Peter Cruddas has written to his supporters to update them on the discussions he has had with the Conservative Party since he successfully cleared his name. Here’s his letter in full:
It has been some months or so since I last updated you following my success against the Sunday Times (“ST”), the Independent, Mark Adams and others. Quite a few of you have asked me where things now stand vis a vis me and the Conservative Party. Have things been put right by the Party and the Prime Minister as I was effectively constructively dismissed by the Party, on the basis of malicious lies from the ST. With the PM subsequently being criticised by Mr Justice Tugendhat for not establishing the facts before publicly humiliating me. This is a longish email but once read you will be up to date with my relationship with the Conservative Party.
As I mentioned at my drinks reception on 17th September 2013 I had been invited by the PM’s secretary for drinks to 10 Downing Street on 4th September 2013, the evening before the PM flew to St Petersburg for the G20 summit. This was the first “contact” I had had with the PM since before March 2012 when on that fateful Sunday morning on 25th March 2013 the PM said there was no place for me in the Conservative Party. Since then there has been radio silence from No 10 and the Conservative Party.
Although I did receive the occasional message from people connected to (including a board member) the Party, that it would be best all round if I dropped my case against the ST they were not official messages. From whence they actually originated, beyond the messenger, I do not know. The content of some of what was conveyed to me in those messages was quite inappropriate and certainly not professional. It left me with the overwhelming impression that incorrect channels were being used to convey information. Personal relationships seemed to be at play notwithstanding clear conflicts of interest. It was wrong. I would hope this approach is not endemic as it is not the way things should be done. It made me wonder how was the original decision made not to deal with me properly back on 25th March 2012, I comment further below on this subject.
I didn’t feel particularly positive about the proposed meeting with the PM because when the decision by Mr Justice Tugendhat was handed down condemning the conduct of the journalists and the ST, as well as criticising the PM for his words, the PM responded with the quote, “I rather think I do owe Peter Cruddas an apology, I look forward to meeting him after the summer”. Not exactly a heartfelt and unequivocal mea culpa.
Added to which on television on the day of the judgement were the stellar performances of co-Chairman Grant Shapps and Michael Fallon (Minister for Business and Enterprise) when they refused to apologise. To me these were good examples illustrating not only the quality of anticipation and co-ordination in some quarters but also, alas, the ability of some senior people to think on their feet!
Notwithstanding that at least I believe it is important to give someone a fair hearing and listen to what they have to say so I duly agreed to see the PM.
Present at the meeting was Lord Feldman Conservative Party Co-Chairman and Ed Llewellyn the PM’s Chief of Staff. The PM apologised for what happened and said ” Had I known at the time how badly the journalists had behaved, I might have been in the position to take a different approach. I am very sorry about that. I congratulate you on your victory and the verdict”.
Further on in the meeting the PM said he had read the full transcript of the judgement and that I had cleared my name and that I had no reason to speak to Lord Gold – the enquiry the PM had set up after the publication of the ST libellous article.
I was also told I would be invited back to events. I explained in detail and with emotion ( if not righteous indignation ) to the PM that substantial damage had been done to me personally, my family, my charities and not least my business. It had all been very grave indeed. Had I not taken the stance I had it could easily have finished my business and the contribution I make to society and the economy – let alone the personal wreckage it would have left behind. I thought it was important to try and make them understand what they had done, as my sense was this was not fully appreciated.
I also made it clear that although I had done a lot for the Party and even though the Party’s and PM’s actions had made things far worse it was not the end of me assisting the Party. I wanted to continue to support the Party, especially with an election looming. I still do.
I know from how I deal with people that if you get it wrong you stand up straight away and make it clear you are trying to put things right. In a just and equitable world the very least would be my reinstatement to the Party and the old job.
If that isn’t possible, due to new incumbents, then some other obvious position of equal standing should be on offer. It needs to be readily apparent that there is a clear acceptance of the wrong caused and regret. To me it should be business as normal in a suitable role, just as if the original interruption hadn’t happened.
What I was getting was an apology in private with Lord Feldman to revert further at a later date. I didn’t feel it was either right or necessary for me to explain to those present how to behave properly but I felt it was quite unsatisfactory that there appeared to be no clear idea as to how amends would be made.
