It may be the sort of promotion that even arch-political careerist Gavin Barwell could have done without.
Just 24 hours after the junior minister, Chloe Smith, resigned her government position in order to spend more time with her marginal constituency, Croydon Central’s Tory MP was announced as a new assistant whip by Prime Minister David Cameron, summoning Barwell to make the time-honoured walk down Downing Street this evening.
Barwell was previously parliamentary private secretary to Michael Gove, the secretary of state for education, despite the Croydon MP’s close affiliations to one of London’s largest private school foundations.
The appointment means that Barwell has climbed higher up the greasy political pole than other Croydon Central MPs, such as Geraint Davies and Andrew Pelling.
“I am both delighted and honoured to have been appointed a government whip,” Barwell said. He continued, carefully toeing the party line he has had drilled into him during the party conference, “I look forward to working with colleagues to ensure the government gets through its agenda to sustain growing economic recovery and to support hard-working people.”
But with the General Election now less than 18 months away, and Croydon Central acknowledged as a battleground seat which Labour will be targeting, the demanding duties of the whips’ office could jeopardise Barwell’s chances of re-election. Barwell won the seat in 2010 with a majority of fewer than 3,000 votes.
Such considerations are certainly behind Chloe Smith’s ministerial resignation on Sunday, at a time when Call Me Dave was looking to make as many tokenistic appointments as possible of women, northerners and “people from working class backgrounds” to try to shed any reputation for being a misogynistic, class-conscious Southern tosser.
As an assistant whip, Barwell has one of the least regarded, least glamorous of political jobs as a back room boy and enforcer, whose main task is just the day-to-day grind of making sure the government’s business gets through.
Sometimes, his task will be simply to make sure his party’s MPs are not drifting home early (remember the shambolic vote management by the Tory whips during the recent Syria vote?). Barwell will be expected to spend very long hours at the House of Commons, in the chamber monitoring Tory MPs’ attendance and speeches, in the lobby making sure people are voting the right way, often acting as one of the tellers when the division bells sound, and being present in the whips’ office, looking after his appointed list of MPs to ensure their party loyalty to the Prime Minister over what is often an interesting period up to an election.
In return for his near-30 per cent pay rise Barwell – who will now be on a salary of £92,362 – there will be no scope whatsoever for any independent thinking, let alone any voting away from strict party edict.
He’s also unlikely to be able to continue to abuse residents, publicly calling them “loons” or “chumps”; that sort of language will have to be reserved for recalcitrant Tory MPs in the relative, off-the-record privacy of the bars, tea rooms and corridors of the Palace of Westminster, where his own brand of public schoolboy abuse and bullying is well suited.
That Barwell is aware of the demands of the whips office is clear. “I want to reassure my constituents that I’ll continue to be an active local MP,” he said, before continuing to dissemble and deceive, “both assisting those who contact me asking for help, attending as many community events as possible and lobbying ministerial colleagues to ensure that Croydon gets the support that it needs and deserves.”
Of course, Barwell has singularly failed “to ensure that Croydon gets the support that it needs and deserves” in the past three years since election, in particular not delivering the Whitehall jobs to the area that he promised would come to the area as a consequence of his influence.
And as far as “attending as many community events as possible”, well… given the long hours and late nights he’ll be spending at Westminster, that could be very few indeed.
So it’s not all bad news then.
Coming to Croydon
- Rent at the Secombe Theatre: Oct 9-12
- Debate the future of arts in Croydon: Oct 10
- Croydon and Sutton Real Ale Festival, Oct 10-12
- Stanley Lives – open day in South Norwood: Oct 12
- Trafficked – slavery on the screen: Oct 14
- Crystal Palace Concerts – “I have a dream”: Thu Oct 17
- Lakes Playground group’s fundraising Zumba-ween: Oct 26
- PJ’s enterprising look at Black History Month: Oct 29
- Inside Croydon: Croydon’s only independent news source, based in the heart of the borough – 262,183 page views (Jan-Jun 2013)
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
- Chloe Smith and John Randall quit government ahead of reshuffle (blogs.spectator.co.uk)
- Will this reshuffle make any difference? No (blogs.telegraph.co.uk)