At least Gavin Barwell, the MP for the Whitgift Foundation, is consistent in one respect.
Barwell has just endured what he described as “a difficult week”, following his starring role on the front page of the Evening Boris for asking supporters to sign pre-drafted campaign letters that avoided mentioning David Cameron and the Conservative Party.
And yesterday, career politician Barwell was out in Croydon Central canvassing voters alongside Government Chief Whip Michael Gove, delivering his latest election leaflets.
The leaflets contain not a single mention of the Prime Minister by name. So no one can accuse Barwell of not being consistent when it comes to appearing to be ashamed of his own party leader.
The double-sided A4 leaflet includes no references in its copy to the Conservative Party, though it does have a couple of small party logos. It’s hardly what you might call nailing his Tory colours to the mast. But then, if you were a private school- and Oxbridge-educated MP in a marginal seat, being a Tory might be something else you’d want to avoid mentioning.
On a day when both Labour and Conservatives had 40 or more canvassers out on the streets – a sort of election campaign Armageddon for the besieged householders of Croydon Central – Gove’s role in delivering the latest Barwell leaflets is intriguing.
As chief whip, Gove is Barwell’s boss in parliament. Barwell was previously parliamentary private secretary to Gove at the Department for Education. That was before Gove got sacked as education secretary, mainly for being an obnoxious twat. Or a “Marmite figure”, as he was described by Conservative colleagues at the time.
Most Westminster observers predict that in May, if Cameron fails for a second time to deliver a majority Conservative Government, then the Tories will be baying for a new leader. Many predict that the leadership contest will be between Theresa May and Boris Johnson. But former Murdoch hack Gove is also a potential runner, offering an uber-right-wing option for the Nasty Party. Barwell and Gove appear to get along very well.
Barwell was rightly ridiculed earlier in the week for his Basil Fawlty-style “Don’t mention the Tories” letters. But the failure to mention David Cameron or the Conservative Party is not a minor oversight. It is a deliberate ploy, and one which Gove bought into with enthusiasm yesterday.
Take a look at this somewhat breathless video of the former minister: 45 seconds of badly shot VT in which Gove mentions neither his party leader nor the political party which he and Barwell are supposed to be proud to represent.
Gove sounds as if he is reading straight from one of the scripts for the letters which Barwell and his state-funded staff had drafted for their supporters to include in their bogus “Dear Neighbour” endorsements.
There’s no mention of the privatisation of the NHS, VAT hiked to 20 per cent, the Bedroom Tax nor tax-breaks for millionaires – all Tory policies which Barwell loyally voted for in the five years since he was elected. Just “vote for Gav, he’s an alright bloke”, according to Gove, with the sort of feeble reasoning which, had he submitted it when he was still writing leaders for the Murdoch-owned Times, would have been spiked in an instant.
Whether gaffe-prone Gav will still be an MP after the General Election to reciprocate support for Gove in any leadership ding-dong may depend on the persuasiveness, or otherwise, of the leaflets he and Gove went delivering yesterday.
In a poll of the Croydon Central constituency conducted before the latest clusterfuck committed by Barwell and his error-ridden parliamentary staff, Barwell was reported to be 4 per cent behind his Labour challenger, Sarah Jones.
With parliament about to be prorogued, meaning he will not be able to use his parliamentary office or his MP’s Twitter account, his leaflet announces that he has launched the @BackBarwell account. This demonstrates that maybe there’s a degree of paranoia seeping into the Barwell campaign: the account is protected, preventing anyone other than followers who are “approved” (presumably by the office tea-boy, Coulsdon councillor Mario Creatura) from seeing what the MP has been saying or boasting about. As we published this report, it had zero followers, and Barwell had blocked Inside Croydon from viewing his social media activity on the new account. A bit like Anne Piles. [Mar 24 UPDATE: Barwell (or rather Creatura) has now transferred all his Twitter activity to the @BackBarwell account and Inside Croydon continues to have access to his social media musings].
But Barwell’s other public comments make it clear that his campaign is aimed at narrowing the gap on Jones more by appealing to UKIP voters than by his pushing his Conservative Party association: “Floating voters moving our way, UKIP voters returning to us + some Labour switchers,” Barwell said of his Saturday’s canvassing.
Imagine that: having to depend on UKIP supporters for their backing to prolong your political career.
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