To say that the Barnet Tories are in a state of pre-election panic would be grossly unfair.
They are now in a state of total meltdown.
The evidence for this is, as always, measurable by the extent of depth to which they have resorted in order to try to avert further damage to their electoral chances: and judging by what has happened yesterday, they are really, really worried about their electoral chances ...
And so they should be.
The truth is, after four years of disastrous administration, the Tories have no positive achievements to promote, and are scratching about in the soil, like fools, looking for the scrapings of something to put before voters.
First of all came the ludicrous claim that the community library in Friern Park was a victory for Tory policy in action, rather than a triumph of the occupy movement and local campaigners.
That feeble attempt met with widespread ridicule, so the Tories began to go on the attack, and this tactic has increased in the last few weeks, as a series of skeletons have been falling out of the Barnet Tory closet, possibly due to the lack of space, and pressure on the wobbly catch on the door.
That the door fell open at all is possibly due to the fact it happened while they were all too busy trying to smear Labour and deflect attention from their woeful record.
This campaign began with a preposterous story about an unnamed councillor they alleged had been 'tax dodging' - she hadn't, as it turned out, and questions remain about why officers felt obliged to take action against her on a false premise, and so close to the beginning of the period of purdah.
Revelations then emerged about the puerile and highly offensive behaviour of Cabinet member Tom Davey, whose housing policy in Barnet seeks to reclaim the borough for the wealthy, and remove the undeserving poor to destinations unknown. The protest against Barnet's failure to address the housing crisis led to a protest in front of the Mayor of London on a visit here a couple of weeks ago, causing widespread embarrassment for the Tories.
Further disastrous scenes ensued when West Hendon residents wanting to lobby their Tory MP Matthew Offord were refused access to him at a constituency meeting, and he resorted to calling on the police to escort him home, cowering in the back of a van, as protestors jeered.
A local primary school, Holly Park, was found to be in putting young children's health at risk by failing to maintain standards of hygiene in their kitchens, and not informing parents: the governing board failed to respond adequately to concerns raised, as one of the members, Tory councillor Brian Salinger admitted.
Then last week Mrs Angry revealed the curious tale of the wide disparity in the allocation of Highways funding to wards around the borough, with the top four lucky wards just happening to be Tory seats, and the highest level of funding by far going to the ward represented by ... the Cabinet member in charge of setting the funding ...
Add to this sequence of unfortunate events the truly shocking decision of the Tory group to impose serious cuts to the respite support schemes at a school for disabled children ... well. What can you say?
Tory 'leader' Richard Cornelius 25th March 2014: “I think the average person in the street thinks this is fair.”
The previous post explains what happened last week when Labour called in the Mapledown decision:
It was agreed an emergency meeting should be held before the election in order to review the issue of the Mapledown cuts.
News broke yesterday that this emergency Cabinet meeting had been cancelled.
Then later that afternoon we heard that the cuts themselves had been cancelled: no - not cancelled - 'deferred' for a year.
Well, we all know what that means, don't we?
Delayed for a year, to be implemented if the Tories get back into power next month.
If you don't want to see cuts to vital support for disabled children, then please: think, when you are standing in the voting booth, of the consequences of your actions.
The reason for the Tories' u-turn, of course, is the dreadful publicity that this appalling act has engendered, right on the the brink of an election.
Wednesday night saw the meeting where the cuts decision was called in by Labour councillors, and attended by parents, staff and a pupil from Mapledown School. Three Tory councillors were resolutely unmmoved by the pleas to refer the decision back - but two had the grace to agree that it should, and it was.
Mrs Angry wrote to Cornelius and Councillor John Hart on Thursday to express her sense of utter disgust at the remarks Hart had made after the meeting in the local paper, dismissing parent's concerns with gross insensitivity, and criticising vital support for their children, all of whom have profound and complex disabilities, as 'handouts'. No response, as you might expect.
But Mrs Angry understands from her spies in the House of One Barnet that having read accounts of the meeting, and viewed the footage, even Richard Cornelius could see that continuing to maintain an absolute opposition to the pleas of the parents of severely disabled children was not awfully good PR for him and his Tory chums.
