Is Barwell’s Privy Council appointment a sign of Tory nerves?

Do the Tories quietly believe that there is a chance that gaffe-prone Gavin Barwell might yet cock it up and lose his Croydon Central seat at the General Election on June 8?

Privy Counsellor, the Rt Hon Gaffe-prone Barwell MP…

The hint of some electoral uncertainty was there in a brief press release issued by the Prime Minister’s Office this week: “The Queen has been pleased to approve that Gavin Laurence Barwell MP … be sworn of Her Majesty’s Most Honourable Privy Council.”

So it is now the Right Honourable Gavin Barwell MP, which is a step up from his previous quaint appointment as Master of the Royal Soil Chute (or whatever).

But given career politician Barwell’s past conduct, there’s a growing band of people who have had to deal with him who might offer another descriptor than “honourable”.

Barwell’s got a little way up the Westminster greasy poll in the seven years since he was elected MP after giving up his Tory Party HQ job, working for billionaire tax-avoider Lord Cashcroft.

Now a junior minister in the government of the unelected Prime Minister, Theresa Mayhem, Barwell is defending the slimmest majority in the capital at the General Election, having hung on by his finger nails – and a dubious election expenses claim – by just 165 votes in 2015, thanks to tacit support from the local UKIP candidate.

But the Betfair betting exchange has Barwell as the hot favourite at 1-7 on to be returned to Westminster again – that’s betters winning £1 for every £7 staked on their Croydon Central bet.

Yet the timing of the Privy Council announcement, with Barwell gaining the preferment alongside Mel Stride, the MP for Central Devon, is curious, coming in the week that this parliament ends. Barwell and Stride would be unlikely to be made Privy Counsellors if they were no longer MPs.

So either the Tory leadership is wary about his election prospects, or Barwell, as planning and housing minister, is soon to advise the Queen on how to redevelop Buckingham Palace, Sandringham and Balmoral into nearly 4,000 under-sized flats for the homeless, in a scheme to be overseen by his Aussie developer mates Westfield… Expect it to be completed some time after 2027.

The Privy Council is an institution within Britain’s unwritten constitution which dates pack to Norman times, and its members are supposed to offer advice to the monarch. Barwell is now a Rt Hon for life, whatever happens on June 8, or in the days afterwards in any shake-up of ministerial appointments.

When he is sworn in, Barwell will be expected to take an oath that dates back to 1570. To reveal the content of the oath was for centuries regarded as an act of treason.

So here it is:

You do swear by Almighty God to be a true and faithful Servant unto the Queen’s Majesty, as one of Her Majesty’s Privy Council. You will not know or understand of any manner of thing to be attempted, done, or spoken against Her Majesty’s Person, Honour, Crown, or Dignity Royal, but you will let and withstand the same to the uttermost of your Power, and either cause it to be revealed to Her Majesty Herself, or to such of Her Privy Council as shall advertise Her Majesty of the same. You will, in all things to be moved, treated, and debated in Council, faithfully and truly declare your Mind and Opinion, according to your Heart and Conscience; and will keep secret all Matters committed and revealed unto you, or that shall be treated of secretly in Council. And if any of the said Treaties or Counsels shall touch any of the Counsellors, you will not reveal it unto him, but will keep the same until such time as, by the Consent of Her Majesty, or of the Council, Publication shall be made thereof. You will to your uttermost bear Faith and Allegiance unto the Queen’s Majesty; and will assist and defend all Jurisdictions, Pre-eminences, and Authorities, granted to Her Majesty, and annexed to the Crown by Acts of Parliament, or otherwise, against all Foreign Princes, Persons, Prelates, States, or Potentates. And generally in all things you will do as a faithful and true Servant ought to do to Her Majesty. So help you God.

Wouldn’t it be a terrible shame for gaffe-prone Gav if, somehow, on June 8 he was not re-elected after all, and so never managed to have that frisson of excitement and bogus importance when referred to in the House of Commons as “My Right Honourable friend”..?

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