The Tory MP Ed Vaizey is hurt, bitter and possibly a little bit hungry. At least that’s the impression he gave attendees of a “Brexit Briefing” Media Summits event in London last week.
Appearing on-stage to discuss the impact of the UK’s departure from the EU on the media sector, Vaizey, who was relieved of his role as minister of state for digital by Theresa May last summer, took the opportunity to let everyone in on a few home truths.
“None of us expected to lose the referendum,” Vaizey told the host, Sky News presenter Sam Naz. “Nobody planned what would happen in the aftermath.”
Asked if this was an oversight, Vaizey responded: “I think ‘was that an oversight’ could go down in history as a sort of summary of the Cameron government. I think the way you put it is very good. We sort of stuffed the country up by accident.”
At the start of 2016, Vaizey seemed poised for greatness. A barrister and former party staffer, he won the constituency of Wantage in 2005 and was appointed a shadow minister the following year. He became a familiar figure in Culture, Media and Sport, before becoming a minister for Culture and the Digital Economy in 2014. When the EU referendum campaign began, he toured the TV studios defending the Prime Minister’s Remain stance. Then came Brexit.
Vaizey is not one of The Telegraph’s Tory “mutineers”, but nevertheless he remains a harsh critic of the way Brexit is being carried out, to the extent Politico named him as a top “Brexit troublemaker”. The invocation of Article 50 may be seen as a “premature act”, the backbencher suggested. The timetable this sets out is “slightly artificial”, and as a country “we are in a very difficult position”.
“I can speak freely, because I’m not part of it,” he added in reference to the ongoing Brexit negotiations. “I’m not in the government.”
“How are those negotiations going?” probed Naz.
“I have no idea.”
“Don’t you guys talk to each other?”
“I don’t talk to the government,” claimed Vaizey.
“Not at all?”
“I suppose I’m hurt, bitter, thoroughly pissed off to have been fired by the Prime Minister. Lots of reasons really – typical man behaviour. Sulking, impractical, inability to cope.”
The interview clearly going well, Naz took another line of questioning: “Are you going to be a rebel in the future?”
“I might rebel later on some of the aspects of the EU withdrawal,” confirmed Vaizey.
“Keep being as candid as you like,” quipped Naz. “They can’t sack me,” Vaizey replied.
This is not the first time that the MP has been outspoken since his exile from front-bench politics.
Following Theresa May’s ill-fated speech at the Conservative party conference last month, Vaizey told BBC Oxford he thought “quite a few people who will now be pretty firmly of the view that she should resign”.
Asked what potential benefits Brexit might bring to the media industry he mentioned that deals with the US that will remain unaffected. “Brexit is going to be painful and tortuous and opaque,” he offered, “but you don’t [just] get rid of X years of British success in creativity.”