Lying with passion

The US vice-presidential debate, the ups and downs of Michael Gove plus all the rest of the news and

Ready to Gove-ern

“It’s not the same as the old days,” a moustachioed conference attendee adjudged. “The atmosphere in ’81, when Heath launched into Thatcher from the platform – that was electric. It’s not like that now.” Indeed it is not. Unity and suppressed smirks (grinning excessively when the markets are in freefall is indecent) were the order of the day at the Conservative party conference in Birmingham.

At a fringe arranged by The Times, Michael Gove compared himself to Trinny and Susannah and spoke of the necessity of the Tory makeover. Of ‘10 Days to Save the Pound’ T-shirts and anti-immigration badges, he joked “let me tell you darling, you’re sending out the wrong vibes”.

Gove, who one Labour supporter this week assured me is a “genius,” was causing a frisson among bloggers too, and not because of his sleeping arrangements when at university. The eloquent Graeme Archer noted Gove’s contribution to the Guardian’s “Tory hero” fringe , in which he put the case for Edmund Burke. He “…deserves a distinguished merit award for services to oratory, as he managed to put the case for Burke without once using the phrase 'Little Platoons,'” Archer opined.

Joining Gove on the wrong end of a Mail exposé was the former Conservative Future chairman and now Tooting candidate, Mark Clarke - a man who provokes strong reactions. Leading Tory blogger Dizzy allowed himself a moment of schadenfreude:

“What can I say, being turned over in the Sundays couldn't have happened to a nicer person. I am truly gutted for Mark who once displayed the most unbelievable arrogance and "up his own arse" attitude towards me and a couple of others.”

Long-time readers of Dizzy will recall that he has a history of animosity towards Clarke. Elsewhere, Chris Mounsey ventured that “…he will fit in nicely with all of the other hypocritical, deceitful bastards in the House of Commons”.

Conservative conference doesn’t have delegates, its members don’t vote on proposals from the leadership – they just applaud them. And so it was when Osborne wowed the party with his council tax freeze plans. The ThunderDragon wrote:

“It puts control in the hands of local councils who can decide whether or not they will choose to take part. If they make the wrong choice, they will face the wrath of their electorate when they next get a chance to vote.”

Others, like The Right Student were more equivocal:

“I do have a concern, however. It is all well and good to freeze Council Tax for two years, but what happens then? Do we go back to inflation busting rises?”

Hopi Sen questioned how it would impact on Boris’ plans for London.

Finally, the Conservative party itself has tried to get it on the citizen journalism revolution by launching its own Blue Blog. Move along, nothing to see here.

What have we learned this week?

In the week that Muslims celebrate Eid ul-Fitr the Brass Crescent Awards open nominations to find the best Muslim bloggers. Last year’s winner, Shelina Zahra Janmohamed, also writes on faith and politics at Comment is Free. Eid Mubarak to all Muslim bloggers, and to the Jewish blogosphere - Shana tova u'metukah.

Across the Pond

After a string of hopeless media performances, many anticipated that Sarah Palin would sink McCain’s hope in yesterday’s vice presidential debate. But Clive Crook felt that, though she lost, Palin made a decent fist of her tussle with Biden:

“Whatever the reason--her sense of occasion, a change of coaching staff, who knows?--she did well enough tonight to lift the campaign's head back above water.”

Predictably, Democrat bloggers universally gave the debate to Biden. Republicans were more mixed – with Mark Levin on the right-wing NationalReview opting to instead go after her opponent:

“…Biden’s “gravitas” is derived almost entirely from the fact that he can lie with absolute passion and conviction,” he claimed.

Videos of the Week

“Our house, didn't work out like we planned/ Our house, price has dropped by fifty grand,” the Spitting Image crew sang during the 1989 house price crash. If only satire was up to that today.

Quote of the Week

“It is instructive that today we also face many of the problems we faced in the months leading up to Thatcher's 1979 election victory.”

Tony Sharp enthusiastically buys into the wildly popular new Cameron/Thatcher narrative.

Paul Evans is a freelance journalist, and formerly worked for an MP. He lives in London, but maintains his Somerset roots by drinking cider.
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.