I was awoken late on Monday night by a horrible nightmare, one of those dreams where you cannot be entirely sure if you are asleep or not. I dreamed I was lying exactly where I was, in my bed, and this torpedo-shaped, phantasmagorical thing was zipping about around the bedroom, diving behind the wardrobe, reappearing and hovering for a moment by the window, and then shooting off towards the landing. Then it would dive at great velocity towards where I was lying, before suddenly veering off.
What was this chimeric object? I realised immediately, with a chilling clarity — it was Brooks Newmark’s penis, jubilantly detached from the rest of Brooks Newmark. It had a very perky look on its face — yes, it had a face — as I tried to swat it away, my hands flailing at the abstracted, rocket-propelled organ. Eventually I woke up drenched in sweat and gasping, and rather selfishly roused my wife for comfort. ‘I’ve had a nightmare,’ I told her, still shaking a little. She drowsily sighed and said: ‘It wasn’t Brooks Newmark’s penis again, was it? I thought we’d seen the last of that.’
Yes, me too, me too. But nightmares very often recur, don’t they? All it needs is something buried deep in your unconsciousness and, crucially, a trigger. In this case the trigger had been pulled earlier that day, I now remembered.
Brooks Newmark is the American-born Conservative MP who was caught in a sting operation two years ago this week. A male journalist posing online as a pneumatic babe, a Tory ‘PR girl’, sent him sexually explicit selfies and Brooks, being Brooks, was only too happy to reciprocate. Mr Newmark pinged his honourable member across cyberspace and thus, in doing so, ended his own career and indeed, it seemed at the time, marriage. The journalist had used (without her permission) the photograph of a very attractive 22-year-old Swedish model in order to lure the MP into very stupid behaviour. You might think that a sensible person would ask: ‘Why would a very young woman, who looks like that, be interested in a 56-year-old man with the visage of a self-satisfied chipmunk and the charisma of a Nissen hut?’
But Brooks did not ask himself that question. Ping, off went his willy on what was revealed later to be only one of many of its nefarious journeys. For a real woman later alleged that she had ‘enjoyed’ a relationship with Brooks which lasted two years. He’d sent her 40 naked or semi-naked photographs and texts such as: ‘Ok if u send me a nice side shot of bum and breasts I will send u something x’ Lucky girl. I can remember, at the time, being as offended by that ‘u’ as I was salaciously and nastily delighted by his misdemeanours. Anyway, the wife moved out, Brooks said he was going to resign his seat (which he did) and he was going to get psychiatric help to ‘battle his demons’, as they all say. So far the score is Demons 2, Brooks 0 and we’re into injury time.
Anyway, I had horrible dreams about Brooks’s genitals for weeks after this story broke — but time being a great healer, these unbidden fantasies gradually dimmed before disappearing altogether, just like Brooks.
I had been free of nocturnal Newmark todger misery for more than 18 months —before my editor showed me a fatuous letter from the law firm Carter-Ruck this week. Carter-Ruck, of course, are the hellhounds of libel. And the letter demanded that The Spectator stop using, every so often, a photograph of Brooks ‘partially undressed’ in his home, which I believe we do for a laugh. Mr Newmark had never consented to the photograph being published, according to Carter-Ruck, and furthermore, he held the copyright on it. So: ‘You are, therefore, required immediately to remove the image from your website and any associated archives and to undertake not to republish it in any form whatsoever.’
That’s why his penis had poked its way out of my forgotten unconscious. More pertinently, though, it seems remarkable that while I can regale you with all of Brooks’s mis-demeanours, and repeat them to you every week — which I may well do — the photographs which provided the most graphic evidence of his, er, undoing are contraband. Never mind that they have already been published by every newspaper from Truro to Thurso (especially the one of Brooks in his pyjamas wearing a come-hither smile on his fat chops), or that they are factual evidence and an example of what we might call ‘the truth’. If you are well off enough, you can demand that incriminating photographs be expunged from the world under copyright law. And frankly, the photographs of Brooks and his penis are perhaps less revelatory than some others we might mention.
For example, it’s probably a very long time since you saw that photograph of David Cameron and Boris Johnson in their Bullingdon Club outfits, smirking and posing before a night of alcohol, high japes and buggery (well, probably). Crowing rich-as-Croesus penguins. The snap was taken in 1986 but resurfaced in 2007 before the media was prevented from ever using it again. Someone contacted the Oxford photographers Gillman & Soame and persuaded them to withhold copyright, which they did. The Conservative party always denied responsibility. I don’t believe them.
Or there’s the nice one of former shadow chancellor Ed Balls, dressed in full Nazi uniform from the time he was at Oxford University. That photo has also disappeared from view — which is a shame, because Ed looks very dapper as a senior member of the Wehrmacht and it is perhaps something he could reprise for the next edition of Strictly Come Dancing.
Does any of this matter? Only that the powerful can, whenever they want, not only stop you from reading the truth via the conduit of super-injunctions. But they can stop you seeing the truth, too.