Top five political indiscretions...

The week in politics as viewed from the blogosphere...

One of the big political news stories of the week was yet again broken on the blogosphere. A Jonathan Isaby post at the gave out the results of the Ealing by-election postal votes, with the help of a breach of electoral law on behalf of the Conservatives.

Before it was taken offline, Political Penguin flagged it up and was the first to note its importance. There’s still a screen grab (with appropriate smudging) there.

Cicero was so dismayed at the turn of events in Ealing he proclaimed: “I hope never to see such an unprincipled and unscrupulous campaign ever again.”

Mike Smithson at Political Betting assessed the result of the by-election in terms of how each leader fared. He wrote: “Goodish for Gordon but not good enough for him to risk a general election…

“The only reason Cameron has been able to steer his party in a different direction has been because he has been seen as an election winner. Once that perception goes he could be in for a testing time. By October/November the polls need to have got better…

“There have been repeated murmurings against Ming Campbell and some in the party were suggesting that his leadership could be on the line if the party did badly. That did not happen and Ming is probably safe.”

In a week where politicians were pushed into revealing if they had indulged in illegal substances, the blogging community felt the need to lend their opinions to the debate, with a few feeling the need to clarify their personal drug experiences.

Iain Dale (who hasn’t and never will) called for an end to the drug taking witchhunt. He asked: “Does having smoked a joint at university impair a politician's judgement 25 years later? Of course not. Tony McNulty's abilities as Police Minister can be judged on his performance today - not by what he may have done 25 years ago.”

Peter Risdon (who has, on and off, for 30 years) took the opportunity to expand on some of his own position towards drug criminalisation: “The drug prohibition laws are tyrannical, stupid and destructive, and I’m not going to dignify them by pretending I will take the slightest notice of them.”

Anyone shocked by this week’s revelations should check out Daniel Finkelstein's top five political youthful indiscretions, which include shooting a child dead and participating in orgies – though not necessarily at the same time.

Owen Walker is a journalist for a number of titles within Financial Times Business, primarily focussing on pensions. He recently graduated from Cardiff University’s newspaper journalism post-graduate course and is cursed by a passion for Crystal Palace FC.
Grant Shapps on the campaign trail. Photo: Getty
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Grant Shapps resigns over Tory youth wing bullying scandal

The minister, formerly party chairman, has resigned over allegations of bullying and blackmail made against a Tory activist. 

Grant Shapps, who was a key figure in the Tory general election campaign, has resigned following allegations about a bullying scandal among Conservative activists.

Shapps was formerly party chairman, but was demoted to international development minister after May. His formal statement is expected shortly.

The resignation follows lurid claims about bullying and blackmail among Tory activists. One, Mark Clarke, has been accused of putting pressure on a fellow activist who complained about his behaviour to withdraw the allegation. The complainant, Elliot Johnson, later killed himself.

The junior Treasury minister Robert Halfon also revealed that he had an affair with a young activist after being warned that Clarke planned to blackmail him over the relationship. Former Tory chair Sayeedi Warsi says that she was targeted by Clarke on Twitter, where he tried to portray her as an anti-semite. 

Shapps appointed Mark Clarke to run RoadTrip 2015, where young Tory activists toured key marginals on a bus before the general election. 

Today, the Guardian published an emotional interview with the parents of 21-year-old Elliot Johnson, the activist who killed himself, in which they called for Shapps to consider his position. Ray Johnson also spoke to BBC's Newsnight:


The Johnson family claimed that Shapps and co-chair Andrew Feldman had failed to act on complaints made against Clarke. Feldman says he did not hear of the bullying claims until August. 

Asked about the case at a conference in Malta, David Cameron pointedly refused to offer Shapps his full backing, saying a statement would be released. “I think it is important that on the tragic case that took place that the coroner’s inquiry is allowed to proceed properly," he added. “I feel deeply for his parents, It is an appalling loss to suffer and that is why it is so important there is a proper coroner’s inquiry. In terms of what the Conservative party should do, there should be and there is a proper inquiry that asks all the questions as people come forward. That will take place. It is a tragic loss of a talented young life and it is not something any parent should go through and I feel for them deeply.” 

Mark Clarke denies any wrongdoing.

Helen Lewis is deputy editor of the New Statesman. She has presented BBC Radio 4’s Week in Westminster and is a regular panellist on BBC1’s Sunday Politics.