96 days to go and councillors’ self-interest is showing

Have you had someone with a rosette knock at your door yet? You will, says WALTER CRONXITE, you will. Though how the tax-payers of Croydon will benefit from one of the longest election campaigns in history is questionable

Gavin Barwell, MP for the Whitgift Foundation, out on the knock last weekend, with the help of several publicly funded 'friends'

Gavin Barwell, MP for the Whitgift Foundation, out on the knock in Addiscombe last weekend, with the help of several publicly funded ‘friends’

Fed up with the election campaign yet?

The political chatter this week has been of “100 days to go” until General Election day on May 7. One. Hundred. Bloody. Days.

Gone are the days of “snap elections” and one-month campaigns. We should blame the LibDems, who on getting into government for the first time in a century have inflicted upon the rest of us fixed-term parliaments. Hey presto, we have a “Zombie Parliament”, which started running low on its legislative programme a year ago.

With our MPs under-occupied, we now have this over-stretched charm offensive inflicted upon us.

And so much of it is being subsidised, if only indirectly, by… the tax-payer.

The political class enjoys nothing better than an election campaign, especially if someone else is paying.

Take, as an example, the photograph above, from last weekend, when the Conservative MP for the Whitgift Foundation, Gavin Barwell, was out and about in Addiscombe, trying to convince people in January of how they should vote in May. “Record number of people out canvassing today,” he said, as if it was something of which to boast that so many people did not have something more productive to do with their time.

We reckon that there’s 35 people in the Tory picture, plus the photographer.

Of them, we can identify (from the left):

  • Councillor Dudley Mead, deputy leader of the Tory group on Croydon Council (paid £1,689.59 in council “allowances” for December 2014)
  • Councillor Maria Gatland, member of the Conservatives’ shadow cabinet (paid £1,498.84 in council “allowances” for December 2014)
  • Councillor Chris Wright (£936.59 in council allowances, Dec 14)
  • Councillor Margaret Mead, another member of the shadow cabinet at the Town Hall (£1,498.84 in council “allowances”, Dec 14)
  • Councillor Tim Pollard, notionally the “leader” of the Conservatives on Croydon Council (for which he trousered a juicy £2,734.43 in December)
  • An unidentified* Tory activist
  • Eddy Arram, a former Croydon councillor, still employed at public expense to work in Barwell’s office
  • An unidentified Tory activist
  • An unidentified Tory activist
  • An unidentified Tory activist
  • Councillor Helen Pollard (£1,498.84 in council allowances in Dec 14)
  • An unidentified Tory activist
  • An unidentified Tory activist
  • Councillor Jan Buttinger (£1,498.84 in allowances in Dec 14)
  • Councillor Sara Bashford, who receives two lots of public payments, as in addition to her council allowances (£1,813.42 in Dec 14) is also paid a public salary, estimated as up to £25,000 per year, for working in Barwell’s constituency office
  • Gavin Barwell MP, who receives a public-funded salary of £92,362 as MP and a government whip…

The second group, to the right of the picture, is more clustered together, and therefore more difficult to identify. However, we believe that also inflicting themselves on the people of Addiscombe last weekend include:

  • Councillor Jason Cummings, the recipient of £1,498.84 in council allowances in Dec 2014
  • Councillor Sue Bennett, who receives £936.58 per month in council allowances, to top-up the public-funded salary she gets for working in the office of Gavin Barwell
  • Councillor Jason Perry (£1,498.84 in council allowances in Dec 14),
  • Councillor Steve Hollands (£936.58 per month in council allowances) and
  • Councillor Mario Creatura, who now banks £936.58 per month in council allowances on top of his generous public-paid salary for making the teas in MP Barwell’s office.

Yes: 15 elected councillors or publicly funded political workers spending a large part of their weekend lobbying Croydon residents on behalf of Gavin Barwell.