It had been clear for many months that I was winning my actions and my victory over the ST should not have been a surprise and additionally a couple of months had passed since my favourable judgement in the summer. Plenty of time for some thoughtful consideration. Maybe they did know what to propose but didn’t wish to share it with me at that time. Had I been in their shoes after first apologising, as the PM did, I would have launched straight into what I was going to do to make amends.
It would have been commensurate with the damage done so there could be no doubt as to my sincere intentions. But that didn’t happen.
About ten days later Lord Feldman reverted. We have been in touch a couple of times since the meeting with the PM. The suggestions he put to me reminded me a bit of a tombola stall at a village fete.
It seemed to me as if what they had first pulled out of the sawdust was embarrassingly not good enough so they had a couple more dips before showing me all of the prizes. But like most tombola stalls one is only left with a smile and shrug of the shoulders from the stallholder and the suggestion/hope that one may be a bit luckier next year!
I advised Lord Feldman that in my view the proposals he put to me not only raised a question mark over their sincerity but also raised more questions. At best it demonstrated a lack of appreciation of the real damage that had been done or perhaps maybe the proposals had been restrained by a misconceived belief that linkage of a suitable acknowledgment and remedy for a very serious wrong was not possible.
I said a clear, simple and unequivocal message needed to be sent so that here was no ambiguity in any quarters. Just as Mr Justice Tugendhat’s judgement had been clear and unequivocal. What was proposed gave the impression of grudging reluctance. I further advised him that time and time again the Party and Ministers get it so wrong when they cannot stand up and clearly demonstrate that something needs to be put right without question.
This impression of overwhelming reluctance to acknowledge things properly is so damaging to the Party. The conduct on television of Grant Shapps and Michael Fallon on the day of my judgement was frankly embarrassing for them and gave a terrible impression of the Party.
I left it with Lord Feldman that with an election coming a different approach is going to be so important for the public to feel that some honesty and above all integrity is coming back into politics and in particular the Conservative Party. Notwithstanding my personal bias/conflict, I said I saw them dealing with me properly as a real opportunity for the Party. It would seem only I hold that opinion.
So where does this leave me. As far as I am concerned matters are with Lord Feldman, the Party and the PM to demonstrate in an unequivocal public way that how I was treated by them was not just wholly wrong but extraordinarily damaging. That damage cannot be undone by a victory in the High Court.
I think it is not unreasonable to view what the ST did to me as a bit like an arson attack. After the ST article was published I then suffered the equivalent of a can of petrol being thrown on the flames as a result of comments to the press and my treatment by the Party. It was as if a statement had been read out, saying Peter Cruddas is “guilty as charged” – it is open season on him. I pointed this out to Lord Feldman.
I shall continue with rebuilding and developing my business which is going very well. The ST have of course appealed to the Court of Appeal (on the last day they could do so) on certain aspects of the judgement on which I await a decision in due course.
What has always troubled me about my case is when I advised the Party I had been contacted by the journalists about their impending article (afternoon Saturday 24th March 2012) I found the Party’s lack of a proper response, at a senior level, to establish with me what had happened and what had been said very strange. I didn’t even know what the ST was going to print or how bad it would be because I knew I hadn’t said anything wrong.
Yet a decision was made vis-a-vis me to walk away. On what basis was that decision made, who was consulted or spoken to? In any serious world decisions like that are not made without full knowledge or acceptance without question of someone’s account of things. What I can state without any question is my side wasn’t heard and the full detail wasn’t in the public domain.
Finally I suppose, putting aside my natural desire for personal rectification, I am in a way more concerned about the Party and the future. It seems to me that at every stage on the above time line there has been a failure of due process. By due process I mean firstly establishing the facts (that is done by applying some rigour and discipline); it involves an appreciation of any conflicts of interest so that the right channels of communication and review are established; anticipating what may happen by taking guidance from developments; briefing internally on the correct line to take depending on scenarios and ultimately determining optimum solutions, again depending on the possible outcomes.
So whilst my current position is not satisfactory and unresolved I hope with an election soon to be on us this approach is not replicated in a more material context.
I shall keep you updated with further developments.
Thank you as always for your support.