Support for Conservatives plunges among gay voters

Tory party falls 5 points to 20 per cent after Grayling gaffe.

The Tories were fortunate that none of the papers chose to lead on the Chris Grayling story on Monday. If they had, David Cameron would be facing far more calls to sack his shadow home secretary.

But the party would be wrong to think that it had escaped from the row with no damage. A new PinkNews poll of more than a thousand LGBT voters shows that support for the Tories has fallen sharply since Grayling's gaffe and since Cameron's flustered interview on gay rights.

The poll puts support for the Tories down 5 points to 20 per cent, with Labour unchanged on 28 per cent and the Lib Dems up 5 points to 29 per cent.

Under our electoral system, small swings such as this could hurt the Tories in just the sort of Lib Dem marginals they need to win to secure an overall majority.

Cameron is expected to mention gay people specifically in his first speech after the election is called, describing them as part of the "great ignored". That's his way of telling his party: "No more gaffes like Grayling's, please."

PS: The Grayling story may not have been pursued hotly by the press, but it's had a big impact on the web. "Chris Grayling" is still trending on Twitter.

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George Eaton is political 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 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.