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Saturday 28 November 2015

Tory Bullying - Behind The Spin

For a story that was recently dismissed by Toby Young and Julia Hartley Brewer as not being the kind of thing one might find on the front page, the scandal concerning bullying in the Tory Party, given its initial momentum following the sad death of activist Elliott Johnson, has gone mainstream to the extent that newspapers are actually competing with one another to splash yet more revelations about the whole sorry saga.
Mark Clarke, India Brummitt, Grant Shapps and Emma Pidding. This photo is being used by the press in an edited form - the editing being to remove Ms Pidding

Little, though, was done to pull the threads together in order to give a coherent view of just who was involved - until today, by Simon Hattenstone at the Guardian, with the clear approval of Johnson’s parents. Those involved to a greater or lesser extent with the now disgraced Mark Clarke are interviewed, profiled and their litany of variously lame excuses analysed - except for one. And it is an important one.

This post will reveal who Hattenstone left out, and that many of the others are spinning, manoeuvring and positioning themselves in order to avoid being sucked in to the ever-deepening whirlpool. We start with the missing name.

Emma Pidding: the newly-ennobled Conservative Party insider has been kept off the front pages, often by the crude device of editing her out of the group photo with Mark Clarke, his mistress India Brummitt, and Grant Shapps. The edited photo has been all over the front pages. It has been popular with the Murdoch Sun. But she should not be edited out.

Ms Pidding is a close friend of the Clarke family. It is suspected that Clarke got wind of complaints against him because she - improperly - had access to the information and passed it on to him. For that reason alone, she warrants further investigation.
Mark Clarke (top right) with his right hand on the left shoulder of Paul Abbott. Also note Harry Cole at front middle

Paul Abbott: formerly Grant Shapps’ chief of staff, now desperately trying to pretend that he too had reservations about Clarke. It won’t wash. Abbott, as can be seen from the post-cricket match photo taken recently at Didcot Parkway station, had no problem with being in Clarke’s company. And he has one very serious charge to answer.

Abbott was in charge at Conservative Way Forward (CWF) when Elliott Johnson was given a job there, only to be made redundant two months later. The redundancy coincided more or less exactly with Johnson making a complaint about Clarke’s behaviour. So, Paul Abbott, what changed after Johnson had been employed at CWF for two months, other than a complaint made against Mark Clarke?
Donal Blaney seemingly not being repulsed by the presence of Mark Clarke and André Walker

Donal Blaney: the founder of the Young Britons’ Foundation (YBF) has been frantically erasing all reference to Mark Clarke from the YBF website. This, too, will not wash. Clarke was awarded the YBF’s highest honour, the Golden Dolphin award, which was in the personal gift of Blaney. He, too, as the photo shows, had no problem being in Clarke’s company. His excuses are craven in the extreme.

Andr√© Walker: Elliott Johnson, it is clear from Simon Hattenstone’s article, put his trust in Walker, whom he regarded as a friend. That trust was cruelly and viciously abused. Walker was a close friend of Mark Clarke, and no stranger to underhand methods and playing dirty, having lost his job at Windsor and Maidenhead Council after he was caught plotting against then deputy leader Alison Knight.

What is most revealing about the Hattenstone article is that Walker apparently promised Johnson he would set up an interview with “Guido”, that meaning the Guido Fawkes blog. Again, Johnson was seemingly unaware that proprietor Paul Staines was also a close friend of Mark Clarke. Clarke was on the guest list for the Fawkes blog’s tenth anniversary party last year. The idea that Johnson would have been offered a job there is laughable.
In case anyone forgot: Elliott Johnson seen in happier times. Mark Clarke is there again

All of which brings us to Harry Cole. Hattenstone does not mention Staines’ former sidekick, so let me put all concerned straight. Cole, now at the Sun, has like the others been advancing the pretence of faux horror at news of bullying which he almost certainly knew about all along. Sun editor Tony Gallagher may think he has an inside track on the Tory Party’s goings-on via his “Westminster Correspondent”. He has been duped.

Cole’s “revelations” this week have included a letter from Grant Shapps to Mark Clarke welcoming him to the fold and confirming his title as a a “director” in charge of RoadTrip 2015. This is a signed original. In other words, this is the letter that Clarke would have received - it is not a copy.

This has been followed today by an article featuring a signed original letter from Prime Minister David Cameron to Clarke. Once more, this is the letter which Clarke would have received - it, too, is not a copy.

