Tuesday evening's council meeting, and the installation of the new Mayor of Barnet, was as we know, overshadowed by the news of the illness of Tory leader Lynne Hillan, who is suffering from lung cancer, and has stood down from her position.
At the meeting, deputy Andrew Harper was appointed interim leader, and led tributes to Ms Hillan, remarking, at some length, upon the sombre mood of the evening, and stating with emphasis that 'no one can feel more sombre than I do ...' He said that he was taking on the role of interim leader 'with deep humility'.
The Barnet bloggers, and anti cuts activists, have all tried very hard to act with sensitivity after the news of Ms Hillan's illness was broken. The protest which was to have taken place before the meeting on Tuesday night was cancelled for that reason. On a personal level I feel particularly sorry for the former leader, as my own mother died not so many years ago from lung cancer, and I know what a huge fight she is facing, and the distress that her son must be feeling.
Like fellow blogger Roger T, therefore, I was frankly staggered to see the news story, published online yesterday, Wednesday, at 5.10 pm in the local Times group paper, headlined: 'Councillor Andrew Harper announces bid for Barnet Council Leadership'.
Less than 24 hours after his solemn address to the council chamber, Mr Harper is cheerily described as being the first to 'throw his hat into the ring' for the leadership contest.
The story is accompanied by a ludicrous picture of Mr Harper smiling happily - squatting, as it happens - by a pair of recycling boxes full of shoes, empty bottles and other rubbish. Perhaps this is a library picture, and perhaps he did not intend this story to appear so quickly in the press, but in that case I really would have thought it might have been appropriate to keep his mouth firmly shut about his own or anyone else's political intentions until a decent interval had elapsed.
Evidently we are going to see a desperate and undignified struggle here in Barnet now for the vacant leader's post. So much is at stake, after all.
It is of course an opportunity for someone to step up, take responsibility for the mess this administration has landed us all in, and - as has happened in Suffolk - put a halt to the programme of massive outsourcing of services that has been foisted on us, before it is all too late.
I really hope that this will happen, and I urge the long excluded, disaffected back bench members of the Tory group to do their duty to the residents of this borough, and elect a new leader who will not only bring a new direction to the management of this borough, but is capable of rebuilding the dysfunctional relationship that now exists between the local authority and the people it is supposed to represent.
Sadly, the leadership contest that has started with such unseemly haste is only likely to be viewed by the candidates amongst this Tory group as an opportunity for their own political ambitions and self interest.
Business as usual, then, here in Broken Barnet.
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