After the Tories were hit with a £70,000 fine for election expense irregularities, files were sent to the CPS by 12 Police forces, and the spectre of by-elections loomed over the party, there was one part of their recent past that they really didn’t need to return to bite them. But return to bite them it has: the bullying scandal that first erupted after the death of activist Elliott Johnson is back - and for a very good reason.
That is because, as I hinted last week, the expenses and bullying scandals are so heavily intertwined that it is impossible to talk about one without at least mentioning the other. And linking the two, turning up today in the Mail on Sunday of all papers like the proverbial bad penny, has come disgraced former party organiser Mark Clarke, with the centrepiece of Simon Walters’ exposé being a damning email from his account.
Walters’ story, interestingly for a feature that occupies a double-page spread in the MoS’ print edition, is not easy to find on Mail Online this morning, and it is not hard to figure out why: not only does the story reflect badly on the Tories generally, it also reflects particularly unfortunately on Theresa May, upon whom the MoS’ editor-in-chief, the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre, has what looks like an embarrassing schoolboy crush.
Indeed, as Walters tells, “One of the by-elections [where there was probable overspending] was at Rochester [and Strood] in 2014, during which Theresa May was filmed campaigning alongside Clarke … She slapped him on the back and praised his work for the Conservatives at a boozy rally. Married Clarke’s mistress, Tory election aide India Brummitt, was in the audience”. The Vagina Monologue won’t like that one bit.
What Dacre also won’t like is further reference to Theresa May, as Walters tells that India Brummitt “can be seen in the audience in a film of Mrs May - then Home Secretary - in a crowded bar at Clarke’s ‘RoadTrip’ during the Rochester by-election, which the Tories lost to Ukip’s Mark Reckless. Mrs May tells Clarke: ‘What you are doing is absolutely tremendous.’ She leads a round of applause for him”. And there is more.
Remember Ms May’s right-hand man Nick Timothy, pursued relentlessly across Whitehall by Michael Crick? Well, he “was dragged deeper into the election expenses row last night after claims he had been ‘rewarded’ by David Cameron for playing a key role in the campaign to defeat Nigel Farage by being given the chance to become an MP … [he] faced claims that he was put back on the coveted Conservative parliamentary candidates list for his role in the Thanet South campaign in the 2015 General Election”.
Walters goes on “a senior source on Mr Cameron’s 2015 campaign team has told The Mail on Sunday there was an ‘understanding’: if Mr Timothy helped beat the then-Ukip leader he would be put on the Tories’ list of candidates to become MPs. Mr Timothy denies any such deal”. But he has been put back on the candidates’ list. You figure it out.
So what the MoS has done is to not only demonstrate the link between the Tories’ expense woes and the bullying scandal - but also to show that our not at all unelected Prime Minister and her right-hand man are also in the mix.
All of which means the bullying scandal is back. And there will be more on that later.