Is Conservative Future falling apart as we speak?

Recent actions by Ben Howlett, the Chairman of Conservative Future is causing the organisation to fall apart at the seams

National Chairman Ben Howlett has come under increasing fire lately
Alex Wickham, UK Politics Editor
On 4 May 2012 09:17

Ben Howlett, the National Chairman of the UK youth group 'Conservative Future' (CF), is under mounting pressure today after an official complaint was made against him to the Conservative Party Chairman, Sayeeda Warsi. I have obtained a letter from a prominent member of CF to Baroness Warsi making a series of allegations against Howlett and calling for his resignation. The complaint is on behalf of a large number of young Conservatives who have become angry at their Chairman’s behaviour over recent weeks.

The letter relates to an incident that occurred on Twitter last weekend, and accuses Howlett of lying following the defection of a young Tory to UKIP:

“On Sunday 29th April, when asked for a response to the latest defection of a high-profile CF member on Twitter, Ben Howlett responded with the false accusation that this and other defectors were never members of the Conservative Party. When this lie was picked up by others, Howlett then stated that he had ‘checked the party records’ and ‘could confirm’ that neither the defecting members, nor those questioning his accusation, ‘had paid their fees’ to join the party”.

The author alleges that Howlett broke the Data Protection Act by revealing private information about CF members on the Internet:

“The way in which Howlett checked the party membership database to verify the status of several members’ fees before subsequently posting it on Twitter appears to constitute a violation of the Data Protection Act: a criminal offence.”

It is then claimed that Howlett has brought the young Conservative movement into disrepute, and that several CF members are considering defecting as a result of his behaviour:

Howlett seemed to feel the need to break the law and lie about this issue in order to preserve his reputation and that of Conservative Future. In my opinion, by acting in such a manner, he has irreparably damaged the reputation of our movement. I am one of many who witnessed the transmission of these messages, and who felt both ashamed and embarrassed to be associated with CF at that point…There is little doubt in my mind that this was inappropriate and highly damaging to the integrity of Conservative Future. As can be proven, this provoked further CF defections to UKIP as a form of protest against Howlett.”

The letter concludes by arguing that Howlett’s position has become untenable, and calls for Baroness Warsi to seek his resignation:

“As a long-standing member of the Conservative Party, a regular attendee at CF events nationwide and a prominent member within my local association, I find myself to be in an incredibly difficult position. To be frank, I do not feel that it is appropriate that Ben Howlett continues to represent Conservative Future in his capacity as National Chairman. I find the way he has behaved to be highly damaging to both the youth wing and the party at large. His reaction on Sunday night and throughout the day (on Monday) has been highly embarrassing. Amongst my own friends, I know there are many who are on the brink of abandoning the Party and CF altogether purely on the basis of Howlett’s conduct.”

The letter can be read in its entirety here, although it may well fall on deaf ears given Baroness Warsi's shocking and shameful juxtaposition of UKIP and the British National Party last night. Save the fact that the BNP backed Ken Livingstone and are fundamentally a left-wing, protectionist party, Warsi's comments expose her political ineptitude as her claim that when one party falls and another rises as an unproven result, that must mean their base is one and the same. That would make the Conservative Party a bunch of socialists and/or the Labour Party a gaggle of frothing right-wingers. See the logic? Me neither.

It is understood that Warsi received the complaint yesterday, and it is hoped that she will be launching a formal investigation. Conservative Campaign Headquarters was said to be furious upon hearing the allegations against the Chairman of its youth movement, particularly coming in the build up to elections across the country. They are already deeply concerned about the number of youth defections in recent weeks. Howlett is believed to harbour ambitions to become a Member of Parliament when he eventually stands down from his position as Chairman of CF, a task that may become considerably more difficult following this week’s events.

Alexander Wickham is a freelance jounnalist and blogger who writes for The Independent, amongst others. He tweets at @Wickham_A

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