Tory Bullying - Guido Fawks Himself
As the fallout from the death of Tory activist Elliott Johnson brings yet more new revelations this weekend, the efforts by some of those likely to be sucked in to the ever-deepening whirlpool to distance themselves from what went on around former RoadTrip organiser Mark Clarke have resulted in their being shown up as distinctly economical with the actualité. As good right-wingers, they believe they have no need to obey Brown’s law.
This was established by former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, when he admonished Damian McBride over the latter’s suggestion that he invent one or more “facts” to more easily smear someone. “Don’t”, replied Brown. “It’s the lie that gets you”.
This straightforward rule has escaped Harry Cole, formerly tame gofer to Paul Staines at the Guido Fawkes blog, as the allegations have begun to pile up. The Independenthas observed “Mr Cole … is now the Westminster Correspondent of The Sun, breaking regular exclusives about the Tatler Tory scandal – several based on documents that could only have been obtained from people close to the centre of the scandal”.
The report gets to the nub of Cole’s current dilemma: “Although the tabloid has written extensively about the links between Michael Clarke and Mr Elliott … Mr Cole has yet to mention his own association with Mr Clark … Friends of Mr Cole said he had made ‘no secret of the fact they were close friends for 10 years’ – but said they fell out in July last year”. And to that last claim I call bullshit.
In July last year, far from falling out with Mark Clarke, Cole was cheering him on. Zelo Street posted at the time on the vicious ousting of one Sarah-Jane Sewell from Tory youth wing Conservative Future - something which Clarke openly celebrated with drinks at the Two Chairmen pub in central London. Cole, as Nick Mutch has pointed out in a piece for Byline Media, ridiculed Ms Sewell’s resignation letter.
Moreover, if Cole had indeed fallen out with Clarke, how did he secure access to two items of the latter’s personal correspondence, original signed letters from Grant Shapps and David Cameron? Also, the “I fell out with him last year” line also seems to be rather like the excuse deployed by both Paul Abbott, CEO of Conservative Way Forward, and Donal Blaney, founder of the Young Britons’ Foundation.
The falling out between Cole and Clarke must have come terribly suddenly, too, because also in July 2014, the two of them were playing cricket together - along with Abbott. We know this as they posed for a group photo at Didcot Parkway station. Worse for Cole, Mutch adds a new allegation to the pile facing him: that he, Clarke and Abbott were Freemasons associated with Phoenix Lodge (#173).
From the sight of Master Cole - or perhaps that should now be upgraded to The Worshipful Master Cole - with trousers well alight over his claim to have fallen out with Mark Clarke when he clearly had not - we move over to his former boss Paul Staines, who, it has to be assumed, was in possession of the Guido Fawkes Twitter feed earlier today.
“Not a good sign that the CCHQ/Clifford Chance investigation is leaking already” he appears to have claimed. There is only one article talking about that investigation today, and it is in the Independent. And when we take Staines’ assertion, then match it up with the relevant part of the text, something most interesting may be observed.
This is what the Indy said: “There is no evidence that the Guido Fawkes gossip blog … ever ran untrue smear stories pushed by Mr Clarke … However, sources close to Clifford Chance, the law firm appointed by Conservative Campaign Headquarters (CCHQ) to investigate the scandal, confirmed that they would explore Mr Clarke’s media connections as part of the probe”. Spot the leak (clue: there isn’t one).
No, the Independent story shows no sign whatever of a leak from CCHQ, or indeed Clifford Chance. All that it does show is confirmation of the investigation’s scope. Staines has seen a leak where there isn’t one. The conclusion as to what this means can be described in a clearly understandable four-word phrase.
OH WHAT A GIVEAWAY.
It gets worse: Staines does not tackle the Indy’s main claim - that the Fawkes blog was used to smear Clarke’s opponents. The paper does not provide any examples, but Zelo Street will.
Former CF chair Ben Howlett, now MP for Bath, and who has by his own admission been bullied by Clarke, was on the receiving end of several hatchet jobs by the Fawkes blog (HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE for instance). The more observant reader will notice that the last of those posts was dated October last year - three months after they all “fell out” with Clarke. So it must have been a complete coincidence, then.
When the Elliott Johnson and Mark Clarke story broke, my first conclusion was that this was an act of entryism that had gone badly wrong. And it keeps coming up entryism: Ray Johnson’s revelation that his son’s CWF redundancy letter came from Griffin Law, Donal Blaney’s legal practice, Nick Mutch suggesting a takeover of CF by a “RoadTrip slate” of top executives, and the YBF training all those young activists.
Small wonder Mutch uses the phrase “Worse than Militant”. A Tory Party with an ageing and declining membership offered all those young activists - it must have seemed too good to be true. That is because it is now looking like it really was too good to be true.
Cole and Staines have failed utterly to explain away their part in the entryism; if anything, there are more questions for them to answer than a week ago. Questions that will not go away. And they will at some time have to stop deflecting, spinning, projecting, blustering and, yes, lying. Because, as Gordon Brown explained to Damian McBride, that leads only one way.
It’s the lie that gets you. And it will get Cole and Staines, with the certainty of night following day.
Also on Zelo Street today ...
Don't Menshn San Bernardino: (thankfully) former Tory MP Louise Mensch blames the BBC for opening up the apartment where two now dead suspects in this week's mass shooting lived. But the deed was done by Toby Harnden - who works for the Murdoch Sunday Times. Who she doesn't mention. What a coincidence.