Dale-Blaney Not Frost-Nixon
The latest chapter of the Tory bullying scandal was played out yesterday afternoon not in the Houses of Parliament, nor at a think tank or newspaper, but at the studios of LBC, where Iain Dale interviewed one Terence William Donal Blaney, founder of the Young Britons’ Foundation. You can see the interview HERE.
Donal Blaney’s transatlantic Conservatism cannot be stressed too highly: this is the man who believes the US’ approach to healthcare is superior to the NHS. He is an unswerving supporter of Second Amendment rights. And his devotion to his own particular cause extended to his UK house sharing a name with that of Rupert Murdoch’s yacht.
During the interview, Blaney blamed the Conservative Party, Mark Clarke, the Guardian, and the BBC, which, for someone who is coming under pressure, and still believes that Fox News Channel is fair and balanced, is entirely understandable. But firstly, the role of Iain Dale cannot be allowed to fall from view.
Dale was, until 2010 when he resigned all political appointments, on the advisory board of the YBF. He was not obliged to tell his audience about this past connection, but it would have allayed any criticism had he done so. There is more.
Iain Dale is a personal and long-standing friend of Donal Blaney, and attended a fundraiser for Blaney’s proposed Thatcher Centre as recently as October this year. He has spoken at YBF annual gatherings in the past. I believe he should have made his audience aware of this relationship.
But these are minor points; the main event was Blaney, and he did not disappoint in bringing his act, a combination of unpleasantness and victimhood, to the wider audience afforded him by LBC.
Those who think I am being unduly harsh on the YBF founder might usefully consider what happened when the Guardian published a less than totally flattering portrayal of the YBF back in 2010. Then, we saw the sneering bully-boy Tweeting “RT @TimMontgomerie: Guardian faces commercial ruin if the Tories win http://bit.ly/bcrBcA <- Looks like @Robert_Booth'll be out on his ear”, accompanied by “Nice touch 4 Grauniad to run weak hatchet job on the day my wife is taken into A&E by ambulance: classy work by @Robert_Booth #GuardianFail”. Robert Booth is still in post.
This dichotomy was on view during Dale’s interview: the portrayal of the YBF as a “Conservative Madrasa”, which Blaney has in the past been more than happy to talk up, was attributed in the retelling to David Davis, and its link to Blaney blamed on the Guardian. The YBF, he pleaded, was not a cult.
Thus Blaney did not address the question that Dale might have usefully put to him, that of entryism and infiltration. The YBF’s founder conceded that he was running Conservative Way Forward - Zelo Street regulars will recall that Elliott Johnson received his CWF redundancy letter from Griffin Law, Blaney’s legal practice - and did not have to explain how Conservative Future, the Tories’ youth wing, had recently been taken over by a top team who have been described as a “RoadTrip slate”.
This was most convenient to Blaney, who could also avoid having to explain how Mark Clarke had been behind the ousting of Sarah-Jane Sewell from CF in summer 2014 - thus demonstrating some less than savoury and principled behaviour - but still appeared front and centre at the YBF’s annual gathering the following December.
The conclusion could all too easily be drawn that Blaney did not have a problem with the summer 2014 ructions in CF, which also claimed former chair Oliver Cooper, whose fall from grace was so sudden - he had, after all, been in receipt of the YBF’s Dolphin Award only the previous year.
Nor did Blaney have to explain why he had attended a barbecue at Mark Clarke’s house as recently as July this year. But he was given the opportunity to reveal that the 12th YBF annual gathering, which was to be held in Cambridge this weekend, was being “postponed” - for which read “cancelled” - and that this was the fault of the dastardly BBC.
Blaney claimed that Newsnight journalists had called two young female activists “on spec”, as he put it, to ask them about their experiences at the hands of Mark Clarke. The word “rape” was liberally bandied around by the YBF head man. Dale felt compelled to point out to his audience that there was nobody from the BBC there to answer the claims.
It will be interesting to hear the Corporation’s response to Blaney’s claims.
But the revelation that will leave some of Donal Blaney’s friends less than totally enamoured of him was his claim that Elliott Johnson had an interview with “Guido Fawkes”, which, it has to be assumed, means Paul Staines, and probably his new gofer Alex Wickham, as well, possibly, as his former sidekick Harry Cole.
That interview would have taken place very shorty before Johnson made his last train journey to Sandy. The Fawkes blog has not yet commented on Blaney’s claim. Perhaps Staines and his pals would care to comment now, rather than later.
All that was left, after all the deflection and hand-wringing, was for Blaney to dump on the Tory Party for what he called its “shambolic” response to the bullying scandal. He contrasted this with his claims of heroic resistance to Mark Clarke by himself and his pal Paul Abbott, without whose contribution, he asserted, Clarke would be enjoying cocktails at Chequers with the Prime Minister.
Here on Zelo Street, Donal Blaney’s schtick is taken with an extra large pinch of salt. This interview was all about him dodging the flak, and keeping the YBF on the road, still able to train all those young Conservative activists, and remain close enough to the Tory Party to retain influence. Why Iain Dale did not touch on those areas is something that I will leave to him to consider.
One thing is certain: Donal Blaney did not put himself in the clear with that interview. Quite the opposite, in fact. There will be more on this story later.
Also on Zelo Street today ...
Sun Croatian Apology Busted: The excuse note for the "6 days to terror" article not only failed to address the paper's abysmal lack of fact checking, they could not even get their facts right over the straightforward question of where Emile Ghessen entered, and departed from, Croatia.