Seven Tory MPs deliver leaflet critical of Conservative council

ANDREW PELLING reports on an extraordinary election leaflet from Addiscombe Tory candidates which criticises the “current” Conservative Town Hall regime

It is a sign of just how short of activists the political parties are these days. Last week Croydon Central MP Gavin Barwell had to draft in six other Conservative MPs to help deliver leaflets in Addiscombe.

Even Enid Blyton's Secret Seven could never have matched this merry band: Gavin Barwell, centre, with fellow MPs Herbert, Crabbe, James, Field, David Harmes the ward candidate, Tomlinson, Hands.

Even Enid Blyton’s Secret Seven could never have matched this merry band: Gavin Barwell, centre, with fellow MPs Nick Herbert, Stephen Crabb, Margot James, Mark Field, David Harmes, the ward candidate, Justin Tomlinson, and Greg Hands. Ginger ales all-round!

The pictures of the highly paid delivery team can be seen on the local MP’s Twitter feed. The MPs’ pay rate is £464,772 per annum, compared to a far more modest £105,000 for seven Royal Mail workers.

You would think that MPs would be too busy serving their own constituents to have time to be drafted into doing some mundane postal work.

The leaflet they all delivered was from the recently selected Conservative candidate team for May’s local elections. Just 11 weeks for the candidates to impress themselves upon the electorate is a tough ask – the Conservatives in Croydon have left their selection process very late.

The leaflet, though, is a good one in that it has much detailed criticism of the Conservative-run local council.

Of course, since the Conservatives have opted to spurn the skills of Addiscombe-based Robert King, the impressive one-man delivery phenomenon and professional postman, there has been a need to fill the gap in their delivery network.

King should be flattered that Barwell, now a junior member of the Tories’ whips office, sees him being worth the equivalent of seven MPs.

None of the MPs accompanying Barwell have any obvious connections to Addiscombe, or even to Croydon. Their respective constituents might want to ask their parliamentary representatives to justify how they spent their time on March 4.

For the record, the MPs doing the leaflet drop for Barwell last week were:

  • Stephen Crabb (Preseli Pembrokeshire)
  • Mark Field (Cities of London and Westminster)
  • Greg Hands (Chelsea and Fulham)
  • Nick Herbert (Arundel and South Downs)
  • Margot James (Stourbridge)
  • Justin Tomlinson (Swindon North)

Truth is, there is little to do in parliament these days for Conservative MPs. There have been few votes to attend, and parliament is sitting less than ever.

“There hasn’t been a single Government vote called since recess ended – they have nothing to say about the problems facing the country,” was the view last week of Steve Reed OBE.

You have to ask whether using a working Tuesday to have a bit of a jolly in south London with their mate Gavin, delivering party political leaflets, is really an appropriate use of the MPs’ time when they should be working for the generous salary paid to them by the hard-pressed tax-payer.

Barwell campaign badgeAnd was Barwell deliberately trying to avoid any meetings between his highly remunerated working party and the general public? They met for their delivery run at a time of day in the working week when the majority of local residents could reasonably be expected to be out… actually working for a living.

But equally intriguing is whether any of the loyal Conservative MPs actually bothered to read the leaflet they were asked to deliver on behalf of three local Tory activists.

The leaflet contains the occasional modest promise, such as…

“We’ll press the Council to plant 100 trees on Addiscombe’s streets”.

Actually, that’s not a promise to plant 100 trees. It is a much more vacuous promise to ask for 100 trees to be planted. Even then, it is a very modest aspiration, seeking 1.3  trees for each of Addiscombe ward’s 76 streets. Put another way, this election pledge is undertaking to ask to have 25 trees planted each year over a four-year period between local elections.

What is impressive though is the way that the leaflet criticises the performance of the Conservative council over the last eight years.

Addiscombe's Conservative candidates, who have issued a leaflet profoundly critical of their own Tory-run council

Addiscombe’s Conservative candidates, Partha Chatterjee, David Harmes and Lisa Terry, who have issued a leaflet critical of their own Tory-run council

The new Conservative candidates for the ward – Partha Chatterjee, David Harmes and Lisa Terry – manage to criticise the failures of the Conservative-run council over planning, street cleansing schedules, the lack of a connection of East Croydon station’s “Bridge to Nowhere” to Addiscombe, repeated street lighting failures, the school places shortage crisis, a lack of parking enforcement near schools that puts pupils at risk, and the lack of progress on getting the council-owned Rees House into use for much needed local housing.

After eight years in power, judging by this leaflet, Addiscombe Conservatives are decidedly unimpressed by the Conservative-run council’s approach to planning.

Chatterjee, Harmes and Terry have put their names to a leaflet that says, “We’ll push to get the planning policy, originally introduced by Labour and retained by the current Conservative Council, changed so that no more planning permissions are granted for very tall buildings (ie [sic] higher than existing buildings like the tower in the roundabout by East Croydon station) on our side of the railway.”

It was the Conservative-run council which gave permission for the 54-storey Menta Tower – the tallest residential tower in London – in Addiscombe that some residents said would cast a shadow as far as the eastern end of the ward. Having got planning permission from the council, the developers have so far done no building work on the site, and have only managed to cost the council millions of pounds over the siting of the western exit of the Bridge to Nowhere.

And note the Addiscombe Conservatives’ ominous use of the word “current” in their leaflet: as in “current Conservative Council”. It seems that a different kind of Conservative council is sought by Addiscombe Conservatives.

It was in Addiscombe that Barwell first used his controversial recruitment letter that misused the House of Commons Portcullis, a letter that sought local champions to run for council. It seems that the Conservatives have selected a set of people who are representative of Croydon people and who are decidedly unimpressed the Conservative council’s performance.

The Addiscombe Conservative candidates’ criticism of their own council may, though, prompt voters to choose other parties at the ballot box on May 22. “Vote for us – we’re Conservatives who are less than impressed by the Conservative council” is hardly a winning slogan.

  • Andrew Pelling, the former Conservative MP for Croydon Central, is standing as a Labour candidate in Waddon ward in the local elections on May 22

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2 Responses to Seven Tory MPs deliver leaflet critical of Conservative council

  1. I am not sure that a few new faces are going to change the public’s view of the utter mess that has been made of Croydon. We have to have a fundamental change in the structure of Croydon.

    There needs to be clear division between stakeholders so that there are clear and transparent checks and balances in place and so that that everyone is subject to high standards of public accountability if they claim to be working on behalf of Croydon citizens.
    That clear accountability and separation of roles stretches to:
    a. The Council;
    b. The major local charities;
    c. The local Members of Parliament;
    d. Social enterprises set-up to replace former Council activities – they must be truly independent and not just puppets;
    e. Commercial companies operating in Croydon – there must be no suspicion that connections to the right people will ensure any contract will be waved through no matter how much it harms residents.

    There is a long journey to rebuild TRUST in Croydon.

    And there needs to be a vision. A vision that together we can live in a better, healthier, more cohesive society.

  2. mraemiller says:

    What is the point of things like the planning application for the Mental Tower etc if like many of these projects nothing gets built. I’m sure someone is getting rich on all these plans but who and how? Who is this real nowhere man, sitting in this nowhere land, making all these Mental plans for nobdy?

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