Leader tried to oust aide who warned of BBC inquiry

Iain Duncan Smith attempted earlier this year to oust a senior aide who sent an e-mail warning that the Tory leader could face a BBC investigation into his private office, The Independent has learnt.

Vanessa Gearson, the then head of the Tory leader's office, consulted lawyers, who said that such a move would constitute unfair dismissal. She was instead given a new title in a reorganisation of Conservative Central Office.

Ms Gearson, who is the party's prospective parliamentary candidate for Cheltenham, was made deputy director, organisation, and has responsibility for links between Mr Duncan Smith's office and that of Theresa May, the party chairman.

Ms Gearson was revealed this weekend as the author of an e-mail which warned that the BBC's Michael Crick could launch an investigation into the finances of the Conservative leader's private office. The e-mail was sent to Mark MacGregor, the then chief executive of the party, who was sacked by Mr Duncan Smith in February.

Mr MacGregor, a moderniser with close links to Michael Portillo, was furious when he was fired while on holiday in Paris and replaced by Barry Legg, a former Westminster councillor. His sacking triggered a fresh round of infighting between traditionalists and modernisers in the Tory party.

Ms Gearson has been loyal to the party leadership and refused to comment on her e-mail, despite claims by some party sources that she has been too close to the modernising camp. A former cabinet member on Barnet Council, she is seen by many as one of the party's most able women candidates and has impressed Mrs May over recent months in her new post.

Her e-mail ended up in the hands of Mr Crick, who had planned to run a report for BBC's Newsnight on the finances of Mr Duncan Smith's office. Following legal threats from Central Office, the report was not shown.

Mr Duncan Smith has threatened to sue any publication that prints details of allegations about his private office, and last night he again told Sky News that there was no truth in the claims.

Mr Duncan Smith has upset several members of the Shadow Cabinet with his decision to dismiss or move members of his staff since he took over as leader two years ago.

He angered many when he sacked David Davis as party chairman while he was on holiday last summer. Mr Davis was moved to the position of shadow Deputy Prime Minister.

Modernisers have either resigned or been dismissed, with Jenny Ungless, the leader's chief of staff, the first to go from Central Office, citing the "poisonous" atmosphere within the higher reaches of the party.

Dominic Cummings, the strategy director, resigned because he didn't feel that the party was doing enough to modernise. He caused disquiet within the leadership after an interview in The Independent in which he said that the only thing more unpopular than the euro was the Tories.

But it was Mr Duncan Smith's decision to sack Mr MacGregor that caused him the most headaches this year. Rick Nye, another well-respected policy director, and Stephen Gilbert, director of operations, decided to leave at the same time.

Mr Legg was appointed to a joint post of chief of staff and chief executive, but didn't set foot in Central Office because the party's board complained that it needed to ratify his appointment first. Party members were furious that Mr Gilbert had also apparently been forced out.

After complaints from the board that they had been sidelined and that the party's constitution had been breached, Mr Legg departed and Mr Gilbert was reappointed.

He is now Ms Gearson's boss as director of organisations and campaigns.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
sportWWE latest including Sting vs Triple H, Brock Lesnar vs Roman Reigns and The Undertaker vs Bray Wyatt
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing