At least nine Conservative party activists say they won’t give evidence to the official inquiry into the death of Elliot Johnson, the young activist who killed himself after allegedly being bullied by Mark Clark. The nine activists told the BBC’s Newsnight program that won’t talk to Clifford Chance, the legal firm hired to carry out the inquiry, because they don’t trust Clifford Chance to keep them safe from Clarke.
Johnson, who took his own life in September, left behind notes and recordings that alleged he had been bullied and blackmailed by Mark Clarke, the head of Conservative youth activist organisation RoadTrip. Clifford Chance was brought in by the Conservative Party to carry out an independent inquiry after some people alleged that that the names of people who complained about Clarke were leaked back to Clarke by source within the party.
However, it appears that Clifford Chance hasn’t won over the confidence of potential witnesses. One activist told Newsnight that they were worried that their identity wouldn’t be protected if they gave evidence and Clark and his associates would use force and intimidation to force them to retract what they had said.
I am worried that Mark Clarke and his associates will find out who I am, put my ID concretely with what I have said, find out where I live, who I am where, where I work — and that he and his associates will come after me and try to use force and intimidation to try to get me retract what I said.
The activists might have a good reason for being scared that they’re identities won’t we kept safe if they give evidence. A letter that they received from Clifford Chance admits that while it will “try to present the evidence in a way which does not identify witnesses,” it “cannot guarantee this will be possible.”
You can read the relevant extract from the letter in this tweet from Guido Fawkes Journalist Alex Wickham:
The fact that people are scared to talk to Clifford Chance could be seen as evidence of just how necessary an inquiry into bullying is. One former Tory activist who will be giving evidence to Clifford Chance, told Business Insider that they would be willing, if necessary, to testify in court that Clarke bullied young activists.
Business Insider has reached out to Clarke, asking him if people should be afraid to give evidence to Clifford Chance.
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