Gavin Barwell, the Croydon Central MP and a government whip, was one of a number of Tories targeted by the Sunday Mirror as part of the Twitter sleaze sting which led to the resignation yesterday of government minister Brooks Newmark.
Newmark today admitted to feeling a complete dick. The newspaper has reported that he sent X-rated pictures of himself to a bogus Twitter account set up by Mirror journalists in the name of a supposedly young, blonde Tory activist “Sophie Wittams”.
Newmark sent his resignation letter to Prime Minister David Cameron yesterday, just hours before the scandal was published on the front page of the Sunday tabloid.
It capped off a dire afternoon for the Tories, who had just seen another of their MPs, the appropriately named Mark Reckless, jump ship for UKIP. This double blow came on the eve of the Conservative party conference in Birmingham.
In the overall scheme of things, as Cameron takes Britain into a third war in Iraq in 25 years, losing a second sitting MP to UKIP inside a few weeks is a lot bigger than Newmark’s todger.
But the stench of sleaze – Newmark is a married father of five – and poor judgement will hardly be welcome as the Tories try to represent themselves as a party fit to govern.
“No Mark” was turned over in an old-fashioned Sunday tabloid sting, as the paper was investigating “the inappropriate use of social media by MPs”.
According to the Mirror today, “During a late-night chat with the undercover reporter, who had sent him an explicit picture supposedly of ‘Sophie’, Newmark asked for a more explicit picture ‘without your hands in the way and legs parted’. He then said: ‘I will send you something in return – that way we each have a secret’.”
The newspaper reports that Newmark “… initiated a private message conversation online and, during flirtatious chats and photo exchanges, sent a graphic snap exposing himself while wearing a pair of paisley pyjamas”. Which is a step up from David Mellor’s infamous Chelsea shirt. Isn’t it?
The Sophie Wittams Twitter account has since been deleted, though not before some clever digital digging uncovered its history to show that the bogus “political activist” had sent complimentary messages to a range of Tory MPs.
These included Dan Byles, Charlie Elphicke, Rob Jenrick (the Westminster new boy who last year flirted briefly with seeking selection as the candidate in Croydon South), Reckless and Croydon’s own Barwell.
Barwell didn’t take the bait. Indeed, according to BuzzFeed reporter Jim Waterson, only a handful of the politicians replied and there is no suggestion that any MP other than Newmark sent inappropriate “sexts”.
What intrigues is what it was that could have persuaded the Sunday Mirror’s investigators to include Barwell in their sleaze trawl?
After all, Barwell has been spending tens of thousands of pounds of tax-payers’ money for the past four years to employ an office fag to look after his “social media” presence.
But even that didn’t stop Barwell blundering on Twitter last year.
Barwell’s “Dating Arab Girls” episode came to light in 2013 when he tried to score cheap political points.
All Barwell managed to do was to expose himself over his ignorance of how Google AdSense works, and also give the world an insight into his own browser history, as a dating site’s online advertisement was served on to his screen based on other websites he had viewed previously. The Guardian reported the embarrassing episode in full here.
Barwell is the Tories’ former chief operating officer who on Monday had the adulterer Boris Johnson along to give his campaign for re-election a big thrusting launch.
In an evening of Barwell self-gratification, the Croydon Central MP stressed that he is family man and lifelong Croydon resident. He has also previously revealed himself to be a fan of Liverpool FC, the rapper Public Enemy, the actress Joan Collins, star of the movie The Bitch, and the television soap opera Dynasty.
None of which seems likely to have seen him included in the Sunday Mirror’s sext sting.
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Coming to Croydon
- Ukrainian choir concert, St John’s Shirley, Sep 29
- Tree Sides, Spread Eagle Theatre, Oct 2-4
- The Goon Show, Spread Eagle Theatre, Oct 8-11
- Norwood Society Talk: From Fire Station to Theatre, Oct 16
- Cinema Ruskin film show, Oct 18
- South Croydon business breakfast, Oct 18
- Croydon 10km road race, Oct 19
- This Was The World and I Was King, Spread Eagle, Oct 23-25
- Upper Norwood Library Book Club, 2.30pm, Oct 25
- CODA’s Wind In The Willows, Charles Cryer, Carshalton, Oct 29-Nov 1
- Albert Einstein – Relativity Speaking, Spread Eagle, Nov 12-15
- South Croydon business breakfast, Nov 15
- Norwood Society Talk: Lambeth’s Archives, Nov 20
- Choose Your Own Documentary, Spread Eagle Theatre, Nov 21-22
- The Last Sense of Sudden, Spread Eagle Theatre, Nov 27-29
- Ghost Stories for Christmas, Spread Eagle Theatre, Dec 3
- Fog Horn Funnies, Spread Eagle Theatre, Dec 6
- South Croydon business breakfast, Dec 13
- South Croydon business breakfast, Jan 24
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