MP Barwell says he got it wrong over group’s racist incident

Gavin Barwell: apologetic

Gavin Barwell has been forced to issue an apology after he admitted he was at fault for a lack of organisation and proper supervision that led to several police officers being called out to an incident of reported racist abuse and threats of violence at a youth work gang that the Croydon Central MP ran on London Road on Saturday.

As we reported at the weekend, the incident took place close to Lidl, the scene of one of Croydon’s more notorious recent murders. In a neighbourhood hard-hit by last August’s riots, the situation is acknowledged to be volatile, where knife crime and gang activity has the police on high alert.

Initially, a leading Conservative party activist who is running the Change: Croydon project tried to dismiss the reports of abuse and threats, first by denying that he had seen or heard anything at the scene, and later by describing the incident that they had said they had not witnessed as being “small” and a “misunderstanding”.

The Tory activist, who was also photographed in the midst of a group of people being questioned by the police, even went as far as to question the word of the man who complained of being racially abused and threatened.

Now, though, Barwell has taken a different line. Yesterday, in the first posting on his website for almost a month, the MP conceded that something did, in fact, happen, calling it “one unpleasant incident as a result of poor planning on my part”.

Councillor Sara Bashford, busy handing out T-shirts to anyone who turned up on the steps of the Town Hall on Saturday

Inside Croydon has put further questions to Barwell and his publicly funded constituency assistant, Sara Bashford, about their roles in Saturday’s events. Despite both being elected public servants – Bashford is a Tory councillor for Selsdon and Ballards – neither have responded to explain what measures they intend to introduce to ensure proper CRB checks, registration of participants, and adequate equipment and supervision before their next event.

On his website, Barwell has written this account of the flashpoint incident that his lack of proper management of a large group of youths had precipitated:

“A number of young people were gathered on what we believed to be a little used driveway, waiting to take over the painting duties but it was actually the entrance to the car park of a local mosque and when some cars tried to gain entrance there was a heated exchange and accusations that threats were made and racial insults exchanged.

“I have apologised to the mosque – clearly there are lessons to be learned, but I hope this won’t detract from what was overall a very positive event when a large number of young people gave up some of their precious weekend to give something back to a community that was scarred by last August’s riots.”

It is apparent that despite the best of intentions, Barwell had failed to anticipate that for some in his group “giving something back to the community” could include threats, abuse, jeering, shouting and general intimidation, even towards families, some with small children, who were arriving at the mosque for prayers.

No arrests were made on Saturday, but it is understood that the matter is subject to on-going enquiries by the police. Complaints have been filed, including to a local school over the conduct on the day of one of its teachers.

It seems that Saturday’s events have forced Barwell to re-think Change: Croydon. Originally, he had announced that the project would be staging work parties once a month. But Barwell has already informed teenagers signed up to the group there will be no project work conducted in May, and that the next planned work party will not now be until June 30, eight weeks away.

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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
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1 Response to MP Barwell says he got it wrong over group’s racist incident

  1. I stand accused, on Twitter, of “stalking” children for pointing out the shambolic organisation of the event.

    Now that Croydon Central MP has admitted he was at fault for a lack of organisation and proper supervision, will he apologise for his unfounded and emotional outburst against me?

    Here is a letter I had sent to a local paper and was never published:

    I read two letters from former Conservative Council candidates spitting venom at Andrew Pelling on the Guardian‘s letter page. The local Conservatives’ long history of smears of and obsessive hate towards Mr Pelling does them no credit. It’s a testament to Andrew Pelling’s strength that he has survived the unpleasant and ongoing onslaught from his former Tory friends.

    Sadly it is not just Mr Pelling who is the target for insults from Mr Barwell. On the public record, in the ugly world of the “twitter sphere”, you will frequently find Croydon Central MP, Gavin Barwell, being rude to Croydon people, especially women. Verbal abuse and even legal threats are meted out, often against his own constituents. Barwell’s epithets have included “unhinged”, “loon” and “sad.” “Retract” is his favourite cry. Tired of his bullish playground behaviour, I tweeted to him that he should go ahead with his threats and, thus, make a fool of himself.

    It is time that the MP exhibited the decorum that should go with his elective office and respond to criticisms rather than just resort to being offensive.

    The more he insults, the clearer it is that he can’t answer the question why he was so unaware of the three days of events running up to the riots in Croydon last year that he, in his own words, had no contact with authorities on the matter whatsoever.

    This is an MP so obsessed with tweeting, emailing and social media that he remains blissfully out of touch. No wonder he told LBC radio that a Hovis loaf costs only 45 pence.

    Will Inside Croydon dare publish it?

    I am impervious to insults and fight back when people try to bully me. Other people may not be. It is disgraceful that personal attacks should be tolerated.

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