WALTER CRONXITE has uncovered another embarrassing episode for the MP for the Whitgift Foundation: Barwell’s Basil Fawlty-esque letters are now being officially investigated for a breach of Parliamentary privilege
Gavin Barwell, the MP for the Whitgift Foundation for the last five years, is back in bother over his dodgy campaigning activities.
Gaffe-prone Gav made the front page of the Evening Standard earlier this month after he sent out letters urging his supporters to write to their neighbours supporting him, but asking them to avoid mentioning David Cameron or the Conservative Party.
It was embarrassing enough that Barwell’s “Don’t Mention the Tories” letters were discovered on the eve of the election campaign.
But it looks as if they might be dogging Barwell, like a nasty smell, until well after Easter, since the letters contained another feature which has seen him listed as being subject to an investigation of his conduct by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards.
In Barwell’s case, though, this is not the first time he has been up before the Parliamentary beak.
Barwell’s now notorious draft of a letter that he asked supporters to forward to their friends – “Dear neighbour, I have to confess, I have a pretty negative view of politicians as a whole, but I was really impressed with Gavin” – was sent from his Parliamentary email address.
This, and the other facilities which he enjoyed as an MP, including no fewer than six state-funded members of staff, were intended to be used strictly for his Parliamentary duties, and never for party political purposes.
Although he was coy about calling himself a Conservative, Gav made it clear in his letter that he was seeking support against his Labour opponent in the General Election, so he can hardly squirm his way out of this one by claiming that the letter was “non-political”.
The matter has been referred to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, Kathryn Hudson, and Barwell appears on her website alongside two out-going House of Commons bad boys, Malcolm Rifkind and Jack Straw, who are being investigated over allegations that they offered their services to a private company for cash, as exposed in the recent Channel 4 “sting”.
We’ll await with interest the outcome of the inquiry, but Gav has form when it comes to questionable conduct, as we have reported before:
2. In the 2012 Mayoral Elections, Gav passed on his constituents’ email addresses to the Conservative Party, in breach of the Data Protection Act. He was reported to the Information Commissioner and had to apologise to those concerned.
3. In 2013 the Compliance Officer for IPSA, the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, wrote to Gav offering “suggestions regarding the future use of social media by his staff” following complaints that Gav’s assistant, Mario Creatura, was spending long hours sending out party political tweets during the working day, when he was funded by the taxpayer.
4. Also in 2013, Gav used the royal portcullis logo on letters he sent to residents asking them to come forward as prospective Conservative candidates for the council elections. While this was being investigated, he sent out further letters, earning him a rebuke from the Parliamentary Commissioner.
5. Last year, Barwell tried to recruit “unpaid interns” to work on his campaign for six months, until the lobby group Intern Aware made the MP aware that this was exploitative and against several elements of employment law, including the minimum wage. Gav backed down, and asked for “volunteers” instead.
Maybe Barwell will ask for his five previous offences to be taken into consideration when he’s called in to give account of himself this time round?
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- MP Barwell’s leaflets try hard to disguise the fact he’s a Tory
- Barwell at odds with Twitter over his own chances of re-election
- Barwell aide: ‘Gavin has no idea. He trusts me to do whatever’
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