Toby Young

Leave Derek alone

Leave Derek alone
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Reading these “reviews” of Derek Draper’s new book on, I’m beginning to feel a bit sorry for him. Yes, he’s made some silly mistakes, but I’m not sure he deserves quite such a beating. Watching someone being turned into a national hate figure is never pretty and in this case the moral opprobrium being heaped on Derek’s head seems a tad excessive. If he’d gone ahead and published the anti-Conservative smears on an anonymous website that would have been one thing. But he didn’t. All he did was describe them as “brilliant”.

I can understand why Guido Fawkes has gone after him. It was dirty pool on Derek’s part to accuse Guido and Ian Dale of being racists -- that’s a disgusting accusation that shouldn’t be bandied around lightly. I’ve been on the receiving end of that accusation myself and it’s an experience I wouldn’t wish on anyone. But Guido has now won this particular boxing match -- in spectacular style, I might add -- and I don’t think there’s any need to continue to kick Derek now that he’s bleeding on the canvas.

With the benefit of hindsight, Derek’s biggest mistake was trying to combine being a practising psychotherapist with being active at the sharp end of British politics. Given the professional code of conduct that psychotherapists are expected to abide by, being the Labour Party equivalent of a Nixon burglar was always going to be a risk. By using a phrase like “Nixon burglar” I don’t mean to imply that Derek was an unusually sleazy or immoral political operative. Politicians of every stripe have always employed Nixon burglars to carry out their dirty work and Derek was no better or worse than any other member of that species. As a journalist, I’ve always enjoyed the company of Nixon burglars -- much more so than the politicians who employ them -- and certainly don’t consider myself their moral superior. But being a Nixon burglar while trying to promote yourself as a professional “carer” at the same time was never going to work.

I’ve known Derek for over 15 years. I first met him in 1993 when his then girlfriend, Charlotte Raven, became a contributor to the Modern Review, a magazine I was editing, and we subsequently became good friends, spending a lot of time together. I saw less of him after we both departed for America -- me to the East Coast, him to the West -- but we’ve stayed in touch and I still consider him a friend. He’s warm, funny, indiscreet -- great company, in fact. And always a source of sage advice. I was pleased when he put his life back on track after being derailed by a cash-for-access scandal, falling in love, getting married, becoming a father and re-inventing himself as a psychotherapist. I thought he deserved a second chance and was glad that he made the most of it.

I remember having lunch with Derek a year ago at which he told me he was thinking of getting back into politics. He didn’t like the Cameroons and was just itching to have a go at the Tories. In retrospect, I should have advised him not to do it.

Does Derek deserve a third chance? I think he does. His best course of action would be to resign from LabourList, lie low for a couple of years and concentrate on saving his psychotherapy career. I have long told him he should specialise in treating public figures who’ve been brought low by scandals -- celebrities, politicians, etc -- and he’s now better placed to do this than ever. If he wants to rehabilitate himself, he could do worse than getting more involved in the voluntary sector. It worked for Profumo -- and it’s good for the soul.

Come on, folks. Let’s not kick a man when he’s down. I’m sure that Derek knows he’s beaten. It’s time for the mob to disperse so he can start rebuilding his life.

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Written byToby Young

Toby Young is the co-author of What Every Parent Needs to Know and the co-founder of several free schools. In addition to being an associate editor of The Spectator, he is an associate editor of Quillette. Follow him on Twitter @toadmeister

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