The world of selective reportage has once more ridden to the rescue of the Tory right, but sadly, as with so many previous occasions, it has not taken long for the full picture to emerge and the whole exercise to unravel. This time, the subject is entryism, which is a very good thing when it’s happening to the Labour Party, but very bad indeed when someone does it to the Tories - which is what is happening right now.
Leave EU, the group founded by the alleged “Man who bankrolled Brexit” (but cannot afford to live in his own mansion) Arron Banks, has instructed its supporters to join the Tories in order to influence what is believed to be an upcoming leadership contest, where they hope the choices on offer to members will include Jacob Rees Mogg, and London’s formerly very occasional Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson.
Given the far-right orientation of many Leave EU supporters, this has caused disquiet in Tory ranks, as the Guardian reported recently. So local constituency chairs have been urged to be vigilant, and check new membership applications thoroughly, news of which was, with the predictability of night following day, leaked to the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog.
And, as the Guardian has once more reported, while Leave EU’s call has been “leading some remain-supporting MPs, including Anna Soubry and Nicky Morgan, to call for vigilance … Robert Halfon, the MP for Harlow and chair of the Commons education committee, dismissed those fears on Wednesday, and suggested Soubry and her allies instead recruit supporters from their own wing of the party”.
There was more. “‘We must be the only party in history complaining because we have more members,’ he told the Guardian. ‘Seventeen million people voted to leave: 68% in my constituency. Not many of them were robots of the Leave movement.’ … He said membership in his constituency party had increased by 24%, but he regarded that as a positive sign. ‘Even if they are Brexit people, the idea that Arron Banks has put a little chip in them is ridiculous.’” So he wasn’t answering the question, then.
There was a good reason for that: Halfon knows all about entryism, and indeed was for some time a willing party to it. He was, after all, involved with the now-moribund Young Britons’ Foundation, and was on the group’s list of speakers for its late 2015 Conference before he and many other prominent Tories dropped out and the bash was cancelled.
Halfon had been a speaker at previous YBF gatherings. He spoke at the 2012 bash, and also at the 2013 one. And that group had been part of thinly-disguised entryism: indeed, Nick Mutch described the YBF as “worse than Militant”. A Tory Party with an ageing and declining membership was being offered all those young YBF activists - and the idea that this was some kind of altruistic gesture was for the birds.
Yes, Rob Halfon knows all about entryism - because, until the now-disgraced Mark Clarke turned on the MP and apparently tried to blackmail him over an affair with Conservative Future chair Alexandra Paterson, he was a party to it.
No wonder he’s so relaxed about Leave EU’s initiative. I’ll just leave that one there.
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