Sunday, 9 March 2014
The reason why Brian Coleman left the council chamber in such an undignified rush on Tuesday evening was that he was due to be formally censured by the full council - again - this time for his actions in regard to a council laptop which he claims to have 'disposed of' in the summer of 2012, with the knowledge of a council officer, who has contradicted his account.
Coleman pulled the same stunt at the time of his last reprimand, leaving the room just before the disciplinary measure, such as it is. By such a tactic he imagines the sanction is rendered entirely pointless, but in fact it serves to underline his now complete isolation from the political process he once sought to dominate. Now he spends his time on the margins, looking in from the outside. It's been a long time coming, this end to his career, and it's still got one last depth to reach, in May, when he attempts to retain a seat in Totteridge as an 'independent Tory'.
In truth, Pickles demolition of the Standards regime has shown the glaring contradiction in his approach to localism : residents will never be properly empowered until there is an effective system that deals with elected representatives like Brian Coleman, who continue to flout the rules, year on year, and behave in the most obnoxious way to the very people he is supposed to represent, but may now escape any punishment, unless a serious financial misdeameanour is proven.
The message from Tory Barnet's disciplinary process is this: a councillor like Coleman may attack a female resident, and be found guilty in court, and escape any censure at all - yet if he 'loses' a piece of council owned equipment, he is formerly sanctioned. And of course, thanks to Eric Pickles, he can only face legal proceedings if he is accused of a serious financial irregularity.
Property, and money, are of course, in the Tory agenda, always of more value than the safety of a woman on a public street.
And a criminal conviction for violence does not prevent the individual from continuing in public office, nor from standing again for election, or requiring that individual to make that conviction known to the electorate who may vote for him. This is quite clearly wrong, on so many levels.
Coleman's former colleagues, now that he has broken the spell he had cast over them, by the publishing of a list of embarrassing revelations in his scurrilous blog, are becoming awfully brave - and when he was not present in the chamber, were very daring, and said really bad things about him, behind his back.
Things got so out of hand, it was rather like a scene from Lord of the Flies - the usually submissive boys letting rip when the bully is out of the way.
Fellow Totteridge councillor Richard Cornelius launched into an oblique trashing of his former colleague. Let it be remembered, however, that during the Helen Michael saga, weeks after her assault in the street by Coleman, Cornelius continually refused to supend him, or condemn him, rejecting Helen Michael's claims, bleating 'I know and like Brian' ... Only now it has become personal, with Coleman's ire turned on him and his wife for failing to give unswerving loyalty to him after CCHQ had him thrown out of the Conservative party.
After the trial, Cornelius and his colleagues continued to defend him, and Coleman was only suspended and then removed from the party, in the face of their obstinate refusal to do so, after the intervention of Conservative Central Office.
The truth, the shameful truth, is that they cared nothing about their colleague's abuse of a woman especially a woman who had had the courage to stand up to them and organise opposition to their insane policies, specifically the parking madness, Coleman's idiotic scheme, which has so enraged residents, traders, and fatally, their own core voters.
Who is more worthy of contempt, a man who clearly has no control of his own behaviour, or his former colleagues who failed to stand up to him when it mattered, supported him in his policies, backed him up when he was convicted of assault, and never once uttered one word of criticism of his actions?
Councillor Kate Salinger had amused us all, earlier in the meeting, with her eulogy for Mayor Elect Hugh Rayner, complaining that some took gender equality too far, and that chivalry, and good manners, and opening doors for ladies were admirable qualities. Perhaps they are, in their eyes, at least: but beating up a woman in the street, for daring to record his boundless hypocrisy in ignoring his own hated parking policy, might also be said, in the absence of any equality in the ranks of our misogynistic Tory councillors, to fall marginally outside the limits of their chivalric code - yet it provoked no condemnation from any Barnet Conservative councillor, male or female.
Even after the court case in which the footage of the incident showed quite clearly the full impact of Coleman's thuggish attack on a slight, defenceless woman, in full daylight, on a public street, none of them spoke out, or apologised to Helen, whom many of them had said was making it all up. It was an abject failure in common decency.
The reason why they were all such a bunch of quivering cowards is that they feared he would dig up all their embarrassing secrets, and tell the world, in an act of petty revenge: and that is exactly what he did, in September, writing a truly shameful blogpost in which he outed two of his reportedly gay colleagues, and made allegations about several others: it was a calculated act of betrayal from someone who confuses loyalty with 'discipline', and withdraws his own support as soon as it fails to benefit his own purposes - as in his u-turn over One Barnet.
