As reported elsewhere, the scramble to succeed Michael Rock as the chair of true blue youth wing Conservative Future is well underway. In the attendant blizzard of snazzy campaign branding, Facebook groups (and bitching) Sussex activist Craig Cox appears to lead the field in the social media “Tory 2.0” stakes. His lovingly crafted campaign website is headed up by a video with the following introduction:
“As a candidate for CF Chairman I believe you have a right to know … the ideas that define me from the rest of the candidates” – Craig Cox
Well, here’s one quality that sets Craig Cox apart: he’s the only entrant to have been investigated by the police for waving a “bring back slavery” banner at a University of York seminar. The sorry affair graced the pages of the Daily Mail way back in 2008 but was recently revisited by a local paper concerned with Cox’ employment by Broxtowe MP Anna Soubry. The renewed interest has found the prominent activist and his boss spinning to save his political life:
“[Cox] claims he did not know what the sign said, having picked it up from the floor, and publicly apologised for it at the time” – Nottingham Post
But the real truth of the row exposes Cox as possessing levels of honesty and judgement displayed by Jeffrey Archer and Jonathan Aitken. Having been seen waving a racist banner by a room full of people, Cox refused to apologise and accused those offended by the sign of pursuing “a witch hunt”. A peition to sack Cox from his student union positions at Nottingham University had more supporters than originally elected him to office. It was only with the noose tightening around his neck that Cox finally admitted wrongdoing nearly six weeks after the original incident.
One former Nottingham student told Scrapbook: “Cox may not be a racist but his consistent refusal to apologise was viewed as despicable by much of the BAME on campus. That he is now standing for CF chair beggars belief”. One would hope the incident would find young Tories reflecting on the political skillset they would want in a leader. But with Donal Blaney and Mark Clarke as former heads of the party’s youth wing perhaps being an electromagnet for negative publicity is viewed as some kind of asset.
In 2008, anti-racism campaigners forwarded a dossier of press coverage to David Cameron asking what was being done to divorce the party from such behaviour. Cameron’s office responded that the matter had been passed to the then Tory chair Caroline Spelman.
They are still awaiting her response.