Monday, 22 October 2012
Remember, remember, the fifth of November: Brian Coleman in the dock
Guy Fawkes taking a back seat in politics: and another reason to remember the 5th November
In case there is anyone left in London who has not heard the news, the tedious Barnet Tory councillor Brian Coleman has now been charged with two offences in relation to an alleged assault on North Finchley cafe owner and traders' spokeswoman Helen Michael.
The allegations relate to an incident in North Finchley on September 20th and the charges are one of assault by beating and another of driving on a road without reasonable caution.
Councillor Coleman has been bailed until November 5th, when he will be obliged to attend Hendon Magistrates Court to answer the charges.
As reported here in this blog, and elsewhere, there has been widespread surprise that Coleman was not immediately suspended from his duties by Tory leader Richard Cornelius as soon as he was arrested on suspicion of common assault.
Quite incredibly, it would seem that neither Cornelius nor the local Conservative association, or - as yet - central office will act to suspend him even now that he has been charged with two offences.
According to the Barnet Press:
“The council is aware that Councillor Brian Coleman has been charged with criminal offences and is due to appear before Hendon Magistrates court on November 5 2012.
The matter is therefore subject to judicial process and it would not be appropriate for the council to make any further comment that could be prejudicial to that process.
“Councillor Coleman continues as a ward councillor, his committee membership and chairmanship is a matter for full council."
And a reporter from the same paper has tweeted:
"Brian Coleman will remain a member of Barnet Conservative group unless proven guilty, says council leader Richard Cornelius"
According to the local Times, Cornelius told them:
“Councillor Coleman has been told that he will have to take a back seat as regards Barnet politics until legal matters are resolved. I have no wish to prejudice any trial and he remains innocent until proven guilty.”
This is of course absolutely preposterous.
In any other comparable situation, Coleman would already have been suspended: to remark merely that the only consequence of being charged with two offences of this nature is that he will have to take a 'back seat' is the most appalling abnegation of duty and leadership by Cornelius.
If by 'taking a back seat' he means that he has been suspended then by the rules of the party constitution this must be made clear. If not, why not? Under what circumstances would he be suspended? He has been arrested and now charged with an alleged assault by beating of a female resident. This is a serious matter. Suspension is not prejudicial, nor is it any implication of guilt: it is a precautionary step and one which would be taken with any employee so charged - and doubtless in any other authority.
Let's not forget - how could we - the repulsive way in which the Barnet Tories took action against one of their own members, in 2010, on the night of their shameless vote to award themselves a whopping pay rise, at a meeting in which the then leader lectured residents on the need for savage budget cuts at a time of unprecedented austerity. Tory Kate Salinger felt her conscience would not allow her to support such an increase. She abstained. She was then immediately and publicly stripped of all her council positions, one by one, by her craven colleagues, who stood by as she left the Town Hall in tears, comforted by a female Labour councillor. Councilllor Brian Coleman coolly remarked to a local reporter: 'that's discipline for you' ...
Instant vindictive 'discipline' meeted out to a member acting on a point of principle, contrasted with a sustained indulgence of every act of rudeness and misbehaviour, proven or alleged, for Brian Coleman.
Is it only women that the bullying, misogynistic Barnet Tories feel they can treat with such unflinching obedience to the rules?
And what happened to the requirement for elected members to desist from conduct that brings the party into disrepute? Is this not part of the national constitution? If a member refuses to apologise after being instructed to by a standards committee, as in the case of Brian Coleman and the 'anti-semite' slurs, does that not constitute an example of such conduct?
One expects Coleman to behave in the way he does: one does not expect the leader of the Tory group and the leader of Barnet Council to show such weakness and such disregard for the electors of the borough he is paid to serve.
Labour leader Alison Moore called yesterday for the whip to be withdrawn from Brian Coleman - but it would seem that leader Cornelius is intent on extending every form of assistance to his fellow Totteridge councillor, and that this is not going to happen.
There is of course widespread speculation as to why such indulgence is being shown to Coleman. Is Cornelius frightened to act, for some reason? Or does he not care that his unshakeable support for this man is interpreted as condoning his long history of controversial behaviour? We can only conclude that his need to defend Coleman is greater than his sense of propriety, and greater than the need to defend the reputation of the Conservative Party. What an extraordinary state of affairs.
Sunday's papers were full of reports about the alleged boorish behaviour of one of our local Tory MPs, Matthew Offord.
Yesterday we hear that Coleman is charged with two offences but remains unsuspended by his party leader.
And last night a packed house sat in the Phoenix cinema and watched a film that uncovers the staggering degree of dysfunctionality in the relationship between our Tory council and the residents whose future is being sold for the profit of the multinational outsourcing companies standing by, waiting to get their hands fumbling inside our corporate knickers.
The reputation of the Conservative party here in Broken Barnet has sunk to an all time low: and as it wallows in the depths, we must wonder what the next development will be - and how long until senior party figures decide that this administration .... shall we say, has pushed its luck just a little too far ...
Mrs Angry understands that it has already been accepted in these quarters that the Tories are on a course to lose Barnet at the 2014 elections, and as you might imagine, this is not going down awfully well.
The One Barnet fiasco, Cornelius' cowardice over Coleman, his lack of leadership: this is what is handing the next election to Labour on a plate.
Cornelius will not be leader much longer, and already some Tories are manoeuvring into place for his position.
Changing the leader will make no difference: this administration is sick, and dying, and the sooner its life is ended the better for every resident in this benighted borough.
Updated Tuesday evening:
Well: goodness me ... after refusing yesterday to take any action regarding Brian Coleman's position, because, oh what was it .... it might be 'prejudicial', this evening Tory leader Cornelius has now apparently changed his mind, and issued the following statement:
"I am initiating the process of suspending Councillor Coleman from the Conservative Group. There are group rules that need to be followed and I must abide by these rules.
"Due process must be followed and I will update as and when I can."
Ah: due process. Mmm. It must be followed, you know. Especially when, Mrs Angry suspects, you are told in no uncertain terms by certain parties that you will follow due process - or face the consequences.