As the Tory Party finds itself distracted once again by the bullying scandal that has taken hold since the sad death of young activist Elliott Johnson, the name of one organisation, an organisation that claims to be non-partisan but calls itself a “Conservative Madrasa”, comes up time and again. That organisation is the Young Britons’ Foundation (YBF), and its involvement was clear way back when Mark Clarke became a Tory candidate.
YBF stalwarts: Mark Clarke, André Walker, Donal Blaney and Matthew Richardson
Conservative Home has helpfully preserved its reporting of Clarke’s win, in an open primary, of the right to represent the Tories in the Tooting constituency at the 2010 General Election - as well as the comments. And it is the latter that are most revealing. There are, let it be put plainly, several happy YBF supporters among them.
Conor Burns praised Clarke: “Well done to Mark and to Tooting Conservatives. Look forward to supporting you on the stump in the near future”. Burns, MP for Bournemouth West, has spoken at successive YBF annual gatherings. His meetings with Margaret Thatcher in her last years, and subsequent claim to the true Thatcherite inheritance, chime well with the YBF, whose head man Donal Blaney is looking to establish a Thatcher Centre to rival the Reagan equivalent in the USA.
Likewise Matthew Richardson, who commented “Good work, Boss. You deserve it after all the hard work you have put in this year”. Richardson is Executive Director of the YBF. He recently joined UKIP, a rare YBF foray into a party other than the Tories. He is also easily identifiable in that photo of Mark Clarke.
And Daniel Hamilton: “My only surprise with regards to Mark's election is that ConHome considers it a surprise! This is excellent news. Exactly the kind of candidate we should be putting forward”. Hamilton is another YBF stalwart. He was one of the losers in 2013 when a slate of YBF candidates contested elections to the City Of London Corporation. Other losers on the same night included André Walker … and Mark Clarke.
So is James Cleverly, whose response to Clarke’s selection was “A huge well done to Mark. I have worked with him and he will bring a lot to what is already a good fighting assn … I think that we can expect to see him as an MP at the next election”. He will be speaking at the YBF’s next annual gathering in December.
As Simon Hattenstone observed in his Guardian article on the bullying scandal, “Blaney has called YBF ‘a madrasa’ that radicalises rightwing conservatives and embraces American-style ‘attack-dog’ politics”. It is not a party, but its influence is all over the Tories right now. And Clarke was one of theirs: he had been YBF Director of Outreach.
And there they were in support at his moment of triumph. Well, along with the occasional visitor who had lost their way, such as the last commenter on that ConHome post, who said “I want to congratulate Mark as well - he was also featured in yesterday's Evening Standard on this story. Brilliant work in exposing the scandal”. The “scandal”, over deaths at an NHS hospital, involved Clarke being less than honest over the numbers.
The commenter? Louise Bagshawe, who has since done rather a lot of misleading of her own. But the point about the YBF stands: Mark Clarke was their man.
What could be a more natural successor to the Bullingdon gang than an association of Hooray Henries and Hooray Henriettas?
Or the notion of a "Thatcher Centre." It'd be interesting to see the visitor numbers and their origins after the first two months - my guess is in the low twenties, most of them visiting know-nothing Yank mid-West loonies from the National Rifle Association. The only constructive thing it could do is to provide more info on the Yank role in getting rid of the insane old bat after she tried to tell Washington what to do.
Every time you turn over a tory stone there's something really hideous clinging to the underside.
Remind me again - wasn't Francis Maude involved with the whole "Tory Madrassa" setup at one time? No chance of a comment from him I suppose?
And will Private Eye finally have a detailed report on the current situation in their next issue? They've not been doing much of the running so far - which seems very uncharacteristic to say the least...
mmmmmmm....louise bagshawe eh???? given clarke's alleged fondness for rutting like a rabbit you could be forgiven for wondering if there is anything the erstwhile tory mp would like to share with the world?
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