EXCLUSIVE-“Worse than Militant”- The Gang of Four caught in Tory Bullying Allegations, with Freemasonry links
THE COUP AT CONSERVATIVE FUTURE
Likened by Conservative critics to the ‘militant’ tendency or the ‘gang of four’, Mark Clarke, Donal Blaney, Harry Cole and Paul Abbott are accused of a coup in various Conservative organisations, including the Thatcherite grouping, Conservative Way Forward and Conservative Future, the Tory Party’s youth wing
During the summer of 2014, senior members of Conservative Future have alleged a ‘takeover’ of the youth wing by a ‘RoadTrip Slate’ that used bullying and blackmail in order to force the resignation or withdrawal of nominations for the leadership of the national executive council.
All five members of the executive have been suspended while the bullying allegations around the suicide of Elliott Johnson this September are investigated by Clifford Chance.
One Senior Tory source described them as an ‘entryist tendency’ that attempted to exploit control over the party’s youth wing to increase its standing within the Conservatives.
Conservative Future was taken over by what Tory blog The Blue Guerilla describes as the ‘RoadTrip Slate’, led by Alexandra Paterson. Paterson was allegedly the target of a blackmail scheme by Clarke over her affair with Tory minister Robert Haflon.
Sarah Jane Sewell, then deputy Chair of Conservative Future, resigned in a letter in which she wrote that the candidate for “national chairman has apparently been promoted using the Conservative Party’s Team2015 mailing lists and the Conservative Party social media accounts.”
Sewell also wrote of social media campaign of smears. "I myself have been besmirched in the most abhorrent fashion,” she wrote “and I have little doubt that other opponents would be subject to similar treatment from those who seemingly act with impunity.”
Other senior members, including Conservative Future chairman Oliver Cooper, London Conservative Future Chairman Nabil Najjar and Trent Conservative Future Chairman Nadim Muslim all resigned during the month.
Harry Cole tweeted his support of her resignation and the campaign against her;
THE YBF ALUMNI: AN "ENTRYIST TENDENCY"
Running both Roadtrip 2015, and alleged to be behind the coup at Conservative Future was Mark Clarke, the ‘Tatler Tory’ at the centre of allegations of bullying and blackmail. Clark has vigorously denied all these allegations.
Clarke was previously a director of ‘outreach’ at the Young Briton’s Foundation, a Conservative Youth group tasked with training the majority of young Conservative activists for election campaigning. Founded in 2003, the YBF is effectively the UK offshoot of the right wing republican group that run the Reagan Ranch in the United States – the Young America’s Foundation
One of the key figures in the YBF, Donal Blaney, was a supporter of Clarke’s project.
On 8 May 2015 he tweeted that the decisive election results were due to the influence of RoadTrip 2015. He has since deleted the tweets
Joining Blaney and Clarke as alumni of the Young Briton’s Foundation is the former Westminster Correspondent for the right wing gossip blog, Guido Fawkes, and now at the Sun newspaper-Harry Cole.
Cole was awarded YBF’s Dolphin Award for political courage in 2012, and tweeted out his thanks to both Mark Clarke and Donal Blaney. Mark Clarke was awarded the Golden Dolphin Award, described as the "personal gift of Donal Blaney" in 2015.
The website has since been updated to remove Clarke's name from the list of recipients.
Cole and Clarke were also key members of the Trade Union Reform Campaign, a short-lived lobbying group set up in 2012 with MP Aidan Burley. Clarke was the chief executive. Cole was variously described as ‘Parliament liaison officer’ and ‘social media’ advisor’.
Meanwhile the key fourth member and YBF alumni is Paul Abbott, who was chief of staff to Grant Shapps when he was helping to run the election campaign, and has since moved over to run Conservative Way forward. He can be glimpsed in the white shirt between Lynton Crosby and Jim Messina in this picture taken during the May 2015 election. (The other flanking figures are party chairmen Lord Feldman and Grant Shapps)
Byline revealed earlier this week how Abbott allegedly watched Mark Clarke bully senior Oxford tory activists but took no action, despite offering and apology for Clarkes behaviour.
During the time of the Conservative Future takeover in July 2014, Cole, Abbott and Clarke were pictured at Didcot Parkway as members of a new cricket team called the Westminster Wolverines.
Byline can now reveal there have been multiple allegations that Cole, Abbott and Clarke were attending an annual cricket match as Freemasons associated with Phoenix Lodge (number 173) a University Affiliated Lodge.
Byline wrote to Cole at his Sun newspaper email address on Wednesday asking to comment on these allegations, and asking whether his coverage of the activities of his colleagues was appropriate in the circumstances. Cole has regularly written about his YBF colleagues on the Guido Fawkes blog, the Spectator and the Sun without declaring an interest.
Cole has not responded to our request to correct or comment.
UPDATE- Donal Blaney has since admitted that he and Clarke are Freemasons at the Phoenix lodge. Watch the full interview with Iain Dale (starts at 7.52) http://www.lbc.co.uk/tory-bullying-scandal-donal-blaney-121103