Morning Call: pick of the papers

The ten must-read comment pieces from this morning's papers.

1. The badger cull is no black-and-white issue (Telegraph)

The badger cull gets under way in two pilot areas - but there are huge questions about how effective and humane the mass killing will be, writes Geoffrey Lean

2. Why weird science is all in a day’s work (FT)

Stories of the formula for the perfect penalty kick are cheaper than ads, writes Tim Harford

3. How to tackle the EDL (Guardian)

Those wondering how to respond to English Defence League marches this weekend can look to the example of tea and non-confrontation we set at York mosque, writes Mohamed El-Gomati

4. Fiendish plots are a-hatching in Watford (Telegraph)

It's joy for conspiracy theorists as the Bilderberg Group meets again, says Matthew Norman

5. I celebrate the 'fuck you' behind Pussy Riot's eyes (Guardian)

As Maria Alyokhina's hunger strike continues, her strength inspires others as much as it scares the Russian state, writes Romola Garai

6. I want a little domestic dignitas (Telegraph)

When it comes to dying there’s no place like home, says Vicki Woods


7. Ministers who misuse statistics to mislead voters must pay the price (Guardian)

Politicians resign for fake expenses or receiving favours, but not for making false statements. They should be punished, writes Peter Wilby

8. America’s economy is about to take off (FT)

Things can still go wrong, but 2014 should be a year of greater cheer, writes Robin Harding

9. Nothing wrong with a revolving door (FT)

Critics of the former HMRC chief’s new role should not excoriate him, writes Howard Davies

10. Tories could solve Ukip puzzle in Brighton (Telegraph)

The city by the sea is just the place for a Tory revival, says Graeme Archer

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.