At the Full Council meeting, after he hurried out of the chamber, Tory leader Richard Cornelius stood up and made it clear, from his assumed expression, rather in the manner, as always, of the butler of a stately hom, in the twilight era of the Edwardian age, being asked to empty a chamber pot, that he was having to deal with a most distasteful matter, although it became apparent that he could not give the full background to the tale of how and why the loss of the laptop had come to light.
It was, he said, a very serious issue - and he was obliged to admit that when he and his collegues had drawn up the new 'disciplinary' arrangements they had overlooked the possibility that the need to censure an independent member would create difficulty, as the panel which carries out this function is comprised of party leaders, and clearly an independent member is likely to be his own leader.
In fact this failure was avoidable: Mrs Angry was present at meetings of the committee which discussed the new soft touch regime, and Libdem Jack Cohen and others had highlighted this potential risk. Nothing came of such considerations.
Tory Brian Salinger, who is the former leader once deposed by a coup organised by Coleman, in favour of Mike Freer, now MP for Finchley and Golders Green, stood up to speak to the motion to censure. He is a decent man, and genuinely appalled at aspects of the case which would appear, by implication, to raise questions that must, in the public interest, be addressed as soon as possible.
He spoke with contempt of the countless number of times Brian Coleman has been sanctioned by this council. This sudden sense of outrage amongst the previously silent Tories was all too much for Mrs Angry, who yelled:
Why didn't you all stand up to him then?
Coleman, said Salinger, had persistently flouted the Code of Conduct, and his behaviour over recent years has done nothing but harm to the interests of local government, not just in Barnet but across London and probably beyond.
One misdeameanour, he said, might justify a slap across the wrists, but there comes a point where anything short of suspension or removal from office altogether is the only way of dealing with persistent and unapologetic miscreants.
Councillor Salinger complained about the lack of detail in the report, and said there were a large number of questions that demanded answers before the point of censure.
One question that occurs is the matter of the risk to personal data.
Salinger was right to raise this - there is very little information on how Barnet is or is not acting to identify what level of risk there has been. This is simply inadequate: especially as it will not be the first time that the authority has lost this sort of personal information.
The Information Commissioner has itself censured Barnet for such losses: has the ICO been informed? What has Coleman said about the laptop: did he destroy the hard drive before 'disposing' of it? If so, why? And if not, why not?
All councillors are data controllers: is he therefore liable to proceedings for failing to ensure the security of the data on a council owned laptop? All these questions and more should and must be answered.
All these questions, and more.
Salinger's allotted time ran out before he finished his speech, but Mrs Angry has a copy, and has seen what else he intended to ask. They allude to deeply worrying concerns, which the council has failed to address.
He wanted to know if there are further enquiries that have been, or will be, taking place by any other bodies.
He wanted to know if this mysterious case raises any issues about such matters as safeguarding.
Councillor Danny Seal stood up to speak. He is a young Tory member who has recently been the butt of Coleman's needling, who tweets about his reportedly high absences from council meetings and trips abroad, sometimes taunting him with the tag #sealhunt.
Seal is not the brightest button in the box, or an articulate speaker, but he was clearly keen to vent his anger. Coleman should be censured, he thought, because ... 'we should respect the taxpayer' ....
That'll be a first, retorted Mrs Angry.
Councillor Seal wanted to tell us that it was the Tory group that removed 'the individual' who is, we must note, a convicted criminal ... Just staggeringly untrue - they backed him to the hilt right up until the very last moment, when central party threats forced their hand.
You didn't remove him, it was Conservative Central Office!
He is no longer a part of the of the Conservative Party, said Seal.
True: and no thanks to you, or your leader, or any of his gutless former colleagues.
It was pressure from outraged residents, bloggers and the press that brought that about, and the overwhelming fury of senior Conservative party officials.
Why, Seal continued, do people throw a laptop away, unless there is something on there they don't want people to see?
Quite. But it would have been better to see such comments coming not from two speakers with - understandably - personal grievances, but from some of those one-time apologists, some of whom have continued to associate with this man, even though he has been removed from the Tory party - and who have always refused to condemn his objectionable behaviour in public.
Cornelius stood up to speak again.
He spoke carefully. He told us he was being 'very cautious'. There were - there are... other matters that have been considered. 'Those matters' are not proven, and there was no case to censure him on those. Of course, he said, enigmatically: one's imagination can run riot about this kind of thing, but he ... was not being charged on the basis of innuendo and wild rumour.
I regret very much that I can't be more fulsome in my explanation tonight, but I think the law of the land has to be respected in this, and I am sorry in many ways that this report that this is an unsatisfactory report to the council.
