Stewart is latest Tory to ignore allegations against SPAC Nation

Croydon North MP Steve Reed will use this afternoon’s adjournment debate in the House of Commons about the controversial cult-like SPAC Nation to demand to know “how young people at risk right now will be protected, how traumatised victims will be supported, and what will be done to stop this organisation destroying any more lives”.

MP Steve Reed: ‘Young people are at risk’

SPAC Nation – widely known as “the church of bling” because of the high-roller lifestyles enjoyed by its leading figures – has been subject to fraud and charity investigations for months, though no arrests have been made.

Reed provided the Metropolitan Police with a dossier of at least 12 cases of abuse, including very serious allegations of sexual abuse against minors, and the activities of SPAC Nation’s “pastors” have been extensively covered by BBC Panorama, the Huffington Post, Sunday Times and by Inside Croydon.

Today’s adjournment debate, while expected to see further allegations made against SPAC Nation, is also likely to ratchet up the pressure on the police, and also SPAC’s many friends among Croydon Conservatives.

Leading Croydon Tories, including “Baron” Barwell, the sometime MP for Croydon Central, Tim Pollard, the leader of Croydon Tories, and Mario Creatura, the failed parliamentary candidate in last month’s General Election, have all held meetings and posed for photo ops with SPAC Nation leaders, including the church’s founder, property investor Tobi Adegboyega.

Former MP Gavin Barwell at a SPAC Nation meeting, with Pastor Tobi far right

Barwell, when Theresa May’s chief of staff, even invited Adeboyega and other church leaders, into No10 Downing Street for tea.

In November, Jayde Edwards, aged 20, a SPAC pastor, was hand-picked by Croydon Tories – including, it is understood, Pollard and Creatura – to be the party’s candidate in the Fairfield council by-election. Her campaigning saw hundreds of church members turning out to leaflet and canvass in the town centre ward. Until, that is, the church’s controversial approach to fund-raising was exposed.

SPAC’s activities have left some senior Croydon Tories feeling very uncomfortable about their party’s relationship with the organisation.

“Inevitably the local Conservative leadership will continue to ignore the concerns that have been raised, and try to portray this as nothing more than political point-scoring, rather than the potentially very serious issue it is,” a senior member of the Croydon Conservatives told Inside Croydon today.

“I hope that all three of Croydon’s MPs attend today’s debate and encourage everyone involved, including the police and banks, to cooperate fully so that answers are known quickly and support can be provided to vulnerable young people where needed.”

Such hopes may be forlorn, if last night’s “London Speaks” event at Croydon’s Jury’s Inn for Rory Stewart is anything to judge by.

Stewart is the former Conservative MP who is running for election as London Mayor as an independent. Renowned as an expert on Middle Eastern affairs, last night’s event showed that he has a better grasp of matters in Baghdad than in south London.

Mayoral candidate Rory Stewart gave a stage to SPAC Nation last night, inviting Daniel Ogoloma as his guest speaker

Either that, or he never bothered watching Panorama, as he was joined on stage in Croydon by Daniel Ogoloma, who served as SPAC’s spokesman when the various controversies and allegations broke in November.

It was a crass political misjudgement by Stewart, whose campaign could be further damaged by association with SPAC following today’s adjournment debate in parliament.

MP Reed told Inside Croydon this morning, “I intend to raise concerns about how a cult masquerading as a church has been allowed to target and abuse hundreds of vulnerable young people right across London under the noses of police and politicians.

“I want to know how young people at risk right now will be protected, how traumatised victims will be supported, and what will be done to stop this organisation destroying any more lives.”

About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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4 Responses to Stewart is latest Tory to ignore allegations against SPAC Nation

  1. jackgriffin1933 says:

    An inconvenient dimension to this story, from the party political perspective, is that both Sadiq Khan and Sarah Jones have associated with SPAC Nation as well.

    Not too sure about Khan as my only awareness is a photograph of him and the SPAC leadership on the Zuriel UK website (linked to Tobi Adegboyega); which could just be a shot randomly posed with fanboys who happened to bump into him along the way.

    Zuriel, however, describes it as a meeting “to discuss how the Zuriel Model is reducing crime amongst young people”; although we may take that with a pinch of embellished salt.

