Opinionomics | 13 April 2012

Must-read comment and analysis. Featuring oil, Osborne and old people.

1. How Detroit’s adapting to higher gas prices, in one chart (Washington Post | Wonkblog)

Brad Plumer shows that, unlike in 2008, American car manufacturers are finally adapting to high oil prices.

2. The Downside to Longer Life (Slate | Moneybox)

If we all live longer, pensions will become more expensive! Isn't that a tragedy? Well, no.

3. The Swiss boson (Financial Times | alphaville)

"The Swiss boson is a hypothetical condition which is supposed to account for why the Swiss franc has ‘mass’ when all other neighbouring currencies don’t."

4. Any other Chancellor would be seeing the door by now (Tax Research UK)

Richard Murphy asks why Osborne has handled the charity clampdown, the pasty tax and, well, everything so badly.

5. On tax avoidance, allow me to leap to the defence of the super-rich (Guardian)

Nick Hytner, the director of the National Theatre, argues in favour of those "dodging" tax by giving to charity.

A South Korean activist in a Kim Jong-Un mask holds up a fake rocket. Stocks rose across east Asia on the news that North Korea's launch had failed. Credit: Getty

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

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.