End of the RoadTrip Cost Tories This Time Round

Since the election there has been much talk of the need for a “Tory Momentum”, a grassroots, youth-based movement to hit the streets and take the fight to the Corbynista hordes. The problems with this are numerous. The Tories are not in vogue. There is no young, modern leader and the boring old grey hairs are in charge. Labour has the marketing advantage: it is much easier to capture youthful imagination with idealistic fantasies about writing off student debts, than honest and uninspiring messages pointing out the other lot would ruin the country. And there is also another issue which Tory MPs have identified…

There was a Tory Momentum in 2015. It was called RoadTrip, organised by Tatler Tory Mark Clarke. With the promise of free booze and getting laid, it inspired hundreds of young Tories to sign up. Like Momentum it aroused media attention and controversy: bullying, factionalism, rule-breaking, lines crossed, wrong ‘uns misbehaving. Yet it was punchy, aggressive, ideologically committed, hugely successful and played a significant role in the 2015 election victory, managing to get large numbers of activists to travel across the country and help Tory candidates. It then became mired in scandal – battle bus expenses and the death of Elliot Johnson – so was shut down and not replaced at the 2017 election. 

A number of MPs believe the RoadTrip scandals and ensuing collapse of a pugnacious Tory youth movement cost them the election. MPs felt outnumbered and outgunned by Labour’s highly organised young activists, yet there was no Tory equivalent because replicating RoadTrip had become politically impossible. Flashy Twitter graphics and videos produced centrally from CCHQ are one thing, they don’t compare to an organic, genuine youth movement which can push the boundaries with a degree of plausible deniability for HQ. If RoadTrip 2015 hadn’t ended in disgrace, RoadTrip 2017 might just have tipped the Tories towards a majority…

Mark Clarke’s Ex-Lover Launching New Tory Youth Group at Conference

greening

Conservative Future, the youth wing of the Tory party, disappeared in disgrace following the Elliot Johnson suicide, with CCHQ cancelling its events at last year’s conference. 12 months on it is quietly returning in all but name. A series of events are planned in Birmingham using the name Conservative Youth, starting with a late night ‘Youth Reception’ hosted by Justine Greening. Justine is a former lover of expelled Tatler Tory Mark Clarke, so she’s in a (not so) unique position to offer advice.

Other sessions include “How we can make a positive difference” and “Your first step to becoming a Parliamentary Candidate”. An email address has been set up using the new “Youth” name. Every decade the Tories have to close down a youth-wing that gets out of hand; the Federation of Conservative Students, Conservative Collegiate Forum, and lastly Conservative Future. The problem with not having a youth wing is who will deliver the leaflets?

Tory Report Clears Feldman and Shapps

feldman shapps clarke

Clifford Chance’s investigation has dropped in the middle of August while most people in Westminster are on holiday. It completely exonerates most of the key players in the Tory bullying scandal. Here are the top lines:

  • 13 victims of bullying identified, six potential sexual assault victims, five of which weren’t covered by the inquiry. The other withdrew their complaint.
  • No evidence Lord Feldman and Grant Shapps were aware of allegations of bullying or harassment of young activists by Mark Clarke. They did however both know Clarke had been involved in inappropriate behaviour around the Conservative Future elections, including adding ineligible voters to databases.
  • Grant Shapps’ then chief of staff, Paul Abbott, had received complaints containing allegations of bullying by Clarke. He confronted Clarke over four out of five of the allegations and forwarded one of them to Clarke.
  • No evidence to support allegations that CCHQ or Baroness Pidding had leaked names of the preliminary investigation’s interviewees
  • No evidence that Lynton Crosby was aware of allegations of bullying or harassment of young activists by Clarke

Expect cries of a whitewash…

Report in full below:

Elliott Johnson: No Link Between Redundancy and Bullying

elliott

The coroner has ruled that that there was no link between Elliott Johnson being made redundant from Conservative Way Forward and alleged bulling by ‘Tatler Tory’ Mark Clarke. The inquest heard from CWF’s Paul Abbott about a bitter feud between him and Clarke, however the coroner warned the Johnson family QC that linking the redundancy and Clarke was “irrelevant… I will not allow this to degenerate into a trial of Mark Clarke”. Clarke was accused of saying that he “squashes” young activists “like ants when they are small and young”. There wasn’t much said today that we didn’t know already – the coroner was never going to lay the blame with any individual or group. The coroner ruled that Elliott Johnson took his own life…

H/T @jamiegrierson, @tombarton, @benando

CPS Says Up to Cops to Pursue Tories

battlebus

The Tory expenses affair takes another turn, the CPS says:

“Following a constructive meeting with the police and Electoral Commission, it has been agreed that each relevant police force will consider what action to take. This may Include making an application to the court under s.176 of the Representations of the People Act 1983 to extend the time allowed to bring a prosecution.”