    More problematic is Jones sharing a sofa with a couple of SPAC ‘pastors’ on the Victoria Derbyshire show in February 2018, in which she described its work with gang members as “amazing”, saying that “we should work together”.

    Thus: to the extent that Croydon Conservatives have “held meetings and posed for photo ops with SPAC Nation leaders”, so have Labour bods.

    Admittedly, much more has come to light about SPAC since Jones’s sofa-sharing, yet it was being described as “cult” at least in 2017 and the Derbyshire show was not entirely uncritical either.

    Therefore naivety and/ or cynicism about this mob reached beyond the Tories too.

    • That is indeed the case, Jack, and as a central part of SPAC’s cynical strategy, of “hiding in plain sight”, they appeared to be offering solutions to the gang, drugs and knife crime issues to which most politicians have no answer.

      But only the Conservatives gave Pastor Tobi and his mates front row seats at their annual party conference.

      Only the Conservative Party invited SPAC to tea at 10 Downing Street.

      And only the Conservatives managed to make a SPAC pastor an election candidate – without any membership selection process – and handed over the election roll containing the personal details of thousands of people.

      When are the senior figures within the Conservative Party in Croydon going to accept responsibility for such crass errors of judgement – apparently in pursuit of their own personal political ambitions – and resign their party and elected positions?

      • jackgriffin1933 says:

        I wouldn’t disagree with any of that, not least as I have no axe to grind whatsoever on behalf of the Tories and none especially against Labour.

        My point more is that party politics, and I feel much more so lately, is demoralizingly and dispiritingly rampant with exceptionalism – “it’s OK when we do it”.

        And it’s plain that as SPAC started to gain traction, Labour figures – in Croydon – were engaged with them too.

        Only Steve Reed seems not to have sullied himself with SPAC, and one wonders if that is by luck or by judgement. If judgement, he should have been Whatsapping Sarah about this ages ago.

        The picture you use of the Boy Blunder Barwell is from May 2017.

        If he was supposed to have known better then, so surely then should Khan whenever and Jones by February 2018?

        The visit to Downing Street was in May 2018.

        Obviously this wasn’t within Jones’s gift: yet if she was happy to sit on the sofa with them in February, who can say she wouldn’t have had them round to tea eight weeks later if it had been?

        As far as I can tell, she didn’t publicly air her concerns (on Twitter) about SPAC until two days – November 8 2019 – after the Fairfield election*.

        She claims she’d become aware “over recent months” and I’d bet my bippy that’s largely because of the good work of this website.

        But it all feels rather after the fact, 21 months after, with no sign of regret for her earlier endorsement. She could accept responsibility for falling for them too. But it’s as if it never happened.

        Stewart is a weirdo (probably with a CV in to Dominic Cummings as a result) and really, really should have clocked this lot in advance. It was, as you say, “crass political misjudgement”.

        As was that of Creatura & Co for collaborating with them. Quite, quite mad.

        So please bash the Tories over it as much as you like – yet also don’t hold them to a higher standard than the rest. Asymmetry doesn’t help the cause, it diminishes it.

        *As an aside and I’ve said before, Esther should have done better. It’s a mystery to me how she doesn’t clean up locally.

        • Journalists – including this website – are equally culpable. If the cover story is so good, if you are reporting on a matter about people’s earnest beliefs, then taking the step to publish some of the allegations takes a higher standard of proof than you might normally require.

          We had been looking at SPAC Nation – thanks to a tip-off from one of our concerned readers – since the middle of last year. The Reggie Yates whitewash (for want of a better cliche) TV documentary almost prompted us to report something.

          But it was only after we got confirmation that fraud investigations were taking place, by a multi-national bank as well as the police, that we were able to put the allegations to SPAC Nation.

          No MPs, nor Croydon councillors, had managed to make any statement regarding concerns over SPAC Nation before our first report was published.

          Perhaps reflecting your observations, Jack, it is worth noting that there were two Croydon MPs in the Commons chamber on Wednesday night for the SPAC Nation adjournment debate.

          No prizes for guessing who didn’t show up.

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