Just like cabinet, Croydon’s Tory MPs look split over Europe

The political posturing and positioning over the European referendum extends to Croydon’s two Conservative MPs, who appear to be split much like Prime Minister David Cameron’s cabinet.

European referendumAs one Westminster pundit has observed, the referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union on June 23 has become a de facto Tory leadership campaign, with the likes of cabinet member Michael Gove and London Mayor Boris Johnson keeping Cameron dangling over which way they will go in the EU hokey-cokey.

And so it is with Gavin Barwell and Chris Philp, the Tory members for Croydon Central and Croydon South, neither of whom wanted to declare which way they would turn before Cameron completed his negotiations in Brussels.

With one, Barwell, being a career politician, and the other, Philp, a millionaire property developer, it is unsurprising that their decisions ultimately reflect their own personal interests.

Not sure if he's in or out: Croydon South MP Chris Philp

Not sure if he’s in or out: Croydon South MP Chris Philp

For now, Philp is stalling. Still.

Though yesterday he did give an indication of sorts, quoting a Eurovision Song Contest winner (Bucks Fizz, 1981, since you ask), so maybe he might yet lean towards “Stay”.

“Still making my mind up,” Philp said in response to Inside Croydon.

“Need to read the full deal and listen to PM in Parliament on Monday. Arguments very finely balanced in my view.”

Or maybe he’s waiting to see which way Boris Johnson jumps. As a Westminster new boy Philp won’t want to blot his copy book by getting on the wrong side of a potential next Tory leader, after all.

That the battle lines within the Tory Party have already been drawn is demonstrated amply by Cameron, who has managed to label Eurosceptics in his own cabinet as “suspicious”, “misleading” and lazy. And that’s just in the first 24 hours since he fired the referendum starting gun.

Cameron’s loyal party whip Barwell’s position, given his slavish devotion, ought not be a surprise, and yesterday he published a typically dissembling outline of why he is siding with the Prime Minister and will be supporting the Stay campaign.

Barwell hardly makes an enthusiastic case for the deal brokered by his boss in Brussels, though. “Despite David Cameron’s best efforts, the EU will still be far from perfect. The world wouldn’t end if we left it. But I believe that we will be more prosperous, more secure and have more influence in the world if we remain in the EU,” Barwell wrote.

Gavin Barwell: has he done the decent thing? Or been told to do so?

Gavin Barwell MP: now he’s been re-elected, he’s decided he wants to stay in the EU

Then, Barwell turned a little nasty: “If you’re undecided, I’ll leave you with one final thought: look at the politicians on either side of the argument. The Prime Minister and all three of his surviving predecessors – John Major, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown – believe we should remain in the EU. And on the night the Prime Minister announced his deal, who were the main speakers at the Leave rally? Nigel Farage and George Galloway. Which of these two groups of politicians do you think has the better grasp of what’s best for Britain?”

How is that misleading? It’s in what Barwell doesn’t tell you.

Yes, Farage and Galloway ought to discredit any campaign with which they are associated. But what Barwell hasn’t mentioned is the names of his senior party colleagues who are now also part of the Leave campaign: Michael Gove, Chris Grayling, Iain Duncan Smith, John Whittingdale, Theresa Villiers and Priti Patel. And probably Boris Johnson, too.

Last year, some of these very people were out on the streets of Croydon helping Barwell to get re-elected. He wasn’t questioning their “grasp of what’s best for Britain” then.

“It’s difficult finding yourself at odds with people you normally agree with,” Barwell the chameleon whines. Poor thing. Perhaps if he ever gave the impression that he actually believed in something, rather than spouted whatever was most expedient to furthering his own political career, he might actually gain some respect.

For instance, what about those Croydon Central floating voters who want Britain to leave the EU, whose crosses in the ballot box last May might have been decisive in Barwell’s excruciatingly close 165-vote victory? What was he telling them about Brexit on the doorstep just eight months ago? Barwell promised that they’d get a referendum, rather than admitting what position he would take. Barwell couldn’t risk alienating any wavering UKIPpers, after all.

There's a job-lot of these  T-shirts in need of a home in Croydon South

There’s a job-lot of these T-shirts in need of a home in Croydon South

Tories and referendums are what got us here in the first place. Conservative leader Ted Heath won the 1970 General Election on the promise that he would stage a referendum before Britain would join what was then the EEC. Then Heath signed the Treaty, the six became nine, and there was no referendum. Labour’s Harold Wilson put that right in 1975, but by then the question to the people had significantly changed: “Leave or Stay?” is different from “Join?”

And that’s what we face again in 2016, and again Big Business and the Establishment is swinging strongly behind the Europhile position.