Looks like the curse of Mark Clarke has hit a wall despite his best efforts in briefing Michael Crick… 

Twist in Tory Suicide Case

A twist in the Elliott Johnson suicide story on Friday night as Newsnight asked his father Ray why he never mentioned his son’s previous mental health issues. On Sunday Elliott’s lover Andre Walker said he had not revealed their relationship because he didn’t want to upset the family. Walker says he has been accused of bullying because “fat people from the North of England in politics are always called bruisers”.

The coroner’s inquest begins on Wednesday…

Tatler Considering New Mark Clarke Profile

Rumour has it Tatler are looking at profiling scandal-hit Tory Mark Clarke for a second time. The society magazine infamously glammed up ten rising stars of the right back in 2008, transforming Clarke et al into “top Tory totty”. A person with knowledge of the proposed piece says any new profile would be less of a “where are they now?” type article, and more of a focus on Clarke’s recent career developments. Tatler has had its name in headlines about Tory bullying for the best part of four months. A follow up would make sense…

Clarke Complainant Backed Him to Be MP Four Months Ago

Patrick Sullivan is the Tory activist who sombrely told Newsnight he had complained about Mark Clarke’s behaviour as far back as 2010. He also featured heavily in the Mail on Sunday, claiming Clarke subjected him to a “terrifying ambush with two henchmen” last week. Yet they weren’t always such bitter enemies…

On 17 August, just four months ago, Sullivan described Clarke as a “wonderful potential MP”, sharing a post by one time Clarke ally turned enemy Paul Abbott:

So Sullivan complained about Clarke in 2010, then backed him for parliament this summer, and now says he was a wrong ‘un all along? Very odd…

Iain Dale Interviews Donal Blaney About Mark Clarke

Tory MP Fails Five Times to Clarify Feldman Claim

12 days ago, Tory MP Ben Howlett disputed Lord Feldman’s claim that he was “wholly unaware” of the Mark Clarke allegations prior to August, insisting his party chairman “has been well aware of all of this for a very long period of time”. Howlett made the claim in a Newsnight interview pre-recorded before CCHQ released Feldman’s line, but aired afterwards. At the time Howlett was seen as a whistleblower bravely speaking out against his party.

It would seem from his Newsnight interview that Howlett has information that could clear up whether or not Feldman misled the public. Guido contacted him on five separate occasions yesterday, politely asking for a quick clarification of why he believed Feldman had known of allegations against Clarke “for a very long period of time”. Howlett read the messages, but failed to respond. He did however find the time to visit a ‘gin bar’ in his constituency.

Is Howlett being lent on to keep silent and protect Feldman, or was his initial allegation incorrect? Why, after bravely speaking out two weeks ago, is he now refusing to clear up this crucial point once and for all? Hardly encouraging when there are already allegations of a cover up. Either Lord Feldman and Ben Howlett is not telling the truth. Which is it?

Pannick Stations at CCHQ

Following the meeting of the Tory party management board this afternoon, the party has u-turned and handed over full control of the investigation into the bullying scandal to Clifford Chance. In other words they have finally agreed to let it be independent. They will offer second interviews to those who have already spoken to the party’s initial investigation, while Feldman and Halfon will recuse themselves from the board meeting that discusses the report. Crossbencher Lord Pannick QC will review the whole process. Pannick stations!

Dynamite Memo Warned Feldman About Clarke in Summer 2014

Lord Feldman’s line since he was dragged into the Tory bullying scandal has been that he was “wholly unaware” of allegations against Mark Clarke until August 2015. On 18 November, a Conservative spokesman said:

“Lord Feldman acted immediately to set up an internal disciplinary inquiry as soon as he received the allegations in August 2015, of which he was previously wholly unaware.”

