Shamed “Tatler Tory” Mark Clarke was used as a “hatchet man” in a Downing Street plot to block the rise of a young Conservative who had embarrassed the Prime Minister, The Sun can reveal.
Leaked emails show the sacked official at the centre of a bullying scandal was tasked in August 2014 to end budding activist Liam Walker’s party career because of his controversial outburst on Foodbanks.
As an up-and-coming young Tory in David Cameron’s own constituency of Witney, the 25 year old was deemed a concern by the PM’s own Deputy Chief of Staff.
Our revelation of the secret affair links the PM directly to Clarke’s behaviour for the first time.
And it also poses serious new questions about what the Tory leader and his most senior staff knew about the disgraced Clarke’s activities.
Downing Street last night tried to distance the PM from Clarke by insisting none of his team knew of the shamed activists involvement, but it did not deny any of The Sun’s revelations.
Mr Walker – the chairman of the Conservative Future branch in the PM’s Oxfordshire seat – hit the headlines in 2013 after he said people use Foodbanks so they can spend money in the pub.
When party chiefs found out Mr Walker was interested in running for National Chairman of the Tories’ troubled youth wing, Downing Street advisers hatched a plan to block the “nightmare” before he could further embarrass Mr Cameron “down the line”.
The PM’s trusted “gatekeeper” Deputy Chief of Staff Catherine Fall, Lawrence Mann, who is now Mr Cameron’s Political Secretary, and another Deputy Chief of Staff, Oliver Dowden, colluded together to stop Mr Walker’s rise in the party.
The email plot – seen by The Sun – was even copied to Chief of Staff Ed Llewellyn, No 10’s most senior official and the PM’s most trusted adviser.
On 8 August, 2014, Mr Mann – one of the PM’s closest confidants – wrote that Liam Walker was “a nightmare”:
“We have had so many problems with him over the years. I’ll tell you about the Twitter abuse in person!
“PM very much aware of him. We have had so many reasons for throwing him out of the Party over the years, we really should bite the bullet and do it soon.”
Ms. Fall replied: “Can we find fresh reason before he becomes head of CF !!”
Oliver Dowden – who is now a Tory MP – warned: “this may be a problem down the line” before suggesting that the issue be passed to Grant Shapps’s team to deal with.
He tasked Shapps’s Chief of Staff Paul Abbott with sorting out the issue, who then passed on the orders to Clarke.
Days later Clarke – who has been accused of bullying – contacted Mr Walker in a “menacing” Facebook message saying he was keeping a “beady eye” on his activities.
Shortly after that Clarke – who was expelled from the Tory party for life last month – constructed a formal complaint saying Mr Walker was bringing the party into disrepute.
Walker spoke to the BBC this week about bullying within the Conservatives, saying: “I think it’s probably more of a culture of intimidation. I’m specifically talking about Mark Clarke.”
“The first time I came across him was when he approached me about standing in Conservative Future elections in 2014.
“I was quite aggressive in my response because I was slightly confused to why a 37 year old man was interested in Conservative Future.”
It can now be revealed that Clarke was acting on orders from No 10, via Mr Abbott.
Last night a pal of Clarke said: “Mark always supported the Prime Minister and the Party Chairman whenever their closest staff asked for his help.”
The disgraced Clarke was working closely with Mr Shapps coordinating Tory activists ahead of the Election but has not been previously linked to No 10.
Mr Cameron wrote to Clarke in May thanking him for all his hard work and saying the Tories could not have won the election without him.
Mr Walker never ran for Chairman of Conservative Future and instead the contest was won by Alexandra Paterson – who would become the mistress of Tory Party Deputy Chairman Robert Halfon.
(An extract taken from article in the Sun dated December 2015)