At this point, perhaps we should mention Croydon’s third MP, Steve Reed OBE. As a devoted Blairite, it’s fair to assume that Reed will be for Stay, probably regardless of the views of his Constituency Labour Party in Croydon North, where its rapidly growing membership is finding that their Progress MP is out of step with many of their views.

At a grassroots level, some Croydon activists have been organising ahead of the referendum, though not always successfully.

The Stronger In campaign appointed a local organiser in Croydon South at the beginning of the month who quit the role within a fortnight. Someone now has to re-distribute the campaign’s stock of use-once-and-throw-away T-shirts.

The Brexit campaign’s activist recruitment has been little better, with Gareth Streeter, the Tories’ failed “local” candidate in Ashburton ward in 2014 and who then fought, and lost, in a Yorkshire seat at last year’s General Election, is back and busying himself.

With Streeter’s track record at elections, it is maybe not the most auspicious of appointments. Or maybe Tory councillor Mario Creatura could organise a petition to help out?

About insidecroydon

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 inside.croydon@btinternet.com
This entry was posted in 2016 EU referendum, Ashburton, Chris Philp MP, Croydon Central, Croydon North, Croydon South, Gareth Streeter, Gavin Barwell, Mario Creatura, Steve Reed MP and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Just like cabinet, Croydon’s Tory MPs look split over Europe

  1. The toxic Tory nexus with oil/coal and motor/diesel (air pollution) ensures the elections are funded and people keep on dying.The same is true of alcohol,tobacco and food.The Public Health budgets have been transferred to local autnorities whose budgets are being cut
    Just get used to it!



    Although it makes me sound “radical”,I feel that our experiences with the Incinerator,and mine with Fukushima,tobacco,alcohol,sugar and salt,simply have taught us how far away from any power or democratic control or holding to account we all are.Parliament is as empty a charade as local government and the NHS is on its knees.The current left Twix-right Twix pantomime about Europe serves only to distract from the fundamental right-wing coup the Tories are engineering via party funding,boundary changes,parliamentary procedure and “austerity”.The BBC has become a joke.The rest of the media are fundamentally corrupted as spokesmen for donor/industrialists via a network of revolving doors,think tanks and politicians.No other national parlaiment is as penetrated by business.
    From the very beginning Dave and George have run strategies of magicians and card sharks…distract the eye.Europe is definitely a very big “theatrical”distraction.Watch out for what’s really going on,it;s sure to bite.

  2. Its all very simple, really. Chuck rationality out of the window and think laterally. Groucho Marx once said that he would never join any club that would have someone like him as a member. Would you join a club that numbers, amongst its most repellent members, Nigel Farage, George Galloway, Ian Duncan-Smith and, most frightening and Dracula-like of all, Michael Gove? You would? Hmmmm…then you’d probably vote for Donald Trump as well. Pass the Valium, please!

  3. Didn’t know about Boris! Crikey. The line up of grotesques is almost complete. To reach perfection It now only needs Norman Tebbitt. Would that we had a Hogarth to paint the group.
    Even Stephen King would wilt in front of that image.

  4. It’s not about Europe…it’s about becoming serfs to the globalised US megasaurus slave owners via TTIP.Welcome to the new plantation,folks…really expensive secret courts and gag-orders.
    That’s what the Toxic Tories are really selling.
    Wot! not read about it in the papers….it can’t be true then.

  5. Rod Davies says:

    What bizarre circus the Brexit issue is! The “Let’s Leave” campaign is characterised by a bunch of people desperate to tell that they want to make “Britain Great” and keeping UK intact, when the one thing that a vote to leave will have is to provide a catalyst for the Scots and the Welsh to seek to break away from UK. But of course in the Tory mind neither Scotland nor Wales really count, and they should do what they are told by their betters.
    Equally bizarre is the idea that the other EU members will be terribly keen to strike some special deal for UK once UK leaves the EU. The other EU member states are more likely to seek to screw out of UK an arrangement so disadvantageous to UK that we’ll be crying, and drag it out over years.
    Then as much as “we” all want to get the “lazy welfare migrants” out of UK and sent back to Europe, the Out campaign overlooks that the other EU states may take the opportunity to expel the UK citizens in Europe, especially British criminals who seem fond of hanging out on the Spanish coast!
    Then there’s Cameron’s promise that there’ll never be a European army.What???? Just have a look at NATO’s command structure! British Tommies are being ordered about by Yanks, Canadians, Krauts, and even Albanians! Supreme Commander is US. Chief of Staff is a German (probably unreconstructed Nazi – what would Capt Mannering say!) and the Deputy Supreme Commander is a Brit.
    It would be laughable if it weren’t so serious………………

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