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William Wragg is no hero

There’s nothing ‘courageous’ about being fooled into sending dick pics.

Tim Black

Tim Black
Columnist

Topics Politics UK

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Tory MP William Wragg issued a quite extraordinary mea culpa in an interview with The Times last week.

Apparently, at some point in 2022, someone contacted him on gay dating app Grindr. According to Wragg, the MP for Hazel Grove in Greater Manchester, their subsequent exchange led him to send this mystery individual ‘compromising things’. By ‘compromising things’, he means pictures of his own nethers. From that point on, Wragg’s correspondent, armed with images of the upstanding member of parliament, proceeded to try to blackmail Wragg into procuring more phone numbers. ‘They wouldn’t leave me alone’, he told The Times. ‘They would ask for people. I gave them some numbers, not all of them. I told him to stop.’

Now, Wragg could have gone to the police. Embarrassing as it was, there would likely have been some sympathy for the then 35-year-old MP. But no. He promptly caved in to his mystery tormentor, furnishing him / her with phone numbers for other MPs, Westminster staffers and political journalists. As a result, two further MPs reportedly also provided the phishers with explicit snaps. So much for our politicians taking cyber security seriously.

Most of us, reading about this, will wonder about Wragg’s suitability for public office. This was hardly a complex sting, was it? There must be African princes around the world emailing Wragg right now, promising to transfer funds in return for a little help. Many more will wonder at Wragg’s lack of integrity, given he was willing to land others in the same mess in which he found himself.

But it seems his Conservative colleagues are made of very different stuff. Some, such as former defence minister Gerald Howarth, have urged the public to ‘feel sorry’ for Wragg. They have drawn attention to his bouts of depression, presumably as mitigation.

More incredible still, some have actually praised Wragg for finally fessing up, nearly two years on. Fellow Tory MP Bob Seely claimed that it takes ‘a strong man’ to say sorry. Chancellor Jeremy Hunt took the praise a step further, calling Wragg ‘courageous’. Courageous? Perhaps the scammers have incriminating nudes of Hunt, too…

Doing something at great personal cost because one believes it is the right thing to do – that’s courage. It’s what drives people to speak out even though doing so could harm them. It’s what motivates people to sacrifice themselves for a cause. In what moral universe is sending pictures of your meat and two veg to a stranger, throwing colleagues under the bus and then finally owning up to it all two years later ‘courageous’? This is a man who, after nine years in parliament, has already announced he’s standing down at the next General Election. Coming clean now, so close to a ballot from which he’s excused himself, costs Wragg very little.

There’s a serious problem here. Too many of Wragg’s parliamentary backers seem to have divested him – and indeed other MPs – of any sense of individual responsibility. The sheer idiocy of disseminating nude selfies to unknown individuals – something at least two other MPs have admitted to doing – is being downplayed. It’s being dismissed as a moment of forgivable, momentary weakness. Or blamed on mental-health problems. As if Wragg and Co had no choice but to succumb to the temptation of a seedy hook-up with an attractive avatar.

Rather than face up to the consequences of politicians’ own idiocy, some have even tried to foist responsibility on to ‘hostile state actors’. Seely, a member of the House of Commons’ foreign-affairs committee, has suggested that Russia might be behind it all. ‘It’s crude enough to be Russian’, he told Newsnight, before adding, ‘you would expect the Chinese to be more sophisticated’.

That’s right. If you’re a ‘hostile state actor’, even one as ‘crude’ as Russia, then you’re almost certainly going to target the mighty William Wragg, a backbench MP soon to depart parliament. After all, this is a politician so important and influential that when this story broke, news outlets felt compelled to run ‘Who is William Wragg?’ explainers.

In the end, the only person to blame for Wragg’s imbroglio, aside from the scammers, is Wragg himself. Asking him to take some responsibility for this isn’t harsh. It’s about MPs taking themselves and their role seriously. We elect these people to represent us. Some of them run the country. It’s surely not too much to ask that they refrain from sending nudes to strangers before promptly betraying their colleagues. While it seems unlikely Vladimir Putin or Xi Jinping were behind Wragg’s honey trap, it’s hardly ideal that our MPs can be so easily blackmailed.

That politicians rushed to defend Wragg, or hailed him as some kind of hero, is telling. It’s as if we’re not allowed to hold MPs accountable anymore, in this excuse-making, therapeutic age.

Tim Black is a spiked columnist.

Picture by: UK Parliament.

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Topics Politics UK

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