Opinionomics | 19 April 2012

Must-read comment and analysis. Featuring the drug trade, masters of the universe, and crippling aus

1. Latin America: A toxic trade (Finanical Times)

While many of the region’s economies are booming, the battle against illegal drugs cartels is placing severe strain on resources and institutions, write John Paul Rathbone and Adam Thomson

2. Summers and Rubin, remorseless deregulators (Reuters)

Felix Salmon writes about the "almost pathological" failure of the old masters of the universe to accept that deregulation might have gone too far.

3. Will the real employment minister please stand up? (Market Square)

Ian Mulheirn argues that the chancellor, not the employment minister, is the only person who can actually do anything about unemployment, arguing along the same lines as I did yesterday.

4. To Thrive, Euro Countries Must Cut Welfare State (Bloomberg View)

Fredrik Erixon argues in favour of massive austerity.

5. IMF telethon: $400bn for economies in need (Independent)

Christine Lagarde is hosting the biggest fundraiser of the year. The recipients will include eurozone nations, and the US won't be giving anything, writes Stephen Foley

The space shuttle Discovery lands in Washington, to be put in the Smithsonian Museum. 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.