Crowdfunded Journalism


Tim Fenton photo
Tim FentonCrewe, Cheshire - 19 December 2015
The New Conservatives did not organise themselves to no purpose. The Elliott Johnson affair showed the world what they were up to.

Our perusal of The New Conservatives in the UK previously considered the Young Britons’ Foundation, its founder and head man Donal Blaney, and the group’s influence upon the Conservative Party. Blaney’s braggadocio, calling the YBF a “Conservative Madrasa” was and is well known, as was the group’s ability to get its alumni into the party, in a variety of roles. Then came the event that brought the YBF out of the shadows.

For the YBF, their moment of revelation began last September when a young Conservative activist called Elliott Johnson was found dead on a railway track near Sandy station in Bedfordshire. Johnson had apparently taken his own life; a note was found making accusations of bullying against Mark Clarke, one of many YBF alumni active in Conservative politics.

Clarke has since been expelled from the Tory Party, but his appearance on the select list of those who have been awarded the Golden Dolphin award, which is in the personal gift of Donal Blaney, and his regular appearance at YBF gatherings, shifted attention to the YBF and its increasing influence on the Tories’ youth wing.

The first revelation was that Conservative Future, the official youth wing of the party, had been effectively taken over by a team endorsed by Clarke and his associates last year. This exercise had included the removal of chairman Oliver Cooper, the less than pleasant campaign to drive deputy chairman (membership) Sarah-Jane Sewell from her post, and the insertion of Alexandra Paterson as the new chairman.

Ms Paterson is another from the long line of YBF alumni. The campaign to depose Ms Sewell was celebrated by Mark Clarke when she resigned. Clarke was then given a platform to disparage Ms Sewell - unchallenged - at the YBF annual gathering last December. It was at this conference that he was given the Golden Dolphin award.

Also highly influential in right-wing politics, the Thatcherite pressure group Conservative Way Forward - for which Elliott Johnson had briefly worked before being made redundant - was revealed to be run out of Donal Blaney’s legal practice in Kent.

The CWF website tells that “CWF’s mission is to train the next generation of Conservative leaders”, which sounds rather like the main objective of the YBF. Also of interest to young activists is “In the run up to the Mayoral Election in May, we are running three special edition academies for London Conservative Future members … The first of these is FREE for CF members”. CWF and CF speakers are both involved.

Another “Academy Special” offered by CWF for CF members includes a personal appearance by Donal Blaney, of whom the blurb tells “Donal is a well-known pioneer of the right-wing movement and YBF alumni include several sitting MPs and Ministers alike”.

One might by now be confused as to who is training whom, and where YBF, CWF and CF remits begin and end. Perhaps that was on the mind of the Tory Party officials who, as well as expelling Clarke, suspended the entire CF board. But CF is the only one of the three organisations over which they can exercise any control.

Worse, the apparent success of Clarke’s RoadTrip 2015 concept, of bussing eager young activists to marginal constituencies during General Election campaigns, only showed that the Tories’ membership is both ageing and dwindling. The party is ripe for entryism, and bringing along all those young, trained and motivated activists is, ultimately, making the party an offer it cannot refuse.

Donal Blaney has denied emphatically that YBF is some kind of cult organisation. His friends and associates deny that there has been any entryism. But the face the Tory Party shows to the electorate, and what the YBF’s founder and many of his alumni promote and project, are often very different.

For the YBF head man, waterboarding is acceptable, US-style gun laws are A Very Good Thing, the NHS is to be despised and US-style healthcare promoted in its place, and Government involvement in anything - except the security services and the military - is to be decried. Those who accept this turn to the right are characterised as “sound”. Those who do not, do not keep well in the world of the New Conservatives.

The Elliott Johnson affair has revealed that the Tory Party finds itself in a very difficult place. It looks like entryism, sounds like entryism, walks like entryism, and, yes, it quacks like entryism. Those responsible claim that it is not entryism. But then, the words of Mandy Rice-Davies come so easily to mind: “Well, they would [say that], wouldn’t they?

The New Conservatives did not absorb all that ideology, perform all that training, and undertake all that organisation, just for the hell of it. They have purpose. They have objectives. They are as ruthless and unpleasant as they deem necessary in achieving those objectives. Now we can all see the nature of the beast.

##Tories #Entryism #YBF #Conservatism #Bullying #ElliottJohnson