Yeah, yeah, I know ... but what did you expect? A revolution? In the ranks of the craven Tory councillors of Broken Barnet? Come off it.
Lynne Hillan is now one of the politically undead. Like a zombie, she will go through the motions, and sit through a few more meetings, and chuckle in corners with her chum Brian, plotting revenge like a couple of kids in the playground, the weird ones that no one wants to play with, but it will all amount to nowt. Look at the facts.
She seems to have clung on to power by one vote. Mark Shooter, the new boy, with no political experience, narrowly missed unseating her, and may still yet. In retrospect, he looks like the best leader they could have had: a man who, although he did take part in the infamous allowance vote, is otherwise untainted by the self serving culture of the rest of the longer serving members of the party. In his 'final pitch' letter, he stated he wanted to instigate a positive engagement with the public and council staff, rejected 'soviet bureaucratic initiations' such as Futureshape, went out of his way to support our libraries, and, tellingly, objected to 'having instructions barked at you with menaces' by unnamed Tory colleagues.
With such a weak power base, Hillan has lost all claim to credibility as leader, and all authority, just as certainly as she has lost the support of the ordinary Conservative residents in this borough, who continue to voice their deep sense of disgust over the Allowancegate disgrace in the local press. It is not a question of whether or not she will go, she will; but who will take over? Andrew Harper fancies his chances, but he is too closely allied with the present mess to represent a move to a new approach, which is so badly needed if the Tories are to recover lost support.
Not only did Hillan come so close to losing her position, Brian Schama, the other new boy councillor, very nearly dislodged Wendy Prentice from her position of party chair, again losing only by one vote. He had written a magnificently vitriolic letter to Hillan, quoted in the press and blogs, stating that he was 'ashamed to be your colleague', describing the public humiliation of Kate Salinger as 'obscene bullying', and accusing his leader of being 'cynically determined to suckle as much as you can from the Barnet civic teat'. What a charming picture he paints.
The only real surprise to me in regard to last night was the previously unplumbed depth of stupidity and political ineptitude to which so many of the Tory councillors sank in their inability to do the right thing and vote for change. By their cowardly, shambling dithering, either scared or 'persuaded' with promises of God knows what into voting as they did, they have effectively told the electorate of this borough that they endorse the allowance rise outrage, and will continue to stand by the architect of this policy. Additionally this vote is an endorsement of the shameful treatment of Mrs Salinger, after she alone had the courage to stand up for her convictions and refuse to be bullied onto voting for something she felt to be wrong, and a betrayal of the interests of the people she was elected to serve.
The voters of this borough, and in particular the traditional loyal Conservative voters of this borough, will not forget that the Tories, by last night's vote, sanctioned everything that happened on that fateful night of the allowance rise hike. They won't stop to wonder which of the councillors voted for Hillan, and which of them didn't, they will see only the end result and all Tory councillors will be held responsible. Of course, Mrs Angry can guarantee that very soon, and again in the run up to the next elections, we will be hearing from Tories whingeing about how they didn't want to vote for Lynne Hillan, and a big shouty nasty man made them do it and oh dear, how my heart bleeds ...
The current crop of Tory councillors should enjoy the next three and a half years, and rake in as much allowance and attendance money as they can, because, I suspect, they are not going to be invited back for another round of shafting by the grateful residents of Broken Barnet. In fact, if you think about it, in an unpleasant analogy, what the Tories have done to this borough is the corporate equivalent of a date rape: under the pretext of respectability, they slipped something into our drink and screwed us for everything they could.
Kick them where it hurts, then, in the email box, in the councillors' surgeries, at the earliest opportunity. Go to the council meetings and let them know you are watching what they are up to. If you disagree with what they do, do something about it and let your opinions count for something. If you believe in the democratic process, then now is the time to join in and defend it from the exploitation of unscrupulous opportunists who really do not give a damn about the community in which we live.