By Tim Montgomerie
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One of the most damaging stories that hit the Government in the last week was Saturday's Telegraph column from Charles Moore. He wrote that Conservative high command was distributing a carefully-prepared message to constituency associations and that message was that the Tories were deliberately stoking up the petrol furore into an anti-union "Thatcher moment".
It was a serious allegation and was tweeted and blogged about by numerous left-wingers throughout that day. I was asked about it when I did TV interviews for Sky and the BBC.
Mr Moore now admits that what he put in quotation marks was actually his own words:
"In the eirenic spirit of Easter, however, I must offer an apology to Mr Cameron’s party leadership. In my column in the Daily Telegraph on Saturday, I attacked the private party line about the tanker drivers’ dispute. This was that the stockpiling of petrol would be the government’s ‘Thatcher moment’, like her stockpiling coal for the miners’ strike. I summarised this message in inverted commas, thinking it was clear from the context that this was not a real quotation, but the gist. I was rather surprised on Saturday to be rung up by lots of television stations asking me to appear, but it was a beautiful day in the country so I refused their requests without asking what they were on about. It turned out that some people thought I had disclosed a terrible ‘secret document’, when all I had actually done was to report the line that was being used by MPs in their constituencies. All hell broke loose. Since I was attacking Francis Maude for careless talk, I should have been more careful with my own."
Mr Moore makes his apology in his Spectator column. At the time of me writing this blog his Telegraph column is unchanged and many of his Telegraph readers will never see the apology.
I still have doubts as to the thrust of his whole article. My suspicion is that his column was based on what one or two MPs were saying. He implied something much more sinister and organised from the Tory leadership. The damage cannot easily be undone but it is, of course, good of the gentlemanly Mr Moore to hold his hands up and admit his error. I don't expect the Lefties who retweeted his thoughts will also recant.