On your bike! Out of touch Ottaway’s latest gaffe

This one is firmly filed in the “you couldn’t make it up” category.

Bicycle? Isn't that something the poor people use?

Cap’n Richard Ottaway, the absentee MP for Croydon South, is very much the inspiration for Inside Croydon. We attempt to detail his selfless public service at every turn.

There’s his keenness to claim as much money at the public expense as he possibly can contrive (that orthopaedic bed was so clearly a necessary business expense of being a local MP).

It is worth reminding our regular reader that the Conservative MP claimed more than £85,000 in second home expenses, which the Government’s independent investigator said was “excessive”, and persuaded him to pay back all of £2,382 he spent on his garden.

Even during last year’s General Election, Ottaway failed to see that his financial form filling was right. Or to properly supervise his agent in getting the job done properly.

There is Ottaway’s blatant and self-serving nepotism, with until 2010 the employment of his own wife as a parliamentary assistant on a tidy public salary, and this year his use of the daughter of a Croydon councillor during the summer holidays.

There is his refusal to condescend and actually live in his own constituency, preferring his mansion in Bletchingley. In any case, why does any MP need a “second home” (much of it paid for by the taxpayer)  when their constituency is but a short commuter ride from Westminster?

And of course there is his wonderfully self-centred insistance of his going sailing at Cowes in the week after the Croydon riots. Aye, aye, Cap’n! Splice the mainbrace! Take another look at that story by clicking here.

In what is increasingly looking like a serious error of judgement by the local Conservatives Association, Ottaway was let off the hook after the MPs’ expenses scandal, given the all-clear to stand as a candidate for another, final five years. Ottaway appears to be making the most of his second chance, rarely distracted by local issues away from his far more important role as chairman of the foreign affairs select committee.

Now we get the case of the four-year-old girl, denied a place at her local primary, being told by Richard Ottaway MP to “get on her bike” to go to the school she has been allocated – all the way along the busy A22 at rush hour.

Tillie Johnson’s parents had applied for her to attend Roke Primary, where she had spent the previous year in their nursery school. She was only offered a place at Byron Primary, three miles away in Old Coulsdon.

Her father, Paul Johnson, decided to take the matter up with his MP, but it took nearly a month before he was given an appointment at Ottaway’s surgery. “He just said there wasn’t a lot he could do and that I should get Tillie a bike,” Johnson told the Advertiser.

“I thought he was joking at first. To cycle would mean going down Godstone Road, one of the most dangerous roads, around Purley Cross and down the Brighton Road.

“I asked him if he was suggesting I put my four-year-old on a bike by herself, to which he suggested maybe I get a tandem bike.”

A tandem? Try saying it in a voice like Dame Edith Evans, in the Importance of Being Earnest, and imagine Ottaway saying it. No, he’s not out of touch at all…

“I left his office completely incensed and utterly bewildered. I think for an MP to make these sorts of suggestions is absolutely outrageous,” Johnson grandstanded somewhat for the local rag. But he has a point.

And when the local paper tried to contact Ottaway for a comment, he was … out of the country.

  • Richard Ottaway MP: putting the interests of the people of Croydon first. Once he’s done his expenses forms, sailed his yacht, and flown around the world on his much more important job…
  • Inside Croydon: brought to you free of charge, an independent voice standing for freedom of speech for the people of Croydon
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About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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3 Responses to On your bike! Out of touch Ottaway’s latest gaffe

  1. I live in Purley and I know Roke is one of the more sought after schools in the area, so it’s not surprising to hear of parents being moved to their second or third choice perhaps. There’s no mention of whether Mr Johnson’s daughter was offered her other 2 choices?

    Unfortunately, while I see Ottoway’s flaws here, if we inspire a system where local MP’s can strongarm schools into taking on the children of miffed parents then we’d be in trouble.

    I do imagine Mr Ottoway’s words are spun in a slightly less favourable tone that he intended, taken out of context you really have no idea if it was said in a lighthearted way. However, I do agree that he is not the competant local MP he claims to be.

  2. spellinn says:

    As Andy points out, the original report was rather one-sided.

    I hear of many parents only applying for a single primary school on the (incorrect) assumption that if they live right next door and it’s the only school on their list they must get in. These are then shocked when they are allocated one several miles away, which is less likely to happen if they had stated a second and third preference of nearer schools.

    There is also a common misconception that because your child attends the nursery on the same site as the primary school that somehow gives them priority when it comes to allocating primary school places. Where your child attends nursery has no bearing whatsoever on the allocation of primary school places.

    We’re going through the selection process now, and it’s a case of visiting the schools in your catchment area (for us: 3 state, 1 private and 1 voluntary funded), talking to parents of children already at those schools, and then ranking them on your application form, and then hoping for the best. It’s still a bit of a lottery at the end of the day, so I’m sure we’ll hear more reports of disappointed parents when places are announced in April next year.

    • Except that this is not a piece about school admissions, but of the off-hand and almost callous attitude of the man who is supposed to represent Croydon South, and who some times claims expenses when he drives his car to work…

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