The row following the death of young Tory activist Elliott Johnson in an apparent suicide rumbles on, with the Sunday Times unearthing what looks like more appallingly bad behaviour by former PPC Mark Clarke, together with the impression that CCHQ knew what Clarke was like, and what he was up to, but for reasons best known to themselves did nothing about it. And I have to tell the ST that there is more to explore.
Elliott Johnson at left; behind him is Mark Clarke
The article, by James Lyons and John Boswell, reveals that Johnson recorded a conversation he had when meeting Clarke, and “a second man, André Walker”. That recording was discovered after Johnson’s death, and has been passed to the Police. Clarke, it is claimed, wanted Johnson to withdraw a complaint he had made to CCHQ about Clarke’s behaviour. There are several more such complaints outstanding.
A connection to Shapps? How might that happen?
Yet worse is the claim that Clarke, on hearing that Sarah-Jane Sewell, whose departure from Conservative Future (CF) he had previously celebrated, had been hired by the Parliament Street think tank, confronted its chairman Patrick Sullivan, telling him “Your career is over. Everybody in the room will cut you out. You’re dead to me. I know people in the party [my emphasis]. You’re never going to get ahead”.
Well, here's a potential connection
A source helpfully made available this photo of a post-cricket match gathering at Didcot Parkway station last summer. At top right is Mark Clarke. Second from the left, wearing a pale blue shirt, and with Clarke’s right hand on his shoulder, is one Paul Abbott. Who he? Abbott was, at the time, Grant Shapps’ chief of staff. The photo was taken around the time that Ms Sewell was forced out of her role at CF.
[UPDATE 29 September 1730 hours: the bullying scandal has now spread to Rail Minister Claire Perry, who has called on firms to, er, deal with online bullying. This is because India Brummitt, whose name has been pitched as a possible participant in the Elliott Johnson affair - something she has denied - is now a Parliamentary aide to Ms Perry.
Questions are being raised as to whether Ms Perry had any knowledge of the complaints that have been made about Mark Clarke and others. Were that to prove true, it would be most inconvenient to an MP who once Tweeted that she had signed up to the Beat Bullying online Big March.
Grant Shapps has been rather quiet of late. Maybe he has been too quiet]