After the dismissive letter sent to Ray and Alison Johnson by Tory Party chairman Patrick McLoughlin, asserting that the party had behaved “entirely correctly” in its handling of the complaint by their son Elliott regarding the bullying behaviour of one Mark Clarke, has come the family’s reply. You may not have seen this in the papers - although most, if not all, of them have seen it. Why that might be I will leave for them to explain.
Alison and Ray Johnson - still looking for answers ((c) Guardian)
Ray Johnson registers disappointment at McLoughlin’s letter and the Clifford, Chance summary, “which you decided to publish without prior notice to our family. We can only consider that this was a deliberate attempt to ensure that we were unable to answer the inevitable press questions which followed immediately afterwards”.
He also notes that, despite the recent change of leadership, no attempt has been made by the Tories to reach out to the Johnson family - except the letter to which he is replying. But the most damning part of that response is that which addresses McLoughlin’s attempt to pretend the Tories behaved “entirely correctly”.
“Upon reading your letter, we were taken aback by the sheer arrogance of your summing-up of Elliott’s letter of complaint in a mere one and a half lines … The next paragraph then goes on to detail the changes that you are instituting to your ‘not fit for purpose’ complaints procedures, and instituting a ‘code of conduct for volunteer leaders’, as ‘lessons to be learned, contradicting your previous comment”. And there is more.
“In addition we have had a chance to read the summary we can see that it does not clear the Conservative Party. By its terms of reference Clifford Chance were required to pay ‘particular attention to the circumstances leading up to Elliott Johnson’s death’, yet the summary expressly excludes ‘the circumstances leading up to Elliott Johnson’s death’. Similarly the findings of the summary ‘do not include details of the Party’s preliminary investigation’. The contents of the report itself have been repressed, even from us”.
And the damning verdict is not yet complete: “This is a very ‘selective’ publication, which does nothing to answer the many issues that arise from the death of our son, it reads as if its principal objective is to absolve the Conservative Party’s senior management and senior volunteers of any responsibility - and somewhat inconsistently, with blame being attributed to failures in process, or more sinisterly, upon more junior officials”.
The Johnsons call for the full version of the Clifford, Chance report to be released. Certainly, if issues such as inappropriate behaviour by many of those representing the Tory Party had actually been tackled, and the press had done its job, we would not have the current situation where McLoughlin is clearly hoping all those of inconvenient opinion will just lost interest and run along. I have to tell him that they will not.
Ray and Alison Johnson are going nowhere. They are right to make a stand. In the meantime, that full report should be released - and the press should make an effort to let the public know what so many of them know already - there has been some appallingly inappropriate behaviour in and around young Tory volunteers and it needs to be revealed - so that those involved are banished from public life for good.
There will be more on this story later - much more.