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Tory bullying inquiry finds 13 alleged victims of Mark Clarke.

Investigation carried out by Clifford Chance also uncovers six allegations of sexual assault against ex-Tory candidate.
An investigation into bullying within Conservative party headquarters has identified 13 alleged victims of Mark Clarke, the former Tory candidate at the heart of the scandal, including six allegations of sexual assault.

The inquiry was launched three months after the death in September last year of Elliott Johnson, the Tory activist who claimed in a suicide note he had been bullied by Clarke, an election aide and failed parliamentary candidate.

The Conservative party said it would set up a hotline for complaints made by volunteers and overhaul its system for reporting complaints in the wake of the inquiry.

The findings of the investigation, conducted by the law firm Clifford Chance, found there was no written published procedure or commonly adopted practice for party members to raise a complaint.

The firm said it had identified 13 alleged victims of Clarke’s bullying between 1 January 2014 and 14 August 2015, and six specific allegations of sexually inappropriate behaviour relating to Clarke were identified, including allegations that he had propositioned activists or tried to kiss them.

Clarke has previously denied all allegations of wrongdoing, including sexual harassment and bullying.

The report also reveals that Clarke was on the radar of senior Conservative party staff, including David Cameron’s spin doctor, Sir Lynton Crosby, and the then party chairman Lord Andrew Feldman. However, this was in relation to his inappropriate use of the job title “director in CCHQ” and not for bullying allegations.

Sir Patrick McLoughlin, the chairman of the Conservative party, said: “The death of Elliott Johnson was a tragedy and our thoughts remain with his family and friends.

“As we address the findings of this report I want to make clear that there can be no place for bullying behaviour in our party and we all have a responsibility to act when it occurs. The actions we are taking today will continue to ensure that volunteers, who are so vital to our party, can flourish.

“Finally, I’m grateful to Clifford Chance for the thorough and timely way in which they have conducted this investigation.”

Johnson’s father, Ray, who declined to take part in the inquiry, said: “We haven’t had a chance to read through the findings and make a complete assessment of them but we expected a whitewash and I believe that’s what we’re going to get.

“The party has recognised there are failings but they are also saying they’ve done nothing wrong.

“We decided not to take part in the Clifford Chance inquiry due to concerns that Tory HQ would be pulling the strings from behind the scenes.”

Clarke declined to be interviewed by Clifford Chance as part of the investigation, but denied the allegations included in its report when sent a summary before it was published.

His solicitor told the law firm: “Clarke has cooperated, and will continue to cooperate with the police, the coroner and any other statutory body charged with investigating any matters relating to the subject matter of Clifford Chance’s investigation on behalf of the Conservative party board.

“The police investigation into Elliott Johnson’s death and other inquiries are ongoing, and it is not appropriate to respond to allegations until the end of those processes. However, the allegations made against Mr Clarke in the Clifford Chance report are wholly untrue and unsubstantiated. Many are based on totally fabricated media reports. All these allegations are vehemently denied.”

Conservative party headquarters also received positive feedback on Clarke from volunteers and MPs, Clifford Chance said.