Another Friday, another cheeky Nando’s. WALTER CRONXITE, our political editor, on how the Chief of Staff for the beleaguered Prime Minister appears to be preparing for his future by doing a promotions job for a restaurant chain
Gavin Barwell, the man responsible in large part for the clusterfuck that was interim Prime Minister Theresa May’s Tory conference speech this week, was back at his favourite restaurant last night.
For the second time in a fortnight, the former Conservative MP for Croydon Central, now Downing Street Chief of Staff, was tweeting from Nando’s about his “intense week”. Poor lamb.
Unlike the previous occasion a fortnight ago, when Barwell returned to Twitter after a self-imposed silence of a few months, this message was not sent some hours after last orders, but was posted in the sober hours around 10pm.
The tweet’s cheery tone suggests that Barwell had not yet seen the Saturday morning newspaper front pages, in which the former housing minister’s pet policy of Help to Buy gets a savaging for only helping the wealthy. The criticism came from that bastion of left-wing thought… the Daily Mail. And when Paul Dacre’s Mail starts turning against May and her staff, they must be deep into their overdraft of borrowed time.
As for Nando’s, it’s questionable whether an endorsement from gaffe-prone Gav is regarded as a boon or a liability for high street food outlets. It certainly marks out Nando’s on Croydon High Street as a place to steer well clear on Friday nights.
Barwell’s brand loyalty has seen Westminster lobby politicians question whether there is a Whitehall rule which prohibits the PM’s most senior aide using social media to advertise a particular restaurant chain or products.
Meanwhile, other political figures are blaming Barwell for exposing coughing-and-spluttering May to a long and gruelling round of media interviews prior to her Tory conference set-piece, which was interrupted by comedy prankster Lee Nelson carrying a redundancy notice, which he said Boris had asked him to give to her.
The feeling is that it is Barwell who should be collecting his P45.
Jon Craig, Sky News’s chief political correspondent, wrote in Total Politics: “It was obvious during Theresa May’s TV interview with Andrew Marr on Sunday that she was suffering from a cold and bad cough. No doubt she insisted on fulfilling her commitment to do 28 broadcast interviews and speak at 19 receptions during the conference. But someone in her inner circle…” that’ll be Gav “… should have overruled her and told her to rest her voice for the big day.”
And Giles Kenningham, David Cameron’s former press secretary, said that Wednesday’s disaster would never have happened on his watch. “We were always acutely aware of the risk of Cameron losing his voice at conference. The number of speeches and interviews the PM has to give during the four days always puts an immeasurable strain on their voice.
“We always used to try and limit the number of reception speeches Cameron did the night before the big day. No10…” that’ll be Gav, too, “… may want to rethink her schedule.”
Wednesday’s shambles of a conference speech in Manchester was watched by Barwell from the posh seats alongside May’s husband, Philip. What with the prankster’s intervention (with all the security considerations that raised), the spluttering delivery and, finally, the stage set falling apart to suggest that the Prime Minister should F off, some Tory MPs have been “on manoeuvres” to get rid of May. And if she goes, so would Barwell.
Yesterday’s Evening Standard editorial, undoubtedly dictated by the trainee editor, Gideon Osborne , said: “Is it really in the national interest to be stuck for a couple of years with a lame-duck Prime Minister while we engage in these crucial Brexit talks?
“You don’t need a comedian to tell us it is not.”
Some might argue that May has, in any case, had a comedian embedded at No10 since the weekend after the election. Now, who’s got the wish bone from that Nando’s last night?
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