Grant Shapps is reported to have resigned as an International Development Minister after allegations that he failed to prevent bullying within Conservative Future and by the campaign organiser Mark Clarke during Shapps’ time as Conservative Party Chairman.
For several days running various newspapers have featured claims that the suicide of Elliot Johnson could have been avoided if CCHQ had acted on complaints against Mark Clarke who was an organiser of the Road Trip campaign.
This morning in The Guardian it was reported that Baroness Warsi had said her complaints were ignored and added:
“During my time as chairman, Mark Clarke was never involved in any initiative that I was involved in or in any campaigning. He was effectively persona non grata, as far as I was concerned.”
It was also reported that Elliot’s father Raymond Johnson had called for both Shapps and Lord Feldman, who remains Conservative Party Chairman, to resign.
David Cameron says:
“I think it is important that on the tragic case that took place that the coroner’s inquiry is allowed to proceed properly.
“I feel deeply for his parents, It is an appalling loss to suffer and that is why it is so important there is a proper coroner’s inquiry. In terms of what the Conservative party should do, there should be and there is a proper inquiry that asks all the questions as people come forward. That will take place.
“It is a tragic loss of a talented young life and it is not something any parent should go through and I feel for them deeply.”
The full text of the resignation letter is as follows:
Dear Prime Minister,
In July 2014 I gave a second chance to former candidate Mark Clarke. Having been removed from the candidates list following the 2010 election, Clarke had gone on to establish a campaigning organisation called RoadTrip2015. He presented himself as having learned from his past experience, being more mature and wanting to prove himself again. After some discussion, I appointed him in order to incorporate RoadTrip into our wider campaign. The aim being to better coordinate his activity with our rapidly expanding Team2015 target-seat operation.
During this summer and autumn, there have been widely reported, very serious allegations made about the conduct of this former activist, who has subsequently been expelled from the Party. I appreciate that there are ongoing coroner and Party investigations underway, yet whatever the outcome of these processes, I doubt any of this will bring much comfort to the Johnson family whose loss is simply unimaginable.
Although neither the Party nor I can find any record of written allegations of bullying, sexual abuse or blackmail made to the Chairmaan’s office prior to the election, I cannot help but feel that the steady stream of those who raised smaller, more nuanced, objections should have perhaps set alarm bells ringing sooner. In the end, I signed that letter appointing Mark Clarke ‘Director of RoadTrip and I firmly believe that whatever the rights and wrongs of a serious case like this, responsibility should rest somewhere.
Over the past few weeks — as individual allegations have come to light — I have come to the conclusion that the buck should stop with me. Given the very serious nature of what has subsequently occurred and my role in appointing Mr Clarke, I cannot help but conclude that the only right course of action is for me to step down as a Minister in your government.
It has been an enormous honour to serve in your government which is making tremendous progress in taking Britain forward. You will have my full support from the backbenches, where I will also continue to work for my Welwyn Hatfield constituents who have elected me to serve.
But more than anything, I am deeply shocked and saddened by the recent death of Elliott Johnson and my thoughts are with his friends and family.
The Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP
David Cameron has sent the following reply:
Thank you for your letter today, offering your resignation from the Government.
I know that this will have been a very difficult decision for you to make, and something you will have given a great deal of thought to over recent days. I understand your reasons for stepping down and accept your decision.
You are right to pay tribute to Elliot Johnson and his family in your letter and our thoughts and prayers remain with them all at this incredibly difficult time. As you say, their pain and grief are simply unimaginable and there are no words – no matter how well meaning – that can possibly bring them comfort after the tragedy of the death of their son. It is entirely understandable that they want answers, and it is very important that the inquiry under way establishes the facts.
You have served on the Conservative Front Bench continuously for eight years, in both Opposition and Government. Always committed to the brief you held and with a seemingly unremitting amount of energy to bring to your work, you have made a big contribution.
As Shadow Housing Minister and then Minister of State for Housing and Local Government at the Department for Communities and Local Government, you have left a legacy to be proud of. By chairing the Cross-Ministerial Working Group on Homelessness, you helped introduce the ‘No Second Night Out’ policy, to prevent rough sleeping across the country. I know that this is a policy you personally championed and took great pride in. You also introduced the New Homes Bonus, which paved the way for subsequent housing policy, rewarding local authorities for local housebuilding.
More recently, I know how much you have put into your role at the Department for International Development. I am extremely grateful to you for covering duties at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office too. This has been a brief you personally care a great deal about, and you have worked with typical enthusiasm helping to deliver on our aid commitments.
However, you have been a dedicated member of the Party for much longer, holding leadership positions for almost a decade before your election to Parliament. As Party Chairman, you were able to apply your previous business experience to our campaigning and worked night and day to help deliver this year’s election victory – the first Conservative majority since 1992.
Above all, you have been a loyal and trusted supporter of mine from the very beginning. I will always remember that. You have made a lasting contribution to the work of the Government, but you have also been a faithful servant of our party, and I know you have much more to give in the years ahead.
With best wishes,
Nick Hurd has been appointed as the new International Development Minister.