Damian Thompson

Brooks Newmark was in mental agony: I saw it with my own eyes

Brooks Newmark was in mental agony: I saw it with my own eyes
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Tory MP Brooks Newmark quits politics after sexting photograph comes to light; talks of depression, needing help, checks into clinic. To which the response of many people will be: Yeah, right. He's playing the depression card.

I hope Spectator readers will think again, however horrified they are by his crazy actions and the pain he has inflicted on his family. He has accepted responsibility for what has happened; he is not raging against the sting that kicked off this scandal.

I knew Brooks very, very slightly until a couple of years ago: we have good friends in common. I vaguely remember him from his days as a postgraduate at Oxford. He was an American – it never occurred to me to think of him as English. He was fresh from Harvard. He had an open-topped sports car, plenty of money and glamorous friends. He was like the rich kid who tries to steal the hero's girlfriend in a John Hughes movie. When I heard he'd gone into the City and made millions I wasn't shocked, exactly. And the safe Tory seat seemed part of the script. I would have resented him, but when we met at the occasional party he seemed kinder and more vulnerable than I'd expected.

Then about three years ago someone suggested I sign him up as a Telegraph blogger and we had coffee in Portcullis House. The blogging thing didn't come to anything because he was a government whip, but still we talked for two hours.

This is all I'm going to say about the conversation. He asked how I was doing and I moaned about this and that. Unexpectedly, he followed up with more specific questions. How bad did I feel? Did I ever think about suicide?

You'd have thought he was a whip taking a concerned interest in an unhappy MP – but it quickly became clear that he was asking because he was going through a rough patch emotionally. Indeed, more than that. I was talking to a man in agony – and, having spent years in self-help groups myself, I've met a few.

The Brooks Newmark I met that day was ill. I was so shocked that I rang a mutual friend and said: 'The guy's in a terrible state.' 'I know,' came the reply.

And now he is a worse place than he could ever have imagined – and so are the family he humiliated, which is the only thing he gives a damn about today.

Written byDamian Thompson

Damian Thompson is an associate editor of The Spectator

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