Macbeth, Act IV, Scene 1
By the pricking of my thumbs,
Something wicked this way comes:—
Open, locks, whoever knocks!
How now, you secret, black, and midnight hags!
What is't you do?
A deed without a name.
Forget about the full council meeting tonight. I already have, except for one thing: the vile behaviour of Brian Coleman towards the residents present tonight in the public gallery, and the cowardly failure of his Tory colleagues to reprimand him for the way in which he acted. Oh, and the venomous encounter we had in the corridor outside the council chamber - see above.
During a 'debate' in the council chamber this evening about the One Barnet idiocy, his usual obstreperous, ranting invective caused some annoyance in the public gallery, and one of the residents involved in the complaint to the standards committe in regard to the Veolia 'blackshirts' case, asked Coleman where his apology was (as decided by the verdict). Residents in the gallery also continued to object to Coleman's speech.
In a completely disproportionate reaction, he suddenly launched into the most astonishing explosion of insulting language, sneering at what he called the 'sad, mad and bad' in the public gallery, and jeering, with visible contempt, at one or two of us in particular: 'a couple of old hags' ...
Yes. You read that right.
'Hags.' Old hags, in fact.
Here are some definitions of that word:
An unattractive, middle-aged (or slightly older) woman. The term is commonly used to describe hysterical or ugly women in positions of power.
An old woman considered ugly or frightful. A witch; a sorceress. A female demon. A hagfish
An ugly, slatternly, or evil-looking old woman. An evil or frightening spirit : hobgoblin, witch.
So: sexist, ageist, clearly meant to denigrate the female residents in the public gallery.
Dr Julia Hines, the chair of Age UK Barnet, who was sitting next to me in the front row, thought that Coleman was directing his insult at us. I was writing notes as he spoke, so cannot say, but we were certainly in his line of vision.
Of all the most disgraceful things I have heard in this council chamber in the last couple of years, and boy, have I heard some terrible things, this was by far the worst, the most offensive outburst from this truly pathetic individual.
Such behaviour is an absolute disgrace, an appalling reflection on the reputation of the Tory group in Barnet Council, and deserves a severe reprimand. Did he get it?
More was to come. He then mentions the leader of the staff union by name, and contemptuously, sneeringly referred to what he called his 'desperate' emails.
The man he referred to so disparagingly, completely inappropriately in any context, but especially in the course of a council meeting, is an individual who works passionately, non stop, for the best interests of his members, and has dedicated every effort he can summon to the campaign against One Barnet, in order to protect council staff from the certain fate which will await them if the mass outsourcing programme is agreed. Mrs Angry believes that a formal complaint will follow in response to this remark, and so it should.
The residents in the gallery were beside themselves with fury and loudly demanded an apology. Opposition councillors were visibly shocked. There was pandemonium, unsurprisingly.
The Mayor, Brian Schama, a nice man, with impeccable manners, did nothing, said nothing to make Coleman apologise. Instead of reprimanding him, in fact, he turned to the gallery and lambasted them, demanding that they keep quiet, and outrageously, that they 'show respect' to the council meeting.
Yes: respect. Respect, Mr Mayor, must be earned.
Clearly Cllr Schama is enjoying being Mayor, and being chauffered around the borough, and wearing the red robes and flouncy blouse of his office, and having people bow and scrape to him, but it would be best if he remembered that he is in that post by the courtesy of the people in the public gallery, and that respect is due first and foremost from the councillors to the people whom they represent.
Mrs Angry was unable to contain herself and pointed out that first of all the councillors, such as Coleman need to learn to show respect for their electors. Residents demanded an apology. The Mayor clearly was not going to ask for one. After consulting a senior officer he was told that it would have to be up to the individual councillor to decide whether or not to apologise. Did Coleman agree to do so? What do you think?
Why did Schama keep quiet? Why did he show such reluctance to censure his colleague? If his wife, daughter, sister or mother had been called a 'hag' by Coleman, would he have allowed this to go unchecked?
One would suspect not, and that anyone would have immediately demanded that Coleman withdraw such a remark.
When the people in the gallery insisted that the Mayor extracted an apology from the old fool, he merely asked him if he wished to do so. Guess what? Coleman refused, and that, as far as the Mayor was concerned, was that.
Why are the Tory councillors so inclined to indulge Coleman's rudeness and bullying? It really is an absolute disgrace, and so cowardly.
