After five years in parliament, Gavin Barwell, the MP for the Whitgift Foundation, has finally made it on to the front page of the Evening Boris.
“London Tory MP: Don’t Mention Cameron”, the commuters’ favourite paper’s headline states, after Joe Murphy, the Standard’s political editor, got his hands on some sample letters which Barwell’s “team” have foisted on to friends, family and any other willing victims, asking them to distribute as endorsements of the MP’s work.
Inside Croydon’s loyal reader will be familiar with the schtick: just like Basil Fawlty’s aversion to mentioning the war, Barwell’s been issuing election material that goes out of its way not to mention that he, or any local candidate he’s backing, is connected with the Conservative Party since at least 2012, when he “masterminded” (if that’s the word) the Tory by-election campaign in Croydon North.
Last year’s Tory campaign for the local elections, where Barwell had influence, were similarly notable for the avoidance of too many mentions of the party of Government.
Career politician Barwell has spent his time as an MP assiduously cultivating his own career. What he has not been able to alter is the constituency seat he represents, which is a marginal and Labour target at the General Election in May. In a close-run election, today’s hilarious report could prove to be a costly unforced error.
Thanks to the “help” of his state-funded team of parliamentary and constituency workers, gaffe-prone Gav has already managed to drop more bollocks than a dairy farmer tending to bull calves.
But today’s is surely the most embarrassing yet. As a junior government whip, Barwell would be expected to be unwaveringly loyal to his party leader, so this apparent attempt to distance himself from David Cameron is likely to back-fire on him within the party, as well as to cause him even more public ridicule.
Given that the draft letters, addressed “Dear neighbour”, try to make out that Barwell is an anti-politics candidate – “I have to confess, I have a pretty negative view of politicians as a whole, but I was really impressed with Gavin”, one of them says – this discovery will see him portrayed as the worst sort of politician.
“What is so unfortunate for Gavin is that this all looks so false and calculating when voters are already very sceptical of politicians and their ways of operation,” said Andrew Pelling, now a Labour councillor and Barwell’s predecessor as MP for Croydon Central.
The latest gaffe will also raise questions about the competency, or lack of it, of Barwell and his six-strong staff, three of whom are also Croydon councillors.
Barwell escaped personal sanction in 2010 for failing to account properly for his election expenses, when his election agent had to appear in court, and he was given an official warning for sending out political recruitment letters to constituents which misused Parliament’s portcullis logo. Most recently, one of his state-funded staffers admitted that Barwell did little of his own social media activity because he “has no idea”.
Tonight, Barwell tried to shrug off the report as a “complete non-story”. Which was about as convincing as one of gaffe-prone Gav’s “Dear neighbour” letters.
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