Quirinale, the scene of Matthew Offord's latest reported debacle
Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear ...
Last week Mrs Angry and some of the other Barnet twitterati were rather bemused to find that our MP for Hendon, Mr Matthew Offord, had blocked access to his twitter account. Mrs Angry found this puzzling, although she had been making fun of his sudden interest in putting questions to parliament about elderly cod in the north sea. (This led to a horrible, shameful outbreak of piscatorial punning, late one night, which is best forgotten).
But the real story behind the twitter block is an entirely different kettle of fish.
Reports in today's Mail and Sun reveal that Offord may well have reason to have become overly sensitive, and explains a lot of blog visits in the last few days to Offord themed posts too.
Yet again, it seems, our friend has become embroiled in an alleged incident which will cause yet more embarrassment for himself, his party, and the local Tory council, already prostrate with mortification over the continued misbehaviour of our own Councillor Brian Coleman.
Here is the Mail story:
Foul-mouthed MPs trade insults during booze-fuelled argument in front of Army chief at £3,000 banquetMPS hurled foul-mouthed insults at each other during a boozy £3,000 banquet in front of Army chief General Sir Peter Wall.
Labour MPs staged a walkout after Tory MP Matthew Offord called one of them a ‘gobshite’ and another a ‘prat’.
In an angry clash over how the last Government had treated British troops, Mr Offord accused Labour MPs of having ‘blood on their hands’ for failing to equip soldiers properly when they were in power.
One Labour MP told Mr Offord he had drunk too much red wine while another shouted: ‘Get him out!’
Last night, the Tory MP denied he had too much to drink, even though he admitted he had the equivalent of a bottle of wine during the evening.
The rumpus took place at a private dinner attended by 50 MPs and guests on Wednesday at Quirinale, a restaurant a few hundred yards from Parliament.
The MPs did not have to pay a penny for the £60-a-head banquet, organised by the UK Defence Forum for the All Party Parliamentary Armed Forces Group, which is funded by donations from top defence firms, including BAE Systems.
Guests had been invited to hear a speech by Sir Peter, Chief of the General Staff, on modern warfare. But as the free wine and beer flowed, the evening degenerated into a different kind of battle.
According to witnesses, it started when senior Labour MP Dave Watts cast doubt on the Tories’ record on defence in a question to Sir Peter. Mr Offord, 43, a former BBC executive, said:
‘I’m not having that. ‘You lot have blood on your hands because you sent our troops into battle without the right gear.’
Mr Watts retorted: ‘You’ve had too much red wine.’ The Tory MP shot back: ‘Gobshite!’
Labour MP Russell Brown waded in, ordering other MPs close to Mr Offord to ‘quieten him down’.But defiant Mr Offord refused to be silenced and told Mr Brown: ‘You are a prat.’
Mr Brown replied: ‘That is worse than being called a pleb.’
Ex-Labour Minister Lord Foulkes called for Mr Offord to be ejected but he refused to budge. Another Labour MP, addressing Mr Offord, said: ‘Who the f*** is he?’
With tempers threatening to boil over, Labour peer Lord McAvoy led a walkout of the party’s politicians.
Defiant Mr Offord last night said: ‘In no way was I drunk. This is an outrageous attempt to smear me because I said Labour had blood on their hands for the way they treated members of the Armed Forces when they were in power.’
He indicated that he was wrong to use the word ‘gobshite’ but refused to apologise for the clash.
But Lord Foulkes said: ‘Mr Offord’s behaviour was totally unacceptable.’
You will note that the Mail refers to 'foul mouthed MPs' trading insults, whereas the report indicates that only Tory MP Offord behaved in such a manner.
In the Sun, the story is reported thus:
Tory’s foul tiradeA TORY sparked a walkout at a VIP dinner after unleashing a foul-mouthed tirade at Labour MPs.
Matthew Offord called one a “gobs***e” and another a “prat” during a talk by the head of the British Army.
He began heckling as Labour grandee Dave Watts asked the guest speaker about the impact of defence cuts.
Mr Offord, sitting a few tables away, yelled: “You’ve got blood on your hands. You sent people into battle with no equipment.”
General Sir Peter Wall looked stunned as Mr Offord then interrupted his reply to call the MP a “gobs***e”.
Fellow Labour MP Russell Brown tried to calm the situation only to be branded a “prat”.
Parliamentary party chairman Mr Watts, Mr Brown and two other MPs downed their cutlery and walked out of the UK Defence Forum event at the swish Quirinale restaurant in Westminster.
Mr Watts said: “He wouldn’t shut up. He just kept on going at me. It was extraordinary.”
Mr Offord said: “Dave Watts suggested I had drunk too much red wine. That’s when I called him a gobs***e. I had been drinking but I certainly wasn’t drunk.”
Mmm. Glad to hear it. If this is how he behaves when he is sober, citizens, what might he do if he was pissed?
It is true to say that Matthew Offord has something of a track record for reports of embarrassing incidents of this nature. Readers may recall the story by Guido Fawkes in 2010 alleging misbehaviour at the Tory conference:
And on an entirely unconnected theme, our hapless MP has something of an unfortunate habit of suffering rather unusual accidents which do little to bolster the image of dignity to which one might hope a member of parliament would aspire: breaking his wrist in the bathroom on honeymoon, sustaining an eye injury from a mug that flew out of a kitchen cupboard, trying to use Human Rights legislation to oppose a ruling banning his canine SpAd Max, the jack russell terrier (rumoured to be the inspiration for the 'Thick of it's Malcom Tucker), from parliament, telling a gay constituent that marriage between members of the same sex is wrong because marriage is for 'procreation', oh ... ah, yes, and then there was the small matter of the absence from parliament during the London riots, which brings us neatly back to today's story.
