After comedy Foreign Secretary Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson was caught on audio making a selection of most unfortunate remarks during a Conservative Way Forward gathering recently, my reaction was that the leak, to BuzzFeed News, was not an accident. Now that the culprit has been all but confirmed, it’s clear that it definitely wasn’t an accident. This was a deliberate attempt to undermine Theresa May.
Stephen Canning ...
That much became clear not just in the mileage extracted from Bozza’s comments by Jeremy Corbyn at PMQs yesterday, but also by the reputation, such as it is, of the leaker. As the Mail on Sunday’s political editor Simon Walters - the man who did for Aidan Burley - has told, the prime suspect, seen at the CWF gathering furtively holding his smartphone, is none other than Stephen Canning, who was in the news recently over another incident.
As Walters tells, “Mr Canning is no stranger to controversy. Mr Canning has been accused of leaking Boris Johnson’s comments that Donald Trump would make a better job of Brexit talks. Mr Canning has been accused of leaking Boris Johnson’s comments that Donald Trump would make a better job of Brexit talks”. There was more.
“He was suspended as deputy chairman of the party’s youth wing in 2015 in the wake of the so-called ‘Tatler Tory’ scandal following the suicide of bullied young activist Elliott Johnson. He was lined up to lead a new Conservative youth wing earlier this year but was suspended again after an incident at a London nightclub when a Tory MP’s aide was allegedly struck.” Canning was big pals with Mark Clarke.
Clarke got expelled from the Tories. But Canning, despite having been literally arm-in-arm with the “Tatler Tory” as the bullying scandal developed, lived to fight another day. The leaking of Bozza’s comments, with the clear intention of destabilising Ms May, shows that Canning’s appetite for dirty tricks has not been sated yet.
... and some of his pals
And one Conservative activist has registered his displeasure at Canning’s latest stunt, telling Zelo Street on condition of anonymity “Nobody is surprised Canning is being linked to dirty tricks. Hidden cameras, screengrabs and tape recordings were part of the Tatler Tory gang’s modus operandi. How else do you think they controlled Conservative Future for so long?” How indeed? And there was more.
“What is unacceptable is the likes of Stephen Canning and Theodora Dickinson parading themselves around as if they are the future of the party, when they were quite literally arm-in-arm with Mark Clarke throughout the bullying scandal. These individuals should have been expelled along with Clarke in 2015, instead they are free to spread poison and fear throughout the party”. How “arm-in-arm” would that have been?
The photo above, thought to have been long deleted (as if) shows (left to right) Ellie Vesey-Thompson (another of Clarke’s women), Stephen Canning, Mark Clarke (expelled over the Elliott Johnson affair), Theodora Dickinson (forced to deny an illicit affair with a Tory MP) and Sam Armstrong (who allegedly hid in the bushes to catch that same MP - Rob Halfon - with Alexandra Paterson, as part of yet another dirty tricks operation).
Now the Tories have a further opportunity to expel Stephen Canning. Perhaps this time, the mounting evidence of his deeply unsavoury character may cause them to act.