Complaining to CCHQ about Bullying Risks Escalating Attacks

Tim Ireland recounts details of what happened when he complained to Conservative Campaign Headquarters (CCHQ) about harassment committed by individuals associated with the Conservative Party:

…the result of [CCHQ’s] indiscretion and neglect was escalation up to and including repeated false allegations of child rape and suggestions from my bully that I should “drink bleach” or otherwise do myself in. Bullies often escalate when they think they are under threat, and even revisit this behaviour when the heat is off if they discover they have been able to use certain behaviours without consequence. The most recent messages (yes, this is still happening) assure me that if I will soon end up in jail or “topped” if I continue to ‘whine’ about it.

I’ve been chronicling these attacks for some time now – the problems began when Tim discovered that Conservative activists associated with his then-local MP in Surrey were found to have created an anonymous website accusing a Liberal Democrat council election candidate of being a paedophile. Tim was later targeted himself; the continuing attacks are both (a) ruthless smears designed to discredit and intimidate someone who has drawn attention to dishonesty and corrupt behaviour, and (b) acts of private revenge motivated by pure malice and spite.

In both contexts, it should be remembered that following the general election in May, in which Tim stood as an independent candidate, he received an anonymous threatening message warning him that “we will continue to affect your ability to live contentedly amongst us” if he dared to bring a legal action about a relentless series of smears deployed by Nadine Dorries during the election period. Tim went ahead anyway, although his claim failed due to a solicitor’s error in serving notice. We know that the person who sent this message has private links with Dorries, although it is not here alleged that she approved the act.

Tim’s experience is relevant to recent reports about a culture of bullying within the Conservative Party that appears to have been allowed to flourish in recent years. This has come to wide attention following the suicide of a young activist, Elliot Johnson, who claimed to have been targeted by Mark Clarke, a “former special advisor to ex-Tory Chairman Grant Shapps”. There are other allegations against Clarke, including threats of personal destruction though anonymous media attacks.

Based on his own experience of complaining about this kind of thing, Tim adds:

I am concerned that Elliott Johnson complained to CCHQ that he was being bullied, was suddenly confronted with an escalation of bullying because someone at CCHQ had leaked the details of his complaint to the person targeting him, and perceived himself to be in such a hopeless and isolated position that a tragedy resulted. 

What happened to Johnson will now the subject of an internal investigation led by Edward Legard, an employment judge who has also previously stood as a Conservative candidate.

I don’t believe that what’s happened here proves that all Conservatives are “like that”; bullying is a dysfunctional human universal, and no organisation is immune. But there’s no reason why it has to become a big problem if there proper procedures in place, and the Conservative Party ought to be able to clean up its act.

However, as Tim notes:

There’s vague talk of email(s) to an unknown number of members of the Conservative party, but there has been no attempt by the Conservatives to reach out to potential victims outside of the party (which is typical as it is short-sighted), and there has been no attempt to make this point-of-contact for victims of bullying obvious and readily-accessible on the web, despite the recent tragedy.

Further,  complaints submitted to the current party chairman, Lord Feldman, are read by “somewhere between six and a dozen other people who play an unknown role behind the scenes”, and Feldman does not appear to be interested in hearing about how older complaints of bullying made to his predecessors, Shapps and Sayeeda Warsi, were leaked or improperly disclosed to hostile parties.

It seems to me that it is time for some critical scrutiny of how the Conservative Party handles allegations of bullying; and I support a petition on the subject introduced here.

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