The Mayor read out the formal censure, supported by 53 votes. Three less than the vote against Coleman's preposterous budget. Who abstained? It demonstrates that misplaced sympathies still linger, even now, in the heart of the Tory party in Barnet, as we saw from the slap on the back he got from Eva Greenspan, as he exited the chamber.
Remember all this, when you vote in May - do these people, who en masse, until their own reputations were at stake, were determined to defend a man like Coleman, really deserve your support?
Coleman has always acted as a totemic representation of the soul of the Barnet Tories: an embodiment of their darkest, worst impulses. Whatever he has done, whatever he has failed to do, he has done it because they allowed him to become what he was: he is what they are, in essence, and that is why, ultimately, they have never tried to stop him. Merciless, lacking in empathy, uncultured, uneducated, materialist, self indulgent: incapable of respect for the people they represent: he is out of their hands now, and out of control: and they have only themselves to blame, and so will you, if you vote them back into power in a few weeks time.
Friday, 7 March 2014
Because I do not hope to turn again
Let these words answer
For what is done, not to be done again
May the judgement not be too heavy upon us
The Mayor's chaplain had begun the meeting with references to Purim, but Tuesday night, the night before Ash Wednesday, also marked the beginning of Lent, which for guilt ridden catholics everywhere necessarily requires the wearing of ashes, and a sacrifice made as an act of repentance, for the expiation of sin.
A tale of three budgets, then, and a mark of penance, refused.
First of all we were to be given a self congratulatory presentation of the Tory version from leader Richard Cornelius, who launched into a raving attack on 'socialist paradises', piling praise on the 'success' of the Capita contracts, and sneering at 'those who play games in court' - referring to the disabled resident Maria Nash, who dared to question the legality of the Capita deal in the High Court. Far from 'playing games' the evidence of potential wrongdoing was such that courts gave permission for a Judicial Review of the outsourcing process, and then found that Barnet had breached the law by failing to consult, but clearly, in Richard's view, the law is of no consequence, and merely a game.
He reminded us of all the blessings of living in Broken Barnet - the number of marvellous schools (full of pupils from other boroughs, remarked Mrs Angry) and hoped for even more grammar schools. At this point, without looking up from his reading material, Mr Shepherd expressed the passing thought that Councillor Cornelius might benefit from the endorsement of 'six of the best' at one of the borough's grammar schools. This brought Cornelius' flow to a sudden halt, and created a fair amount of mirth in the chamber.
Thank you, Mr Shepherd, replied the Leader, continuing in his list of wonderful achievements: the installation of Saracens rugby team at Copthall (for a peppercorn rent, while they clean up with a multi-million sponsorship deal with Allianz), the building of three council houses - the first in twenty years, and the mending, last year, of 4,542 pot holes.
All in Golders Green, remarked Mr Shepherd. More laughter. This was a jibe at Tory councillor Dean Cohen, in charge of environment, alleged by his former colleague Brian Coleman to have secured £800,000 worth of highways related funding for his own ward, ie Golders Green. See here - and try to ignore the excruciatingly inappropriate choice of phraseology by Coleman:
Swiftly moving on, with breath taking bravado, we were asked to acknowledge the 'very popular' pay by phone parking system - met, as you might imagine by a certain amount of ribald heckling from the gallery, and then to be grateful for the return, at last, of some of the money from the Icelandic bank fiasco. Heckling about the loss of interest provoked the response that Labour wouldn't have had the money to invest in the first place. Mrs Angry pointed out that the money was borrowed - Cornelius remarked that he could now see why Labour was 'so hostile to payday lenders', a bizarre statement, implying that this was an unfortunate position to take.
He was bursting with pride over the Tory budget, at the one per cent tax cut: Mr Pickles, he said, set us the challenge, and we have met it.
Certainly Barnet Tories have a long way to go before winning back the approval of Eric Pickles: the idea that this trashy gesture is enough to make him forget the enormity of every other embarrassment they have caused the Conservative party over the last four years is delusional.
Cornelius turned now to the Labour alternative budget.
He quoted the Labour leader Alison Moore, who had previously described the Tory tax cut as 'a cynical election ploy', and deputy leader Barry Rawlings, who had called it 'a political stunt.'
This was highlighted, with gleeful scorn, by Cornelius, because, (to the fury of many Labour activists, supporters, and even Labour councillors), the leadership was now requiring the party to support the one percent cut, the cynical election ploy, and the political stunt.
He pointed out that in her budget, Alison Moore had not suggested any reduction in pay for the leader of the opposition. He said that if she would offer to give up a month's salary, he would.
The Libdems' budget, which does not accept the cut, he described as 'a sensible one you can understand'.