On 22 November, Feldman himself told the Mail on Sunday:

“I was wholly unaware of allegations of bullying and inappropriate sexual conduct by Mr Clarke prior to August 2015”

Does this stand up to scrutiny?

Feldman received a memo detailing a series of complaints about Mark Clarke in summer 2014. In the memo, Paul Abbott, chief of staff to Grant Shapps, warned Feldman about Clarke’s behaviour. Crucially, Abbott told Feldman that Clarke should not be employed by CCHQ. Instead of heeding this warning, Feldman and Shapps told Abbott that Clarke’s appointment was proving successful and he should make it work. This dynamite memo blows apart Feldman’s repeated on-the-record insistence that he was “wholly unaware” of complaints about Clarke before August 2015.

Tory MP Ben Howlett told Newsnight‘s report into the Tory bullying scandal that “Lord Feldman has been well aware of all of this for a very long period of time”. The key question Clifford Chance should ask the Tory party chairman is:

  • Why did Lord Feldman insist he was “wholly unaware” of the allegations before August 2015, despite Ben Howlett’s testimony that his party chairman knew “for a very long period of time” – and despite Feldman receiving complaints about Clarke in summer 2014?

On Saturday, a spokesman for the Prime Minister said he had “full confidence” in Lord Feldman. That’s what they said about Shapps 48 hours before he quit…

Harry Cole on Shapps Resignation

Feldman next?

Shapps Resignation Letter in Full

Dear Prime Minister,

In July 2014 I gave a second chance to former candidate Mark Clarke. Having been removed from the candidates list following the 2010 election, Clarke had gone on to establish a campaigning organisation called RoadTrip2015. He presented himself as having learned from his past experience, being more mature and wanting to prove himself again. After some discussion, I appointed him in order to incorporate RoadTrip into our wider campaign. The aim being to better coordinate his activity with our rapidly expanding Team2015 target-seat operation.

During this summer and autumn, there have been widely reported, very serious allegations made about the conduct of this former activist, who has subsequently been expelled from the Party. I appreciate that there are ongoing coroner and Party investigations underway, yet whatever the outcome of these processes, I doubt any of this will bring much comfort to the Johnson family whose loss is simply unimaginable.

Although neither the Party nor I can find any record of written allegations of bullying, sexual abuse or blackmail made to the Chairman’s office prior to the election, I cannot help but feel that the steady stream of those who raised smaller, more nuanced, objections should have perhaps set alarm bells ringing sooner. In the end, I signed that letter appointing Mark Clarke ‘Director of RoadTrip and I firmly believe that whatever the rights and wrongs of a serious case like this, responsibility should rest somewhere.

Over the past few weeks — as individual allegations have come to light — I have come to the conclusion that the buck should stop with me. Given the very serious nature of what has subsequently occurred and my role in appointing Mr Clarke, I cannot help but conclude that the only right course of action is for me to step down as a Minister in your government.

It has been an enormous honour to serve in your government which is making tremendous progress in taking Britain forward. You will have my full support from the backbenches, where I will also continue to work for my Welwyn Hatfield constituents who have elected me to serve.

But more than anything, I am deeply shocked and saddened by the recent death of Elliott Johnson and my thoughts are with his friends and family.

Yours ever,

The Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP

Grant Shapps resigns for not acting on bullying claims that CCHQ say they never received…

UPDATE: Shapps is replaced at DFID by former minister Nick Hurd.

Bombshell Bullying Messages of Halfon’s Lover

HALFON

Guido has been leaked a cache of private Facebook messages sent by Alexandra Paterson, the chairman of the Tory youth wing who was Rob Halfon’s lover and a close ally of scandal-hit Mark Clarke. In the messages, Paterson faces accusations that she has been bullying young Tory activists. She insists “there are reasons we do things” and that Clarke “gets very angry” when people make him look “bad”:

In one message, written before Elliott Johnson’s death and before Elliott and Clarke had fallen out, Paterson warns a Tory activist that she and Clarke “sanctioned” Elliott’s Tory youth gossip blog. She says threateningly: “just bare that in mind going forward”. Paterson then reveals she knows the activist has complained about her behaviour, claiming “things always will get back to me“:

In another separate message, Paterson warns a “young” Tory that she has the power to “protect” them, but “I can’t if you don’t do” what she orders:

Paterson’s claim that complaints about her conduct will “always” get back to her is interesting considering Mark Clarke also obtained the names of activists who had complained about him. The rest sounds like a bad gangster movie…

Tory Sex Scandal: Who Shagged Whom?

