UK Politics

Mujeeb Bhutto: Kidnap gang 'boss' was Conservative activist

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionGrant Shapps: "He is not now a member of the Conservative Party"

Convicted kidnap gang "boss" Mujeeb Bhutto was a Conservative activist before he joined the UK Independence Party, BBC Newsnight has learned.

In 2008, Bhutto, of Leeds, was released from prison after serving a sentence over a kidnap gang he led in Pakistan.

He joined the Tory party two months later for a year. He later joined UKIP and acted as its Commonwealth spokesman in 2013 but quit the party in December.

The Tories said an application to rejoin them had been rejected.

Newsnight has seen photographs and documents indicating Bhutto, 35, who was a Conservative Party member in 2008/9, was involved in campaigning and supporting the party between 2008 and 2011.

A letter dated June 2010, which was sent to Bhutto by senior Yorkshire-based Conservative Julia Mulligan, thanks him for his help during the May 2010 general election campaign.

'Huge help'

"I just wanted to write to thank you for the huge amount of help you gave me during the election campaign," said Ms Mulligan, who is now the police and crime commissioner for North Yorkshire.

"Taking on all those deliveries made an enormous difference to our ability to deliver a strong campaign."

Ms Mulligan instructed a North Yorkshire councillor to invite Bhutto to a garden party in July 2010, so that she could meet him for the first time.

The BBC has also seen a series of emails to Bhutto which appear to suggest his attempt to rejoin the party was approved.

Image caption Mujeeb Bhutto tried to rejoin the Conservatives after leaving UKIP

In one message, dated 30 January 2014, Robert Winfield, the deputy chairman of Leeds West Conservatives, said: "I am just dropping you a brief email to say that I was delighted to learn that you have rejoined the Conservative Party.

"I hope to speak to you soon but unfortunately I am just getting over flu. I assume this means that you have severed your connections with UKIP."

Julia Mulligan, Police and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire, said on Tuesday: "Mr Bhutto was one of over 300 people who volunteered to assist me during my general election campaign in Leeds in 2010."

"As is customary, my election agent invited those who assisted with my campaign to an informal thank-you event. I cannot recall whether or not he attended and I have not seen him since"

'Application scrutinised'

Bhutto told the BBC that he had not yet been contacted by the Conservatives to inform him that his application had been rejected.

But Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps said it had been blocked.

When presented with the email messages on the BBC's Daily Politics programme, he said: "Every person who joins, and particularly when they join online, automatically receives a welcoming letter.

"We reserve the right to scrutinise that application. And before that person is accepted we can take a decision on their membership. He is not now a member of the Conservative Party."

He added: "He attempted to re-join the party last week after having been the UKIP spokesman. Because he's the spokesman for another party, we simply rejected that application."

As revealed by Newsnight on Monday, Bhutto served as UKIP's Commonwealth spokesman between March and December 2013. He appeared on behalf of the party on national television and radio programmes.

His role at the Conservative Party was as a grassroots activist helping with canvassing and leafleting, not as an official spokesman.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionWatch Newsnight's film from Monday on Bhutto and UKIP

A senior Tory party source compared his membership to someone who paid the television licence fee, saying such a person could not be seen to represent the BBC.

'Cameron selfies'

Photographs posted to Bhutto's deleted Facebook account show his active support of the Conservative Party before he joined UKIP. He confirmed they were his photographs and identified the people in them.

They appear to show two attempted "selfies" with David Cameron.

A third image shows Bhutto in front of a Conservative "Vote for Change" banner.

It is understood he was also active in the campaign to maintain the current Westminster voting system in a referendum in 2011, posing in pictures with MPs Nigel Evans and Stuart Andrew.

During his time with UKIP, Bhutto organised a trip to a Leeds mosque for party leader Nigel Farage and, during the 2012 Rotherham by-election, canvassed with UKIP candidate Jane Collins.

UKIP said: "When we recently became aware of possible issues relating to his past and raised the matter with him, he resigned his membership."

Bhutto's gang were behind a high-profile kidnapping in Karachi in 2004 and he then took a £56,000 ransom payment in Manchester.

In 2005, Bhutto, of Leeds, admitted being the gang's "boss" and was jailed for seven years by a UK court for conspiracy to blackmail.

More on this story