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Now, nearly four months on, the former minister is trying to work out how he went from being a respected figure at the dispatch box to lying sedated in a hospital bed after a mental breakdown.
“I have re-read the messages I sent and they reduced me to tears,” he whispered on Friday. “I am ashamed of those texts, but more ashamed that my wife had to read them. Many of them I do not even remember sending.”
The first Kate knew of the messages was when he warned her in the 48 hours before the tabloid published the story. When we meet in a private office in Westminster, Griffiths is almost unrecognisable. He has lost more than two stones and the clothes hang from his frame. His eyes have the appearance of recent tears and his hands are shaking.
Until now he has been banned from discussing his resignation. But after last week’s meeting of the disciplinary panel, which is expected to rule shortly on whether he will be kicked out of the Conservative Party, Griffiths is free to speak.
His voice cracks as he explains why he feels he must tell his side of the story. When he was growing up in Dudley in the 1970s, his father was the only Tory councillor. He remembers the playground taunts and is determined his daughter will not suffer the same fate.
“I don’t for one second try to excuse what I did,” he asserts. “The texts were horrible and I apologise hugely for them, and to everyone I have hurt. I am ashamed and embarrassed. But I need to put into context why it happened, so that in 15 years, when my daughter reads this interview, she’ll understand exactly why I found myself in this terrible situation. The worst thing about the scandal is its effect on Kate and eventually Alice, he says. “I have embarrassed and humiliated the people I love most. But it’s only through hours and hours of talking with therapists and psychotherapists that I now understand the drivers that made me act the way I did.”
Although the immediate cause of his breakdown was recent, he says the origin of his depression and mental illness is in childhood, when he was eight years old and was sexually abused by an older boy.
“When my own daughter was born, I became obsessed by my childhood and not wanting her to suffer in the way that I had,” he says. “I worried about Alice having to cope alone.” Griffiths’s father was 48 when he was born and spent much of his childhood in and out of hospital before he died when the MP was 25. He recalls an incident when he was 18 and his father wet himself as he tried to get off a hospital trolley.
“I remember picking up a load of paper towels and trying to clean him up, and I became obsessed with Alice not having to go through something similar — that’s just anxiety and the way it works.”
Griffiths pinpoints the moment his mental health started to collapse at another happy event this year. When Alice was two months old, he watched his 31-year-old niece walk down the aisle.
“It was such a perfect day and the sun was shining and I could not have been any happier,” he muses. “And then it just hit me that if Alice gets married at 31 like my niece was, then I would be 79.”
Already anxious, he learnt a few weeks later that his brother had cancer and was to have his colon removed. It was a terrifying reminder of his own mortality. Two days later he sent the first incriminating text to the barmaid. “The irony is that my brother is now cured of his cancer and is going to the football and enjoying a beer, and yet my mental health continues to poleaxe me,” he says softly.
It was getting carpet-baggerd, my dad dying, my niece getting married and my brother getting cancer wot made me do it.