As for the 'independent' member for Totteridge, or as he corrected himself, the 'non aligned member', Brian Coleman, he noted his suggestion of removing the office of Chief Executive - (tactless, and strategically ill judged, from Coleman's precarious position). He thought his proposal to turn off street lighting at night was 'silly', but would give some consideration to looking at the level of subscription to the Local Government Association. Good, thought Mrs Angry.
Time for Alison Moore to present her budget. She attempted to begin, but met with a load of the usual discourteous, mindless jabbering from the Tory seats - usual when any woman is speaking, that is. Shut up and you might learn something, she snapped - a most surprising loss of self control for someone normally so courteous, accommodating and polite - far too polite, in fact, and easy prey for the boorish behaviour of the misogynist Barnet Tories.
And it was an indication of the pressure she was feeling in respect of the tax cut issue, from perhaps an unexpected weight of disapproval from her own ranks and the opinion of many local activists who have become increasingly concerned at the lack of - well, opposition, from the opposition, or at least the leadership of the opposition.
The recent cock-up over the Labour members' apparent endorsement of the Task and Finish group which whitewashed the scandalous failure that is the 'Your Choice Barnet' care service was one step too far for many, but to support the Tory council tax cut, after all the outrage that has been expressed is a decision which has enraged many Labour supporters, and rightly so, in Mrs Angry's view.
The explanation for this move is that, well, you know, you can't change the rate once it has been set, and send letters out to residents telling them they will have to pay the dreadful sum of 23 pence a week more than expected, to support vital services.
Yes, actually you can, and you should, and you must. To do otherwise is morally and tactically wrong.
The Tories have acted cynically and irresponsibly, and it is the duty of an opposition to say so, to act to reverse such a move, and certainly not to endorse it.
In order to have any influence on any financial policy, Labour has actually to win power, and they will not win power unless they convince enough residents that they are going to offer an administration that is radically different to the present bunch of largely self serving, incompetent Tories, who lack any sense of compassion, justice, or respect for the people they represent - unless they live in Bishops Avenue, or Totteridge Lane.
The Labour party, both locally and nationally, is failing to see that in their eagerness to be electable they are failing to respond to the real sense of outrage being felt by ordinary people, disadvantaged people, and even more comfortably placed people, the increasing sense of disillusionment felt at the lack of clear alternative offered by Labour to the iniquitous Tory policies that are falling most heavily on the backs of those who are least able to bear them.
In Barnet we have seen a virtual uprising over the course of the last couple of years, over issues that ought to have been identified and fought by Labour. Instead of taking ownership of these matters, and using them as an opportunity to take on the Tories in a headlong challenge, they have consistently pulled back, and left it to others like Barnet Alliance and the Barnet blogosphere to pursue, while they focus on watered down policies that fail to grab the attention of the wider electorate. Why should the wider electorate turn to Labour, with such a lack of initiative, and fighting spirit? It is a question we must ask honestly, and address, and correct any failings before we get any closer to the election.
As fellow blogger Roger Tichborne asked after the meeting, in an exasperated post of one sentence:
What is the point of Barnet Labour party if they slavishly copy the Barnet Tory tax cutting and service destroying agenda?
And the always reasonable Mr Reasonable commented in an aptly titled post:
Having read through the details, I have to say that I am disappointed that Labour have chosen to go along with the Council Tax cuts. It is not surprising, I suppose, given that any suggestion they would either freeze or increase Council Tax would be pounced on by the Conservatives, but that doesn't make it right.
Without a doubt, the vast majority of Labour councillors and activists in this borough are good people, genuinely dedicated to making our community a better place. And they will, once they are elected. There is simply no comparison with the selfish, contemptuous, materialist culture of the Conservatives in Barnet. But we must, at this point in the run up to the election be honest and admit that there is a failure in leadership, and need for a change in the direction and presentation of Labour policies.
There is absolutely no doubt either, that Labour must and can win this election, indeed there is no option to fail: we owe it to the forgotten residents of this borough to wrest back control of this council and our local services.
The fact that the party leader is so loathe to commit to challenging the privatisation of those services is a serious mistake: escaping from the Capita contracts may prove to be impossible in the end, or it may not, but the desire to fight for the shaking off of what has been an agreement forged in a process utterly devoid of transparency, consent, or proper scrutiny, is entirely absent, and that is a shameful indictment of the strength of opposition, and a betrayal of the best interests of our borough.
As the Unite union leader reminded us, regrettably in the absence from the platform of the party leader, at last year's conference, Harold Wilson once said:
If Labour is not a moral crusade, then we are nothing ...