The latest revelations in this morning’s Telegraph allege that a 22 year-old activist woke up in a Tory MP’s bed with no memory of the night before. One MP is threatening an injunction, and at least three others have been accused of inappropriately having sexual relations with young volunteers on Mark Clarke’s infamous RoadTrip campaigns. This is Guido’s handy flowchart of who has been bonking whom. It is by no means complete. If you woke up naked next to a Tory MP – or indeed are a Tory MP who woke up naked next to Mark Clarke – and can’t remember the night before, call Guido’s helpline on 0709 284 0531…

CCHQ Knew of Clarke Allegations Months Ago

Guido’s revelation in the Sun on Sunday two weeks ago that the police have begun to interview Tory activists over the Mark Clarke scandal is included in tomorrow’s Mail splash. Tomorrow’s Sun carries a report that, despite claims to the contrary, the Tories did know of the allegations before August. Tonight’s Newsnight says they were aware for eight months. So why did CCHQ and Lord Feldman say they were “wholly unaware“? It’s looking more and more like a cover up…

Cameron Personally Backed Clarke Campaign in July

In July this year David Cameron personally told the Conservative National Convention that Mark Clarke’s now disbanded RoadTrip campaign would continue until 2020. According to a post at the time on Clarke’s Facebook page, the PM said of RoadTrip:

“For the first time we had a deployable resource. That’s why we are going to keep it going for 2020.”

Guido understands that on 1 July, far from jettisoning RoadTrip, senior figures at CCHQ told Clarke that the campaign had been a success and that they wanted to set up a successor campaign group called RoadTrip 2020. Despite widespread knowledge at the time of some of the scandalous goings on that had taken place. So not only were the Tories backing Clarke’s campaign four months ago, he also had the personal endorsement of the PM…

Justine Greening Embroiled in Clarke Sex Scandal

Expelled Tory Mark Clarke, the CCHQ election guru at the centre of explosive bullying and blackmail allegations, is a former lover of Cabinet minister Justine Greening, reports today’s Sun. Greening was the MP for Putney during 2010 while Clarke was the Tory A-list candidate in the neighbouring Tooting constituency. The now International Development Secretary is just one of a number of top Tory women who had a sexual relationship with Clarke. Evidence of how Clarke was let in through the back door.

The CCHQ priority in all this is to protect Lord Feldman by blaming his co-chairman Grant Shapps for a failure to discipline and block Mark Clarke’s return from his previous banishment. Friends of Feldman emphasise that he had never heard of Clarke until this all blew up. The only problem with this is discipline is not a matter for the Party Chairman – it is for the board. Here we have to bring in Baroness Pidding, who was chairwoman of the National Conservative Convention and a close friend of Mark Clarke. It was Pidding who arranged for Clarke to be feted by Cameron in public at the Conservative National Convention as recently as July, effectively crowning his rehabilitation. Pidding is also an old friend of Simon Mort, who was appointed to investigate the complaints against Mark Clarke. The nature of those complaints were leaked back to Mark Clarke as, fatally, were the names of the complainants. The transmission mechanism for how Elliott Johnson’s name and complaint got back to Clarke should be the key question for the CCHQ investigation. Who knew about the complaints? Who knew Mark Clarke? Who told Clarke that Elliott Johnson had made a complaint?

clarke+pidding

Neither Feldman or Shapps in all fairness had a central role in membership discipline – Shapps no longer even had a CCHQ role after May. This is the problem for CCHQ’s investigation, the leak that led to Clarke bullying Elliott Johnson must have come from someone at the top, privy to inside information, who was also close to Clarke.  Elliott’s father, Ray Johnson, has told Guido that he has asked the police to interview Emma Pidding…

Tories Dump on Shapps


The Tories have released a new statement on the Mark Clarke bullying scandal, fingering Grant Shapps as responsible for bringing him into the fold. A Conservative Party spokesman said:

“After the General Election in 2010 all candidates on the old approved list were asked to re-apply for the new list.

[…] Read the rest

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