The Minister of State for Skills and Equalities Nick Boles has attacked the BBC for its coverage of the Mark Clarke bullying investigation. He accused the BBC’s current affairs programme of conducting a “witch-hunt” against the Chairman of the Conservative Party, Lord Feldman.
Earlier this week Newsnight ran an interview with former Tory activist Patrick Sullivan who claimed that in 2010 he and the now Conservative MP Ben Howlett handed a dossier of bullying allegations, including claims against Clarke, to the then co-Chairman of the Conservative party Lord Feldman. This was a big claim for Sullivan to make, because it contradicts Feldman’s claim that he was “wholly unaware” of allegations that Mark Clarke was acting inappropriately until August of this year.
Mark Clarke was thrown out of the Conservative Party last month by Feldman, following an investigation into allegations that he bullied and blackmailed people while in charge of RoadTrip2015, an organisation that organised young Conservative activists. Clarke denies all the allegations that have been made against him.
Here is what Boles wrote on the Conservative Home website on Thursday:
“The BBC claims to be a standard bearer for objective and well-sourced reporting. So it’s frankly extraordinary that earlier this week it allowed Newsnight and then Today to lead with a story about a dossier which apparently they have not even seen, and broadcast one man’s claim that it was shown to Lord Feldman in 2010 without any corroborating evidence to back his assertion up. Having hemorrhaged its best reporters in recent weeks, Newsnight is a sinking ship trying desperately to reassert its political relevance.”
Grant Schapps who was co-Chairman of the Conservative Party at the time of the general election campaign has already taken responsibility for not investigating Clarke properly and resigned from his government position. As Business Insider has explained before, Shapps is isolated within the party and was well-placed to take the blame for allowing Clarke to gain the position he did within the party, but the government are determined for Feldman to keep his position. Feldman is a personal friend of David Cameron and has helped raise millions in funding for the Tories.
As well as attacking the BBC, Boles reasoned in his post that if Feldman is forced out of his job it would do nothing for Elliot Johnson, the young Tory activist who who left a note alleging that he had been bullied by Clarke before he committed suicide. Boles wrote:
“We will do nothing for Elliott Johnson by hounding Andrew Feldman out of his job. We will simply be adding an injustice to the heartbreaking situation in which an idealistic young man so despaired of his life that he decided to end it.”
Boles comments have angered Ray Johnson, the father of Elliott. This is what Johnson told the Telegraph after he read Boles’ post:
“What an appalling man. It is a disgrace. He should apologise unreservedly for his comments because they are unsympathetic, ill thought out, and seem to be very mercenary. Not only has he made our grief worse and sullied my son’s memory but he has actually tried to justify Feldman’s position because he has been such a wonderful raiser of funds for the Conservative Party.
“He should apologise — his comments completely misunderstand the situation. He talks about the unimaginable grief of the family — how much more does he think he is putting on us by putting out stupid statements like that? He has obviously been wheeled out by the Government to do this but it is absolutely and completely unthought through, all he is trying to do is to shore up Feldman on the basis that he has made a lot of money for the Conservative party.”
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman told the Telegraph that David Cameron has full confidence in Nick Boles after his comments about Elliot Johnson.
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