Saturday, November 28, 2015

Grant Shapps resigns as a minister

I've never met Mark Clarke: I did campaign in Carlisle on one of the days there was supposed to be a "Road Trip 2015" in the constituency and we had a very strong team of Conservatives campaigning  in the seat that day but all the people who turned up were from Carlisle itself or the rest of Cumbria.

I have however met Grant Shapps on many occasions: he was PPC and then MP for the neighbouring constituency to me when I lived and campaigned in St Albans. He also came to support me when he was shadow housing minister and I was Conservative candidate for Copeland.

He is a tireless and hard-working constituency campaigner and an exceptionally nice person.

I cannot believe for one moment that Grant would knowingly have tolerated the sort of bullying and misconduct which allegedly has been going on around Roadtrip 2015 and encompassed some of the national leadership of Conservative Future.

I presume however that the party would not have expelled Mark Clarke and suspended the national executive of Conservative Future, and Grant would not have resigned, unless the ongoing investigation had found evidence in support of the view that some of the allegations were true.

In his resignation letter, Grant said that he could not find any record that allegations of bullying, sexual abuse or blackmail had been made to him prior to the 2015 general election, but however, he said,

"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."

He said he was "deeply shocked and saddened" by Elliott Johnson's death.

All political parties have occasionally had problems with bullying and misconduct, and the youth wings of all parties have been particularly prone to this, as I blogged a fortnight ago. I certainly had a gutful of it as a student and YC activist, through the problems at that time were more driven by ideology and misplaced fanatical idealism than appears to have been the case this time.

Labour has predictably seized on the story as a welcome distraction from the chaos in their own party. They might do better to try to put their own house in order as the bullying of people who express different opinions in the Labour party is as bad or worse than anything which exists in the Conservative party.

It is particularly tragic that Elliott Johnson died in such circumstances. If, as they should, all political parties learn a lesson from recent travails that reports of abuse or bullying need to be taken more seriously at an early stage, perhaps his death will not be entirely in vain.


Charles Hedges said...

Should not Baroness Pidding have been mentioned in this blog?

Chris Whiteside said...

As I said, I have never met Mark Clarke and have no direct personal knowledge of what he was doing. What I have written is based on what has been in the press, and in particular the Conservative party statement about the action they have taken and Grant Shapps' letter of resignation.


Resignation letter and reply:

There is a party inquiry in process. There may yet be a further inquiry or additional action taken as a result of the existing one.

Since the party has already taken action against Mark Clarke - and expelled him for life - and since Grant Shapps has resigned as a minister and accepted responsibility for appointing Mark Clarke as head of Road Trip 2015, I did not consider that the comments I made about those two individuals were pre-judging anything.

I am aware of allegations against other people, but I don't pretend to know whether those allegations are true. So it seemed appropriate to me to wait until we saw whether further action is taken against anyone else by an internal or external inquiry, or by a court, before I wanted to comment on any other individual.

I'm afraid this is not over, and there may be other names to mention in due course, but I did not want to jump the gun by naming anyone else before that stage was reached.