It’s reasonable to surmise that these attendees were not running ward surgeries last Saturday morning to hear the problems of or to assist the residents in their Conservative wards.

What does any of this do to benefit ordinary Croydon residents and the borough as a whole? It’s hard not to suggest nothing whatsoever. And there’s still another three months of this to come.

In addition to Creatura, Bashford, Bennett and Arram, Barwell also employs another two in his office, all paid for out of our taxes, and we can assume that for the next 13 weeks these public servants’ activities will have an increasing focus on getting their boss re-elected – and keeping themselves in a job, too – rather than on real constituency demands.

Same day, same schtick, different political party: this was Sarah Jones's canvassing group pic from last weekend. Only two people in this photo are not paid Labour councillors -

Same day, same schtick, different political party: this was Sarah Jones’s Labour canvassing group pic from last weekend. Only three people in this photo are not paid Croydon councillors – one of those is the candidate and another his her constituency party secretary

That, of course, is an important part of the benefits of an MP’s incumbency. It can be self-perpetuating. No other candidates in Croydon Central will have the help of six staff, as well as their party-funded election agent, as Barwell does. And if you are a local councillor, your own prospects (and therefore, allowances) are often much-improved if you have the backing of someone from your own party as the local MP.

The Tories are not alone in this long campaign game, of course.

Social media has a lot to answer for: even if you’re lucky to miss the political classes arriving on your doorstep like a bunch of less-well-dressed Mormons, your Twitter timeline can’t escape another cheery picture of canvassers ready to proselytise for their favoured candidate.

When Sarah Jones, Labour’s candidate in the Croydon Central constituency, had her obligatory group shot done on the same day as her Tory rival, it showed 13 people. Ten of them are serving Croydon councillors, and four of those are cabinet members, receiving up to £4,435.25 per month in council allowances (in the case of council leader Tony Newman).

Of the three non-councillors in the picture, there was Jones herself, David White, the constituency party secretary, and Margaret Wicks, widow of the late MP for Croydon North.

Of course, it was a Saturday, and they are all entitled to do what they like in their own time. But isn’t it very telling that so few people pictured are “ordinary” party members, or local residents, out on the streets simply out of conviction rather than, possibly,  unenlightened self-interest?

The election campaign will see an awful lot of time and energy being expended by our elected representatives, and to what real end? To whose advantage?

And to think there’s “just” another 96 days to go…

*Profuse apologies to anyone we missed or didn’t manage to identify. Barwell really ought to employ someone with better photography skills. If you are an activist or a councillor in the picture and we haven’t managed to name you, do please get in touch

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About insidecroydon

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
This entry was posted in 2015 General Election, Addiscombe West, Chris Wright, Croydon Central, Dudley Mead, Eddy Arram, Gavin Barwell, Helen Pollard, Jan Buttinger, Jason Cummings, Jason Perry, Louisa Woodley, Maggie Mansell, Malcolm Wicks MP, Margaret Mead, Maria Gatland, Mario Creatura, Mark Watson, Patricia Hay-Justice, Robert Canning, Sara Bashford, Sarah Jones MP, Steve Hollands, Tim Pollard, Timothy Godfrey, Tony Newman, Wayne Lawlor, Whitgift Foundation and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to 96 days to go and councillors’ self-interest is showing

  1. Jon Bigger says:

    Actually the coalition government ran low on legislation more than a year ago because there was actually so little the two parties put in their agreement. All the major stuff was done in the first two years.

    This produces a problem though.. “A little less legislation, a little more action please” as Elvis might have said. We have enough laws, already. You’d think they would have perfected rules and regulations by now, they’ve had centuries to get it right.So on the one had we get less governing or interference.

    But the knock on effects of the end of government by legislation is that you get government by fire-fighting – they rove towards whatever the press is concerned about and use their substantial non-legislative powers instead.

    The fixed term nature of our system has changed the country in ways we don’t fully understand yet but this article highlights how it’s impacting on local government very well.

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