The barrel-scraping exercise that is Tory Gavin Barwell’s election campaign effort to try to show that he has the support of “ordinary people” in Croydon Central has been exposed yet again.
Earlier this month, Inside Croydon showed how gaffe-prone Gav had claimed as “supporters” fellow Tory party members, people who don’t actually live in the constituency and even one of his own employees in videos and his election leaflets.
Now, a Barwell campaign leaflet has been shown to include an endorsement from a south London businesswoman who was successfully prosecuted for failing to pay the minimum wage.
Neelofar Khan appears on the Barwell leaflet as “Croydon business owner”. For some reason, she has quotes attributed to her about the NHS and Barwell’s medical history, though her expertise in this area is unstated.
But there’s probably very good reason that Khan’s real “expertise” as a business-owner is not mentioned on Barwell’s leaflet.
In 2010, Khan put her business, which ran the Chilli Chutney restaurant in Streatham, into voluntary liquidation, owing more than £1 million to her creditors.
This followed an employment tribunal ordering Khan to pay more than £35,000 to an immigrant she had exploited on a salary less than the minimum wage. The wronged employee feared he would be denied his compensation when Khan’s company went into liquidation.
In reports at the time, Khan said she had not been able to prepare properly for the tribunal or attend the hearing because of the loss of a family member, and she would have appealed against the decision had it been financially viable.
Through another business entity, Khan continued in business as a director of Chilli Chutney restaurants in Waterloo and Croydon. She now runs Angel Catering, based on Dingwall Road.
Khan makes an interesting choice of endorser for Barwell’s faltering campaign in the marginal seat which the career politician has held since 2010.
Barwell is due to appear at the Croydon Federation of Small Businesses hustings on Friday evening. It may be a good time for him to explain why he chooses to boast of an endorsement from a businesswoman who can casually stiff her suppliers, staff and other creditors for a seven-figure amount.
The businesspeople at the Croydon Park Hotel event on Friday might also want to ask why Barwell sought the endorsement of a restaurant owner who employed someone as a £23,000-a-year executive chef, but then paid them just £600 in two months. They may also be keen to hear Barwell’s views of someone who, when reported to the authorities, made false allegations about the employee to the UK Border Agency – allegations which were deemed unfounded by the Employment Tribunal.
Of course, Barwell himself has a bit of a track record on paying the minimum wage. Last year, he advertised for two unpaid “interns” to work on his campaign for a six-month term – a practice which not only broke the law over the minimum wage, but is even counter to his own Conservative Party’s policy that true internships ought not last longer than four weeks.
Not for the first-time, Gaffe-prone Gav was forced into a U-turn after his conduct was highlighted by Inside Croydon. He revised his recruitment ad to seek “volunteers” for him to exploit for no wage, instead of interns.
When Neelofar Khan was caught out five years ago, her former employee accused her of being “a woman with two faces”. So maybe she is just the perfect person to endorse Gavin Barwell after all…
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