The meaning of the F-word

We asked the following writers, activists and politicians the same question: if feminists could camp

Sophie Elmhirst
Selma James co-ordinator, Global Women's Strike
Rob Delaney, comedian
Julie Tomlin, writer
Jane Martinson, women's editor, Guardian
Liz Kendall, shadow minister for care
Bidisha, author of Beyond the Wall: Writing a Path Through Palestine
Tina Wallace, International Gender Studies Centre, Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford University
Liz Jones, columnist, Daily Mail
Louise Mensch, MP for Corby (Conservative)
Frances O'Grady, TUC deputy secretary
Rhiannon and Holly, Vagenda magazine
Naomi Wolf, author and political consultant
Stella Creasy, MP for Walthamstow (Labour/Co-operative)
Roz Kaveney, poet and activist
Rosamund Urwin, columnist, London Evening Standard
Julie Bindel, activist and writer
Jenni Murray, presenter, BBC Woman's Hour
Jeanette Winterson, author

This article first appeared in the 12 March 2012 issue of the New Statesman, The weaker sex

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.