Gavin Barwell, the Conservative MP for Croydon Central, has received another official rebuke over his conduct, this time from the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards at Westminster.
Barwell’s had his wrists slapped by the commissioner, Kathryn Hudson, for continuing to send out his thinly disguised Tory recruitment letters on notepaper carrying the House of Commons’s portcullis badge, even after his unauthorised use of the royal device had begun to be investigated by her office.
Since being elected to parliament in 2010, Barwell has had his election spending investigated and criticised by a judge, and has had the Information Commissioner rule against him for misusing his constituents’ personal data.
The latest complaint was raised by a local resident after Barwell’s office did a mass mail-out to women constituents in Addiscombe ward, asking them to come forward as potential candidates for May’s local elections. Addiscombe is regarded as one of Croydon’s marginal, “battleground” council wards, and is currently held by three Labour councillors.
The text of Barwell’s letter made no explicit reference to his affiliation to the Tory Party. Only the small print included an imprint from the local Conservative Party’s agent.
Barwell sent out more of his “portcullis letters” in other wards in his Croydon Central constituency, even after his conduct had been reported to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards.
This earned him a formal dressing down by Hudson. In an official letter to a Croydon constituent, she wrote that she “was surprised and disappointed” that Barwell “should still be sending such letters while their appropriateness was under investigation and I have informed him of this”.
Hudson wrote further: “I have also advised him that Members of Parliament are wise to maintain a clear separation between the parliamentary and the political sides of their correspondence.”
On this occasion, Hudson decided to take the advice of the House of Commons officials that Barwell’s letters “fall just the right side of OK”. She was assured by Barwell that no public money or official stationery was used for his party political mailshot, although Hudson did not say whether the MP was asked to provide evidence that the letters were not processed by his state-funded parliamentary assistants, using his state-funded constituency or Westminster offices.
The essence of the complaint was that, by using the House of Commons portcullis logo at the top of the letter, Barwell was giving the false impression that the letter came from him in an official capacity as a Member of Parliament, rather than as a recruitment drive for a political party.
Barwell was recently promoted by David Cameron to a junior job in the Tory whips’ office in the ConDem government.
Hudson’s lenient ruling could be seen as something of a reprieve for Barwell, considering the precedent set in 1997 by the then Speaker of the House, Betty Boothroyd, who ruled in that the crowned portcullis emblem may never be used to support the election of someone to public office, a position which the present Speaker, John Bercow, has since supported. The election of Tory councillors at the local elections in May in wards within Barwell’s constituency could only be very helpful to the MP’s hopes of re-election in 2015.
- Barwell’s continuing appeal for candidates is cutting it fine
- Parliamentary watchdog investigates Barwell’s begging letter
- Barwell given a lesson from economics professor on Twitter
- Tories Fisher and Barwell told to get off their “fat arses”
Coming to Croydon
- Purley Swimathon: Feb 8 and 13
- Mark Steel at Ashcroft Theatre, Feb 12
- Croydon Arts Network meeting, Feb 15
- Chinese New Year children’s event, Upper Norwood Library, Feb 18
- Welsh myths children’s event, Upper Norwood Library, Feb 20
- Norwood Society talk, Upper Norwood Library, Feb 20
- Mr Pooter comes to Croydon, Feb 20-22
- Warm and Well event, Upper Norwood Library, Feb 22
- Stop the Incinerator fund-raiser, Feb 24
- Fairtrade event, Upper Norwood Library, Mar 1
- Coulsdon and Purley Debating Society, Mar 3
- Patchwork and quilting workshop, Upper Norwood Library, Mar 3
- Upper Norwood Library Book Club, Mar 15
- Norwood Society talk, Upper Norwood Library, Mar 20
- Croydon Half-marathon, Mar 30
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