Our political editor, WALTER CRONXITE, reports from near Downing Street on a big day for some political ambitions
When Theresa May stood outside No 10 Downing Street last night and spoke of the disadvantages in life faced by “white working-class boys” and those who attend state schools, it is unlikely that she had in mind the well-appointed Trinity, in Shirley Park, and the children of south London’s thrusting middle-classes who attend it (however much one veteran Croydon councillor and Trinity old boy likes to grumble “it was only a grammar school in my day”).As the new Prime Minister continues today to fashion a Cabinet that consigns the Notting Hill Set to being an unloved piece of political history, at least one of her new Conservative Government’s MPs must be hanging on in the hope that May finds time to appoint men from minor public schools.
Because after six years in parliament as Croydon Central’s MP, Trinity old boy Gavin Barwell may feel that his political career is in need of a promotion and for him to be given some serious senior departmental responsibility, or else he risks being regarded as a lightweight political figure nationally, an impression he did nothing to dismiss by publishing his self-regarding and cathartic election mea culpa memoire.
And after all, Barwell may figure, he surely deserves some reward for his loyalty and the hard work that he and his colleagues in the Tory whips’ office put in to help May when she was a candidate for the Conservative Party leadership.
Since leaving Cambridge University, where he was President of the Cambridge Union, Barwell had a career in professional campaigning for the Conservative Party. There, he worked closely with the then deputy chairman of the party, Lord Cashcroft, an association which may have slowed Barwell’s preferment under David Cameron after the Prime Minister fell out with the billionaire Tory donor and tax haven resident.
But Barwell will argue that he has much to offer May’s Government.He has a long experience with local government as a former PPS to Greg Clark, when he was minister for cities, and previously Barwell was a special adviser to John Gummer at the Department of the Environment and he ran the local government and housing desk at Tory Central Office’s research department.
A senior position for Barwell at DCLG (local government) would be a plus for the government. As Barwell admitted in his execrable book, if the next General Election is not until 2020, it is possible that his seat will be redrawn in such a way to make it very difficult for him to hold for the Tories.
But before he suffers electoral demise by boundary change, the new Prime Minister might see Barwell as a way of storing up some political advantage of her own: rather than promoting a Tory from the shires, giving a ministerial job to an MP from a gritty urban London seat, such as Barwell, might help to give some credibility to May’s expressed desire to reach out to all voters.
Barwell is not the only Croydon Tory MP who is spending more time than usual checking his party-issue mobile phone for incoming calls. And Chris Philp did go to a state (grammar) school.
Croydon South’s relative newcomer to the House of Commons has an understanding of finance which would make him a good junior appointment to the Treasury, though it could raise again the issue of the utter inappropriateness of the millionaire answering questions about his unpublished tax returns with “it’s none of your business”.
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