These two letters put together lead to only one conclusion: the source for Cole’s “revelations” is Mark Clarke. Cole is apparently using his position at the Sun to spin for Clarke - as well as make excuses for Paul Abbott. It is as if the death of Elliott Johnson has been forgotten as those likely to be caught by the aftershock of this particular earthquake try and salvage reputations, or take others down with them.
This group photo from YBF XI was formerly used as a Twitter background, but has now been removed. Easily identified are Donal Blaney, Grant Shapps ... and Mark Clarke. Also at left can be seen Alexandra Paterson ... and Elliott Johnson

And then we come to another singularly unsavoury character not picked up on directly by Hattenstone, Paul Staines. What contact did he have with Elliott Johnson, if any, in those last fateful 48 hours? Johnson talked of betrayal. Was the meeting with “Guido” part of that? Did it not happen at all? I do not expect Staines to answer anything I put to him, but with the certainty of night following day, someone else will put the question later.

Those who read the Guido Fawkes blog will, of course, have seen the familiar story played out there: claims to have the inside track, faux shock at what happened, and a desire to have prying eyes “look over there” at Clarke, Shapps, anyone but Staines and his crew.

Only one conclusion comes clear from examining the behaviour of those involved: the death of Elliott Johnson has been the signal for far too many in and around the Tory Party not to search their consciences, do the right thing and come clean, but to enter a phase of desperate damage limitation.

It goes without saying that Ray and Alison Johnson deserve better. The only way that will happen is if the inquiry process is removed from the Tory Party and made properly independent. Only that way will the facts emerge, untainted by the manoeuvring, positioning, spin and deceit that has been on view thus far.

In the UK, the Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123.


Anonymous said...

interesting disconnect in today's excellent Guardian piece - page 8 column 4 (near the bottom). After a para about Elliott posting a blog very critical of an unnamed activist, there's a sudden swerve where Paterson is introduced to the story for the first time, but without any explanation of who she is or what her involvement has been. Very odd - Looks like the Grauniad legal department took out something they were worried might stoke litigation.

Anonymous said...

Elliott's father is aware of all players in this. Lawyers and others are fully aware of ALL these men and some their associations with other criminal events in other political parties. Police are disgusted. Other victims have tried to end their lives over incidents ranging from being photographed and blackmailed to being drugged and other matters. There are always those willing to cover for them with false statements etc. and they too are known to lawyers and others. A full-scale police investigation must now happen. Behind the scenes there is a lot is going on. This reaches beyond the Tory Party into other parties. The same faces are always involved. This is criminal activity, not just bullying.

DBC said...

Shapps has now resigned his cabinet post -


Anonymous said...

Worth taking a look back at Guido's posts about Ben Howlett, former Conservative Future Chairman and now a Tory MP. He recently told the BBC there was "institutionalised bullying" in CF. These are some of the negative stories published by Guido about Ben Howlett when Harry Cole wrote for the site:


Harry Cole had worked with Mark Clarke on the Trade Union Reform Campaign, which was also heavily pushed by the Guido Fawkes blog: http://order-order.com/2013/07/04/call-for-union-regulator-to-investigate-unite-for-fraud-unite-officials-could-face-four-fraud-charges/

Then there is this anonymous letter criticising Ben Howlett from "a prominent member of CF", published by Alex Wickham (now also working for Guido): http://www.thecommentator.com/article/1174/is_conservative_future_falling_apart_as_we_speak

Could the letter have come from Mark Clarke?

Anonymous said...

There is another missing name. That of Paul Osborn.

Osborn was the Strategy Director of the YBF. He was Blaney's right hand man. Osborn is now vice chairman of CWF. He has been there throughout this unsavoury period.

Osborn, a Tory councillor in Pinner in the London Borough of Harrow, trousers six grand for one of his other jobs, that of chairman of Lee Valley Regional Park Authority (about as far away from Pinner as you can get and still be in London).

There is no way that Osborn - the archest of arch neocons and who used to be a member of the National Rifle Association in the US amongst other dodgy outfits - did not know stuff.

I think the people of Pinner should be told.

everyone said...

"It is unlikely that Donal Blaney, the chair of CWF, was unaware of some of the types of behaviour Clarke had used throughout his career".


Anonymous said...

Alexandra Swann on twitter today, trying to deflect attention from her bully boy pals: 'The loss of a young life is tragic but I cannot understand why the Mark Clarke story continues. Politics is a nasty business.' Let's not forget her favourite dinner companion: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/tory-politician-caught-snorting-meow-253016.

Anonymous said...

Are Gawain Towler, Fuller etc. drinking buddies of Clarke and Cole?

Anonymous said...

There are quite a few victims who have been lured to parties and plied with drink and drugs. Then photographed. There are rumours the photos and films are then passed to senior political figures and those the victims work with. Victims have also had their emails hacked and death threats made. In one case a woman tried to end her life. The police are looking at everything going on right now. All players.

Anonymous said...

AFAIK Wickham went to Bath Uni. Ben Howlett is the MP there. Some kind of student politics beef there perhaps?