Nowhere could there be greater need of a Labour opposition to retain the high moral ground, safe from the hypocrisy, cruelty and self-indulgence of Conservative politics than here, in Broken Barnet.
Mrs Angry spent yesterday out canvassing for Labour in West Hendon, one of those areas of social deprivation the Tories ignore as much as possible, unless there is a gerrymandering opportunity for new non affordable housing developments. More on this in another post, but it was an experience which brought home the urgent need for a council administration which stands up the for the welfare of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged residents, and stops worrying about the inhabitants of, yes - Bishops Avenue, or Totteridge Lane.
There is a new wave of Labour councillors about to be elected: their arrival will transform the party and give it the new direction it so badly needs, and that is why you, yes you, must vote Labour. Whatever the outcome in May, Mrs Angry confidently predicts there will be radical changes within the party, and a the birth of a new beginning for Labour, as well as the borough.
Back to the meeting, and the presentation of the Labour alternative. We heard a bit about you know, Cameron and Eric Pickles, and all in this together, and Oxford getting a better handout of grants, and Bob Neill admitting those in greatest need were taking the burden of austerity measures.
All true. What is the opposition group in Barnet going to do about it? They are going to take away the Tory councillors' free parking permits. Good. And? And the increases in allowances. Marvellous. Parking: one policy which will most certainly attract the support of many disaffected Tory voters - a bit about affordable housing and, ... that was more or less it.
Not that there are not policy proposals to be proud of, these were just not presented assertively enough, and the issues which should be addressed, simply sidelined or ignored. Don't remember anything about Capita, or Your Choice Barnet, or any really big idea: just a stated commitment to ensuring more 'fairness' ...
At the end of the speech, a sniggering suggestion was made from within the gloating ranks of the Tory councillors that the Labour leader might be about to defect to their party, as one deselected councillor has already done, and good riddance, in a desperate bid to keep a seat on the council. It was an embarrassing moment.
Labour's Ross Houston had been listed to speak to the budget item. For no particular reason, this was not allowed by the Mayor. Funny, as Mr Shepherd remarked, that we have time for prayers, but not democracy.
He would have said:
We acknowledge that times are tough and a Labour administration won't spend it’s first few months re-issuing council tax bills.
The proposed council tax cut although welcome represents less than £14 a year for the average household.
Is it welcome? To whom? When it deprives vital services of funding? Cllr Houston, who is a scrupulously decent man, defended the cut as enabling the council to support the new focus a Labour administration would have on those elusive goals, fairness and transparency.
In Mrs Angry's view, those are principles to be observed without reference to budget, or any other limitation, and endorsing a Tory vote buying gimmick is not the best demonstration of fairness.
Does this all matter? Yes, it matters.
Should it stop anyone voting Labour in the election?
NO - the essential difference between the Labour party and the Conservatives is that we can have this debate in the open, and raise criticism of issues in order to build a stronger bond between us, before the election period properly begins. And when the new intake of Labour councillors are in post, we can begin to put Broken Barnet together again.
Back to the meeting.Time for Jack Cohen to speak about the Libdem budget.
The Libdems' budget rejected the council tax cut.
Jack reminded us of Richard Cornelius' description of the one percent cut as 'a gesture'. He disagreed. It was not a gesture, it was a gimmick - it was reckless.
He pointed out that the £70 million shortfall that was heading our way makes such a cut simply unsustainable. All for 23 pence a week. He remembered that Councillor Davey, when discussing an increase in some other service had dismissed the extra 55 pence a week as 'absolutely nothing'. And one consequence of this cut would be that anyone who lives, drives, or breathes in the borough would have to shell out for hidden taxes ...
Time for a budget from Brian Coleman. Oh God. His idea was to cut the council tax by three percent, paid for by the poorest residents out of their benefit payments. In fact his budget was unlawful, as some of the funding it required was not available in the same financial year, and really the entire proposal should have been struck out by governance officers, but they clearly decided to humour him, in view of the item at the end of the agenda.
Coleman turned to the subject of parking, the policy he devised that has caused so much damage to the Tory party in Barnet - and wreaked so much havoc on the borough's high streets. Commenting on attempts to undo the impact of this catastrophic scheme he boasted that it was designed by him in such a way as to be 'irreversible'. Despite this cunning plan, he protested, he could exclusively reveal, like an amateur magician at a Rotary Club christmas party producing a toy rabbit out of a hat, rather than a wriggling live one - that: taddah ... A Parking Recovery Plan Was Being Drafted! Just imagine the excitement!
When we had composed ourselves, he continued with his speech. As for the Labour budget, he said, he was staggered that they were accepting the cut. At least, he said, Jack Cohen had moral principles.
