Has Croydon Central’s Tory MP Gavin Barwell given up on Shirley already?
Shirley ward is ear-marked to be shunted out of the Croydon parliamentary constituency and annexed to Beckenham for Westminster election purposes under proposals released earlier this week by the Boundary Commissioners.
It’s all a little awkward for the career Conservative politician.
While Barwell lives in Sanderstead, his own constituency office is located in Shirley, on Wickham Road (handy for the nearby general store, where the MP became known for asking for a receipt for his expenses even on small items of personal spending, such as a packet of crisps. Every little helps…).
And Barwell was quick to jump on the Nimby bandwagon of the Save Shirley campaign, when residents’ groups moved to protect their properties and the essential character of the area against proposals in the Croydon Local Plan, and some ill-researched house-building plans from the council.
As recently as February – that is, before he became a Government Minister for Housing and Planning – Barwell was opposing plans to build more than 120 new homes on Metropolitan Open Land on the World of Gold site and he was demanding that the Labour councillors in another ward in his constituency, Ashburton, “need to explain why it’s wrong to build on green space in their ward, but when the council proposes building on green space in neighbouring Shirley ward… they don’t say a word in protest”.
But this week, six months on and now the custodian of a minister’s red box, Barwell was a no-show at a Shirley residents’ meeting to discuss house building in the area – despite having previously told the organisers that he would attend.
Was it because, having seen the Boundary Commission’s recommendations earlier in the day under embargo, Barwell has decided that there’s no votes in Shirley for him any longer?
Or is it because, since being appointed as Housing Minister in Theresa May’s Conservative Government, associating with a group pledged to block house building might be a tad awkward for the career politician?
Barwell and his tax-funded lackies have in the past been quick to publicise the absence of local Labour councillors from residents’ meetings, even when those meetings have been called at short notice.
But despite having been given a week’s notice of the meeting and indicating that he would attend, Barwell, the self-proclaimed “strong voice for Croydon”, has been silent about missing Monday’s discussions.
His previous support for the populist opposition to back garden development in Shirley and elsewhere is now at odds with his own government department’s position, which suggests that such development is “quite good”.
Barwell’s junior ministerial duties saw him on an official visit to south Wales on Tuesday morning – to give a speech encouraging more house building.
Perhaps having Shirley moved into another constituency won’t be such a bad thing for the opportunist Tory MP, as it could save Barwell any more embarrassing conflicts.
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