HAS GAV GIVEN UP (Part 94): Not so much a straw in the wind. More an entire bale of hay that shows the Conservatives are very worried for the fate of their former Tory HQ wonk, Gavin Barwell, as last night’s Evening Standard was reporting that they are ordering candidates in other nearby seats to trot along to Croydon Central to canvass for the beleaguered MP.
For Tom Brake, the Liberal Democrat MP in nearby Carshalton and Wallington, life between now and election day on May 7 may have just got a whole lot easier.
According to the Evening Boris, it is the multi-hyphened Tory who is supposed to be standing against Brake, Matthew Maxwell-Scott (full name: Matthew Joseph Constable-Maxwell-Scott, the Wandsworth-based brother of a baronet, no less) who has been given his marching orders. Constable-Maxwell-Scott can now be expected to be spotted wandering aimlessly around the Whitgift Centre, trying to hand out leaflets with Gav’s picture on them but no obvious mention of the Conservative Party.
Barwell always did promise that he’d deliver more constables on to the streets of Croydon; he just never explained it would be Constable-Maxwell-Scotts.
The Standard reported that it had seen a memo from Tory Party chairman Grant Shapps to what it describes as “an activist in Carshalton and Wallington”, which stated: “Obviously, we want to make sure that your help is being utilised to the most value. With this in mind we’d be really grateful if you could help out in Croydon Central.
“I appreciate that this may not be your home constituency, but it is absolutely vital that we get all offers of support into our most marginal seats.”
Given that the Tories might have eyed Brake’s seat in Sutton, with its 5,000 vote majority from 2010, as potentially winnable, especially with support for the FibDems in a state of utter collapse, this “re-deployment” of their resources in south London is very significant. Shapps’ SOS to save Gavin’s skin may also be bitterly resented by ambitious Tory candidates who have been told to abandon their own campaigning for the likes of Croydon’s career politician.
Barwell, who entered Parliament in 2010 with a majority of less than 3,000, faces an triple assault: from Labour’s Sarah Jones, from UKIP (whose candidate is Peter Staveley), and from the possibility that previous LibDem supporters will take their votes to Labour this time round.
As Inside Croydon reported last year, a poll by Lord Cashcroft – Barwell’s old boss when they worked for the Conservative Party – put Jones 6 per cent ahead, and had UKIP eating into Tory support in Croydon Central.
The Standard report included a Tory denial of the Shapps email, but the paper also quoted from the ConservativeHome website, where an unnamed Tory candidate told of a meeting with other hopefuls, saying that they had been told that we “… must run along to the nearest targeted seat and start delivering leaflets”.
Of course, there is nothing new in the political parties targeting winnable – or defending losable – seats. In 2010, and as seems likely in 2015, Labour in Croydon pretty much abandoned any campaigning in Croydon South, as their resources were targeted in the marginal Croydon Central. Tough luck on The Hon Emily Benn…
There was further evidence of this, and how MPs and candidates in safe seats are therefore able to take their constituency for granted and go off to proselytise elsewhere, last weekend.
Steve Reed OBE was not out canvassing the people of Croydon, neither in his own constituency of Lambeth South, nor with Jones in the Labour target seat of Croydon Central. No, the Heathfield resident had more important things to do, canvassing on the south coast in Hove for the Progress Party, the Blairite party-within-a-party. With a humongous majority in his constituency guaranteeing him the seat for life, Reed has the political luxury of picking and choosing where he canvasses.
Likewise Chris Philp, the inheritor of a 16,000 majority in Croydon South as the Tory candidate. Philp was not to be seen in Purley or Coulsdon last Saturday, but was doing his bit to try to keep Gav in a job, tramping the streets of New Addington.
We have reported in the past how Croydon Tories have worried about recruiting new, and younger, members. In the local elections in the borough last year, the Conservatives struggled because they could not canvass in sufficient numbers across several key wards, including New Addington, Addiscombe and Ashburton. In the end, they lost all three wards to Labour; all three wards are in Barwell’s Croydon Central constituency.
The photo (above) of the merry band of Tory activists which was published on social media by party loyalist Philp reinforces the point about the lack of manpower in Croydon Conservatives, and how disengaged from “ordinary people” the party political process has become.
Of 21 people in the picture, at least eight of them have been on the public pay-roll as local councillors or MPs, or as employees of an MP. In a couple of cases, both. As Barwell himself has noted, if he loses his job as the MP, his staff – of six – will lose their jobs, too.
So now you know why they want your vote.
- Ashcroft offers Barwell a job reference – before the election
- Barwell’s secretive dining club close to breaking MPs’ code
- MP Barwell’s leaflet try hard to disguise the fact that he’s a Tory
- Barwell given economics lesson from professor on Twitter
Coming to Croydon
- Storytime (for under-8s), Oval Tavern, Addiscombe, Jan 17
- David Lean Cinema, Hannah Arendt, Jan 20
- David Lean Cinema, The Imitation Game, Jan 22
- South Croydon business breakfast, Jan 24
- Storytime (for under-8s), Oval Tavern, Addiscombe, Jan 24
- David Lean Cinema, Night Will Fall, Jan 27 (Holocaust Memorial Day)
- David Lean Cinema, Kon-Tiki, Jan 29
- Storytime (for under-8s), Oval Tavern, Addiscombe, Jan 31
- Soul Symphony Community Choir taster session, Feb 3
- Eagle Improv, Spread Eagle Theatre, Feb 4
- Storytime (for under-8s), Oval Tavern, Addiscombe, Feb 7
- Tales of Love, Lost and Found, Spread Eagle Theatre, Feb 7
- Uninvited Guests, Spread Eagle Theatre, Feb 11-13
- Norwood Society talk: Crystal Palace and Dulwich, Feb 19
- Rosie Wilby, Spread Eagle Theatre, Feb 27
- Amy Wadge and Luke Jackson, Stanley Halls, Feb 28
- Holmes Alone, Spread Eagle Theatre, Mar 6
- Eagle Improv, Spread Eagle Theatre, Mar 11
- Iain Lee, Spread Eagle Theatre, Mar 14
- Norwood Society talk: Charlies Dickens in Norwood, Mar 19
- Eagle Improv, Spread Eagle Theatre, Apr 8
- Anatomy of the Piano, Spread Eagle Theatre, Apr 15
- Patrick Monahan, Spread Eagle Theatre, Apr 16-17
- Norwood Society: Balloons and airships at Crystal Palace, Apr 16
- South Norwood Community Festival, July 5
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