I want to take this opportunity to express my deepest regret at the shame I have brought upon Cannock Chase in the local, national and international media over the last ten days.
There are no excuses for my foolish behaviour which, over the past two weeks, has caused so much distress to so many people.
Let me begin by saying very clearly; I know that I made a mistake, and Cannock Chase - I am sorry. To my supporters in the Conservative Party, to those who voted for me in May 2010, and to all those who didn't, but are represented by me in Parliament – I made a bad error of judgement and you deserved better from your local MP.
Being involved in a stag party where an SS uniform was worn was wrong and offensive. It was the wrong decision on my part; crass and insensitive. I am deeply sorry, and want to take this opportunity to offer the people of Cannock Chase an unreserved, wholehearted and full apology for the terrible offence this incident has undoubtedly caused.
It has been an unbelievably difficult ten days for my family and friends, and I feel ashamed that Cannock Chase has been placed in the limelight as a result of my behaviour. My family have been through hell, and I want to thank them in particular for the love, courage and support they have given me.
I think it is important to make one thing very clear: Being involved in a fancy dress party does not mean you endorse, tacitly or explicitly, the actions and philosophy of the person that is being impersonated. In fact, quite the opposite is true. I have no sympathies whatsoever with Nazism, racism, or fascism.
I also wish to make clear, as the Mail on Sunday did, that I personally did not participate in any alcohol-fuelled attempted toasts by other guests to the Third Reich. Nor did I participate in any chants, offensive or otherwise. As the video showed, I left the restaurant immediately when that inexcusable behaviour by other guests started.
The most important thing for me going forward is that I am judged on the work I do for the people of Cannock Chase. I am so proud to have been elected to represent this community and hope that over the past 18 months I have demonstrated my commitment to doing my very best locally.
In 2012 I will be redoubling my efforts to secure jobs and prosperity for Cannock Chase, and to be visible and accessible to all constituents who need my help. I have already met, assisted, and worked with thousands of local people and hope to do the same for thousands more. I will continue to stand up for my constituents, and all I ask is that you judge me on this record.
I hope that over time local people can forgive and forget this episode. I have been hugely touched by the many letters of support I have received and am grateful for your kindness. In the meantime, I wish everyone a very peaceful Christmas, and a happy New Year.
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