Renewed questions have been raised over the seemingly close links between Croydon Central Tory MP Gavin “gaffe-prone” Barwell and UKIP activists, after a local official from the party of Nigel Farage assumed “door security” duties with a chum at an event this week organised by Croydon Conservatives.
Barwell is the housing, planning and London minister in Theresa May’s Conservative government. He was supposed to be speaking to audience of “supporters” at the Croydon Conference Centre on Surrey Street on Thursday night.
But Barwell’s Croydon Conservative activists who run the “debate club” had moved earlier in the week to ban anyone who was not considered by them to be what they called “our supporters”, even withdrawing previously allocated tickets from wannabe attendees eager to hear what the housing minister, and in some cases their own MP, had to say on such an important topic.
Clearly, though, Croydon’s Tories are now receiving support from officials of the local branch of UKIP, after Michael Swadling and an associate appeared on the conference centre’s door, apparently as “security”, or bouncers, for this ticket-only event with one of the area’s publicly funded elected representatives.
Swadling happens to be Croydon UKIP’s press officer.
For what had been described by the organisers as an over-booked event, fewer than 30 people were observed to enter through the front door in the half-hour before its scheduled 7.30pm start time.
The door was also “staffed” by a woman, who told those present that Robert Ward, the local Tory activist and “organiser” of the debate, had personally “hand-picked” the people allowed to attend. Those excluded from the cosy Tory-UKIP meeting “should take the matter up with him”, they were told.
Swadling and his chum were heard to use condescending, sexist and patronising language towards the handful of protesters who were denied entry, and they were observed sneering and mocking a young Muslim woman in the group.
Jason Cummings, the Tory councillor who has a second job working as a parliamentary aide for Barwell (“I manage Gavin’s diary,” was his boast), also made an appearance.
“I’ve come down to take all the abuse and insults myself to save other people from getting it,” he said.
Croydon’s Tories and UKIP have spent the past three years denying any association between their parties, even though they have at times interchanged members, and sometimes even had individuals who have been members of both parties simultaneously.
All suggestions of some form of informal “Blukip” alliance in 2015, with UKIP parliamentary candidate Peter Staveley deliberately under-campaigning in the General Election to assist Barwell to get re-elected ahead of Labour’s Sarah Jones have been denied. Thursday night’s cosy get-together offers further evidence of the closeness between the two groups.
Barwell, who clearly has some sort of problem in addressing a room of constituents he is supposed to serve unless they are likely to nod in agreement, was re-elected to Westminster with a majority of 165 votes.
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