Being lectured by someone like Brian Coleman on the issue of a moral principle is a joke, of course, but to be put in such a position, courtesy of the Labour party, is intolerable. Please don't do that again.
And for once the old fool was right: the Libdems had retained their dignity in opposition, and the Labour leadership had thrown theirs in the gutter with the Tories.
Lord Palmer tells it like it is, and delivers an opposition budget, as Labour members look on
Libdem peer Monroe Palmer, who with his wife, fellow Childs Hill councillor Susette Palmer, is standing down in May, gave a scathing speech on the other parties' budget proposal. Alternative budgets, he said, were always pointless: in all the years he could recall, the Tories had never adopted a single item from another party. The Tories did not present a budget in opposition, perhaps because they were unable to formulate one without the help of officers. He said their cut of one percent was an action by a 'morally bankrupt' party.
Palmer raised the scandal of the shameful salary cuts of ten percent being imposed on the already low paid workers employed by 'Your Choice Barnet'. He referred to the ludicrous boasts about potholes, saying he recognised the same ones popping up again, and the risk of tripping up from unmended broken paving slabs, all worth it, of course, for the grand sum of 23 pence a week. And for Cornelius to congratulate himself on the 'success' of the Capita contracts? They've only just begun! He mentioned the capital investment fiasco, and the Icelandic loss, taken not from reserves, but borrowed money. By this time, his fury was such, that Mrs Angry feared for the risk to his blood pressure. But it was at least genuine feeling, passionate, a legitimate fury, and so much more worthy of an opposition member.
Tories and Labour - morally bankrupt: Councillor Lord Palmer socks it to them: a lesson in opposition
Other speakers took their turn: like Tory Dean Cohen, wittering like a third form schoolboy, so boring that his contribution was punctuated by the sound of someone snoring in the public gallery. (Not Mrs Angry, of course).
Unfortunately we also had to listen to a speech by the less than charming Tom Davey, a callow youth who delights in trying to sound as right wing and hard line as it is possible, a peculiar and regrettable tendency in someone in their mid twenties. If he is like this at such a young age, what will he be like in his middle years, or old age, one wonders? In UKIP, probably. Still, as always, Mrs Angry salutes his dedication to such a deeply unpalatable brand of uncompassionate Conservatism.
He claimed that people were 'flocking' to Barnet. Not poor ones, obviously, you know - the subspecies of human beings that Boris Johnson's sister went to visit recently, and found living like 'animals' on £3 a day.
Our Tory councillors wants none of that, of course. Davey said that he wanted to encourage only well off people to live in this borough - he has previously said he wants to see Russian oligarchs moving in, rather than people who are 'dependent on council services'.
Obviously Cllr Davey uses no council services, as his f*cking feet never touch the pavement, he has no rubbish to be recyled, other than his half baked political ideas, and judging by the content of his contributions in debate, has failed to take full advantage of the benefit of our marvellous local education system, so highly praised by Richard Cornelius.
Enjoy the sight of Councillors Greenspan and Coleman revelling in Davey's puerile remarks about welcoming the well off to Barnet
Davey made rather a foolish blunder, in his speech. He talked about a conversation he had had about the budget with a reporter from a local paper, and repeated comments he alleged the unnamed reporter had made. This was unfair, in breach of all protocols, and pretty stupid, in the run up to an election.
He also made an inexcusably low comment about the Labour housing spokesperson not bothering to turn up. Her husband stood up and demanded an apology, as she has been very unwell. Davey slunk into his seat, muttering that he didn't know that. If he apologised, Mrs Angry did not hear it.
Watch how our Tory councillors behave: Tom Davey and a baying audience
Deputy leader Daniel Thomas - is he standing as a PPC anywhere this time? Last election he stood in Neil Kinnock's old constituency, on an anti-immigration ticket. Here in culturally diverse Barnet, he is more discreet. Kind of. He claimed that Labour now realises that cutting tax is exactly what residents want. He thought that the 'fairness commissions' suggested by Alison Moore were the 'socialist version of consultants'. Oh, thought Mrs Angry, wondering why Barnet Tories will keep banging on about Barnet Labour being socialists, an interesting admission that, as Mrs Angry knows he really knows, the spending on One Barnet consultants is utterly outrageous.
He had an announcement. He guarantees not to sell Friern Barnet library. For four years. Wonder who might be lined up for Year Five?
When are you selling Church Farmhouse Museum? asked Mrs Angry, who was sitting next to the former curator, Gerrard Roots, beside himself with contempt at the debacle in the chamber, just as he is enraged by the Tories' treatment of the now vulnerable, closed, ransacked, decaying Grade II* listed building. Still, as we hear, Barnet has now gone and shoved a shower room in it for the security man, possibly without permission from English Heritage.
