Tory MP Gavin Barwell will be spending tomorrow morning virtue-signalling again, after sending out emails to his Croydon Central constituents encouraging them to help him picking up litter.
The hi-vis jacket photo-op is becoming an obligatory stand-by for struggling career politicians, such as Barwell, who want to get their face in the local press to maintain their profile, while avoiding mentioning that they have failed to provide solutions for the issues of the day.
Did someone mention the housing White Paper?
The MP’s virtue-signalling stunt means that anyone who wants to ask housing minister Barwell why homelessness has increased under the Tory-led governments he has served in since 2010 will have the chance to do so from around 10.30 in Ashburton Park.
Ashburton Park is an interesting choice of location for Barwell, since residents in the ward reckon that their MP has only rarely been seen in the area since he was re-elected by a tiny majority in 2015. His annual MP’s reports for 2014, 2015 and 2016 have never mentioned Ashburton, almost as if he’s forgotten the place exists since his Tory colleagues on the council lost the ward at the 2014 local elections.
But Ashburton Park is where, two years ago in a previous flourish of activity, Barwell made an ill-judged attempt to score cheap political points by criticising the Labour-run council’s decision to remove a recycling facility from the park.
“Their alleged reason? Because it encourages fly-tipping,” Barwell wrote in February 2015. Note the use of “alleged”, which strongly suggests Barwell is accusing the council of being untruthful.
Barwell continued, demonstrating his own failure to understand human nature: “It is undoubtedly true that some users dump large items there in the hope that the council will clear up after them, but it makes absolutely no sense to remove the recycling facility.”
Barwell went on to claim that he had asked the council for an explanation, though as the comments on his own blog post demonstrate, he’d failed to contact Stuart Collins, the council cabinet member responsible for the decision, and whose direct phone number Barwell really ought to have on his MP’s rolladex.
As Collins pointed out, the decision to remove the bins had been taken at the request of the Friends of Ashburton Park – that is, residents and local park users who visit Ashburton Park for more than the occasional photo-op. Unlike their MP.
Friends of Ashburton Park, or FOAP, maintained that a park was an inappropriate site for a dump, and that the recycling bins tended to attract fly-tipping.
And as one of Barwell’s own constituents commented one month after Barwell’s attempt to stir up a mess, “Since the removal of the recycling bins, there has been far less litter and fly-tipping. Overall the park has already become more pleasant, all thanks to FOAP.
“If people were able to make the effort to drive to the park and dump their goods, they can make the effort to drive to the dump,” she said, making a good deal more sense than her MP.
So no change there then.
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