Absentee peer has a pop at nine-carat ex-MP Nadine Dorries in a Twitter spat likely to spark further rows as the Conservatives look to select their parliamentary candidate for new Croydon East constituency, reports our political editor WALTER CRONXITE
Gavin Barwell, the former Croydon MP and government minister, leaped into the political row over the long-delayed resignation of Nadine Dorries at the weekend, attracting a full-blooded attack on social media.
Dorries, a full-time presenter on a little-watched, far-right TV station and part-time MP for Mid-Bedfordshire, finally got around to filing her formal resignation via a Tory-supporting newspaper’s pay-walled subscription service over the weekend.
Dorries, an arch-supporter of Brexit and Boris Johnson, had been absent from her job as an MP for most of the past year, although that did not prevent her pocketing her salary and making sure a family member was also well-paid out of tax-payers’ money. Her resignation, when it finally came, followed a decision last week to double the severance payment to retiring and resigning MPs. Kerrr-ching!
Dorries had originally announced that she was to quit the Commons on June 9. Johnson and another ally, Nigel Adams, resigned at the same time, with the by-elections for their constituencies held in July. Dorries, however, did not formally resign, instigating speculation that she intended to time the subsequent by-election to cause maximum damage and embarrassment for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. That by-election is now due in late September, just before the Conservative Party Conference.
“Since you took office a year ago, the country is run by a zombie Parliament where nothing meaningful has happened,” Dorries wrote in her resignation letter to the PM.
“What exactly has been done or have you achieved? You hold the office of Prime Minister unelected, without a single vote, not even from your own MPs. You have no mandate from the people and the Government is adrift. You have squandered the goodwill of the nation, for what?”
Barwell lost his Croydon Central seat in 2017, but was soon hired as Downing Street Chief of Staff when Theresa May became Prime Minister. That appointment did not end happily, either, with May’s Premiership crushed by the demands of “delivering” Brexit and the disloyalty of her own party’s MPs, most notably Johnson.
Baron Barwell of Croydon in the London Borough of Croydon (snappy title, eh?) has since then been grumbling away on social media, and in his book, Chief Of Staff, a somewhat self-serving account of his time in No10.
When the news of Dorries’ delayed resignation was revealed in the Sunday newspaper first editions, Lord Barwell tweeted, snarkily, “This Nadine Dorries who asks ‘Why is it that we’ve had five PMs since 2010, with not one of the previous four having left office as the result of losing a general election?’ surely couldn’t be the same one who triggered a vote of confidence in Theresa May?
“Or the one who submitted a letter calling for a vote of confidence in David Cameron?
“Someone should put Nadine 1 in touch with Nadines 2 and 3 so she can interview them for her book and unveil the ‘machinations of a small group of individuals at the centre of the party’.”
And Barwell warmed to his theme, quite astutely: “But for brass neck you really can’t beat a supporter of Boris Johnson accusing A.N. Other politician of putting personal ambition to be Prime Minister before the good of the country.”
Yesterday lunchtime Dorries, a leading twit, fired back on Twitter: “I’ve never ‘triggered’ any vote of no confidence in my life, Gavin. Do be careful with you words. Did a vote take place? Yes. Did I vote in it, yes, of course.
“If anyone was responsible for what happened to [Theresa May] and the fact that she had to face a vote at all, it was you and your truly low-quality advice when you were her Chief of Staff. If you had thought more about her future and less about your own, If you had listened to the then Chief Whip, whose advice you ignored, the Brexiteer MPs you sneered at and the will of the people which you also ignored, things may have been very different.
“If you want to apportion blame for what happened to [Theresa May] it honestly seems to me as though you have got off scott-free so far. You were to blame, Gavin. You and those close to her seriously let her down by having no strategy in place.
“Me? I was just a backbencher foot soldier. Hope this has helped to promote your book which is the real reason you’ve tweeted me.
Barwell has not responded to Dorries’ rant. Although he has re-tweeted his original message.
Barwell has cut a semi-detached figure from Conservative and Croydon politics of late, taking an indefinite leave of absence from the House of Lords (for which, unlike Dorries in the Commons, he does not get paid) and disengaging from Croydon Tory activities, too.
But Croydon Conservatives are currently engaged in the selection process for their candidate for the new parliamentary seat of Croydon East, which takes in some of Barwell’s old seat and – given the unstable nature of Croydon politics after Labour crashed the council’s finances – is regarded as “winnable” for the Tories.
Tipped for selection is Jason Cummings, the Shirley councillor and council cabinet member for finance, who went from a job managing the pick-and-mix at Woolies to running Barwell’s parliamentary office and later being a loyal staffer during his spell at No10. Or, as Cummings describes it on his social media profile, “Former political adviser to the Prime Minister”.
As the Tory Party, in Westminster and across the country, continues to turn in on itself in the final months of nearly 14 years of dreadful, hugely damaging government, Lord Barwell might be expected to pledge his support to his old chum Cummings over Croydon East.
But given the increasingly far-right inclination of the Croydon Tories’ membership, many of whom regard Mayor Jason Perry as some kind of roaring success, any intervention by the 2023 version of Barwell might not be regarded as entirely helpful…
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