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Party wants 'to establish truth' after activist's death

The Conservative Party has released a statement saying it is "absolutely determined to establish the truth" of events around the death of 21-year-old party activist Elliott Johnson and relating to former Tory campaigner Mark Clarke.

Tory party campaigner Elliott Johnson was found dead in September Credit: Facebook

Mr Johnson took his own life in September. Mr Clarke was accused of being a bully in a letter written by Mr Johnson before his death. He denies any wrongdoing.

In a statement, the party said: "We again urge any person who may have information relating to this matter to get in touch with the Party as soon as possible.

"Party officials with legal support continue to take written statements from over 40 witnesses and searching for and collating all material written evidence."


McDonnell: Syria vote defeat would not be damaging

John McDonnell has denied it would be damaging to Jeremy Corbyn's leadership if Labour MPs opposed him in a Commons vote on airstrikes in Syria.

Reiterating his call for a free vote on the issue, the shadow chancellor told ITV News' Lewis Vaughan Jones he wanted MPs of all parties to be given freedom to vote as they wish on the matter.

He added that Mr Corbyn would decide tomorrow whether to whip his MPs on the vote, which the government is hoping to hold as early as this week.

A number of Labour MPs have indicated that they will back extending airstrikes across the Syrian border, a move Mr Corbyn says may exacerbate the problem of Islamic extremism.

Corbyn: No decision on whether to allow free vote on Syria

Jeremy Corbyn speaking on The Andrew Marr Show. Credit: BBC One/The Andrew Marr Show

Jeremy Corbyn says no decision has been made on whether Labour MPs will be allowed a free vote on the issue of extending air strikes against Islamic State in Syria.

He added that it would be his decision alone whether to attempt to whip MPs into backing him in his opposition to the government's policy.

Shortly afterward, defence secretary Michael Fallon said the government is hoping to hold a vote on the issue this week, but as yet does not have the support of enough MPs to guarantee victory.

Re-stating his opposition to the measure, Mr Corbyn said: "Surely this process has to be a political one to end this ghastly conflict in Syria."

Asked if he was concerned about reports of a coup by disgruntled Labour MPs, he said: "I'm not going anywhere. I'm enjoying every minute of it."

Fallon: Government hoping for Syria vote this week

The government is hoping to hold a vote on airstrikes in Syria this week but does not have enough support to guarantee victory, defence secretary Michael Fallon has said.

Michael Fallon said RAF 'precision strikes' would reduce civilian casualties. Credit: BBC One/The Andrew Marr Show

Speaking on BBC One's The Andrew Marr Show, Mr Fallon said ministers were still "building the case", and were in ongoing conversations with Labour MPs on the issue.

He said France had specifically asked British RAF jets to join their attacks on so-called Islamic State strongholds in the country, and claimed that failing to join the strikes would "damage our reputation internationally" and "leave us less safe than we are at the moment".

Asked about the possibility of civilians being killed in the strikes, Mr Fallon said that British involvement would reduce the risk due to the RAF's "precision strike fighters".

The Observer newspaper reported concerns from a number of recent refugees from the Syrian city of Raqqa - a stronghold for so-called Islamic State - who claimed the militant group was keeping civilians to be used as "human shields" during attacks.

However, Fallon said: "The RAF have been striking, with the permission of parliament, in Iraq for over a year now and our estimate is there hasn't yet been a single civilian casualty, because of the precision their strikes."


Nick Hurd named as Grant Shapps replacement

Nick Hurd MP will replace Grant Shapps as International Development minister. Credit: Twitter

Downing Street have confirmed Nick Hurd, MP for Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner, will replace Grant Shapps as International Development minister.

Shapps resigned earlier today following claims he mishandled bullying allegations that reportedly led to the suicide of a young Conservative activist.

Elliott Johnson's father: This is not the end of the story

Elliott Johnson's parents Ray and Alison. Credit: David Levene for the Guardian

The father of a young Tory activist who took his own life after allegedly being bullied has said minister Grant Shapps' resignation is "not the end of the story".

Ray Johnson, whose 21-year-old son Elliott killed himself earlier this year, called on Chairman Lord Feldman to also step down.

Mr Johnson told ITV News: "Grant Shapps has fallen on his sword, and as the sole party chairman, the responsibility now lies with Andrew Feldman.

"Feldman's position is no longer tenable. It's time for the prime minister to take control.

"The Conservative party brand is tarnished and needs a wholesale clear out. This is not the end of the story.'

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