Scottish Daily Mail
My affair shame, by minister who Cameron’s aide ‘tried to blackmail’
Tory’s rival was also linked to activist’s suicide
A RISING star of David Cameron’s Cabinet sensationally admitted to an affair yesterday – after it was claimed that one of the Prime Minister’s election aides had tried to blackmail him over it.
Robert Halfon, a 46-year-old minister without portfolio, said he felt ‘ashamed’ of having a six-month relationship behind his long-term partner’s back.
The affair was with PR executive Alexandra Paterson, 30, who is chairman of the Conservative party’s youth wing and met Mr Halfon through party campaign events last year.
Mr Halfon, known as a consumer champion, admitted his infidelity to Downing Street after claiming Tory director Mark Clarke tried to get film of him leaving a London club with Miss Paterson.
Clarke, who was nicknamed the ‘Tatler Tory’ after he was tipped as future Cabinet minister by the society magazine, is at the centre of an investigation over claims he bullied Tory activist Elliott Johnson, 21, who committed suicide in September.
Last night, it emerged that Miss Paterson had been warned that an parliamentary researcher ally of Clarke was planning to get pictures of the couple leaving the East India Club, where Mr Halfon stays three nights a week while he is in London.
She is understood to have stayed there with him at the club, which he is entitled to claim on Parliamentary expenses, while Mr Halfon’s partner of six years, Vanda Colombo, remained in their home in his Harlow constituency. The affair ended in May, shortly after the General Election when he was promoted to the Cabinet and called it off.
In a statement released by the Conservative Party yesterday, Mr
‘Her life is in tatters’
Halfon said: ‘What I did was wrong, and I feel ashamed. I am not proud of myself. The most important thing to me is to continue to repair my relationship with my partner.’
He told a Sunday newspaper he had kept quiet about the alleged threat until Mr Johnson’s death. He said: ‘Mark Clarke is an appalling man – I wish I had never met him. I was stupid.’
Miss Paterson did not wish to comment last night. But a close friend said her life was ‘in tatters’.
She said: ‘Alexandra and Rob were in a relationship and she cared about him very much, but when he was made a Cabinet minister after the election it all became very complicated and they decided not to continue it.
‘They are both adults, neither of them are married and she understood his decision to call it off. She wishes him all the best.
‘Alexandra became aware this summer that something very untoward was going on. Mark Clarke had asked one of his henchmen – a very strange and twisted young man – to stand outside the East India Club to try and get a picture of them leaving together.
‘I believe he did do that, in order to blackmail Rob and try and somehow get himself back on the candidates’ list.
‘Mark is an appalling individual who will do anything to advance his career, including bullying people to get his way. Alexandra feels her life is in tatters. She will lose her job and her career in the party is finished. Mark has exploited her.’
Mr Halfon, who was born with mild cerebral palsy, walks using crutches and is entitled to a disability allowance.
He has said the East India Club is cheaper than hotels in central London. A receipt last year showed he paid £400 for a four-night stay paid for using the allowance.
Clarke, 38, an executive with Unilever who is married with two children, said last night: ‘I strongly refute any suggestion of bullying, harassment or intended/attempted blackmail.’
A parliamentary candidate in 2010, Clarke ran the Road Trip 2015 campaign to bus Tory activists around the country, which was praised by Mr Cameron. But since Mr Johnson’s death, he has been hit by further complaints, including that he had planned to use sex and drugs smears against rivals and ran a smear campaign against his local hospital.
A Conservative Party spokesman said it had received a serious complaint against Clarke relating to the death of Mr Johnson. Lord Feldman, the party chairman, is investigating that complaint and Clarke’s membership of the party has been suspended.
The spokesman said: ‘If the allegations against Mr Clarke are found to be true, the party board will permanently exclude Mr Clarke from the party.’