy meetings has really changed in the past year?
"I think it has, it's not so much that politicians and the press were too close or too pally, it was the fact that it wasn't transparent. What people really didn't like is how Rupert Murdoch said in our committee, 'I went into Downing Street through the back door'. We don't mind him going into Downing Street through the front door, but it's the going through the back door that people object to.
"I think people are quite sensible about this, insofar as they care about Leveson, which, by the way, isn't very much. What they want to see is transparency and they don't want to think that secret deals are being done behind anyone's back. They don't like the pyjama parties and the horse-riding but they do understand that in a functioning democracy there do need to be briefings and off-record conversations, contacts between editors and politicians from all parties. They don't want some ridiculous purdah where they can't talk to a journalist. Or a proprietor, for that matter."
Apart from the closure of the News of the World exactly 52 weeks ago, the event everyone remembers most readily from last summer's phone hacking probe was the foam-pie assault on Rupert Murdoch during a CMS committee session, not far from where we are sitting in Portcullis House. An event which embarrassed Parliament, arguably hastened the resignation of the Serjeant-at-Arms and dramatically changed the tone of proceedings on the committee. And it happened when Mensch was right in the middle of her questions.
"The first thing I saw was Mrs. Murdoch jumping up, lightening-fast. Lashing out at the guy. I had been looking across a diagonal at James Murdoch because I'd asked him a question, I wasn't looking at Murdoch. I saw Wendy Murdoch flying out of her seat, I saw this idiot attacking Mr. Rupert Murdoch.
"I jumped to my feet, I was looking for a policeman. I couldn't understand how someone had got so close to our witness. Where the hell was our security? The police were a bit slow, the damage had been done."
At this point the cameras in the committee room were cut, and rolling news channels began endlessly repeating the pie-attack. Twitter went into meltdown and everyone watching inside Parliament and elsewhere had the thrill of witnessing one of those rare events, one shared by millions across the world simultaneously. But what was going on in the committee room?
"I had some really difficult questions to ask," says Mensch. "Tough ones I'd waited three hours to ask. As they cleared the room Mr. Murdoch's lawyers said he was going to just walk out, that the whole thing was a farce. Mrs. Murdoch and I think James Murdoch both wanted their husband and father to walk out.
"I essentially appealed to Mr. Rupert Murdoch to his face, and I said, 'Please stay and answer my questions Mr Murdoch, I will not take long,' and he said, 'Okay, I'll stay and answer the young lady's questions.'
"He brushed off everyone else around him, because they wanted to walk him right out of there and would have been well within their rights. He'd sat there for three-and-a-half hours and had been assaulted. Although the cameras didn't pick it up, that guy was the second who'd been allowed in with stuff. A group of least five students had turned up with anti-Murdoch placards which they'd been easily able to sneak in covered under their jumpers.
"The security was a complete farce. We'd insisted these people come to us, we'd sent the Deputy Serjeant-at-Arms to summon them, it'd been high drama but the House of Commons couldn't run decent security. I was incredibly embarrassed."
Since then there have been more committee sessions - most of them less high-profile - which led to the publication by the MPs of a highly partisan report. The Labour-dominated committee concluded that Rupert Murdoch was not fit to run News International. Tories on the Committee utterly rejected this conclusion and made it as clear as they could that they opposed it. What are Mensch's reflections on the whole saga, a year after it started?
"Rupert Murdoch has handled the whole thing amazingly successfully," she insists. "The judgement of the committee that he was not a fit and proper person was derided around the world, in places as diverse as the Daily Mail and The Economist. We made ourselves look ridiculous. Even the most partisan Labour members on the committee, who had the votes, did not say that Rupert Murdoch misled the committee, nor that James Murdoch misled the committee, because they couldn't. He didn't."
But surely Mensch's view is a minority one, and that in fact News Corporation has been dealt a grievous blow, with the Murdoch family's reputations forever damaged? "Neither Murdoch has been damaged by it," says Mensch, quite mildly. "Only the UK has been damaged by it because The Times doesn't make much money, I don't think The Sun makes enough money to subsidise that. Actually Rupert Murdoch subsidises The Times, which is a great paper. If Murdoch decides to cut them loose then it will be Britain that is the worse off."
As it turned out the two Tory women on the committee - Mensch along with Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey - were the most vociferous in their rejection of censure against the Murdochs, and both found themselves harangued on Twitter for their views.
Mensch - who gets her fair share of anti-social media abuse at the best of times - decided to highlight some of the tweets she'd been sent by "favouriting" them. Here's a few of the less coarse examples that still remain visible on her feed.
"I just thought let's illustrate, let's just show people," said. "That is what any prominent woman gets every day on Twitter. I got more of it than most because I was taking a stance about how the committee was dominated by the left. I was clear and I was absolutely right to say that the Murdochs had nothing to do with this, that the commitee had been highly partisan.
"The way in which they described me on Twitter, I thought it was worth my while listing, so people could see at a glance what women get if they express their opinion, particularly a right-wing opinion. That said, it's not just a problem on the left, Laurie Penny has had the crudest abuse imaginable for her anti-banker stance."
Does it hurt? "I don't care at all about it," she says, emphatically. "Totally water off a duck's back, but it might not be to someone who's not a politician. Someone not so thick-skinned might be hurt by that, but it doesn't bother me."
Although the committee divided on party lines in its view of the Murdochs, their report did make some almost universal conclusions that Labour and the Tories could sign up to. Former News of the World editor Colin Myler and News International lawyer Tom Crone were found to have misled Parliament through their inconsistent evidence to MPs. They could still face further censure, but a decision about whether to bring further proceedings appears to have been kicked into the long grass, almost two months after the Committee's report.
"The depressing thing about that is that this is the probably the first time you've heard Myler or Crone mentioned since the committee reported," says Mensch. "Which only goes to show this is a story like any other. People aren't genuinely interested in who was guilty of phone hacking or complicity, because if they were they'd be asking what should be done about them. Nobody's asking those questions because nobody cares. All they actually care about is getting the Murdochs."
Does she think that in closing the News of the World, followed by the resignation of Rebekah Brooks and the sidelining of James Murdoch, the public felt they had their scalps some time ago?
"It was discouraging to work out how much of a celebrity driven story it was," she says. "The week after the first Murdoch hearings we had Mr Crone and Mr Myler in. Not only did we have no members of the public in there, which I can understand, but we had no Westminster journalists. Totally deserted. These were absolutely key witnesses, we threw a party and almost nobody came. That's what I find so pathetic."
Maybe it's the coffee but what is striking about Louise Mensch is how quickly and readily the ins and outs of this complex and baffling story trip off her tongue. Is she still obsessed by the phone hacking saga?
"Well, I'm telling you about it because you're asking me questions about it," she says, matter-of-factly. But I put it to her that the events still seem to be at the forefront of her mind, even though her role in the affair is finished.
"You don't forget something like that, you don't forget the ins and outs," she says. "We were on that committee for 18 months, every line of that report, every paragraph was hotly debated, word by word. So it will be seared on our memories forever."