Mark Clarke and the YBF – Some Notes

Expanded 29 November

A somewhat overlooked detail from the Daily Mail, 8 November:

Donal Blaney, chairman of the Conservative Way Forward campaign group, where Johnson worked, said Clarke, currently suspended from the party, should be thrown out permanently by Tory chairman Lord Feldman – now.

Lawyer Mr Blaney, a close friend of several Cabinet Ministers, said Clarke had violently threatened him twice, including once on the House of Commons terrace.

He said: ‘He started effing and blinding at me over something trivial. I told him I would not put up with it. He went totally berserk. His temper goes from nought to 60 miles per hour in a second. It is very scary. It’s no wonder people, me included, feel intimidated by him.’

Mr Blaney got to know Clarke through the Young Britons’ Foundation, an organisation set up by Mr Blaney to find future Tory leaders.

Clarke allegedly assaulted a female Tory official when he ‘gatecrashed’ a YBF event in Washington DC in the summer.

Mr Blaney banned Clarke from the YBF in August, after he physically threatened [Elliott] Johnson in Westminster’s Marquis of Granby pub in front of shocked bystanders.

As has been widely reported, Johnson was found dead on railway tracks on 15 September. He had left a note, in which he accused Clarke of bullying him. Assuming that the Mail‘s timeline is accurate, Blaney is to be commended for having moved against Clarke before the tragedy, rather than as a response to it. Clarke is now facing further allegations of bullying, and of blackmail and predatory sexual behaviour.

However, it has to be said that the Mail report is somewhat remiss in that it fails to explain exactly how it was that “Mr Blaney got to know Clarke through the Young Britons’ Foundation”. Blaney co-founded the YBF, and Clarke was for a time actually its “Outreach Officer”. Although details have been removed from the YBF website (with a number of pages now bringing up an error message), Clarke was also the recipient of a YBF award.

Clarke also appears front and centre in a group photo that until a few days ago served as the banner for the YBF Twitter stream (it was removed just after this post first went live on 22 November); the photo was taken at the most recent YBF conference, and Clarke is shown standing alongside Blaney and the then Conservative Party Chairman, Grant Shapps (Johnson can be seen standing over to the left) (1, 2, 3).

It has also been widely established that Clarke has been having an extramarital affair with India Brummitt, who until June was the YBF Operations Manager, and according to one report they recently attended a wedding as a couple. The bridegroom was Greg Smith, who co-founded the YBF with Blaney, and who is currently the YBF Campaigns Manager. Apparently there was a scene when another Conservative berated Clarke for not being at home with his family.

Further, Blaney’s apparent long-standing distaste for Clarke is something of a surprise: following the general election in May, Blaney wrote two Tweets praising Clarke’s efforts. One of these referred to several individuals, and Blaney reasonably had to include Clarke to avoid making a public snub; but this was not the case with the other Tweet, which observed that the Conservative vote in Tooting was less than had been the case in 2010, when Clarke had stood as the candidate. Tim Fenton at Zelo Street has more details on Clarke’s association with Blaney and the YBF.

Meanwhile, details about the alleged assault in Washington are vague, and the Mail article appears to be the only source. Taken literally, the report reads as if Clarke had knocked someone out of the way while forcing his way into the venue, but this does not seem to be the most likely interpretation. It is more reasonable to assume that “gatecrashed” merely signals that Clarke had tagged along in an unofficial capacity – perhaps in the company of Brummitt (although she had started a new job elsewhere a couple of months previously).

The Washington event would have been the YBF’s “Reagan-Thatcher US Summer Conference Programme”. According to the YBF website, participants stay at Marymount University, where they hear from “scholars at the Heritage Foundation, Cato Institute, Competitive Enterprise Institute, Leadership Institute, America’s Future Foundation, Media Research Center and Campaigns & Elections magazine”, before moving on to George Washington University “to network with hundreds of college students from across the United States and to hear from leading conservative speakers such as Newt Gingrich, Fred Barnes, Michael Reagan and George Allen at the Young America’s Foundation National Conservative Student Conference.”

Footnotes

(1) Clarke’s association with the YBF has also been foregrounded in older media reports. In 2010, when Clarke was standing for election, the Guardian noted:

Susan John-Richards, a former Conservative who is now standing as an Independent in the south London constituency, has found that her personal website, susanrichards.com surprisingly links inquirers to that of her Tory rival, Mark Clarke. Weirdly, so does susanrichards.org and susanjohnrichards.net. The matter has been referred to the Electoral Commission. Meanwhile, Clarke denies all knowledge. Nothing to do with him, couldn’t stop it if he tried. Whoever could have done something so dastardly? Step forward, one Matthew Richardson, who set up the sites last week. Who he? A close friend of Clarke’s and colleague on the Young Britons’ Foundation…

Three years later, the Evening Standard ran an article about an alleged attempt to bring Conservative militants into the City of London Corporation through “dirty tricks”; the report noted that “many of the candidates linked to Mr Clarke are involved in the Young Britons’ Foundation or the Right-wing Trade Union Reform Campaign.”

(2) Not all party chairs have shared Shapps’ enthusiasm for the YBF. In 2010, Eric Pickles disassociated the party from the YBF’s support for waterboarding.

(3) Shapps is one of several senior figures with questions to answer about the mishandling of bullying complaints received by CCHQ – including the apparent improper disclosure of confidential statements by complainants. Following the election in May, Shapps was removed as Chairman and made International Development minister. Although this is a perhaps more interesting job, it was widely seen as a demotion in the wake of various controversies. The Clarke scandal has now led to Shapps resigning as a minister.

One Response

  1. November 8th, 2012 “Development Director Mark Clarke of the Young Britons Foundation spoke to students at Young America’s Foundation’s Northeast Conservative High School Conference held at Grove City College in Pennsylvania. He is introduced by Chief Executive Donal Blaney of the Young Britons Foundation.” Sadly, the podcast is no longer available online but it would appear that Blaney’s distate for Clarke is very recent. http://www.podcastchart.com/podcasts/young-america-s-foundation-yaf-conservative-speeches-by-top-leaders-in-the-movement/episodes/mark-clarke

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