MP Barwell’s leaflets try hard to disguise the fact he’s a Tory

Maybe it was the stress of mounting five half-arsed “petitions” since last month that made him forget to mention it.

Barwell campaign badgeBut there’s hardly a word in his latest leaflet to say that Gavin Barwell is a Conservative Party MP.

It is as if he’s ashamed to admit he’s a Tory.

With his own ex-boss, Lord Cashcroft, predicting defeat for the Tories in Croydon Central at the General Election next May, maybe there’s a touch of desperation seeping into Barwell’s campaign material.

Barwell’s petty petitions – doubtless conducted on his behalf by his state-funded constituency staff – have already come in for ridicule from journalistic outlets as varied as the Independent on Sunday and the Dorking-based Sadvertiser.

Even as a data-scraping exercise – to collect as many contact email addresses as possible ahead of the election – Barwell’s petitions have had limited success. According to Barwell’s office junior, “thousands” have signed up to the MP’s petitions. When pressed, the Barwell staffer, local councillor Mario Creatura, admitted that the five petitions had so far attracted little more than 3,000 signatories – many of whom may have signed more than one of the petitions (Creatura has opted to withhold that information. You can make up your own mind why).

Find the reference to the Conservatives... A party political leaflet without the party

Find the reference to the Conservatives… A party political leaflet without the party

That’s an average of around 600 per petition for largely spurious causes such as the development of school playing fields (“no plans” is the Labour council line, presumably until they have such plans), or the closure of a recycling centre in New Addington (without mentioning that a replacement recycling centre is to be provided), or there’s the particularly feeble one, the call for a proper Addiscombe-side entrance to the Bridge to Nowhere at East Croydon station, which Barwell’s Tory buddies paid for but failed to deliver when they were in charge of the council.

But 600-signatures-a-time is hardly encouraging levels of support for Barwell, now that he has discovered his campaigning “vigour” just months before the election.

Barwell appears to have been stung into this petitioning fervour after his Labour opponent, Sarah Jones, launched her Zone 4 campaign in October – something that appears to be a real initiative, and offers commuters a £300 annual reduction in their season tickets. The plight of commuters had escaped Barwell in his four years on the Government benches at Westminster, probably because much of the time he travels to Westminster by car…

The Zone 4 campaign is such a good idea, even Barwell has backed it, albeit belatedly. But apparently worried that he has been outdone by Jones, the Liverpool-supporting Sanderstead resident has come up with his flurry of petitions to appear to be concerned for the constituents of Croydon Central.

The leaflets could provide hours of endless fun over Christmas, as you challenge young children to find the word C-O-N-S-E-R-V-A-T-I-V-E

The leaflets could provide hours of endless fun over Christmas, as you challenge young children to find the word C-O-N-S-E-R-V-A-T-I-V-E

Barwell’s leaflets reflect the (usually bogus) issues raised in his petitions. But what they don’t show clearly is which political party the former deputy director of operations at the Conservative Party and Government junior whip represents.

You’d be hard-pressed to find the answer on his leaflets. Is he an independent, perhaps? The leaflets are very green in colour, so is he a born-again tree-hugger? Or maybe he’s from UKIP?

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Only in the small print do the Conservatives get a mention. Note the reference to “Conservative councillors”, but not to the MP himself as a Tory

The last time Barwell ran a parliamentary campaign, he did so for Andy Stranack in Croydon North in the November 2012 by-election. A year after the riots, the Tory brand was dripping with toxicity in Croydon North. Stranack was on to a loser against Labour from Day 1, and then, too, the Tory candidate’s campaign literature and videos were noticeable for the absence of any reference to the party of David Cameron and Gideon Osborne’s deeply divisive government.

Facing the political pinch between Labour’s Jones and UKIP’s Peter Staveley, it appears that Barwell has opted to hide the fact that he’s a Conservative MP. Well, who wouldn’t?


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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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