WALTER CRONXITE, political editor, on the latest piece of Conservative Party in-fighting to throw the nation into crisis
It is entirely possible that, tomorrow morning, Gavin Barwell, Jason Cummings and Mario Creatura will all be in a queue in Fisher’s Folly in Croydon town centre, waiting to sign-on as unemployed at the labour exchange in the council offices.
And all because of the in-fighting in their own political party.
The three Croydon politicians all have jobs in Downing Street, and owe their employment status entirely to Theresa Mayhem being the Prime Minister.
This evening’s vote of confidence in the Prime Minister by Tory MPs was triggered after 48 Conservatives wrote to the chair of the 1922 committee of Westminster backbenchers.
Chris Philp, the MP for Croydon South, was not among them. “We are at a critical juncture,” he tweeted this morning. “All our efforts should be directed at delivering Brexit in a way that protects our national interests. I will therefore vote for the Prime Minister this evening.”
Barwell, the PM’s gaffe-prone chief of staff, will be glad of that, because many of the ex-MP’s Westminster colleagues lay much of the blame at his door for the divisions in their ranks over the EU withdrawal agreement. Any change of Conservative party leader is unlikely to see him, or his Croydon cronies, remain in work in No10 for very long.
If May loses, Mario Creatura, the Prime Minister’s official tweeter, will also likely have more time to explain to Croydon Central electors why they should replace their current Labour MP Sarah Jones with someone who worked in a shambolic team in No10, following his selection as the prospective parliamentary candidate on Monday night.
The meeting which selected Creatura strongly resembled a gathering at the local Masonic Lodge (with apologies to the local Masonic Lodge, which is probably far more diverse). Barely two dozen Croydon Tory members bothered to turn up, and of those photographed as present for the coronation, the vast majority of them male and white. Hardly representative of Croydon in 2018.
It is their party which has sent the country in a tailspin towards Brexit, and all because of David Cameron’s vain effort to deal with the anti-Europe factions within the Conservative Party.
May, having been given such a poor hand when she took over after Cameron fled the scene, has attracted some sympathetic support for the manner in which she has tried to deal with the situation.
Sutton and Cheam Tory MP Paul Scully says that he is supporting the PM, justifying his position with a peculiarly doom-laden suggestion that colleagues should put the country’s interests first as, “The light at the tunnel that some people are seeing is a train coming fast the other way.” And to think that he voted for Brexit.
Staff at the Croydon-based PR company formed by Scully, Nudge Factory, backed their old boss by saying that, “The Prime Minister Theresa May has come out fighting and set out to keep her job at the 1922 committee tonight.”
Steve Reed OBE, the Progress MP for Lambeth South, was perhaps guilty of a lack of decorum when he intruded into private Tory grief with a tweeted prod at Philp asking, “Have you sent your letter in to Graham Brady yet?”, referring to the 1922 committee chairman.
Of course, you can’t entirely trust Tory MPs to vote in a secret ballot in line with what they say in public.
Andrew Pelling, now a Labour councillor in Waddon ward but once the Conservative MP for Croydon Central, said, “The Tory MP electorate is known as ‘sophisticated’ and thus unreliable.”
Pelling predicts that, “May will do less well than the expectation of a good margin win.”
But Labour, nationally and in Croydon, is not without divisions of its own.
The Labour borough “organiser”, Jack Buck, who is a councillor in Southwark, took to social media to chide Labour’s Old Bermondsey and Southwark MP Neil Coyle for descrIbing Jeremy Corbyn’s judgement as “risible”.
Buck despairs of Labour divisions, lamenting that, “The Tory party are tearing themselves to shreds and our honourable member for Old Bermondsey and Southwark wants to attack … You guessed it, our own party.”
The SNP, LibDems and Blairites at Westminster have been baying for the Labour leader to move a motion of no confidence in the Government ever since Mayhem withdrew the key vote on her EU withdrawal agreement on Monday. Corbyn, however, has done his voting arithmetic and is reluctant to force a grandstanding motion when he does not have the votes to win it. And for £1billion of tax-payers’ money, May has the DUP in her pocket.
And there are some who say that it might suit May that the putsch against her in her own party is happening now: if she gets a majority at tonight’s meeting, her Tory MP detractors will not be allowed to try to unseat her again for 12 months.
Which would at least delay gaffe-prone Gav and his Croydon cronies in Downing Street getting their P45s.
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