As Zelo Street regulars will already know, the election expenses row occupying the Tory Party right now is inexorably linked to the bullying scandal behind the death of young activist Elliott Johnson last year, the presence common to both being disgraced activist and campaigner Mark Clarke, who was expelled from the party after the circumstances of Johnson’s death, and the events leading up to it, had been examined.
At the same time that Clarke was thrown out by the Tories, a number of other activists were suspended. One of those, André Walker, is a well-known participant in the Johnson affair, and was told he would be persona non grata at last year’s party conference. Clarke’s mistress India Brummitt did go to conference, but her presence was not well received by some delegates. And then there was Sam Armstrong.
Armstrong was also suspended and told not to bother turning up at conference. But he is still on the scene, and several potentially difficult episodes have come together to make him, like Clarke, a figure that links both bullying and expenses. The inquest into Elliott Johnson’s death will be held this week - on Tuesday. So it is no coincidence that Simon Walters of the Mail On Sunday has returned to the case.
Armstrong has been working as an aide to Tory MP Craig Mackinlay, who represents South Thanet. His continued presence has not gone down well with Harlow MP Rob Halfon, primarily as Armstrong was part of a plot to blackmail him. As Walters has told, Halfon “confessed to an affair after informing No 10 he had been told that Mr Armstrong, acting on Mr Clarke's behalf, intended to film him and his lover, a prominent female Tory activist, leaving the East India Club, in London, where they met for trysts”.
The “prominent female Tory activist” was Conservative Future chair Alexandra Paterson, who had also had an affair with Clarke, and was good friends with Johnson. Halfon is now annoyed that not only is Armstrong still around, but that, as the party does not employ him, they are not in a position to get rid of him. Which brings us to Craig Mackinlay.
South Thanet was a crucial battleground for the Tories: this was the seat that UKIP leader Nigel “Thirsty” Farage hoped to win, to demonstrate that his party was more than just a by-election flash in the pan. As a result, both Tories and Kippers threw an awful lot of resources at the local campaign, with very little of the Tory effort showing up on Mackinlay’s expense return (see it HERE).
No entry is shown against Transport - but activists were bussed out, or went by train, on a more or less daily basis. Mackinlay’s accommodation costs would not have covered all those activists stopping over during the campaign. The targeted mail shots may not be covered in his “Unsolicited Material” cost. And Mackinlay is employing one of the bullying scandal players at public expense. Thus it all comes together.
But not in the kind of way the Tories will find useful. More on this one later.