Shapps sends an SOS for Barwell: Save Our Salaries

Don't PanicHAS 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.

A cartoon by Peter Brookes of The Times from a decade ago. Might his Lordship be exercising some influence over how Barwell's campaign is run?

A cartoon by Peter Brookes of The Times. Might Lord Cashcroft be exercising some influence over how Barwell’s campaign is run in 2015?

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.

Conservatives canvassing in New Addington last weekend.

Conservatives canvassing in New Addington last weekend. Of 21 people, one is the candidate, another is a candidate in Croydon South, six are councillors or former councillors, and two of those are employed in the constituency office of Gavin Barwell while another is his election agent

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.

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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
This entry was posted in 2015 General Election, Addiscombe West, Ashburton, Chris Philp MP, Coulsdon, Croydon Central, Croydon North, Croydon South, Emily Benn, Gavin Barwell, Mario Creatura, Sarah Jones MP, Steve Reed MP, Tom Brake MP and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Shapps sends an SOS for Barwell: Save Our Salaries

  1. Pingback: Lib Dems fight to hold Tories at bay on the Surrey fringe | Coombe Monthly

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