WALTER CRONXITE on the late-night goings-ons involving one of the Prime Minister’s senior aides
After more than three months of near-silence on social media, ever since he was soundly defeated in the General Election, Gavin Barwell, the former Conservative MP for Croydon Central, has resurfaced.Career politician Barwell displayed almost Trump-like enthusiasm for Twitter while he was an MP, pumping out self-serving propaganda from his account, virtue-signalling selfies (never a pretty sight), or challenges to his political opponents. But since his demoralising defeat at the polls in early June, it is as if Barwell has taken an oath of social media silence.
Until 1.13 this morning.
And what was the wisdom which Barwell chose to share with his dedicated 19,600 followers?
“The perfect end to a pretty intense week,” Barwell wrote, tagging his message with Croydon and the Twitter address of a large chain of Portuguese-themed chicken restaurants.
Since becoming an ex-MP, Barwell has been employed by the interim Prime Minister, Theresa May, as her chief of staff.
Or, as Barwell’s Twitter profile states, “Used to be an MP – now I work for one.”It is not known whether Barwell’s job prohibits his advertising any particular commercial brands or restaurant chains.
Barwell’s boss was in Florence yesterday, trying to resolve the mess of her own making over the stalled exit talks with the European Union. Her speech has been widely criticised, both in this country and abroad. The pound sterling plummeted as a consequence of May’s speech and then Britain had its credit rating cut to an all-time low.
Earlier in the week, May had been in New York, dodging her own foreign secretary in their hotel’s corridors before given a speech to the United Nations, standing in front a near-empty chamber.
Her government’s bungled handling of its own business in parliament has also been highlighted in the past week. First by granting itself a whole load of executive powers in the EU withdrawal bill; then by stacking the standing committees with its own members so it could control the progress of the bill through parliament; and finally by ordering its MPs to abstain in the opposition day debates on NHS pay and student fees.
What role the Prime Minister’s chief of staff played in all of this, if any role at all, is not known. But he says it was an “intense week”, so we will have to take his word for it.
Barwell may also be feeling “intense” over the business of the Grenfell fire, as the inquiry gets underway. Barwell was the housing minister who opted not to implement recommendations on sprinklers in residential tower blocks. But at least he should have one old friend inside the Cabinet Office while the inquiry is on-going.
Nonetheless, the idea that Barwell spends his Friday nights chillaxing in Nando’s in Croydon has certainly raised the eyebrows of some Westminster lobby journalists.
“Is the Prime Minister’s chief of staff really having a 1am Nando’s?” asked Laura Kuenssberg, the BBC’s political editor and someone noted, during the election campaign, for airing the views of the Tory leadership as if she was objectively presenting the news.
Helpfully, one Croydon councillor provided the BBC with some local knowledge. Nando’s on Croydon High Street shuts at midnight.So it was more than an hour after closing time that Barwell “took to Twitter”.
Given that, and his previously monk-like discipline on Twitter since taking up his new role, some Barwell-watchers suggest drink may have been taken.
Today’s eight-word tweet is not quite the only Twitter activity by Barwell in the last 107 days. Earlier this month, Barwell had replied to a pollster’s tweet, “What’s wrong with Adam Ant???” (note the expressive use of three question marks).
Such gnomic outbursts from inside the corridors of power do not seem consistent with someone happy in their work.
Kuennsberg and her lobby colleagues may soon be running a sweep: who goes first from their job, May or Barwell?
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