WALTER CRONXITE, our political editor, got his hands dirty at the weekend, in an effort to save you the uncomfortable displeasure of reading The S*n, and to save you 20 quid
That doesn’t appear to have bothered “Lord” Gavin Barwell, the former Croydon Central MP who was brought up in south London but who claims to be an avid Liverpool football fan.
For Barwell allowed his latest book to be serialised at the weekend by The S*n, very possibly after the biggest payers of serialisation rights on what was once Fleet Street, the Sunday Times and Daily Mail, rejected his latest memoir, Chief Of Staff: Notes From Downing Street.
Those foolish enough not to have resisted the temptation to read Barwell’s previous straight-to-the-remainder-bins classic, How To Lose A Marginal Seat, will probably understand the reasons that his latest offering wound up with a downmarket taboid. It is actually not very good.
The exposure in The S*n makes that very clear.
If you were expecting revelations from Barwell’s time at the heart of government, working as Prime Minister Theresa May’s top adviser, then you will be disappointed. Perhaps it is the Official Secrets Act – which Barwell will have signed – or perhaps he’s just not a very good diarist, but if the extracts unveiled at the weekend are anything to go by, then anyone who does buy the book when it is published later this week is in for 432 very dull pages.
The newspaper extracts, after all, are supposed to be the best bits.
Yet what appeared over the weekend tended all to be already well-known episodes in May’s unhappy two years in Downing Street. Doubtless, she might have been happier, and had more success, had she been wiser in her selection of advisers.
The book’s title has been adjusted since Barwell signed his deal with publishers Atlantic. Chief of Staff: My Time as the Prime Minister’s Right-Hand Man was probably deemed just a tad too onanistic, even for the man who was caught responding to porn sites while working late into the night at No10.
The cover will undoubtedly play to the vanity and West Wing-style delusions of grandeur of the author, as he flicks through the pages while in one of the House of Lords’ tea rooms the next time he collects his £305 per diem just for showing up.
Those who doubt Keir Starmer’s abilities to revive the fortunes of Labour won’t be surprised to learn from the book that he was to blame for his party’s 2019 General Election defeat. Barwell says that it was Starmer’s “colossal misjudgment” to block his party from supporting a compromise over Brexit.
According to Barwell, Starmer even attacked proposals that he himself had put forward.
May was so desperate to get any form of Brexit deal through parliament in the dying days of her premiership that she opened negotiations to Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party.
“Jeremy Corbyn wanted to do it, but Keir Starmer stopped it,” Barwell says in his book.
“Starmer was not prepared to settle for anything that didn’t include a confirmatory vote.”
In other revelations right up there with bears shitting in the woods and Popes generally being of the Catholic persuasion, Barwell’s book tells us that his old mate Boris Johnson was “gaffe-prone” and not on top of his brief.
“On one occasion, he blurted out to me: ‘You don’t like Brexit because you blame it and me for losing your seat’.
“I was taken aback. It was true that I hadn’t wanted the UK to leave the EU, but whatever my personal views, I accepted our obligation to implement the will of the people.”
Elsewhere, Barwell also “reveals” that Theresa May had no idea of how to play pool (shock!), and that on one flight back from an international conference, she had beer spilt over her by another aide (horror!).
Oh, and in his book, Barwell goes to some lengths to explain that Gavin Williamson is a prize twat.
If what was published at the weekend really are the plum pieces available after Barwell spent almost as long writing up his memoir as the time he spent as No10’s Chief of Staff, then the book is thin gruel indeed (we have not had the advantage of the usual media review copy, possibly because the publishers are a little sensitive after the warm welcome we gave to Barwell’s previous lacklustre efforts).
Thus it is that the behind-closed-doors wheeling and dealing with Labour over Brexit appear the most insightful parts of his unreliable memoir.
“The Prime Minister met with Jeremy Corbyn and Sir Keir Starmer, then the shadow Brexit minister, and asked them whether Labour might be prepared to support the withdrawal agreement only,” Barwell writes. “Keir replied that they could only do that if there was agreement on the future relationship and a second referendum.
“’Couldn’t those issues be sorted out during the passage of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill?’ I asked.
“No, he said, because we would have left by then.
“I was stunned that he did not understand the basic fact that we would not have left until the Withdrawal Agreement Bill had been passed.”
Barwell goes on to describe a meeting with the Labour leadership held on May 6, where he claims that Starmer “objected to the language on customs” used in one of the bilateral documents. “I pointed out that we had lifted it from his letter of April 22 — he was objecting to his own policy,” Barwell writes.
Once the talks broke down, Barwell writes, “Labour didn’t have any confidence that whoever succeeded her would abide by any deal, and it was pretty clear Keir was not prepared to settle for anything that didn’t include a commitment to a confirmatory vote.
“I’m not sure whether the Shadow Cabinet realised at the time, but they had killed off the last chance for a compromise Brexit…
“Jeremy Corbyn wanted to do it, but Keir Starmer stopped it. It seems fitting he’s now dealing with the consequences.”
- For the avoidance of any doubt, no copies of The S*n were bought in the compilation of this review
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