‘In 2014, Grant Shapps asked Mark Clarke to function in conjunction with the Party’s Team 2015,’ read a Conservative celebration statement. Photograph: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Photos
The Tory election aide at the centre of fresh allegations of attempted blackmail and bullying was personally brought on board by former chairman Grant Shapps, the Conservative party has revealed.
The celebration has been investigating Mark Clarke given that prior to the death in September of young activist Elliott Johnson, who is believed to have killed himself and had accused Clarke of bullying.
Since then, a number of whistleblowers have come forward to allege that Clarke, who ran the RoadTrip2015 campaign that bussed young activists about the country, was engaged in inappropriate behaviour. Robert Halfon, the deputy chairman of the celebration, was warned just before the election that Clarke could attempt to blackmail him about an affair with a Tory activist.
Ben Howlett, a Conservative MP, also told BBC Newsnight this week that he had warned about Clarke’s behaviours and felt personally bullied in a way that impacted his well being.
Clarke, who ran unsuccessfully in the 2010 election against Labour’s Sadiq Khan in Tooting, south London, was praised for his operate for the RoadTrip2015 campaign by David Cameron in the course of the 2015 election, but he was expelled from the celebration this week and banned for life.
In response to the most recent allegations, a Conservative spokeswoman released a lengthy statement that reveals Shapps brought Clarke on board in 2014, in a move that will boost stress on the Tory chairman to explain whether he had ever been aware of any of the complaints.
The celebration also stated it will ask an independent lawyer from the law firm Clifford Likelihood to overview its inquiry.
“After the Common Election in 2010 all candidates on the old authorized list had been asked to re-apply for the new list,” mentioned the statement. “Those who applied were interviewed by an assessment panel and a recommendation was put to the Candidates Committee. Several hundred candidates have been not invited back onto the list, like Mark Clarke.”
“Mark Clarke established RoadTrip2015 on his own initiative to campaign in key constituencies in the run up to the Basic Election. In 2014, Grant Shapps asked Mark Clarke to perform in conjunction with the Party’s Team 2015 (the Party’s own volunteer activist organisation).
“We have been unable to discover any written complaints of bullying, harassment or any other inappropriate behaviour for the duration of this period that had been not dealt with … The Party is continuing with its internal inquiry which started in August 2015 in response to a formal complaint, received by Lord Feldman, about the behaviour of Mark Clarke.
“Once this approach is completed, Lord Feldman has asked Simon Davis, a Senior Partner at Clifford Likelihood LLP, to make certain that the investigation has been thorough and total. The Celebration Board will then contemplate the proof and make a decision on the appropriate course of action.
“We would encourage any potential witnesses to continue to come forward, and ask that any proof of written complaints or other relevant material be made obtainable to the Party so that we can continue with our investigation and full it properly.”
Clarke has previously released a statement saying: “I believe that these false allegations and this media firestorm are connected to the events surrounding Elliott’s sad death. As such I will be co-operating with the coroner and offering him with the fullest information. This is the proper process. Right after the inquest I will appear to take legal action for defamation in respect of these allegations.”
Elliott Johnson, a Nottingham University graduate who worked for the campaign group Conservative Way Forward, was discovered dead on railway tracks at Sandy station, in Bedfordshire, on 15 September. Johnson had made a formal complaint to the party about Clarke ahead of his death.