REVERSE FERRET ALERT! Gavin Barwell, the Tory MP for the Whitgift Foundation, has pulled out of an appearance on this week’s BBC Sunday Politics programme.
Barwell has never knowingly declined an invitation to attend even the opening of a fridge door if he thinks there’s a vote in it for him, so his decision to drop out seems entirely out of character.
He was due to appear alongside Steve Reed OBE, the Labour MP for Lambeth South, on the regional segment of the programme (so no probing questioning from Andrew “Brillo Pad” Neil). One of the topics up for discussion is the future of Crystal Palace Park.
Barwell is likely to be ably replaced by Bromley Council’s Stephen Carr, who also has close links with the Tory leadership at Croydon Town Hall.
But what can be the real reason behind Barwell opting not to grab at yet another 15 minutes of television fame?
Could it possibly be that Barwell belatedly realised the problem of his running a petition about “saving” Croydon’s school playing fields, and then rolling up at the BBC studios to discuss some real proposals from a Tory peer, backed by the Conservative Mayor of London, to demolish.. ahem… a sports stadium and build over its playing field and athletics track?
Barwell’s withdrawal certainly won’t be because he has, belatedly, discovered some sort of “moral compass” for conduct in public office. Because he has not.
Twice in the past fortnight, Barwell has published his thoughts on matters of significant public policy, one involving a scheme that will spend millions of public money. And on neither occasion has the Tory MP done the decent thing and declared his considerable interests in the matter as a member of the governors of the land-owning Whitgift Foundation.
The Whitgift Foundation owns much of the freehold in and around the Whitgift Centre. They have engaged Westfield to deliver the £1 billion redevelopment of the shops, offices and apartments in the town centre. This is the same Westfield who are donors to the Conservative Party and whose director, John Burton, spoke recently at Barwell’s launch of his election campaign, and at the £400-a-head don’t-mention-the-Tories “Croydon Business Club”.
The proposals of Transport for London to spend at least £25 million on a new central Croydon loop of tram lines is being done largely for the benefit of the Westfield development, and therefore the ultimate beneficiaries will be the Whitgift Foundation. Of which Barwell is a governor. We thought we’d mention that again, since in the article on the MP’s website, Barwell failed to do so himself.
Likewise when Barwell turned his attention to the subject of landlord licensing, as has been proposed by the Labour administration at Croydon Town Hall. Gav has yet again taken the side of the rich landlords, who oppose the provisions of the licensing scheme which is intended to help protect short-term tenants.
The Whitgift Foundation is possibly the biggest single private land-owner in Croydon, with huge interests in local property, including the freehold of many buildings which offer residential lettings. But that goes unmentioned in his article by Barwell, the MP and – did we mention? – a Whitgift Foundation governor.
Though it is not as odd as Barwell ducking an appearance on television. As we get ever closer to May’s General Election, and with his own former boss, Lord Cashcroft, predicting defeat for Barwell in Croydon Central to Labour’s Sarah Jones, surely he needs all the profile boosts he can get?
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Coming to Croydon
- Choose Your Own Documentary, Spread Eagle Theatre, Nov 21-22
- David Lean Cinema, Lilting, Nov 22
- Streatham-Croydon women’s rugby training, Frant Road, Nov 23
- Cloth Nappy Network celebration, Beanies, Nov 24
- David Lean Cinema, Wakolda, Nov 27
- The Last Sense of Sudden, Spread Eagle Theatre, Nov 27-29
- St Peter’s Primary School Christmas Fair, Nov 29
- Ghost Stories for Christmas, Spread Eagle Theatre, Dec 3
- St Andrew’s churchyard gardening session, 10am, Dec 6
- Fog Horn Funnies, Spread Eagle Theatre, Dec 6
- Croydon Philharmonic Handel’s Messiah, Fairfield Halls, Dec 6
- Coulsdon Yulefest, Dec 6-7
- Oval Tavern Folk Club, Dec 7
- Mayor of Croydon’s charity Christmas dinner, Dec 12
- South Croydon business breakfast, Dec 13
- Concert of Christmas music, St Luke’s, Woodside, Dec 13
- Friends of the Earth Green Beanfeast, Dec 15 (book by Dec 1)
- Croydon Philharmonic Christmas concert, St Matthew’s, Dec 16
- Norwood Society talk: Penge, the making of a suburb, Jan 15
- South Croydon business breakfast, Jan 24
- Norwood Society talk: Crystal Palace and Dulwich, Feb 19
- Norwood Society talk: Charlies Dickens in Norwood, Mar 19
- Norwood Society: Balloons and airships at Crystal Palace, Apr 16
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