A Strong Voice for Croydon Central - Gavin Barwell MP
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A defection that lacks credibility
21/02/2011 23:51:00

Apparently, Labour Group Leader Tony Newman announced at tonight's Cabinet meeting that Andrew Pelling has joined the Labour Party. If true, it is very sad news.

I have known Andrew for 15 years. I can say without hesitation that he doesn't have a Labour bone in his body. He served as a Conservative councillor for 24 years. During the time I was on the Council with him, he was Deputy Leader then Leader of the Conservative Group - and a visceral critic of many of the people he now claims to support.

After he parted company with the Conservative Party, he stood as an independent candidate, arguing that independents do a better job than people elected on a party ticket.

He has now changed his view twice in less than a year. Which one is the real Andrew Pelling? The lifelong Conservative? The independent outsider campaigning against the political parties? The born-again Labour supporter? How can you explain these changes of heart? How can someone who joined the Conservative Party when Margaret Thatcher was in charge and thought Labour was too left wing when Tony Blair was Prime Minister now decide to switch sides?

The answer is simple and has nothing to do with values or policy: Andrew is desperate to be a councillor and/or an MP again. He has concluded that he can't win as an independent, that he has burnt his bridges with the Conservative Party and that Labour is the only option left.

As I said, very sad news - both for the Conservative Party (which as I have acknowledged before could have handled the events of 2007-8 better) and particularly for Andrew himself who I am sure, at heart, remains a Conservative.

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Readers' Comments

On 01/03/2011 23:46:00 Andrew Leng wrote:
I must take issue with your article. Andrew Pelling was attacked viciously by the Conservative Party in the run up to the last election. There were several personal attacks on him Mr. Barwell, in which you were complicit. No wonder he left the party. It really showed a very nasty and arrogant side to the Conservatives. Two more recent examples; John Fareham, Conservative Councillor in Hull referring to people in the gallery at a recent budget meeting as ‘retards’ (there were disabled members of the public in the gallery at the time), Conservative councillor Robert Jones (South Gloucestershire CC) tweeting that because there were no protestors at the council’s budget meeting, ‘the council were not cutting enough’ (jobs and services). Of course who can forget you and your colleagues Mr. Barwell, waving your order papers and shouting ‘More! More!, More!’, when George Osborne announced the deepest cuts to the public sector and consigned tens of thousands of public sector workers to unemployment, in the last budget. It reveals so much about the dark character of the Conservative Party

I have met Andrew Pelling and he has always come across as a courteous, genuine and generous person who took a deep interest in the issues and problems in his constituency. He showed deep concern for public sector workers affected by job losses and cuts in terms of service, which frankly you don’t (UKBA announced another 700-800 job losses today, not that you’d be interested). He is a decent man and you have yet again stooped to attack him personally, on your blog. This after you became engaged in an unseemly petty squabble with local councillor Tim Godfrey! It really does you no favours at all. You won the seat, so please show a bit of humility to your political opponents.

On 02/03/2011 08:48:00 Gavin Barwell wrote:

I didn't wave my order paper or shout "More, more" after the Chancellor's statement on the Comprehensive Spending Review. If you look at my post on the statement, you will see that I explicitly recognised that it was going to mean some of my constituents losing their jobs.

I am aware of yesterday's UKBA announcement. I have already discussed it with the Minister and taken up several issues raised with me by constituents with UKBA management. The suggestion that I don't care about constituents losing their jobs is ridiculous and frankly offensive.

As regards, my recent exchange with Tim Godfrey, I started out by saying that I normally find him a decent bloke so it was hardly a personal attack. However, he had claimed that I supported proposals which I had objected to (and spent a huge amount of time informing residents about and encouraging them to object) - I don't think it was unreasonable for me to put the record straight and point out in return that he hadn't objected to them.

On the substantive issue of Andrew, if you read what I posted the day after I was elected you will see that I share your regard for his work as a councillor, GLA member and MP. I don't see how what I posted above can possibly be seen as attacking him - I make the point that the Conservative Party is not blameless in what has happened but first and foremost what I am saying is that it is very sad things have turned out the way they have - both for the Conservative Party and for Andrew himself.

On 06/03/2011 15:13:00 Andrew Leng wrote:
Mr Barwell

Thank you for your response to my comments

If you didn’t wave your order paper and shout ‘More! More! More!’, then I apologise for having said that. Equally I hope you will now go on record and condemn your Conservative/Lib Dem colleagues who did. It was frankly disgraceful behavior at a time when people are extremely worried about their jobs and services and the damage it will do to their families and their communities.

I have recently corresponded with you on job losses in the Civil Service and the detrimental changes to the CS Compensation Scheme (CSCS). We are now beginning to see the acceleration of the redundancy programme: 700-900 job losses in Croydon alone announced last week, with several hundred more to come in the next 2-3 years. At every turn you have agreed with Francis Maude and you have supported the cuts in the Civil Service. You said that the CSCS changes would protect the more junior, administrative grades, when the truth of the matter is that last week's UKBA announcement will mean that the vast majority of jobs lost will be in the administrative grades (i.e. caseworkers), with senior management grades left relatively untouched. I’m sorry, but you hardly come across as someone who is prepared to robustly defend and fight for your constituents against these vicious and ideological job cuts.

