A former Conservative minister has defended a fellow Tory MP who organised Nazi-themed stag party for a friend in France, arguing that it was just a bit of "hi-jinx".

Last month an internal Conservative Party inquiry found that Cannock Chase MP Aiden Burley, while not racist or anti-Semitic, had been "stupid and offensive".

Sir Gerald Howarth, the MP for Aldershot who was one of David Cameron's defence ministers until 2012, said Burley had simply been the victim of a "very nasty witch hunt" by the Mail on Sunday.

"We all do silly things," he told BBC Radio WM. "I mean, Prince Harry dressed up in some uniform, the former archbishop of Canterbury dressed up in a German military uniform."

"It's not as though he declared some unacceptable policy, he has been engaged in some hi-jinx, we've all done it from time-to-time."

Howarth also suggested that the Mail on Sunday, which first published photographs of Burley at the party, had behaved in an "utterly disreputable" manner and should be aware of future press regulation. "This is why the Leveson Inquiry was so important," he said.

"I think Aiden has done a fantastic job, he had the largest swing the country, 14%, to the Conservatives. In 2010 he's been an extremely assiduous local MP for Cannock Chase. I think it's a very nasty witch hunt by the Mail on Sunday. I think it's utterly disreputable and out of proportion."

(Audio via Political Scrapbook).


aidan burley
David Cameron and Aidan Burley (right) in 2006

Following the publication of its internal report, a Conservative party spokesman said: "Two years ago, the party investigated this matter. The findings of that investigation were that Aidan Burley behaved in a manner which was offensive and foolish, and that his behaviour was completely unacceptable.

"What he did was wrong. That is why, two years ago, he was removed from his post as parliamentary private secretary. He has since apologised publicly and sought to make amends, including by visiting Auschwitz."

For his part, Howarth is perhaps best known for his warning about the dangers of the "aggressive homosexual community". He also recently said politicians should be more "judgmental" about couples that break up and the government should do more to encourage marriage.

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