The government’s failed reshuffle was an even bigger failure for one Croydon politician, as WALTER CRONXITE reports
Chris Philp, the forever-thrusting Tory MP for Croydon South, might well be asking himself what he’s done wrong, after he was left out of Theresa May’s omnishambles reshuffle.
While many other equally untalented Conservative MPs from the 2015 intake at Westminster were given promotions and junior minister jobs, Philp was left to fill up airtime on news channels, waffling on about a reshuffle in which he was to play no part.
According to Philp, in recent months he has single-handedly resolved the crisis on Southern Rail, fixed local shortages in the NHS, won massive increases in funding for Croydon schools and, for all we know, probably developed a cure for the common cold. Yet somehow at parliament his deeds are unrecognised and he remains a mere back-bench MP.
Has Philp offended his one-time constituency neighbour, Gavin Barwell, now the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff and the “mastermind” behind the reshuffle? Does the private school-educated Barwell somehow hold a grudge against “Filp”, the grammar school oik?
Isabel Hardman, the Spectator’s political columnist, noted last night that, for the duration of the reshuffle, there was one over-eager Tory MP positioned at the closest point on the parliamentary estate to Downing Street, so they could get to No10 as soon as they got the call.
“But the call never came,” Hardman told the BBC, suggesting that this was one of the more pathetic scenes of the tortuous two days.
Was she talking about Filp?
Hardman was too kind to divulge names.
Of course, it could just be that Philp was too pale, male and stale for a reshuffle which, according to “Downing Street sources” (as lobby journalists refer to briefings, including those from Barwell), would “make the Cabinet look more like the country it serves”. Note to Gav: there are now more public school-educated, male Oxbridge graduates in the cabinet than there were before the reshuffle… Well done again, Gav.
But with all the junior ministerial jobs doled out yesterday, the recriminations over the badly handled exercise continue.
Paul Goodman, the editor of the Conservative Home website – and therefore hardly a piss-taking journo out to score cheap gags at the expense of May or Barwell – today wrote a piece which is headlined: “The worst-handled reshuffle in recent history, perhaps ever”.
The article is accompanied by a headless chicken sporting a blue, Conservative rosette. You get a sense of where this is going very quickly.
Goodman wrote: “It’s evident that Downing Street began Monday morning with at least one key appointment undecided – as the Chris Grayling fiasco suggests.” As we reported yesterday, the whole clusterfuck began when someone at Tory HQ tweeted a meme congratulating Grayling on his appointment as Conservative Party Chairman, a job Grayling either was never given or did not accept.
“Responsibility for the wavering must go right to the top,” Goodman wrote.
“No10 can’t communicate a plan in advance if there is no plan to communicate, which is why speculation about up to six Ministers perhaps being fired span out of control.” None of which reflects very well on May’s Chief of Staff.
And there were more social media high jinks which, as on Monday, looked to have the paw prints of Barwell’s gobby fac totum all over them.
The Grauniad’s Peter Walker had spotted a Twitter feed called Wiki Edits, and he noted: “No10 has been editing pages for junior ministers Mark Garnier, Robert Goodwill and Philip Dunne to show they’ve lost their jobs … before any official announcement.”
No10’s Twitterer-in-chief is none other than Coulsdon councillor Mario Creatura.
Creatura is now employed on a state-funded salary of up to £70,000 a year to look after Theresa May’s social media presence. It is a function he used to perform for Barwell, when Barwell was still an MP.
During that time, Creatura was caught editing his boss’s own Wikipedia entry, a bit of a social media no-no, and a banned practice for being unethical. A Houses of Parliament, tax-payer-funded computer had been clocked conducting the editing, and Creatura then admitted that while at work, he had censored his boss’s Wikipedia entry, to eradicate anything which might be regarded as a critical reference.
On this occasion, the Wiki updates to soon-to-be-fired MPs’ profiles were all done by a recently established user account called, imaginatively, “No10gov”. Though this does not provide conclusive proof it was being down by someone in Downing Street, the edits were uncannily accurate and well-informed.
When Walker put yesterday’s Wiki edits to the No10 press office, he got this response: “It is nothing to do with government or No10. We have our own No10 challenges to address.” Ooooo.
And those challenges probably include the growing dissatisfaction of many Tory MPs with Barwell.
Kevin Schofield, the editor of the Politics Home website, wrote yesterday, “Lots of Tory MPs turning their fire on No10 Chief of Staff following yesterday’s reshuffle chaos. One says: ‘He’s a boy in a man’s world. MPs are fed up with him and think he has become arrogant and aloof’.”
Poor old Gav, eh? You almost start to feel sorry for him.
But don’t worry, Lord Cashcroft has got his back.
Conservative Home is owned by Ashcroft, the billionaire tax-evader and one-time Barwell’s boss at Tory Central Office. While there’s no evidence to suggest that Ashcroft will have briefed or directed Goodman (himself a former Conservative MP) over his reshuffle article, it is not difficult to imagine that the two men have compared notes on the matter.
Goodman concludes his coruscating dissection of the latest blunder of the May administration by writing, “It’s easier to be a critic than an actor; to criticise than to praise; simple to rush to wrong conclusions – and editors and columnists are a very long way from being infallible. That said this degringolade…” which is Tory posh for clusterfuck, “… proves that Downing Street is understaffed and overstretched. Gavin Barwell is trying to do at least three jobs. He needs a deputy to help him to do his own.”
So who will Gav recruit next on a juicy tax-payer-funded salary to help him conduct Tory Party business?
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