The Mail’s headline “Film producer who directed movie called 'How to Get Away With Murder' is jailed for masterminding £5million mortgage scam” last week might not have seemed too close to the world of politics. But the piece also noted Ben Pickering “had also been a prospective parliamentary candidate for the Conservative Party in Swansea, South Wales in 2000”.
That wasn’t the end of his Conservative credentials. Pickering was one of the three co-founders of the Young Britons’ Foundation (YBF), the self-styled “Conservative Madrasa”, along with Donal Blaney and Greg Smith. The YBF carries out training for Tory activists, and many of its alumni have gone on to greater things, although sadly their attempts to get into Parliament have not gone so well.
As the Mail told, “Pickering, who has produced a series of crime thrillers, lined his pockets after making fake mortgage applications. But he ended up in court over the scam after admitting conspiracy to defraud and was today jailed for six years. Judge Keith Thomas told him: 'These offences were fuelled not by economic necessity, but by greed’”. So what does the YBF have to say about that?
Well, the YBF has nothing at all to say about it. Blaney is rather more keen – understandably – in promoting YBF events, and the group’s attempt to appropriate the word “sound”. Yes, that’ll win them friends on Merseyside, or maybe not. The YBF website tells anyone who wants to know that it “was co-founded in July 2003 by Donal Blaney and Greg Smith”.
The Daily Mail’s legendarily foul mouthed editor would no doubt approve of such selective disclosure. But there is plenty of evidence to connect Pickering to the YBF, whatever the group’s efforts. For instance, Tory MEP Timothy Kirkhope still has an item live on his website with a photo of himself with Pickering, who was described at the time as the YBF’s “Executive Director”.
Charity Vault tells that “The Young Britons’ Foundation was co-founded in July 2003 by Donal Blaney, Greg Smith and Ben Pickering” [my emphasis]. Pickering’s connection to the YBF was on show when he contributed “A youth wing fit for purpose” to ConHome in 2006, although the full version of the article is proving elusive. And then there is the evidence still available over at the YBF site.
Oh look, there is still a photo of Pickering, with the YBF logo, and both now preserved for posterity on Zelo Street. So much for the efforts to dissociate themselves from that embarrassing co-founder who is now doing a six stretch for conspiracy to defraud. I’m sure, though, that this was just One Rogue Co-Founder, and that the YBF has not incubated any further bad behaviour.
It would be horribly embarrassing to the YBF and their Tory pals if it had done, mind.