David Cameron’s not-so-independent inquiry into (some) bullying

This entry was posted on
Tuesday, December 15th, 2015
12:13 am and is filed
under Tories! Tories! Tories!.

Over the last few weeks, David Cameron has been under a lot of public pressure to deliver an independent inquiry into a bullying problem in his party. If you are new to this, here is an earlier post with all of the key developments.

It is worth reiterating that (a) Cameron did not feel under pressure to deliver on an independent inquiry until his old friend and close ally Lord Feldman was under threat, (b) that he began by trying to present/spin the Tory party inquiry as an independent inquiry, and (c) the ‘independent’ inquiry he finally offered is in the hands of a private law firm with close ties to the Conservative Party.

It is also worth mentioning that while Cameron continues to deny the public a full and truly independent inquiry, a trial by media is taking place and getting increasingly seedy. Close friends and allies of Mark Clarke are being allowed to pretend distance from his antics, and some of them are doing this while simultaneously leaking/publishing information that is of potential benefit to Clarke and/or damaging to his perceived enemies. I will leave you to guess at the likely source. One low point in this ugly farrago was an article in The Sun that used a flimsy premise and dishonest presentation to imply that Elliott Johnson was prone to suicidal thoughts long before any alleged bullying took place. Another was when one of Cameron’s own ministers saw fit to attack the character and question the motives of Elliott’s grieving parents.

But getting back to that not-so-independent inquiry, I invite to read the remit that the Conservative Party finally published a week after being asked for it. I draw your attention to the opening passages:

Clifford Chance LLP is instructed as follows:

1. To collect, collate, review and assess witness and documentary evidence relevant to:

i. Allegations of bullying, harassment and other inappropriate behaviour by Mark Clarke and other members of the Party connected to him towards members and activists of the Party from 1 January 2014 to 18 November 2015, paying particular attention to the circumstances leading up to Elliott Johnson’s death.

ii. Allegations that, between 1 January 2014 to 18 November 2015, CCHQ deliberately ignored and/or condoned the behaviour referred to above and/or failed to respond properly or adequately to complaints received about Mark Clarke’s conduct and specifically the complaint received from Elliott Johnson on 14 August 2015.

I expected it to be narrow, but this is absurdly self-serving.

Were you bullied by a Conservative other than Mark Clarke and/or ‘members connected to him’?

They don’t care.

Were you bullied by someone associated with Mark Clarke who is not a member of the party?

They don’t care.

Were you bullied by Mark Clarke and/or ‘members connected to him’ earlier than 1 January 2014?

They don’t care.

Did you complain about bullying from Mark Clarke and/or ‘members connected to him’ before 1 January 2014 and have that complaint ignored?

They don’t care.

Did you complain about bullying by a Conservative other than Mark Clarke and/or ‘members connected to him’ before or after 1 January 2014 and have that complaint ignored?

They don’t care.

I was bullied by a Conservative, I reported it as recently as February 2015, the complaint was disregarded and leaked in line with an emerging pattern of institutional failure no-one is looking into… but it is nothing to do with Mark Clarke and/or ‘members connected to him’.

I specifically asked Clifford Chance if the behaviour I reported falls outside of their remit.

They won’t say.

I asked what budget if any was allocated to reaching out to potential victims who are not members of the Conservative Party.

They won’t say.

I asked what promises/guarantees Clifford Chance made about confidentiality to alleged victims (in light of concerns about a pattern of leaks).

They won’t say.

I also asked Clifford Chance if a potential conflict of interest might arise if in the process of this inquiry they discovered evidence that put a client of theirs on the wrong side of a civil or criminal law.

They won’t say.

I have no confidence in this inquiry, and a large part of that is the narrow remit that is designed to disguise a widespread bullying problem in the party and associated institutional failures that led us to this point.

Elliott Johnsons’ parents recently announced that they will be boycotting the inquiry, and given the cool, calculating, and downright cruel way the Conservatives have behaved so far, I can’t say that I blame them.

In fact, I would suggest that any witnesses or victims considering a report to the not-so-independent inquiry (contact: CPreview@cliffordchance.com) consider taking up the Johnsons on their offer to contact their solicitor (contact: Jane Deighton via mail@dpglaw.co.uk).

Meanwhile, I will continue to press for an independent and wide-ranging inquiry and I urge you to join me.

About Tim Ireland

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