Conservative candidate Gavin Barwell has accused Croydon Labour of targeting him personally in their general election campaign, as opposed to focusing on their own strengths.
Mr Barwell, 43, was elected MP for Croydon Central in 2010 beating Labour’s Gerry Ryan by a 5.97% majority, and will contest the marginal seat as the Tory candidate in May.
He has criticised Labour of operating a campaign aimed solely at removing him from office, and he emphasised the positivity of his own work.
“Our slogan for our campaign is ‘Back Barwell’. In other words our campaign is trying to say I’ve been a good MP and deserve to be re-elected,” he said.
“The Labour campaign is ‘Bin Barwell’ – in other words it doesn’t say anything positive about their candidate. It simply focuses on getting rid of me.
Labour candidate Sarah Jones, 42, refuted the suggestion that she was heading up a negative campaign, distancing herself from any ‘Bin Barwell’ allegations.
“I have never used that expression – I have never said that and it’s never been part of anything I’ve produced or said so that’s complete rubbish,” she said.
“The entire campaign has been focused on what Labour will do if we get in, and what I will do if I get in.”
Mr Barwell was critical of Mrs Jones – previously dubbed ‘Silent Sarah’ by Mr Barwell and his supporters – and her perceived unwillingness to voice or acknowledge any wrongdoings of the local Labour council.
— Sarah Jones (@LabourSJ) March 29, 2015
He explained: “The ‘Silent Sarah’ moniker is trying to make a political point.
“The point was that we had two or three issues where the local council had done some things that were very unpopular.
“We’ve had two or three stories where public opinion has suggested the Labour council has got something wrong, and she won’t say a word against her council.
“One of the qualities people want in an MP is that when their own side gets things wrong occasionally, they’re prepared to say no that’s not right.
“The purpose of that moniker was to make a valid political point that she seems to be unwilling to say anything to criticise her colleagues even when they’ve got something wrong.”
— Gavin Barwell (@BackBarwell) March 29, 2015
Mr Barwell said he felt the creation of the nickname forced the Labour candidate into a response – a claim she denies.
Mrs Jones said: “You’ve got to put across your own campaign proposals – that’s what people listen and respond to.
“Just trying to be negative about your opponent doesn’t win you votes.
“I don’t think I replied once to any of his ‘Silent Sarahs’. He and about three of his Tory staff would retweet these things but nobody else would.
“No-one paid him any attention. I don’t think it was successful at all.”
Mr Barwell’s dislike of personal attacks coming into the election campaign comes just days after he defended the party’s lampooning of Labour leader Ed Miliband.
He said: “I’m not sure it’s a fair description of the campaign to say the Conservatives are using negative tactics.
“We are definitely making points about Ed Miliband I feel that are legitimate, yet ultimately what we’re choosing at this election is who we want to run the country for the next five years, and the choice is between David Cameron and Ed Miliband.”