They took a vote on the budgets. Obviously the Tory one was approved. Not Labour, or the Libdems. Oh: you are wondering about Brian Coleman's? He almost forgot to vote for himself, but managed a last minute signal, rallying all his supporters (ie one) just in time.
Against? Only 56 votes. Close, commented Mrs Angry.
Even Councillor Harper laughed.
Mr Shepherd called for a recount.
And then at this point, the non aligned, independent member for Totteridge quickly gathered up his papers, and left the chamber.
Where are you going, Brian, asked Mrs Angry? Gone to look for your laptop?
Which will bring us to the last, rather perplexing part of this meeting, in the next post.
Wednesday, 5 March 2014
The misuse of power, exposed by Queen Esther
Mrs Angry could tell that tonight's full council meeting was going to be a memorable one as soon as she clapped eyes on Mr Shepherd, the veteran commenter who haunts the public gallery of the Town Hall in Broken Barnet.
Usually Mr Shepherd is accompanied by two bags of a collection of old clippings from the Morning Star, and stapled together jottings in his spidery handwriting, keenly worked up observations on articles on a wide range of political subjects, over a wide period of time. This is his filing system, and during meetings he will busy himself sorting out his notes, re-reading his saved articles, cutting out new ones - and yet keeping a keen ear out for the faux pas and stated hypocrisies of our Tory councillors, interjecting, with perfect timing, and usually without looking up over his spectacles, with a series of barbed comments on the proceedings, a one man Greek chorus, and delivering a masterly stand up, or rather sit down, comic routine.
He is simply the funniest man in Broken Barnet, and almost always spot on with his one line pronouncements.
Who is Mr Shepherd, and where does he come from? How long has he been coming to council meetings?
Since the beginning of time - to be precise, dating back as far as the Thatcher era, which is the beginning of time, in Broken Barnet: his voice can clearly be heard heckling the old bat herself, on election night. Where he comes from, or where he goes to: no one knows.
Tonight there was an added air of deliberation to his entry into the public gallery. Not two bags, but three, as he pointed out with glee to Mrs Angry. This was unprecedented, and had to be taken as a portent of deep significance. Like Sherlock Holmes, applying his mind to a three pipe problem, Mr Shepherd clearly thought the consideration of three budgets would require a shift in gear.
Also present in the gallery was a small party of school children, with their teacher. Is this some sort of detention, asked Mrs Angry, sympathetically, feeling awfully sorry for the poor mites, and wondering what terrible thing they had done to be punished in this way? She warned the teacher there would be a fair amount of shouting, and made a mental note to try not to swear as much as usual. Very difficult, as it turned out.
Sitting on his own in the chamber, in his place in no man's land, in the middle of the room, eating some food liberated from the councillors' buffet, was the folorn figure of a man who is no longer allowed in the Tory members' group room - disgraced councillor Brian Coleman.
The last item on the meeting's agenda was the decision of the group leaders' panel that Coleman should be formally censured for yet another breach of the councillors' code of conduct. This time it is for a very curious reason: the unauthorised 'disposal' of a council laptop. In fact it is not so much the loss of the equipment that is the real story, but the mysterious circumstances in which such a loss appears to have happened. But more of that anon.
Before the proceedings began, the innocent school children were even more traumatised when Tory councillor Reuben Thompstone came bursting into the gallery, stood before them with what Mrs Angry, (more used to seeing him shout at her, red faced, at Residents Forums, in an attempt to silence her attempts to defy the censorship rules) eventually realised was an attempt at a welcoming smile, as he informed them he was Councillor Reuben Thompstone, and responsible for schools in Barnet. They stared at him uncomprehendingly, visibly recoiling, and clearly wondering what the hell he was on about.
We began, as usual, with a prayer from the Mayor's chaplain. With an admirable, if surprising demonstration of rabbinical mischief-making, and as we approach the festival of Purim, he chose a timely passage from the book of Esther, about a 'wicked Prime Minister' - his words - who abused his position, and reminded us of the lessons we must take from the story regarding the misuse of power ... Well said, Rabbi: but as always, a completely wasted effort, down among the unbelievers in the council chamber of Broken Barnet.
Purim, of course, is traditionally celebrated by the wearing of fancy dress. A tradition which is also very popular with the Tory councillors of all faiths, in the London Borough of Barnet.
This meeting was in order to approve the annual budget, of course, but the first and most important part of the agenda, as far as the Tories were concerned, was the election of the new Mayor.
