Mark Clarke and other interested parties
What, you may ask, is the connection between Johnson’s death last September and the potential abuse of expense allowances in as many as 30 Parliamentary constituencies? Simples. One name connects both strands, and that name is Mark Clarke, the presence behind the Tories’ RoadTrip 2015 operation, but now expelled from the party for life following the revelations in the wake of Elliott Johnson’s death.
Clarke’s behaviour, which is alleged to include not just widespread bullying but also equally widespread sexual predation, especially among young Tory activists, was raked over at some length by the press in the weeks after Johnson died. But he is also the prime source of much of the evidence driving the relentless pursuit by the likes of Channel 4 News’ Michael Crick as he pursues the Tories over election spending.
That Clarke is the source does not mean the information is wrong or misleading, merely that he has an agenda, which appears to be to get back at the party which he served - in his own inimitable way - and which threw him out. Had Elliott Johnson not died when he did, Clarke would most likely still have been at the heart of the Tory Party, and that party would have got away with what is looking more and more sleazy by the day.
The Tories are not helping their own case, either, as the Independent has told: “The Electoral Commission on Thursday applied for a High Court order to force the Tories to hand over the missing papers – which it says would help shed light on whether the party broke spending rules in key marginal seats at the general election”. It is the first time ever that the Electoral Commission has had to take a party to court in this way.
There is more: “Police across the country have announced criminal investigations into the Conservative Party’s conduct at the general election after a Channel 4 News investigation alleged it might have broken spending rules”. Several Police forces are on the Tories’ case. And it gets worse: there is debate over whether personalised letters, some of them from the Prime Minister, broke the rules if they mentioned the constituency name.
What is also clear is that, after Channel 4 News spent several days on the story, it has now been picked up by BBC Daily Politics lead presenter Andrew Neil, although the cut-through was not yet sufficient that his pundits Michael Portillo and Alan Johnson were up to speed on the story last night. Hopefully Neil will not be the only one at the Beeb helping to move it forward. Because this could mean enough by-elections to remove the Tories’ majority.
That, coming on the heels of divisions exposed by the EU referendum campaign, would turn Young Dave and his jolly good chaps into a lame duck Government - with still almost four years of its term to run. We may be about to live in interesting times.