Probe into Spalding-educated Tory activist’s death branded a ‘whitewash’ by dad
An investigation into claims of bullying and harassment made by an ex-Spalding Grammar School student who took his own life has found no one was to blame for his death.
Elliott Johnson (21), who campaigned for the Tories during a South Holland District Council by-election in Long Sutton four years ago, was found dead on a railway line in Bedfordshire last September.
An inquest into Elliott’s death, held in Bedfordshire in June found that the ex-member of Tory youth movement Conservative Future killed himself. There were claims that he had been bullied by fellow activist Mark Clarke.
Conservative Party officials instructed law firm Clifford Chance LLP to carry out a review of the case, including allegations that senior Tories had “deliberately ignored or condoned” Mr Clarke’s behaviour which he himself repeatedly denied.
An extract from the report by Clifford Chance said: “On August 14, 2015, Conservative Campaign Headquarters (CCHQ) received a copy of a letter from Mr Johnson complaining of an incident in a public house where Mr Clarke was said to have been rude and aggressive towards him.
“Mr Johnson’s letter was accompanied by a separate document written by a colleague raising a variety of allegations regarding Mr Clarke’s conduct towards a number of other activists, some of which were serious. These were handed to a CCHQ employee and a request for a preliminary investigation to be carried out was then made.
We saw the investigation as a whitewash from the very start and we weren’t prepared to be used as a tool in that way
“On August 25, Mr Johnson expressed a desire to withdraw his complaint and at a meeting with the investigator on September 7, Mr Johnson repeated that desire and said that his relationship with Mr Clarke had been good until the incident in the public house on August 12, 2015.”
The report went on to state that Elliott met Mark Clarke and an “associate” on September 2 to discuss the complaint, before committing suicide 13 days later.
Former Tory Party chairman Grant Shapps, who resigned last November over claims that he failed to act over the bulling claims, and other party officials, were cleared by the report of having tried to cover up complaints by Elliott and other Conservative Future activists.
But in an interview for the BBC, Elliott’s dad Ray Johnson said: “We saw it (the investigation) as a whitewash from the very start and we weren’t prepared to be used as a tool in that way.”
Conservative Party chairman Sir Patrick McLoughlin MP said: “The death of Elliott Johnson was a tragedy and our thoughts remain with his family and friends.
“There can be no place for bullying behaviour in our party and we all have a responsibility to act when it occurs.”