Belfast Telegraph

Hail the rock chick MP who put her blackmailer to flight

By Jane Graham

I’ve often thought the most becoming response a celebrity could give to tabloid accusations of hedonistic skullduggery would be a teenage shrug and a ‘So what?’

But it’s increasingly rare in these stage-managed times to hear an outbreak of frankness from a pop star. Film stars are even blander. And in the illusory, hyper-hypocritical world of politics, almost nothing goes. Which goes some way to explaining how I found myself in the unnerving situation of cheering on a young Tory MP this week.

Louise Mensch, the 40-year-old Conservative member for Corby, recently received an email from an identified ‘investigative journalist’ sinisterly informing her that he had photos of her taking drugs and dancing “whilst drunk’’ with violinist Nigel Kennedy when she worked for EMI in the 1990s.

The sender also claimed to have proof that she’d written her first novel “of a sexual nature’’ during work hours at EMI on a company computer, for which she had allegedly been sacked.

As a member of the select committee awarded an audience with the Murdochs and their minions recently, Mensch has attracted some attention for her forceful questioning of the media emperor. It didn’t take Glenn Mulcaire to work out why she might be threatened with a smearing.

But her emailed response was masterful, witty and yes, I would say, in the face of such a repulsive and sleazy form of bullying, truly righteous.

Ah yes, she breezed, sounding entirely as if she were reclining with a nostalgic Pina Colada in her hand. “The incident you mention with Nigel Kennedy, sounds ‘highly probable.’ Since I was in my twenties I’m sure it was not the only incident of the kind.’’

As for her novel, she agreed it was written on her EMI computer but denied that was why she was fired; instead, she fondly recollected, that was down to “leaving work early, missing the odd day’’ and “inappropriate dress,’’ she wrote. In one glorious riposte Mensch completely deflated the plot to undermine her. But she did more than that. By publishing the exchange, she also made a mockery of her pathetic, anonymous would-be blackmailers , flattered the public by announcing her faith in their good sense, and challenged the age-old tradition for British politicians to make themselves ripe for intimidation by presenting themselves as ludicrous, saintly fairytale heroes.

I’ve followed Louise Mensch’s career with interest and no small amount of bewilderment for a while. I first came across her when she was still Louise Bagshawe. I was a young TV researcher on a documentary about the backstage shenanigans of rock’n’roll’s fun-loving protagonists. I was struggling against a wall of silence until I made contact with Louise.

She struck me then as a tough, ambitious and seeringly honest woman holding her own in the vipers’ nest that is the music industry. When years later she became a Tory MP I was gobsmacked. I could not see the connection. But seeing how she operates —and having just re-read that sentence about the vipers – I’m starting to get a handle on it.

Let’s hope she sparks a trend for similar ‘it’s a fair cop’ confessions in political life.

We might hear Ed Milliband admit that he hasn’t changed the battery on his voice box for two years. George Osborne could respond to accusations that he has no idea how 95% of the population live with a shoulder-shrugging ‘whatevs’.

And what a relief to finally hear Nelson McCausland admit: “Shucks, I don’t know much about nothin.”

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