Gavin Barwell’s been a naughty boy again. And got away with it with nothing more than a very mild slap on the wrist. Again.
Oh, how the Tory Government’s Holder of the Royal Bed Chamber Pot must quake in his boots every time he gets a call from the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner.
Mind you, that is an oxymoron waiting to happen: “parliamentary” and “standards” in the same sentence? The public are right to be cynical about “parliamentary standards” when the likes of Barwell is caught bang to rights on an issue of integrity and abuse of office for a fourth time, and the authorities opt to take no action. Again.
This time, Barwell, the cheerleader-in-chief for all things Westfield and Whitgift in the town centre, slimed his way off the hook of a complaint that he broke the MPs’ strict code of conduct in his now notorious appeal to Conservative supporters to write letters of support for his campaign, but not to mention his own party’s leader, David Cameron, nor the Tory Party. Presumably, this was done because Barwell considered that Cameron and the Tories would damage his hopes of being re-elected as MP for Croydon Central. In the event, he won the seat by a 165-vote margin.
Kathryn Hudson, the Commissioner for Parliamentary Standards, has now ruled that Barwell’s letter broke the rules because he abused his parliamentary email address, and not that of his campaign. Barwell apologised and described the matter as an “honest mistake”.
How incompetent does Barwell expect us to believe that he and his staff – including Croydon Tory councillors Mario Creatura, Jason Cummings, Sara Bashford and Sue Bennett – really are? Can any of these people be relied upon to manage anything properly?
“Gavin has a cavalier attitude toward the rules. He’s in a privileged position as an MP and has access to facilities he should not misuse,” said David White, the secretary of the Croydon Central Labour Party, who filed the complaint.
In the Commissioner’s letter to White, she said that Barwell “has apologised for his breach of the rules, which he has told me arose through an honest mistake; he has told me that the header for his letter should have included his campaign email address and not his parliamentary email address.
“I have, therefore, upheld your complaint. I consider that Mr Barwell has made an acceptable response to it. I accept the rectification as an appropriate resolution and I now regard the matter as closed. I will report the outcome briefly to the Committee on Standards”.
Since becoming MP in 2010, Barwell has broken rules on parliamentary conduct and Data Protection on three other occasions. In 2012, he was caught “data-scraping”, and sending constituents’ personal details to Boris Johnson when he was running for London Mayor.
In 2014, in another complaint from White, Barwell’s abuse of Parliamentary headed notepaper – with the Royal Portcullis emblem – was investigated. The ruling was found to be “just the right side of OK”.
On that occasion, the Parliamentary Commissioner told Barwell: “My view is that your letters are very much on the border of being party political in nature and your decision to be ‘deliberately opaque’ merely attempts to disguise this.”
And Barwell has also had to be “advised” about his staff’s – particularly Creatura’s – overly enthusiastic use of Twitter and social media to promote “Brand Barwell”, rather than get on with their tax-payer funded jobs in office hours.
With this latest example, albeit minor, of the Establishment covering one another’s backs, and given Parliamentary Commissioner Hudson’s somewhat slack attitude to this series of regular transgressions, maybe someone should suggest that her office should be closed down to save public money for all the good they do.
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