Maybe Parliament's honeytrap scandal shows Westminster has simply fallen below the ambient stupidity threshold where that sort of scam thrives

When Members of Parliament in the UK started being targeted by a honeytrap scammer, they cynically accused Russia, China and all the other usual suspects of shenanigans. One, Conservative MP William Wragg, admitted texting the honeytrapper things he should not have. But "security sources are steering us away from the hostile state theory," reports the BBC, in "one of the weirdest, and most troubling, stories to hit Westminster in a long time."

Let's start with the biggest question: who is behind this? We simply don't know, and nor do the Met as far as we know. One initial theory – that these are the actions of a hostile state – seems to have been roundly discounted. Security sources say there is no sign of the high level of sophistication or insight that would suggest a state is involved. So, who then? William Wragg's statement last week may provide some clues to what is going on. He says that he felt "threatened" into handing out the phone numbers of colleagues by somebody he had met on Grindr. Yet there is no reason why he should have had the numbers for those in other parties who were not contacted via Grindr, and they generally say they have never interacted with him.It is also unclear when Mr Wragg handed over the numbers, or indeed when he first began interacting with the honeytrapper.

Here's the scammer at work, as reported by a top political correspondent targeted in the honeytrap.

"V sorry," I replied. "Who is this?"

The response was instant. "Haha it's Charlie! I used to work in Parliament and we swapped numbers after drinking one night."

And then seconds later: "I'd pretend to be offended but it was a while ago x."

This was pretty odd now. Yes, one way a journalist might make contacts in Westminster is to hang around the bars and pubs. But the point is to make contacts, not to fail to save their number and then forget them. And more obviously – why did Charlie keep leaving kisses at the end of their messages?

This sort of thing is not new, it's just the first to land in the right quadrant of a chart where one axis is "knowledge of the target" and the other axis is "obviously a scammer." What's changed is that there are now a significant number of MPs witless enough for the "law of foreign princes" (the low quality of the scam improves its probability of success because stupid or desperate targets select themselves) to apply broadly to Westminster. Where's Sir Humphrey (or even Malcolm) when you need him?

Previously: Westminster council promises to sue souvenir sellers who reproduce street-signs