This week, a senior BBC executive gave some advice to local authorities about the use of social media, things like Faustbook and Twatter.
One of things Sophie Brendell, the BBC’s head of digital communications, said was, “Don’t do anything stupid.”
Does anyone think Gavin Barwell might take on the expert guidance?
The Tories used to believe in a “three strikes and you’re out” policy in a number of areas, but Barwell, the Conservative MP for Croydon Central, has already offended online several times. There are some within his own constituency who say that he is offensive all the time.
But even by Barwell’s own, gaffe-prone standards, his poor choice of words last week must have fallen firmly under Brendell’s description of “stupid”. As well as thunderingly offensive and insensitive.
Tory MP Barwell Tweeted to his 6,000-plus followers, “Delighted to attend launch of #Croydon Foodbank.”
According to Oxfam, the international charity usually associated with dealing with hunger and poverty in the developing world, here in Britain the use of food banks has gone from 70,000 people two years ago to an estimated half a million today. Oxfam calls this a “scandal”.
And yet here was a Tory MP attending the opening of another, undoubtedly much-needed, food bank, and saying he was “delighted”.
Tom Lehrer famously said on the occasion of Henry Kissinger being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize that satire was dead. Goodness knows what Lehrer would make of a public school-, Oxbridge-educated poshboy Conservative MP expressing delight at the opening of another food bank.
It is not known whether the Barwell Tweet was written by the MP himself, or by the gobby factotum and wannabe Croydon councillor he employs with public cash in his office in Westminster to handle his personal publicity. Here at Inside Croydon Towers, once we had set aside our disbelief that even Barwell should behave in such a crass manner (didn’t they teach him careful selection of words at Cambridge?), we duly flagged up his latest dropped bollock.
Polly Toynbee, The Guardian’s veteran political columnist, also noticed Barwell’s ill-considered Tweet, too. “Food banks are the talisman of this government: See Tory MP’s pride at 500,000 relying on them instead of benefits,” @pollytoynbee told her followers.
Maybe it is time for Barwell’s Conservative minders to take the former Lord Cashcroft aide to one side and have a word in his shell-like about his online conduct.
After all, his “food bank delight” follows swiftly on from the time when he tried to be clever by ridiculing a Labour party message, only to be put back in his place soon afterwards when someone advised him that the “Dating Arab girls” ad that appeared on his screen with the message was the result of sophisticated software based on his own website viewing history.
Previously, on the night of the Croydon riots in August 2011, Barwell wrote on his own blog about how he had driven away from the fires and destruction in parts of his own constituency, observing the smoke in his rear view mirror.
It is hard to choose which of Barwell’s gaffes is the most foolish, or offensive. For a constituency MP who has often boasted about the mental health legislation he has championed actually to call a local resident a “loon” on Twitter is certainly in contention for the Barwell booby prize.
Revealing his startling ignorance of the lives of ordinary, hard-working people by telling the BBC that he thought that a loaf of bread typically costs 45p is another strong contender…
But expressing “delight” in the hunger and poverty of others certainly looks like the winner. Although probably only until the next time Gavin Barwell MP puts his digital foot in his online mouth.
- Inside Croydon: Croydon’s only independent news source that is actually based in the heart of the borough – averaging 44,000 page views per month, Jan-Jun 2013
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