Recently someone purporting to be Brian Coleman has been blogging as 'The King of Bling is Back'. This pathetic, unintentionally comical piece of toss is believed by many to be a parody. Mrs Angry has always believed it to be authentic, and indeed Coleman has been given the opportunity to deny it is his work, and has failed to do so, so we may reasonably take that as an endorsement.
In the last week, this preposterous blog has published two sexist remarks about professional women, claiming that female ministers were influenced in their judgement by their attraction to MP Zac Goldsmith:
"I began to suspect that some female Ministers had gazed into Zac Goldsmith MP’s eyes and had immediately succumbed to his very obvious charms".
... and then insisted, in a diatribe against the local press, that certain women journalists were employed for their physical attributes:
"One began to get the feeling certain young ladies were hired for their assets which were not always above the neckline".
Such misogyny and sexist stereotyping is ill judged in a piece of writing, but for an elected member to refer to women, female residents attending a council meeting as 'hags' is simply appalling, utterly unacceptable, and in the view of everyone in the gallery, Coleman should have been required immediately to withdraw his remark, apologise, or leave the chamber. He did neither, and the Mayor took no further action.
As for his reference to the 'sad, mad and bad', in terms of showing gross disrespect to the local residents present in the gallery, the taxpayers and electors who pay Coleman a generous allowance to represent their interests, the case is clear. It should be pointed out that there were many elderly people and residents with disabilities and learning difficulties attending the meeting. One of these individuals, who is a remarkable man who copes with admirable fortitude with both physical and mental health needs, remarked to me later that he was angered and very upset by Coleman's attitude to 'these people', the disabled residents of the borough.
What does it say about the Barnet Tories that they failed to censure Coleman for making such remarks? It tells you everything about the deeply engrained sexism within their own ranks, and the cowering lack of resistence they put up to Coleman and the demands of his boorish behaviour and overweening ego.
A little later Mrs Angry spotted Coleman walking along the corridor outside the chamber, and slipped out to take his photo, standing next to Labour councillor and deputy leader Barry Rawlings. As he approached, I took his picture,and he snarled, idiotically:
'You have been told not to photograph me!'
He then ordered security staff and a council officer standing nearby to stop me. They did nothing of the sort, of course, and looked on in amazement.
Er, no, I said, I have not been told anything of the sort, and I have every right to take your photograph: you are an elected representative of this borough. Oh, and by the way: I want you to apologise for the appalling remarks you directed at the public gallery.
He stood in front of me, in fury, looking as if he was going to explode. I should say he stood looking up at me: he is in truth a little tin pot dictator, reaching, oh, only as far as what, my neckline, eh, Brian?
You are a nasty piece of work, he spat out ... adding rather mystifyingly: You ... you hassle councillors and council officers ... What? (Is he confusing me with that well known stalker and part time council officer hassler, Mr Mustard? Mrs Angry is far too lazy, Brian, to bother with such activity. Admittedly she did invite you to a Residents Forum once and received a threat from you, in return, to call the police ...)
Thank you, I said. You have just made those accusations in front of several witnesses. He stomped off, ranting to himself, and then ending feebly with .... Get a life ...
Yawn. Ok. Expect a letter of complaint, I yelled, adding a pungent and descriptive invitation to see him safely back where he belongs, with the gutless Tory councillors sitting on the far side of the chamber.
Gratitude is due to two councillors: Tory Brian Salinger, who left the chamber in disgust after Coleman's remarks to the gallery, and Libdem Jack Cohen, who twice stood to complain about Coleman, to express his disgust at the sexist language used, and the refusal to take any action by the Mayor.
With grim irony, the item which immediately followed this appalling outburst from Coleman was what was a commendable motion by his fellow Tory Reuben Thompstone: a move to adopt the National Pensioners Convention Dignity Code.
Yes. The gutless, shabby Tory councillors then sat in the chamber with an absolutely gobsmacking lack of self awareness, wringing their hands sanctimoniously and lecturing us about the need to show respect for our elderly citizens.
The old boys, that would be, not the hags sitting in the council chamber, presumably?
Remember how the Scottish play ends, Councillor Coleman: not with the hags, but a bloody defeat:
Then yield thee, coward,
And live to be the show and gaze o' the time:
We'll have thee, as our rarer monsters are,
Painted on a pole, and underwrit,
'Here may you see the tyrant.'
Mrs Angry x
Updated, courtesy of the Barnet Bugle: see Coleman in action, to the accompaniment of some good advice from the public gallery -
Updated, with the latest ravings from Councillor Coleman in his marvellous blog: enjoy.