If I am wrong on this, then prove it. Show that you are a truly independent minded MP, who is determined to stand up and defend the interests of his constituents. Stop towing the party/ government line on the Civil Service job cuts. Left unchallenged, the job losses in Croydon will devastate local communities and irreparably damage the local economy. It is hugely naïve of you and your Conservative/Lib Dem colleagues to assume that the private sector will simply step in and mop up the job losses in the civil service and the wider public sector in Croydon.

On the subject of Andrew Pelling, David Cameron put his name to a letter, which was circulated to Croydon Central Conservative voters before the 2010 election. This essentially questioned Andrew’s character and referred to some difficult personal issues that Andrew had experienced in the past. This was a personal, wholly insensitive and inappropriate letter for a future Prime Minister to put his name to. Perhaps you will now go on record and apologise for this and condemn David Cameron for this personal attack on Andrew Pelling?

On 09/03/2011 18:12:00 Gavin Barwell wrote:

Condemnation is a strong word that should be reserved for people who commit serious offences. Those MPs who waved their order papers after the Chancellor's statement did so to show their support for urgent action to tackle the deficit; whilst I agreed with them, I didn't join them in waving my order paper because I was conscious that such action would mean some of my constituents losing their jobs and I didn't want to appear insensitive.

I don't agree with you that the cuts are idealogical (unless you think it is idealogical to believe that the Government needs to live within its means). The Government isn't cutting to shrink the size of the state; its objective is to eliminate the deficit and it is not going one penny further.

The letter from David Cameron went to every elector in the constituency, not just to Conservatives. I have included the text below. As you can see, it doesn't question Andrew's character - to the contrary, David Cameron says he regrets that Andrew chose not to rejoin the Conservative Parliamentary Party. It does refer to his arrest in September 2007 because that was necessary to explain why the Whip was temporarily suspended but it makes it clear that the police decided not to press charges. The purpose of the letter was not to attack Andrew but to express regret that he had left the Conservative Party and make it clear that voting for him risked keeping Gordon Brown in Number 10 - a perfectly reasonable argument.



Dear Croydon Central resident,

In just a few weeks we will have the most important election for a generation. Our economy is burdened by huge debts and millions are out of work. Our society is broken by crime and irresponsible behaviour. Our political system is in a mess. I am sure you don’t need me to tell you that Britain desperately needs change.

A Conservative Government will take bold action on all three fronts. We’ll cut Gordon Brown’s waste and debt to get our economy moving. We’ll support families and encourage responsibility in our society by backing people who do the right thing. We’ll sort out our political system by scrapping perks and taking power away from the political elite to give you more control over your life. But there will only be a Conservative Government if we have more MPs than Labour after the Election - and Croydon Central is one of the seats we need to win.

You may have heard that Andrew Pelling, who was elected as your Conservative MP at the last election, has decided to stand against us as an independent. I am, naturally, disappointed by this decision. But most of all, I am concerned about what it may mean for Croydon and for the country as a whole. I am writing to explain why - and how this situation has arisen.

In September 2007, Andrew’s second wife made some serious accusations against him and he was arrested and released on bail. We suspended him while the police investigated the matter, as we always do in such circumstances. Andrew then informed us that he didn’t wish to stand for re-election (see over page). Given the risk that Gordon Brown could call an election at any time, we reluctantly decided to select a new candidate and Gavin Barwell was duly chosen from over 100 applicants.

We were delighted when Andrew felt able to return to work in the summer of 2008. Given that the police had long since decided not to press charges, we offered to reinstate him once he had fully resumed his duties. Regrettably he chose not to accept that offer. Had he done so, the local party could have asked Gavin to stand down so that they could re-adopt Andrew as their candidate. Since then, numerous approaches have been made to Andrew to try to bring him back into the fold. He has rejected those approaches and taken an increasingly hostile approach both to Gavin and to the Conservative administration at Croydon Town Hall, culminating in his decision to stand as an independent.

As The Croydon Advertiser observed a few months ago, “one thing nobody with any modicum of political knowledge is saying is that he [Andrew] has any real chance of winning”. Voting for Andrew will simply split the anti-Labour vote, making it more likely that you will get a Labour MP and five more years of Gordon Brown. That’s the last thing Croydon or the country needs.

If you want change, you need to vote for Gavin. He’s lived in the area all his life and you will have seen just how hard he has worked over the last two years. I know he will prove to be a conscientious MP and a real champion for Croydon. I hope you will vote for change in Britain by giving Gavin and the Conservative Party your support.

Yours sincerely,

[insert signature]

David Cameron MP

Leader of the Conservative Party

PS Remember, a vote for anyone other than Gavin could mean a Labour MP and five more years of Gordon Brown.

On 18/03/2011 16:14:00 Anthony Miller wrote:
I'm never quite sure what to make of Mr Pelling but I did ask him to join the party because he had three things I thought we could benefit from: bravery, cheek and (most importantly of all) £41.



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