The childlike excitement which this nonsensical annual decision engenders amongst their ranks is really mirthmaking. It is impossible to overstate how much it matters to them, to have a chance of playing Mayor, dressing up in the moth-eaten robes, and being driven around the borough in the official limousine to carefully chosen civic events. But it does, it really, really does.
Just as Councillor Thompstone imagined a group of school children would be impressed by his talking to them, in his capacity of ... whatever, the Tories seem to think being Mayor has some sort of magisterial authority, or even royal status. It is truly comical to see the relish with which they conspire, and plot, and scheme, and fawn in order to have their turns at it - and the airs and graces which new incumbants take upon themselves.
This time it is the turn of Mrs Angry's blushing admirer Hugh Rayner, and he was being formally proposed by his fellow Hale ward councillor, the mean spirited housing spokesman Tom Davey, who warned us, and Hugh, that his speech was going to be rather like the best man at a wedding.
Mrs Angry had a sudden, blinding vision of a wedding from hell, in which you find yourself suddenly espoused to Cllr Rayner, and compelled to sit through a reception in the 'Django Unchained' cafe, at the bottom end of the Scratchwood car park.
Pull yourself together, Mrs Angry - and FFS wake up before the honeymoon begins.
The Mayor elect contemplates his year of glory, watched by Cllrs Davey, left, and Rams, right, as usual playing with his blackberry during a council meeting. Perhaps Ramstone Consulting has just received their first commissioning email from Mrs Angry?
Tom Davey told us he thought Hugh was a great chap, had been in the RAF, and indeed had ended his career at RAF Hendon - as an exhibit, or tour guide, presumably, as the place has been a museum for about thirty years.
Davey had to thank Hugh for being the man who got him into politics.
That was a mistake, suggested Mrs Angry from the public gallery, rather unkindly.
The proposal was seconded by Kate Salinger. She likes Hugh because he is polite, and has impeccable manners. Chivalry, she remarked, is rarely mentioned these days. Kate thinks this is regrettable, and that some of us have taken gender equality too far.
Mrs Angry was emulating the master of riposte, ie Mr Shepherd, at this point making unwarrranted and grossly disrespectful remarks, very loudly, whilst scribbling notes, and noticed the eulogy had come to an abrupt end. She looked up and saw Kate Salinger had stopped, and was looking disapprovingly at her rather in the manner of her former maths teacher, many, many years ago. Oh do carry on, said Mrs Angry, to certain amount of sniggering from the gallery ... It's fascinating ...
Kate enlarged on her theme, talking approvingly of the medieval concept of chivalry, with poetry writing and jousting, and lying around weakly, dying of unrequited love - well, we've all done that, haven't we? Waste of fecking time.
The modern equivalent, ie men not jousting or writing sonnets, but opening doors, and ... well, what else do they do? Mrs Angry has forgotten. 'Gentleman Hugh', said Kate, rather wistfully, is awfully good at it, and therefore should be Mayor. Fair enough.
And Actor-Councillor David Longstaff will play the role of runner-up, or deputy Mayor, which will involve sitting at Hugh's right hand, like God the Son, or Camilla Parker-Bowles, and smiling, and eating a lot of cucumber sandwiches. So. As a mark of respect for David's new position, Mrs Angry will make no reference at all to his illustrious career, the small part in Mary Whitehouse, his gilded posterior, or a particular point of interest to scientists at NASA. He will play his new part magnificently. As long as he remembers to keep his clothes on.
Part of the culture of decadence and denial that exists in the council chamber of Broken Barnet is the failure to recognise that all this fiddle playing distraction of the mayor-making is based on an unfortunate presumption: that the Tories will win the May election and be returned to power.
In fact Hugh Rayner is one of those most likely to get the order of the boot from the ungrateful residents and taxpayers and will be very lucky indeed if he does get his turn at wearing the fur trimmed robes and chain of office. If Labour win, their delightful nominee Agnes Slocombe should be sitting in the Mayor's place, and deservedly so.
Which brings us to the rather more important point of last night's meeting - the budget.
Just as there will be a new Mayor elect, if there is a change of administration, then, you would expect, there will be a new budget, doing away with the iniquitous Tory cut in council tax, cheerfully admitted to be a pre-election 'gesture', which will save most taxpayers only 23 pence a week, but will cause even more of a deficit in revenue, and oblige the authority to make cuts in vital services such as care support, and recoup more money from hapless residents through stealth taxes like parking.
If you thought that, you were wrong.
Oh dear. Please reconfigure your moral compass, in preparation for Part Two.
You will need to make a major adjustment.
to be continued