Tories accused of ‘Nasty Party’ tactics over bogus letters

“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 things like this, you can see why"

“They say the Tories are the ‘Nasty Party’. When you see things like this, you can see why”

“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 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.

Gavin Barwell's campaign has been blighted by own goals, including being caught out with his bogus letters of support

How the Standard broke the story of Barwell’s bogus letters back in March. Undaunted, the Croydon Tory still went ahead with them

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.

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.

"Transparently honest": One of the bogus Barwell letters. Sylvia Macdonald forgets to mention she was a Conservative candidate in last year's council elections

“Transparently honest”: One of the bogus Barwell letters. Sylvia Macdonald forgets to mention she was a Conservative candidate in last year’s council elections

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.

Gavin Barwell: has been caught out telling porkies again

Gavin Barwell: has been caught out telling porkies again

“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.

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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11 Responses to Tories accused of ‘Nasty Party’ tactics over bogus letters

  1. I was asked to write an endorsement letter for Gavin Barwell, and I was happy to do so. I wrote it in my own words. They are not “bogus” or ghost-written.

    • Delighted to hear it, John.

      And we assume that you are not suffering from ill-health at present.

      Will you condemn your party colleague, Gavin Barwell, from exploiting a frail and vulnerable adult to further his political campaign?

  2. Rod Davies says:

    There may have been more posters up, but since this news spread the people I have met have all expressed their shock and disgust that anyone should do such a thing.
    One neighbour asked the people on Saturday what it was that they were putting through the letter boxes, and got no answer. When I happened to ask Cllr Pollard whether it was another election leaflet he seemed a little uncomfortable about it.
    Regardless of the eventual outcome, at least the other political parties can in all good faith state clearly that they have run clean campaigns.

  3. marzia27 says:

    Can we explode the myth of “hard working MP”?
    I have come across many who went to seek help and, after a long wait, received nothing but a letter stating no help was forthcoming.
    We pay for the MP, his staff, paper and postage.
    Is a portcullised envelope worth that?

    • Rod Davies says:

      I think the perception of the “hard-working” MP tends to be determined by whether you are a beneficiary or not of that work.

      In Lebanon Road, for instance, the issue of traffic management has kicked around for over a decade, with petitions and requests for something to be done. Most people who live there have their “favourite stories” illustrating why something needed to be done. Despite it being a continuing issue, no Conservative politician was able to achieve a change, not least Mr Barwell.

      However, if you live in any of the areas away from the town centre, you’d probably be pleased that the Conservatives sought to ensure that none of the high-density development occurring in Croydon encroached upon your neighbourhood. Your view might then be very different than someone living on Cherry Orchard Road or nearby.

      If you live in Broad Green or similarly densely populated area, you might wonder why politicians didn’t note, after the riots, that these densely populated areas produce very high levels of tax income for central and local government in relation to the amount that is spent per square metre of public space. The relationship between public and private space in the town centre is very different to that of the leafy suburban streets, and the town relies on the centre to generate income. There is a popular assumption among the conservative middle class that they subsidise the poor, but analysis of the costs of operating a town like Croydon would suggest that this is not the case at all.

      But, like all politicians Mr Barwell looks after his core voters first and then the floating voters that may come over to him second. If your street is solidly Labour, Green or LibDem then you are inherently going to be at the bottom of the list.

      If you want to make Mr Barwell or any politician work hard for you, you must create the circumstances where if they don’t keep you sweet it could cost them their seat. But sadly most of us are too lazy to do that…..

  4. Just checked the definition of fraud. All concerned with the publication and distribution of these letters could be in a difficult position.

    • Rod Davies says:

      David, I am less concerned about the legality of the letter than the fundamental dishonesty and lack of concern for the well-being of another person. The Conservatives have absolutely debased the election by doing this, and I suspect based on my own observation and the comment of a neighbour that some have had at least the decency to appear embarrassed.
      We should have had an election campaign that was honest and straight-forward, where every candidate put their party logo on the flyers and made it absolutely clear the origins of any document.
      In my opinion it does not augur well for the future.

  5. Pingback: A Letter from a Neighbour, or is it? | East Croydon Community Organization - ECCO

  6. Rod Davies says:

    The latest from an ECCO member is that in response to an email, Mr Barwell thought everything’s just tickety-boo because the Conservatives printed his name on the back in very very small letters. He clearly missed the point of why people are not happy with this particular letter.

  7. titflasher says:

    We got one from what appeared to be Mario Creaturo’s wife about how nice Barfwell was to schoolkids. Pity that I’d seen him in action two years ago, demonising three youngsters who got themselves into a spot of bother – he got involved and thought it appropriate to send letters to everyone in the road, describing the issue and how he had “sorted it out”. Well done to Barfwell who managed to get them all criminal records … when most of us agreed that a couple of stern words would have done. His letter made a good litter tray lining after I had been over the road to reassure the family that not everyone in the road hated them (as was implied from our MPs’ missive).

  8. Marie Pace says:

    If you think these are bad, you obviously haven’t seen the most appalling of them all, exploiting a young girl’s death, no less, to try and prop himself up. I did scan a copy, so if you want to add it to the list and show your viewers, just let me know, I will be only too happy to oblige. I was disgusted that he had stooped that low, I had not realised that this is the one of many!

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