Elliott Johnson, bullying complaints and the Conservative Party
By Tim Ireland
I will get straight to the point. My concern is twofold:
1. I am concerned that Elliott Johnson complained to CCHQ that he was being bullied, was suddenly confronted with an escalation of bullying because someone at CCHQ had leaked the details of his complaint to the person targeting him, and perceived himself to be in such a hopeless and isolated position that a tragedy resulted.
2. I am further concerned that the Conservative party will struggle to learn from the findings of an internal investigation with a narrow remit by a former party candidate and ‘aspiring MP’, and will risk the rights and well-being of others purely because they are concerned about their image at a crucial time when they are trying to portray a resurgent opposition as a bunch of bullies.
This is not wild speculation. I have experienced similar problems myself with CCHQ, and the result of their indiscretion and neglect was escalation up to and including repeated false allegations of child rape and suggestions from my bully that I should “drink bleach” or otherwise do myself in. Bullies often escalate when they think they are under threat, and even revisit this behaviour when the heat is off if they discover they have been able to use certain behaviours without consequence. The most recent messages (yes, this is still happening) assure me that if I will soon end up in jail or “topped” if I continue to ‘whine’ about it.
Obviously, I risk further escalation for daring to raise these issues publicly, but I do not see that I have much of a choice; I have raised my concerns about this privately with CCHQ, and they continue to be lackadaisical and dismissive about it, even now.
I attempted contact with the Chairman two weeks ago. I raised concerns about how previous complaints were handled and sought his assurance that any future complaints would be handled appropriately. I also asked for a suitable email address for concerned members of the pubic who might wish to contact him in confidence. Let’s deal with the response to the latter request first:
At present, if you think yourself to be a victim of bullying by Tory activists, you are advised to complain ‘in writing’ by email to firstname.lastname@example.org
However, this advice is not publicised in any meaningful way; I only have it because I asked for it. There’s vague talk of email(s) to an unknown number of members of the Conservative party, but there has been no attempt by the Conservatives to reach out to potential victims outside of the party (which is typical as it is short-sighted), and there has been no attempt to make this point-of-contact for victims of bullying obvious and readily-accessible on the web, despite the recent tragedy. It would cost the Conservative Party next to nothing to create a single web page on their site asking for victims of bullying to come forward. Why doesn’t such a page exist? (Rhetorical question: we all know why.)
Further, any complaint that does get sent to email@example.com will not only be read by the Chairman, but somewhere between six and a dozen other people who play an unknown role behind the scenes. You will also most likely receive a reply from a person other than the Chairman, claiming to act on their behalf, who will not give their last name. None of this will fill victims with confidence, even if they get this far.
Some might see this less-than-confidential channel as a potential security issue given the closeness of someone like Mark Clarke to a previous Chairman, and the allegations of leaks of complaints that have been sent in recent times. It is certainly an issue to someone who, for example, has been lured into a ‘sex act’ online and has been threatened with public exposure; surely someone who has been put in such a position deserves actual confidentiality?
There is also the minor problem that the present Chairman, Lord Feldman: (a) does not recognise that leaks/disclosures of complaints about bullying have happened in the past, and (b) appears utterly unconcerned that acting Chairmen including Sayeeda Warsi and Grant Shapps have been directly and demonstrably involved in such leaks/disclosures.
If Lord Feldman does not recognise these events and take steps to acknowledge and address them, then any assurance on his behalf by some-guy-called-Nick about complaints being treated in a “sensitive and confidential manner” is meaningless, especially when it is matched with a claim that “the Conservative Party has always taken any accusations of bullying seriously,” because it quite evidently hasn’t.
To be clear on this point: Lord Feldman has been sent an early draft of this article containing the relevant allegations and has declined to comment. The present Chairman cannot and will not deny that former Chairmen have been directly involved in the leaking of complaints about bullying to those who are alleged to be involved in the bullying. But there won’t be any investigation into that, because politics.
It is a pity that the present Chairman does not see any reason to acknowledge past failures and establish new protocols that are designed to better-protect victims of bullying and encourage them to come forward. It is a key reason why an internal party inquiry has no legitimacy and no hope of uncovering the full picture.
There needs to be an independent inquiry not only into this issue, but how reports of bullying have been handled under David Cameron’s leadership in recent years.
Victims of bullying should be made to feel safer from the moment their concerns are first heard. They should not be made to feel less safe because the only person paying any attention to their complaint is their bully.
At present, there are many people – including myself* – who are past and/or present targets of bullying by party members, but dare not report the detail because of well-placed concerns that sensitive data will be dismissed with a sniff and shared without a thought. If the Conservative Party cannot and will not show that this attitude has changed, they will continue having a problem even if they set out with the best of intentions from this point on.
(*To make my own interest in this matter clear: I continue to be targeted by a bully because I dared to report bullying. This bullying mainly takes the form of a bully shouting ‘bully’ at me, but he makes other allegations of criminal behaviour such as stalking and monetary fraud, and other party members – including MPs who should know better – often join in. This is called ‘projection’. Grant Shapps became so upset with me over this report of his bullying that he repeated some of these allegations in his formal capacity as Party Chairman. This is called ‘displacement’. The party promised my lawyers a reponse to the latter behaviour ‘shortly after the election’. We’re still waiting.)
October 20, 2015 at 07:41AM
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