Election special: Barwell is May’s new chief of staff
Former housing Minister Gavin Barwell has made a rapid comeback to government after being ousted in the election last week.
Barwell has been appointed as new chief of staff for Theresa May, taking over from May’s closest advisers, Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill, who resigned over the weekend in the wake of the widely criticised Tory election campaign.
Last week Barwell lost his Croydon Central seat as the election returned an unexpected result of a hung parliament.
In an astonishing turnaround in fortunes, Barwell lost his seat by 5,652 votes to Labour’s Sarah Jones.
Barwell, who had only been minister for housing and planning and minister for London at the Department for Communities and Local Government for a year, was one of numerous high-profile casualties of the election, along with former SNP leader Alex Salmond and former deputy prime minister Nick Clegg.
In the election results the Conservatives secured 319 seats, down from 330 seats in 2015, while the Labour Party obtained 261 seats, up from 232 seats in 2015. The SNP failed to match the previous election performance, having kept only 34 seats, while the Liberal Democrats won 12 seats.
Speaking about the appointment of Barwell to his new post, May said: “He has been a first-class minister and is widely respected. He will bring considerable experience of the party to the post.
“As I said yesterday, I want to reflect on the election and why it did not deliver the result I hoped for. Gavin will have an important role to play in that. I look forward to working with him.”
The prime minister is expected to appoint a new housing minister in the coming days once an agreement is finalised with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party on forming a new government.
In his role of housing minister Barwell was well thought of and had been praised for his grasp of detail, but there were problems during the campaign on the ground – he was accused of distributing leaflets that both supported and opposed the building of new homes in Croydon.
The Conservatives had stated in their election manifesto they planned to extend their one million new homes by 2020 target to a further 500,000 homes by 2022.
The high-profile issue of housing quality was also a pledge in their programme, with the manifesto stating: “More homes will not mean poor quality homes. For too long, careless developers, high land costs and poor planning have conspired to produce housing developments that do not enhance the lives of those living there.
“We will build better houses, to match the quality of those we have inherited from previous generations. That means supporting high-quality, high-density housing like mansion blocks, mews houses and terraced streets.”
However, doubt has already been brewing about Conservative housing pledges as it was revealed in the run up to the election that there was “no new money” for the housing policy, and the party’s plans to build thousands of new homes each year would be paid for out of existing budgets – specifically a £1.4bn fund already set aside for infrastructure spending.
Commenting on his new position, Barwell said: “I voted for Theresa May to become prime minister. I believe she is the best person to heal the divisions in our country that last year’s referendum and the general election have laid bare, getting the best Brexit deal for the whole country and leading us towards a brighter future outside the EU.
“I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to serve as her chief of staff.”