Elliott Johnson inquest: Young Wisbech Tory took his own life after ‘victimisation’ campaign
- Credit: PA
The father of a young Tory activist who took his own life after alleged bullying has told an inquest his son had been caught up in a 'victimisation campaign' by a Conservative Party member.
Elliott Johnson, 21, was found dead on railway tracks in Sandy, Bedfordshire, on September 15 last year, just weeks after making allegations about his treatment within the Tory party.
Giving his verdict, senior Bedfordshire and Luton coroner Tom Osborne said he was satisfied Mr Johnson intended to take his own life.
The inquest in Ampthill, Bedfordshire, focused on the fact Mr Johnson believed he was being bullied and on his being made redundant by pressure group Conservative Way Forward (CWF) shortly after making the allegation.
In a detailed complaint, he had accused former Conservative Party activist Mark Clarke of bullying, following an altercation in a pub in central London during a friend's birthday party on August 12.
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During the exchange, Mr Clarke was alleged to have threatened to 'squash' him 'like an ant'.
Paul Abbott, former chief executive of the CWF, told the packed inquest Mr Clarke harboured a 'vendetta' against CWF, and there had been other complaints by the group's volunteers against him.
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And Mr Johnson's father Ray Johnson said he believed Mr Clarke had 'ruined' his son's career.
He said: 'We were unaware of, at the time, a victimisation campaign by Mr Clarke towards Elliott and other members of the Conservative Way Forward, which was getting steadily worse.'
He added he believed Mark Clarke had told his son's employers of a caution Mr Johnson purportedly received for tweeting election results - even though no record of a caution existed.
Mr Johnson (Snr) said: 'I believe that Mark Clarke spoke to (former CWF chairman) Donal Blaney and Paul Abbott, as he says in my son's letter, to squash him like a young ant - that's the reason Mark Clarke went to Abbott and Blaney.'
Mr Johnson's allegations eventually sparked an investigation and the resignation of former party chairman Grant Shapps.
Mr Clarke, who has since been expelled from the party, strongly denies the allegations.
Mr Clarke is known as the so-called Tatler Tory after he was tipped for a future cabinet position by the society magazine.
At times during Mr Abbott's cross-examination, the coroner interjected to remind the family's legal team of the scope of the inquest.
'I'm not going to allow this to degenerate into a trial of Mark Clarke,' he said.
The inquest heard Mr Johnson had claimed in a detailed account of the exchange that Mr Clarke had confronted him about the use of an image on an article on the CWF website.
Mr Clarke, who led the Road Trip 2015 campaign for young activists in which Elliott was involved, had allegedly threatened to sue him for copyright infringement and had 'gone ballistic' in the pub, shouting and grabbing the younger man.
Elliott claimed Mr Clarke had threatened to 'destroy' his career in politics and journalism because of a caution the activist had supposedly received for tweeting results of European elections illegally.
Mr Clarke allegedly told Elliott he had sued other people and always won, adding: 'I squash them like ants when they are small and young - this is what I'm going to do to you.'