With mothers like this

To Houston, in honour of Patrick Swayze

Just in case you were getting excited, the only link between this post and the late, loved Patrick Swayze is Houston (he was born there). No extra Swayze info here, I'm afraid. (Although, saying that, I did particularly love this from Whoopi Goldberg on Swayze's passing: "I believe in Ghost's message, so he'll always be near.")

Anyway, reading this blog post from Gwen (of Gwen and Her Men fame) of the Houston Chronicle is physically painful. I imagine poor "Josh" whimpering in his bedroom in Houston as his mother strides around town . . . wait for it . . . trying to find him a date for the prom.

"What about that one girl . . ." I start. I mean a girl that I saw at his eleventh-grade orientation last year. She'd passed us in the hall and had seemed really sweet and cute and smart to me. Totally high-school-girlfriend-worthy. Not to get all gross and Oedipal here, but she'd looked like a nicer, more well-adjusted version of me at that age. When I saw her, I immediately pointed her out to my son. "Look at that girl! She's cute! You should date her," I'd said at the time.


And then:

Josh is a handsome boy. I'm not just saying that because I'm his mother -- I've had it confirmed by independent sources, and I've seen the looks that junior high girls give him at the mall. He's tall and he lifts weights in his room at night, when he thinks we won't notice. And he's a snazzy dresser, thanks to my guidance.

Gwen, do you realise what you are doing? There is a picture on your blog. This will mean your son's friends will identify you as his mother. This will mean that he will be mercilessly taunted for the rest of his days. Not finding a prom date will be the least of his worries. And stop dressing the poor boy, for heaven's sake. You use the word "snazzy". This means, by definition, that letting you anywhere near the wardrobe of a 17-year-old boy is going to result in some kind of fashion crime. Gwen, leave him be. And stop watching him weight-lift. Seriously.

Sophie Elmhirst is features editor of the New Statesman

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 chaiman, 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 he was 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. 

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.” 

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.