Our political editor WALTER CRONXITE reports on the ‘revelation’ that Downing Street’s chief of staff might not be up to the task
Gaffe-prone Gavin Barwell’s week of Brexit balls-ups just gets worse by the day.
Now the former Croydon Central Tory MP has been blamed for prompting the latest ministerial resignation from the beleaguered Conservative Cabinet, because of the constant demands of his trite daily “briefing emails”.
The author of How To Lose A Marginal Seat, Barwell has been Theresa Mayhem’s chief of staff at No10 Downing Street for the past 18 months, in which time he has hardly covered himself in glory.
Barwell’s increasingly high-profile role in the EU withdrawal negotiations seems to compound the difficulties of Mayhem’s bitterly divided Tory Government.
On Friday Sam Gyimah became the latest Cabinet resignation over Brexit, the erstwhile Universities Minister blaming the loss of influence in key European science and research projects among the factors for his decision not to support the Prime Minister’s – and Barwell’s – EU withdrawal deal.
Gyimah decried it as “a deal in name only”.
Mayhem’s Brexit deal is to be put to a vote in Parliament on December 11, when it is widely suggested the Prime Minister will lose.
Gyimah, regarded as a “rising star” of the Conservative Party, is well-known to Barwell. The MP for East Surrey, close to Barwell’s comfortable family home in leafy Sanderstead, Gyimah had, before becoming an MP, a spell as a business partner of Chris Philp, the MP for Croydon South.
With reports that up to 100 Conservative MPs are opposed to the Brexit deal, Gyimah’s resignation adds yet further pressure on May, who has brushed aside questions on whether she will step aside if her deal is defeated in the Commons.
But one of the reasons given by Gyimah for quitting may had further evidence to the suggestion that Barwell is not up to the task of helping to smooth the path for the Prime Minister.
Yesterday, after interviewing the now ex-Cabinet Minister, ITV’s political editor Robert Peston revealed, “What tipped Sam Gyimah over the edge to quitting was receiving emails every morning from Gavin Barwell on ‘lines to take’ to promote Theresa May’s Brexit plan and realising he fundamentally disagreed with it all.”
Peston then added, somewhat knowingly, “How many other ministers feel similarly alienated?”
Earlier in the week, when Barwell was put in charge of briefing Labour MPs to try to win them over to voting for a Conservative Prime Minister. But it was reported that Barwell managed to sway the opposition MPs to vote against the deal, his House of Commons meeting described as “utterly shite” and “death by PowerPoint”.
Barwell’s positioning on Brexit has already seen him castigated in the Tory press by the chairman of the local Conservative association in Beckenham, where Barwell was thought to have ambitions of reviving his career as an MP in a cosy safe seat.
“It’s becoming clear that Barwell has the Midas Touch, but in reverse,” one senior Westminster figure confided to Inside Croydon. “Everything he touches turns to shit.”
Another former colleague of Barwell said, “His simplistic style is not up to the seniority of the job he was promoted into.”
How long Barwell, and his Croydon cronies who he has seen employed in Whitehall, including local Tory councillors Jason Cummings and Mario Creatura, continue in their jobs could well depend on the Brexit vote on December 11 and Mayhem’s decision in the wake of that.
Certainly, Barwell appears to be feeling the strain, having taken to tweeting virtue-signalling links to his role as a backbench MP in the passing of Lillian’s Law, to ban drug drivers following the death of New Addington teenager Lillian Groves.
“But that was seven years ago,” the Westminster source said. “Senior party members are more likely to recall his role in bringing down a government and botched negotiations over Brexit.”
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