David Cameron should investigate the role his office played in alleged bullying within the Conservative party’s youth wing, the Labour party has said.
Labour’s Jon Ashworth said it was becomingincreasingly clear that the Conservative party’s response to the allegations of blackmail, bullying and sexual harassment that have engulfed the party’s youth wing had been inadequate.
The party chairman, Andrew Feldman, has been under pressure to resign since it was alleged that complaints about the behaviour of former Tory candidate Mark Clarke had been made to him long before 21-year-old Tory activist Elliott Johnson accused Clarke of bullying him. Johnson, who was found dead on a railway line in Bedfordshire in September, is believed to have killed himself. Clarke has consistently denied all the allegations against him.
“It is becoming increasingly clear that the Conservative party’s response to this affair is inadequate,” said Ashworth, a shadow minister without portfolio. “This is a matter of utmost seriousness and David Cameron needs to look at the role of his office in relation to Mark Clarke’s activities.
“No 10 must now provide full disclosure on their involvement in this matter, which to date the Conservative party has failed to deliver.”
Ashworth’s comments come after further allegations, reported by the Sun, that Clarke had been used as a “hatchet man” in a Downing Street plot to block the rise of a young Conservative activist, Liam Walker, who had made controversial comments on food banks.
Walker, who was the chairman of the Conservative Future branch in Cameron’s constituency of Witney, hit the headlines in 2013 when he said people used food banks so they could spend money in the pub.
BBC Newsnight reported that the party’s deputy director of communications, Richard N Jackson, complained about Clarke during 2008 elections for the party’s youth wing, Conservative Future.
Lord Feldman has consistently maintained he was “wholly unaware” of accusations of a culture of bullying within Conservative Future and abusive behaviour by Clarke, a youth organiser, until August 2015.
Last month, Feldman was forced to distance himself from the investigation into the allegations of bullying and the Conservative party board announced that the law firm Clifford Chance would conduct the investigation “in its entirety”.
Earlier this week, Patrick Sullivan, a former activist, claimed that Feldman and Tory co-chair Sayeeda Warsi were handed a 20-page dossier detailing bullying within the Tory youth wing in 2010.
Allegations over the dossier came after former party co-chairman Grant Shapps was forced to resign as development minister when it emerged that he had given Clarke a formal role in the Conservative party’s central office, despite complaints about his behaviour.
The party suspended Clarke’s membership pending an inquiry afterJohnson’s death. Johnson’s father, Ray, said he was not satisfied by Clarke’s expulsion, describing it as a “whitewash” to protect senior members of the party.
Clarke, who ran unsuccessfully in the 2010 election against Labour’s Sadiq Khan in Tooting, south London, was later accused of seeking to blackmail the cabinet minister Robert Halfon by threatening to expose his affair with a Tory activist – an affair which Halfon later admitted and apologised for.
This article was written by Frances Perraudin, for theguardian.com on Friday 11th December 2015 18.45 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010