The headmaster of Trinity School recently praised his chairman of governors and one of our local MPs, Gavin Barwell, as being “the only principled politician in the country”.
That’s quite an endorsement, or quite a commentary on the school’s unusual perspective on British politics. It might be the sort of view which could make some parents who send their sons or daughters to the £12,000 per year fee-paying school to reconsider whether to allow their child to attend Trinty’s political science classes.
And it is a judgement which will have been called into question even more after Barwell’s bumbling appearance on LBC radio this morning.
You might like to think that it is far too simplistic to say that our politicians are gloriously out of touch, but when the privileged (public school and Cambridge-educated) Tory boy was asked how much a loaf of Hovis in Sainsbury’s might cost, he gave as his answer: 45 pence.
It was Marie-Antoinette, the queen of pre-revolutionary France, living in her gilded palace at Versailles, who when told that the people of Paris were starving and had no bread, notoriously said, “Let them eat cake”. She ultimately paid with her head. Might today’s 45p loaf be Barwell’s Let Them Eat Cake moment?
After all, Barwell is the politician who before he was elected to Parliament, ran Croydon Council’s finances; more recently, he has taken to blasting those on benefits, while he justifies cutting public services and benefits.
Perhaps we ought not expect Barwell to know much about money in the “real” world, as he has never done a real full-time job in his life outside politics, having gone straight from university into being a Conservative party “special adviser”. There, he was sheltered in the employment of Lord Ashcroft, whose own finances have benefited from their own special kind of “shelter”. But that is hardly the sort of thing to inform you about such mundanities as the price of a loaf of bread.
Perhaps the cheap bar and publicly subsidised restaurant prices in the House of Commons have inured Barwell from having to count every penny spent on a family household budget, as many of his constituents have to do weekly, even daily.
What is perhaps most troubling of all about Barwell’s lack of grasp of the price of a loaf was quite how far out he was with his nine-bob guess.
Because in local Sainsbury’s, the price of an average Hovis loaf is in fact £1.25 – or nearly three times more than Barwell’s estimate.
Even shopping around as widely as possible, the cheapest loaf to be found was from Fine Lady Bakeries at 50p. That’s available at Waitrose, Sanderstead, Barwell’s local store, though we somehow doubt that it is the sort of bread usually seen in the Barwell household.
In Barwell’s out of touch world, Croydon Central’s Tory MP seems to think money goes three times further than it really does for his constituents. No wonder he thinks it’s ok to cut benefits for the poor, disabled and most vulnerable in society.
- Inside Croydon: brought to you from the heart of the borough, free of charge, an independent voice standing for freedom of speech for the people of Croydon
- Your chance to ask MP Barwell about tax avoidance (insidecroydon.com)
- MP Gavin Barwell, statistics and a convenient oversight (insidecroydon.com)
- Council set for contract with company owned by Lord Ashcroft (insidecroydon.com)