Last night I e-mailed Sebastian Payne, the deputy editor of the Spectator magazine’s Coffee House blog, who has written no fewer than 61 blogs since September 16th, the day Breitbart London reported the suicide of Tory activist Elliott Johnson, who claims he was bullied by party seniors.
Instead of responding to my e-mail asking why the Spectator – supposedly the house magazine of the Conservative Party – hadn’t covered this very serious subject, Sebastian chose to “have a pop” at me, again, in one of his blog posts, linking back to a smear article he was briefed about me from his friends in “Red UKIP”.
That’s mature, isn’t it?
I asked a serious question, because I am genuinely curious about the Speccie’s coverage (or lack thereof) of the Elliott Johnson case, and I get attacked. It’s a fascinating insight into the Westminster bubble mindset: don’t rock the boat, don’t seek justice, just keep the status quo going, whatever the (human, in this case) cost.
In fact, the only mention of one Mr. Mark Clarke, who is allegedly a lynchpin in this entire saga, is a puff piece from Mr. Payne dated April 2015, where he writes:
Both the Roadtrip and Battlebus [Tory] operations are run by Mark Clarke, a 37-year-old marketing executive and a Conservative activist since the age of 15. He was frustrated at the lack of dynamic activism from Tory volunteers and overwhelmed by the strength of Labour activist base, who were being bussed around key seats at weekends. At first, it was an independent operation from Conservative HQ, who were running ‘Team 2015′ to allocate activists to target seats. Some PPCs in were flagging so Clarke supplemented the Team 2015 work independently.
How very chummy.
The other mention is a piece from June 2014, by Clarke’s friend Harry Cole, who used to write the Steerpike blog until Sebastian Payne took over and did things like this. Here’s what Cole – who while instinctively of the Westminster mindset, is at least more prone to report it as he sees it – wrote:
‘I haven’t really heard very much about it’ Deputy Chief Whip Greg Hands tells me as we watch Shapps and ‘Road Trip 2015’ coordinator Mark Clarke firing up 150 such activists outside Newark Conservative Club ‘but it seems to be working…
‘It’s a bit of a dating agency’, chuckles Clarke, who set up a team of roving campaigners that have now been brought into the fold under the ‘Team 2015’ banner.
The “dating agency” claim may come back to haunt Mr. Clarke, who the Mail this week reported was alleged to have used his position to prey on young Tory activists. The Mail reports: “Clarke is also accused of preying on women in a 100-strong team of young Tory activists on his Road Trip campaign. Some of those on the trail were as young as 16.”
One activist alleges: “No one complained about Mark on Road Trip because there was a culture of fear. Most were very young and who could they complain to? He was in charge. He acted like a sexual predator and enjoyed rough sex. Yet he was put in charge of 100 or so young people, including many girls staying in hotels. He boasts of what he calls his “IIP” method of making women sleep with him – Isolate, Inebriate, Penetrate. It is appalling”.
So where is the Spectator’s coverage of this issue now?
Could their silence be anything to do with the fact that Andrew Neil, the editor of the magazine, is also the top dog at the BBC’s Daily Politics? Neil once mauled Bow Group chairman Ben Harris Quinney on television after he endorsed voting UKIP at the General Election (reported on at length by the Spectator, I note).
And the trail of where the (actual non)-story came from leads back to CCHQ. Specifically, sources tell Breitbart London, to Mr. Clarke and one Mr. Paul Abbott (former chief of staff to party Chairman Grant Shapps).
Is the Spectator really claiming that the chief of a think tank’s interview is more important a story than the suicide of a Tory activists and subsequent allegations of a “culture of fear” in the party? Or is this something to do with the fact that the Spectator is owned by two big Tory donors?
Surely Sebastian Payne and his magazine can’t be failing to report a young man’s suicide for political reasons? That would be… immoral. Wouldn’t it?