Gavin Barwell, the author of the less-than-acclaimed How To Lose A Marginal Seat, has been signed up to write another book.
As if the £305 per day attendance allowance at the House of Lords was not enough, nor the various consultancy fees received from Price Waterhouse Coopers, or the directorship at Clarion Housing, “Lord” Barwell is now cashing in on his time as chief of staff to Theresa Mayhem at No10 Downing Street. The advance on the book from publishers Atlantic should fund the fees for one of his sons at his £18,000-a-year old school Trinity right through to the Sixth Form.
Atlantic Books secured the rights to Barwell’s latest book at an auction last month (his Lordship has gone and got himself an agent, no less!). There were even audiobook rights being flogged off, though there’s no confirmation that Stephen Fry has already turned down the opportunity to put a voice to Barwell’s deathless prose.
In their summary of the proposed book, Atlantic make no mention of the former Croydon Central Conservative MP’s time as housing minister, when he managed to ignore serial warnings about the fire risks of tower block cladding before the Grenfell Tower disaster in June 2017. Perhaps he’ll ignore that in his book, too?
It appears that Barwell is more concerned with jumping on the bandwagon of the notoriety of his former job that has been created in the past year by Dominic Cummings. But you just know that, by the time his Lordship gets around to submitting the final page of his manuscript ahead of publication in autumn 2021, what Barwell has to say about his time in Downing Street will be… well, just a bit dull.
His former boss, May, has stayed on as a serving MP in the House of Commons, and she won’t want to have to deal with any embarrassing headlines from the former hired help about what went on in the corridors of power during her time in No10.
There may be other, legally limiting factors, too. Barwell was a signatory to the Official Secrets Act. On leaving his job in No10, he may also have been party to various non-disclosure agreements.
So the chances are that Barwell’s new book will inevitably lean towards the safe, the staid and the self-serving. Certainly, that was the case with his previous effort, the poorly written and virtually unedited How To Lose A Marginal Seat, which when it was released in 2016 Inside Croydon described as a “piece of vanity publishing [that] provides 246 pages of his narcissism”.
Given the number of Barwell’s previous book that made their way into the remainder bins of Waterstones in the Whitgift Centre, whatever Atlantic Books have paid for Chief of Staff: My Time as the Prime Minister’s Right-Hand Man, it is undoubtedly too much.
Not that Atlantic aren’t pushing all the levers to try to big-up their recent purchase. “Described as an ‘invaluable and gripping insider record’,” they announced, without saying who it was who attributed such gush to a Barwell book.
“This book will contain some surprising revelations,” they promise, without outlining what might be regarded as “unsurprising revelations”.
The synopsis (probably prepared for Barwell by his agent), says, “He was by [May’s] side when she negotiated her Brexit deal, met Donald Trump, heard about the poisoning of the Skripals in Salisbury, made the decision to authorise the use of military force in Syria, met Jeremy Corbyn and Keir Starmer to broker a cross-party Brexit agreement – and ultimately made the decision to stand down as Prime Minister.”
And they even invoke Cummings’ name to give the Barwell book a hint of extra pizazz. “At a time of intense interest in the current prime minister’s former chief adviser, Dominic Cummings, and the person who the prime minister will now appoint as chief of staff, this book will also provide a unique insight into this powerful role.” If you can’t get a book from Cummings, Barwell will just have to do.
As he did with his previous book, Barwell may try to use his latest volume as more personal justification, attempting to validate his time after he lost the Croydon Central seat in 2017 through to May’s resignation in 2019 simply by right of actually being an onlooker as history was being made.
“The existing accounts of those turbulent two years are second-hand, at best partial and at worst get important details wrong,” he said, conveniently overlooking the off-the-record briefings he provided to Fleet Street’s finest that framed those accounts in an effort to influence the following day’s front pages. “I am looking forward to … set out what really happened,” he said, if anyone would believe him.
“And I hope, too, to give a timely insight into how Britain is really governed behind that famous black door, the position of chief of staff and the overly dominant role advisers now play in our political life.”
Note that: “overly dominant role”, an admission from the bloke that hired three people from his own parliamentary office to have roles as advisers in Downing Street, putting his Croydon Chumocracy at the heart of the national government.
Apparently, Barwell claims to have “agonised” over whether to spill his guts between the covers of a book for more than a year.
“Doing so will bring back some painful memories because whatever other roles the chief of staff to the prime minister may have, their primary responsibility is to keep the prime minister in office.”
A point on which, as with so many things, Barwell clearly failed.
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