Nicholas Watt, The Guardian
David Cameron will face pressure to remove the Tory whip from the Conservative MP Aidan Burley after he tweeted that the Olympics opening ceremony was “multi-cultural crap”.
Burley, who was sacked as a ministerial aide last year after he took part in a Nazi-themed stag party in the French Alps, described Danny Boyle’s work as “the most leftie opening ceremony I have ever seen”.
Downing Street sources moved quickly to distance themselves from Burley’s tweets. “Clearly we don’t agree,” one source said.
The row erupted just after 10pm when Burley tweeted twice within a few minutes as the Olympic athletes started to enter the stadium after Boyle’s staging.
In his first tweet Burley wrote: “The most leftie opening ceremony I have ever seen – more than Beijing, the capital of a communist state! Welfare tribute next?”
A minute later Burley tweeted: “Thank God the athletes have arrived! Now we can move on from leftie multi-cultural crap. Bring back red arrows, Shakespeare and the Stones!”
The tweets will be toxic for the prime minister who has been praised for his handling of the preparations of the Olympics. Burley’s outburst will fuel suspicions that some members of the Conservative party have unreconstructed views which fail to recognise the pivotal contribution to society made by black and minority ethnic Britons. Boyle illustrated this with a section devoted to MV Empire Windrush, the ship which brought many passengers from Jamaica to start a new life in Britain.
John Woodcock, the shadow transport minister, highlighted the incredulity which greeted Burley’s tweets. “don’t think @aidanburley would say something so appalling after having to apologise for the Nazi stuff.”
Burley’s remarks sparked a Twitter storm. The footballer Stan Collymore tweeted: “I’ll happily stand against you at the next election. You have no clue about our town or its people. Game on.”
Tory loyalists distanced themselves from Burley. Charlie Elphicke, the Tory MP for Dover who is a Cameron loyalist, distanced the party from Burley. He tweeted: “An amazing #london2012 opening ceremony. Brilliant @DannyBoyleFilm celebration of our nation. Tonight we are #OneBritain.”
Louise Mensch, the Tory MP, also tweeted: “Have said for a long time that the Olympics are going to be pure awesomeness. Well done Danny Boyle #TeamGB #London2012.”
Gavin Barwell tweeted: “With respect, us Londoners are rather proud of the diversity of our city #nothingleftwingaboutit.”
Burley was sacked as parliamentary private secretary to the transport secretary Justine Greening in 2011 after he attended a Nazi-themed stag party. The party involved Nazi salutes. One guest was filmed by the Mail on Sunday raising a toast to “the ideology of the Third Reich” at the La Fondue restaurant at the Val Thorens ski resort.
Burley then apologised. “There was clearly inappropriate behaviour by some of the other guests and I deeply regret that this happened. I am extremely sorry for any offence that will undoubtedly have been caused.”
A Tory spokesman said at the time: “Aidan Burley has behaved in a manner which is offensive and foolish.
“That is why he is being removed from his post as parliamentary private secretary at the Department for Transport. In light of information received, the prime minister has asked for a fuller investigation into the matter to be set up and to report to him.”
The latest tweets by Burley are likely to guarantee that the Oxford graduate, who had been marked out by Cameron for promotion after his election in 2010, will have no political future in a mainstream political party. Burley is MP for the marginal seat of Cannock Chase and will be vulnerable to a Labour challenge if he retains the Conservative whip.
But the prime minister is either likely to remove the whip or gently suggest to Burley that he seeks another career. He will be furious that Burley has marred what has been seen in No 10 as a magical moment for Britain.
A Labour source said: “I think Mr Burley has made an idiot of himself enough without us commenting.”
Late on Friday night Burley tried to row back on his message. He tweeted: “Seems my tweet has been misunderstood. I was talking about the way it was handled in the show, not multiculturalism itself.”
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