“Over the past five years, benefits have risen twice as fast as salaries.” Thus spoke the Member of Parliament for Croydon Central in full-on arslikhan mode at Prime Minister’s Questions at the House of Commons.
“Does the Prime Minister agree that, while we have a duty to the least well-off, it cannot be fair that people who are out of work enjoy bigger increases in their living standards than those who graft hard, day and night, to support themselves and their families?”
Was Gavin Barwell speaking on behalf of his constituents, or just to further his own political career within his Conservative party, with its millionaires’ front bench full of other public school-educated posh boys?
Certainly, the poorest and most vulnerable in Croydon will soon come to bitterly regret Barwell’s ill-judged sycophancy to David Cameron.
Having already celebrated Croydon’s young people being paid an exploitative £1.87 an hour to carry out some social care work in return for continuing to receive their Job Seekers’ Allowance in a pilot scheme, last month Barwell, attention-seeking, needy for approval, tried to show off to the Old Etonian Prime Minister by attacking those unable to find work.
It seems not to matter to Barwell whether these people cannot get work despite repeated job applications, in a triple-dip recession created by Gideon Osborne.
Many local Conservatives are horrified by Barwell’s vilification of Croydon people who have lost their jobs. With the borough enduring what the deputy leader of the council and its outgoing CEO concede is a worsening housing crisis, the MP’s self-aggrandising posturing seems to have led to Croydon being made one of four pilot areas to trial cuts in housing benefits.
Croydon’s poor and homeless will become Barwell social experiment guinea pigs, together with pilot areas Bromley, Enfield and Haringey from April 1.
This will hit Croydon hard, not once, but twice. Croydon residents will suffer cuts in benefits that others elsewhere in the country will not have to endure. But also, it is highly likely that landlords will shun our council as it desperately tries to house the growing number of Croydon people who have less support to pay their rent.
While repeatedly breaking the law by keeping homeless families, many with young children, in sub-standard B&B accommodation for longer than its legally allowed, Croydon Council has been reduced to looking at using porters’ lodges in crematoriums to house the homeless.
Of course, having helped to make an already bad situation far worse with his ridiculous, private school debating posturing as a “benefits hard man”, Barwell has now announced that he has “met with the minister”, as if that will automatically put right the problems in his constituency and the borough at large.
In the real world, it achieves nothing.
Note the the tone of dismissive derision shown in an answer from the Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan-Smith, to the Croydon Central MP in the Commons on Monday. After Barwell’s latest, grandstanding, look-at-me question, The Quiet Man was heard to say, effectively, “Yes, I am doing what I said I would”.
Gavin Barwell (Croydon Central): As the Secretary of State confirmed, Croydon will be one of the first places where this policy is rolled out. May I thank Lord Freud, who is the Minister responsible for welfare reform, and the housing Minister for meeting me to discuss this? Will my right hon. Friend confirm that his Department will work closely with my local authority to ensure that this important policy is implemented smoothly?
Iain Duncan Smith (Secretary of State, Work and Pensions; Chingford and Woodford Green, Conservative): I say to my hon. Friend and to all hon. Members and hon. Friends whose areas are affected by the roll-out that we are in deep discussions with all those councils. Jobcentre Plus will be working hugely with each of them, advising, helping and supporting them—in many senses, giving them more support than is necessarily likely to be the case when the national roll-out follows the pilot programmes.
Thirty years ago, one of the brightest of Conservative MPs, Matthew Parris, spent time trying to live on the dole for a television programme. He failed. You have to wonder how Barwell might cope on Job Seekers’ Allowance and housing benefit if he was to be made unemployed – it is just a pity that may have to wait at least until the next general election.
- Inside Croydon: For comment and analysis about Croydon, from inside Croydon
- Post your comments on this article below. If you have a news story about life in or around Croydon, a residents’ or business association or local event, please email us with full details at email@example.com
- Getting trollied: Croydon’s uncharitable councillors (insidecroydon.com)