“We were angry when we received this political letter. It’s got Jenny’s name on it, but it has very little to do with her. She had a serious stroke last year and she’s been housebound for the past few weeks. She is a vulnerable old lady. She couldn’t argue a political point if someone came to her door after receiving this letter. There’s no question that Gavin Barwell knows about this: I had a doorstep conversation with him about Jenny’s condition. And yet he still put out this letter to try to boost his campaign. He must be really desperate.
“It’s wrong that they should exploit Jenny in this way.
“They say the Tories are the ‘Nasty Party’. When you see them doing things like this, you can see why.”
Those are the words of an Addiscombe resident who contacted Inside Croydon over the weekend to express the concern of his wife and himself over the treatment of their neighbour by Croydon Conservatives, and specifically Gavin Barwell, who is campaigning to hang on to his political career as MP for Croydon Central.
We have also been in contact with other residents of the same street who are similarly concerned, angry and shocked at how a vulnerable adult has been exploited by Barwell to further his political campaign.
Over the weekend, Croydon Tories began distributing a series of letters door-to-door. These letters if seen together – which individual voters would never do – all look similar, designed as if they’d been written on lined paper by hand, addressed to “Dear Neighbour”, and purporting to come from an “ordinary” Croydon resident. But they include some familiar-looking phrases. And only in very small print on the back are the tell-tale signs, the election agent’s imprint, as is required by the law.
These letters supporting Gavin Barwell were largely drafted by Barwell’s office, at Barwell’s request, and paid for and distributed by Barwell’s campaign. They are, of course, bogus, all part of Bogus Barwell’s bid to get re-elected on Thursday.
Barwell clearly has no shame, because even though his bogus letter campaign was found-out, he ploughed on with it in any case, all paid for, no doubt, with donations from exiled oligarchs and the Tory PR spinner who is working on a campaign to make it easier to flog-off the NHS to private companies.
Barwell was caught red-handed with this aspect of his campaign in March, when his instructions to supporters for writing these letters were leaked to the Evening Standard. “I am not asking you to write a political letter – in fact it will be much more effective if it doesn’t mention the Conservative Party or David Cameron,” Barwell had written to local party activists, inviting them to be as devious, and bogus, as him.
So far, Inside Croydon has seen three versions of the letter. There may be others.
One purports to come from Sylvia Macdonald. The grammatical errors in its introduction may be deliberate, just to make the letter appear “real”.
The letter includes little white lies: “I’d never normally write to my neighbours about the candidates,” Sylvia Macdonald writes in her version of the bogus Barwell letter. This may seem odd to those who remember that Sylvia Macdonald was herself a candidate, for the Conservatives, in last year’s local elections, when she delivered many hundreds of leaflets to her neighbourhood with messages about the candidates, including herself. Perhaps Macdonald has uncomfortable memories of the 2014 election: she was one of the Tories standing in Ashburton who lost that ward to Labour for the first time in history.Macdonald’s bogus Barwell letter doesn’t mention that she was a failed Conservative candidate in the local election. But she does claim that Barwell is “transparently honest” and that “… he lives in the midst of us”, by which she must mean Sanderstead.
Another letter purports to be from a Year 13 pupil, Ella Hallums, who had the benefit of some work experience with Barwell at the House of Commons last year, where she says she saw him working to raise “… the standards in local schools”. Presumably Barwell demonstrated that by being the chairman of governors at the private, £15,000-per-year Trinity School and by choosing to send his eldest son to a grammar school that’s not in Croydon.
But the version of the bogus Barwell letter which has caused most concern is that purporting to be from Jenny Walker.
Jenny Walker does indeed exist: she was, for many years, a Conservative Party activist, distributing many thousands of leaflets in her own time. She won’t be able to deliver any leaflets in 2015 – she’s simply not well enough to do so.
After receiving his “Dear Neighbour” letter, one of Jenny Walker’s neighbours contacted us to complain: “I doubt whether Jenny is able to sign her own name, never mind write a letter now. She’s just so very frail.
“My biggest concern is that if someone identifies who she is from the partial address on the letter thrust through their door, then they might pay her a visit. And she’s in no fit state to discuss politics with anyone.
“There’s no question that Gavin Barwell knew about this. We spoke about it. It’s as if he couldn’t care less. How desperate must they be if they couldn’t find another name of another Barwell supporter to put on one of their bogus letters?”
The Jenny Walker letters were distributed down her own street over the weekend by Tory activists including Councillor Tim Pollard, the leader of the Conservative group on Croydon Council. So the responsibility for this reckless, desperate act of electioneering is not only Barwell’s.
Another resident of the same street, who saw Pollard acting as Barwell’s messenger boy, said, “I have no problem with other individual residents writing letters to their neighbours urging support of one proposal or another.“Where I do have a problem is when someone seeking my support in an election distributes promotion material that is intended to deceive. This letter isn’t bogus, it is dishonest in fact and spirit.
“The letter says that it isn’t ‘political’, when that’s exactly what it is.
“If the Conservative Party considered it acceptable to produce and distribute material intended to deceive then the party cannot be trusted and does not deserve to be elected. This letter plays upon our susceptibility to give ear to our neighbours, when we might not give the same credibility to a political figure. It is indicative a profoundly corrupt culture within the Croydon Conservatives if they cannot be honest and straightforward with people.”
Gavin Barwell did not respond to our approach about his treatment of Jenny Walker, presumably as he was too busy having one of his aides tweet pictures of him with the hashtag #GoodLocalMP. We assume that this is not meant as irony from the MP for the Whitgift Foundation.
Meanwhile, Inside Croydon visited Jenny Walker’s street this morning, and surveyed the campaign posters in people’s homes. There was only one poster for the Conservatives, and it was not in Jenny Walker’s house.
- Bogus Barwell’s donors include exiled oligarch and a PR selling-off NHS
- Bogus Barwell shows his true colours as the millionaires’ mate
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