Last summer, Mrs Angry had quite a lot of fun with the tale of Matthew Offord, MP, and his mysterious trip to Belize, where he remained while London burned, and the House of Commons reconvened to debate the extraordinary events of that week. Take a look at a post written in August, 2011:"he has also been engaged in Parliamentary business helping the South American country prepare for hurricane season.
as Mrs Angry reported then, Offord claimed to a local Times reporter that he was not just on holiday ...
He says he has also been working with coastguards fighting terrorism and the drugs trade, but is unable to say anymore about that side of his trip before he returns on Saturday next week.
He said: “I certainly have not just gone off on holiday. I’m engaging in Parliamentary work in a third world country.
It’s not the cocktails on the beach that some people like to think it is."
Commendable, you might think. And Matthew posted photographs of himself engaged in this heroic, selfless enterprise - here ...
and here, looking rather wet ...
oh? Where is that, Mrs Angry wondered? Because ... doesn't really look much like taking part in parliamentary work in a third world country, does it? Never understimate the investigative zeal/boundless curiosity of Mrs Angry, citizens of Broken barnet. Mrs Angry spent a couple of hours on google image, trawling through endless photographs of hotel balconies in Belize and look what she found:
Read more here:
The Mayan Princess hotel is, according to its website: ' ... an enchanting and well equipped hotel that Splash Dive Center uses to accommodate our guests when we make trips to the Blue Hole of Belize.' Oh. Matthew is of course a keen scuba diver, but sadly his dedication to the fight against narco terrorism and the forces of nature left him no time to explore any holes, blue or otherwise. Shame.
See, Matthew told us that he was in Belize posing in quasi military uniform due to his duties as a member of the All Party Parliamentary Armed Forces Group, whose dinner, hosted by the United Defence Forum, he was attending last week, when the 'gobshite' incident is alleged to have taken place.
As Mrs Angry explained here:
this group is not an official parliamentary body, it is a boys' club for MPs who enjoy dressing up and pretending to be in the armed forces for a few days each year, visiting the men and women who are doing all the actual hard work, and placing their own lives at risk, and then returning to Westminster where they receive honorary ranks, and, rather disgracefully, award themselves medals. This last tradition has been widely criticised, as of course there are servicemen and women who are badly injured in the course of duty who do not receive any medals, and indeed Mrs Angry was told by Col Richard Kemp, former Commander of British forces in Afghanistan, that:
"The Forces Parliamentary Scheme is valuable but medals and phoney ranks undermines its credibility."
The Armed Forces Group is a mysterious organisation, financially supported, it would appear, although there is little transparency about the issue, by the defence industry, which might be reasonably be thought to represents a potential conflict of interest, mightn't it? And what is the 'UK Defence Forum'? The Sun's report neglected to tell us, and the Mail clearly thought their readers wouldn't be interested. Mrs Angry is interested, though.
According to its website, http://www.ukdf.org.uk/index.html
this forum, with the motto: 'conloqui audete sapientia proficite' - 'through dialogue comes knowledge and wisdom' exists to enable those interested in the issues of defence and security, politicians, senior members of the armed forces, 'defence professionals', to exchange views and information. It is supposed to be non partisan, and not engaged in lobbying. It is itself supported by companies such as:
Aspire Defence, BAE Systems, Babcock, Benromach Distillery, Berwin Leighton Paisner, Boeing, Carillion, Dalwhinnie United Distillers, EADS, EDS, Finmeccanica, G4S Government Services, General Dynamics, Hiberna, Holdfast, HP, Johnny Walker, KBR, Lockheed Martin, MBDA, Manroy, Marshalls, Maersk, NDI, NewsDesk Media, Nexter, Northrop Grumman, PriceWaterhouse Coopers, QinetiQ, Raytheon, Rolls-Royce, Selex, Shepherd Neame, Smiths Detection, Thales, University of Warwick, Virgin Atlantic, VT Group, Worshipful Companies of Lightmongers; Armourers and Brasiers; Tinplate Workers; Young's Brewery
Mostly funded by defence and security industry then, but a cheering number of distilleries and whiskey manufacturers.
The Forum was once told by Tony Blair to 'think the unthinkable', we read. Oh. Can you see what Mrs Angry is thinking, Tony?
Quite what the hosts and other guests made of Matthew Offord's behaviour on Wednesday night is not difficult to imagine. What is undeniably true is that this is yet another boorish outburst by a local Tory and will inevitably add a leaden weight to the sinking reputation of the Conservative party amongst the voters of Broken Barnet. So: not all bad news, is it?
As for Offord: Mrs Angry would suggest that he is sent off on a six month tour of Afghanistan where perhaps the challenge of earning a medal for courage, hard work, and real dedication to duty might just teach him that the reality of life in the armed services amounts to rather more than dressing up in combat gear for another photo opportunity, or dining too well at Quirinale.
Well, well. Mrs Angry predicts, by the way, that this will not be the only embarrassing Barnet news for the Conservative party, central and local, this week. Stay tuned ...
And in the meanwhile, here in Broken Barnet, we will be doing our best to add to the burden of shame with the premiere tomorrow night of 'Barnet - the £1Billion Gamble'. 6pm at the Phoenix, East Finchley, if you would like to come - and why wouldn't you?
Mrs Angry has asked Eric Pickles to escort her, but he has not RSVPd yet, so no doubt as usual she will be stood up. (Last year, she asked Brian Coleman, but we have reason to believe he may be preoccupied with other matters at the moment), Do come along to see the film, and see a real gobshite in action (Mrs A, that is) - a certain tv news team is covering the event, and ... it promises to be an entertaining evening.