Chris Moncrieff on Jonathan Djanogly and the Private Investigator

Minister and Huntingdon Conservative MP Jonathan Djanogly has said he paid private detectives to investigate his colleagues because he was upset about “malicious” newspaper stories. Chrie Moncrieff political commentator gives his opinion to Paul Stainton in the Peterborough Breakfast Show on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire.Broadcast at 07:22 on Friday 10th September 2010.

PS: What is it with private detectives? Is it the business to be in? Should you be telling your kids to direct their curriculum towards learning to be one? The MPs want you, the newspapers want you. And this morning Jonathan Djanogly, Mister Bojangles to his friends, Huntingdon MP, has admitted he used one. (MUSIC – Thompson Twins – We are Detective.). Not a good morning for Mr Bojangles. Jonathan Djanogly, the MP for Huntingdon, as reported in the Daily Telegraph, Jonathan Djanogly who works as a Justice Minister, hired a firm of private detectives to conduct an undercover investigation into aides and colleagues. Why would he do that, I hear you ask. Well, Mr Djanogly hired detectives to find out who made the allegations that he used his Parliamentary expenses to pay for an au-pair. We can now speak to former political editor at the Press Association Chris Moncrieff. Good morning Chris.
CM: Good morning.
PS: Just let me adjust this light and get it fixed on you, and ask you a few questions. Hold on a minute. There we go. Right. First question: this is a bit much isn’t it? He’s overdone it here, hasn’t he, overcooked the pudding, and he’s going to pay for it?
CM: Well absolutely. He himself said he’d overreacted. It seems to me to be an act of complete and utter stupidity on his part. Allegations which he describes as malicious have been made against him about allegedly using taxpayers money to pay for his au-pair girl. And now he resorts himself to an undercover clandestine activity, to try and find out who are spreading these rumours, which he completely denies. Now apart from anything else, MPs are at the bottom of the ladder when it comes to public popularity at the moment. And all the talk should be about transparency and openness, especially from a Justice Minister. And here we have the Justice Minister himself going undercover to try and find out what’s going on. His relations now with his local party people must be at rock bottom. They now know he’s been secretly enquiring about their conduct. And now they must regard themselves as being under suspicion by him. Downing Street have said that this sort of behaviour cannot be condoned. I would think that Mr. Djanogly’s future as a Justice Minister may soon be behind him. But of course it may blow over.
PS: And all this in the week when MPs have been pretending to be holier than thou, and having a go at newspapers for using private detectives.
CM: Well yes. Absolutely. It’s just barmy. I couldn’t believe that a Government Minister, especially one in the Justice Department, has conducted himself in this way. He’s done himself no good. He’s soured relations between himself and his local party. He’s got the backs up of Downing Street. If he couldn’t see all that coming, when he embarked on this ludicrous operation then I really haven’t got much time for him.
PS: Yes. He’s released a statement this morning. Just let me read it. “Following a series of malicious allegations made against me in newspapers last year, I felt I had to act to find out who was spreading these untrue stories. I instructed a firm of private investigators to try to find out the source of these stories, because I was extremely upset that my private life had been invaded.” The findings had been sent to him on a confidential basis, and he was very disappointed to see the report released publicly without his consent. “I’m sorry if some people judge I made a mistake. With hindsight I can see I may have overreacted, but I was being subjected to very malicious anonymous attacks on my family.” Adding that he paid for the costs of the investigation, didn’t claim it back on Parliamentary expenses. I suppose we should be grateful for small mercies.
CM: Well that’s right. That five thousand pounds. If he’s got five thousand pounds to spare on that, good luck to him. It just seems to me, if these malicious rumours which he now denies were made, why couldn’t he come out in the open and challenge people to say who was behind all this? Why couldn’t he do it all openly? There’s nothing wrong with having an open row, but to behave in this underhand way showing that he doesn’t trust his own colleagues in the local Conservative Party, seems to be the height of stupidity, quite frankly. And I think Downing Street must be wondering whether he is really capable of doing the job.
PS: How long has he got, do you think Chris?
CM: Well I don’t know. It may blow over. There’s a cult these days of people not resigning, so Cameron may forgive him. But I suspect that his climb up the greasy pole will go no further than he’s got now. And he may even be sliding down it before very long.
PS: Chris, thank you for coming on this morning. Chris Moncrieff former political editor at the Press Association. He always tells it like it is.