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Tuesday, 22 October 2019

British minister resigns amid bullying allegations

AFP , Saturday 28 Nov 2015
Grant Shapps
In this file photo dated Oct. 4, 2012, showing Grant Shapps, as he leaves Downing Street in London. A British government International Development Minister Shapps has resigned accused of failing to act amid allegations of bullying within the governing Conservative Party sparked by the death of a young activist. (Photo: AP)
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A British government minister resigned on Saturday over allegations that bullying by a party activist he appointed was a key factor in the suicide of another young activist.

Grant Shapps, international development minister and a former Conservative party chairman, had in 2014 appointed Mark Clarke as a youth campaign organiser.

Elliott Johnson, a 21-year-old former writer for a Conservative party blog, alleged he had been bullied by Clarke in a suicide note found after he had killed himself by laying in front of a train in September.

Clarke, who has been expelled from the party, denies any wrongdoing.

In a resignation letter to Prime Minister David Cameron, Shapps said that although no written allegations were made against Clarke's conduct in the past, "the steady stream of those who raised smaller, more nuanced, objections should have perhaps set alarm bells ringing sooner".

"Given the very serious nature of what has subsequently occurred and my role in appointing Mr Clarke, I cannot help but conclude that the only right course of action is for me to step down as a minister in your government."

Cameron accepted Shapps' resignation and praised his work for the party, adding that he has "much more to give in the years ahead".

According to an investigation by Britain's Guardian newspaper, Johnson had written a formal letter of complaint to the Conservative party, alleging Clarke had publicly pinned him in his chair, shouted abused at him and threatened to "squash him like an ant".

Speaking to the newspaper, Johnson's father Ray responded to Shapps' resignation.

"It's about time, he should have resigned several weeks ago. It's typical of these politicians, they cling on to the greasy pole for as long as they can."

Shapps has been replaced by Nick Hurd as international development minister.

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