Get a life!
As the quality of journalism of local newspapers declines and their readership falls through the floor in recent years a new phenomenon has appeared with the rise of the internet ; the local blogger.
It is now a rare occurrence for any professional journalist to be sitting in the gallery of a Council meeting and their place has been taken by the amateur and often obsessive “blogger”
Up and down the country individuals who have a particular axe to grind or have failed to be actually be elected to their local Council sit for hours listening to tedious committee meetings and then composing blogs which often have little relationship to the proceedings they have just witnessed.
The problem with bloggers in local government is that unlike the local press who still have to abide by the rules of the soon to be defunct Press Complaints Commission (although many local journalists openly flout it)
In Barnet we are particularly blessed with bloggers with a number writing several times a day about Barnet Council matters (is the Council really that interesting?). A number have taken to doing it anonymously by adopting silly names which in my view is rather on a par with sending poison pen letters or a Mike Freer put it “the one handed bloggers”. The signs of obsessive behaviour are clear to see, one blogger has viewed this blog over 200 times in less than a week. More worryingly as they become more and more obsessive their conspiracy theories become wilder and wilder and their grasp of reality becomes more tenuous. I did have a very good laugh earlier in the year when one blogger suggested that those of us involved in the organising of the borough’s celebration of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee were part of some sort of “Masonic” conspiracy, for the record I am not a freemason. I do have to admit that there are several blog stories that have appeared that I know to be complete fiction from start to finish because I deliberately fed a pack of lies to either a Council officer or indeed a Councillor whom I suspected of leaking to the bloggers and sure enough the stories appeared.
Their attempts to personalise local politics (where to some extent the local newspapers have followed suit) has lead them to begin to indulge in bizarre activities. Councillors and senior professional officers of the Council have been followed, a black van has been reported suspiciously parked outside Councillors homes, officers of the Council have had their private residences photographed, and one female Council officer had her mobile phone number published, my 88 year old Mother was attacked in the street and one Council officer had to take their house off the market after inappropriate enquiries from bloggers. Additionally there have been repeated acts of criminal damage on Conservative Party premises in the borough. Many Councillors of all parties no longer disclose their private addresses in order to protect their families. In short bloggers rather than attempt to keep the wider community informed and involved, something all Councillors would welcome, have attempted to instigate a regime of intimidation just because they happen to politically disagree with the current Council administration. This is not unique to Barnet with the distinguished Leader of Kensington and Chelsea Council Sir Merrick Cockell amongst others regularly being regularly the victim of appalling personal abuse.
Additionally as a lazy way of filling their blog they submit dozens and dozens of Freedom of Information requests on spurious matter which they then reveal as shocking exclusives on their blogs. Of course this is also a tactic employed by the Taxpayers Alliance which regularly reveals “shock horror” that Local Government spends money! In Barnet the hundreds of thousands of pounds spent dealing with FOI requests could have kept Friern Barnet Library open. Just a thought!
I am not worried about blogs that genuinely debate matters of political interest and indeed there are several that cover Barnet affairs from a socialist point of view with which I fundamentally disagree but I enjoy reading. Furthermore the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles’ idea about recruiting “armchair auditors“ is a positive move to enhance the power of the Internet and make local government more accountable. In Barnet some bloggers who think they act as the servant of the voters have actually developed bigger egos than us Councillors; the difference is they don’t have a democratic mandate to back it up and get highly offended if anyone criticises them. They can dish it out but they cannot take it.
One gets the felling that some bloggers have fixated on Barnet Council and its’ officers and members in preference to obsessing over David Beckham or Simon Cowell.
My message to some bloggers, “Get a Life!“
So, to recap, the Barnet bloggers are, according to Councillor Brian Coleman, responsible for criminal activity involving damage to erm .... Tory party offices, and also have been attacking Brian's 88 year old mum. One of us drives a mysterious black van around the dark places of Broken Barnet, and spies obsessively on councillors.
On the other hand, Brian enjoys one of the socialist blogs (me or you then, Vicki?) and is now trying to suck up to Eric Pickles and embrace the concept of localism. Stop laughing.
I have to put my hand up here, and admit that I am in fact well known for inciting acts of urban terrorism, throwing bricks at Tory party office windows, and enjoy mugging old ladies - (sorry, Brian, that would be 'old hags' in your dictionary), whenever the opportunity arises. What can I say? We all need a hobby.