But what to do? How do you admit you were wrong, when you said, and you did say it, didn't you, Richard, that an ordinary person in the street would think it fair, that you had made a pre-election 'gesture' of a tax cut bringing 23 pence a week to residents, and then cut the funding to Mapledown?
No one could have attended the meeting this week, and listened to the speech made by Kristine Canavan, the mother of a child with so many complex and demanding needs, and hear him calling across the room to her, and not want to cry, and shout, in rage, at the total moral backruptcy of the Tory councillors who had sanctioned these cuts, and continued to support these cuts, most of them, and don't think, Brian Gordon, Rowan Quigley Turner, and John Hart, that Mrs Angry is going to let you forget.
I say no one, other than a Tory councillor, could have attended the meeting, and remained unmoved. In fact, we do not know if the Tory leader Richard Cornelius, having seen the footage, was moved: but he certainly recognised that he had presided over the most almighty PR disaster, by cutting the Mapledown funding. The only thing to do, this close to the election, was to seem to retract the decision, at least, temporarily.
But to Barnet Tory councillors, retreat is a sign of weakness, no matter how injust the decision you are retracting. They may have been forced, for political reasons, into a u turn, but they could not bear simply to admit they were wrong, and apologise to the parents and children of Mapledown. They could not say they were sorry, because they are not sorry: they have no sense of conscience, or remorse - just fury at being wrongfooted.
But whenever you think our Barnet Tory councillors have reached the bottom of the pit of total shamelessness, they always surprise us all by sinking to a new level, don't they?
Forced, then, into a temporary u turn over their merciless cuts to Mapledown, they looked for someone to blame. Yes, clearly they were to blame, but they could not admit that, could they?
Look at this story in Barnet Press.
Here you will see how Tory leader Cornelius is trying to deflect the toxic publicity caused by his own actions back on to the people who have tried to put the matter right: that is to say the Labour group.
He starts by pulling the usual Tory trick of becoming outraged by their own policy decisions, whenever they backfire and cause unwelcome publicity, and then goes a step further: blaming Labour for acting not in the interests of the parents and children so badly used by him and his cronies, but for political reasons. Only Barnet Tories, of course, could see the political profit and loss to be gained from such an issue, before the injustice, caused by their own decisions, that cries out to be put right.
Then, however, the Tory 'leader' resorts to lunatic claims that Labour's actions have 'removed all funding from these organisations'. Which organisations, and how? Well, he does not elaborate.
“This needs to be reversed. I am taking urgent action to avoid these services being wrecked.
“Mr Rawlings and Labour have created a right constitutional mess and have effectively removed all funding from these organisations. In their attempts to make the funding of short breaks at Mapledown School a political football – never having highlighted or varied this particular saving in their budget amendment – they have recklessly made the situation much worse.
“Labour are faffing around calling for meetings, but what they’ve done needs urgent action and cannot wait for a committee meeting to be called. This is no longer just about short breaks, but also about children in care, mental health services and all sorts. I am ensuring that these services can continue.”
Labour are faffing around.
Trying to restore respite care to exhausted parents of disabled children.
Cornelius appears to have overlooked the fact that the vote to refer the cuts decision back was only passed with the support of his own Tory colleagues, Brian Salinger and Maureen Braun, who had the decency and humanity to follow their consciences and vote for what was right, rather than what was politically expedient.
Tory 'Leader' Richard Cornelius: I am taking urgent action against my own actions. Vote for me on May 22nd.
An ill advised handling of a catastrophic misjudgement by the Tories, the whole Mapledown issue, of course. And who decided to launch such a clumsy, childish attempt to escape the responsibility for all this?
We don't know, but what we did see yesterday is yet another truly breathtaking performance of outstanding political inanity by Cornelius' Cabinet colleague, Robert Rams, who had sat through much of the CRC meeting where the Mapledown cuts were nodded through, with no debate, engaged with his phone, and trying to score cheap points with the resident who addressed the meeting about the extortionate £10,000 demands from leaseholders in West Hendon:
In his own comical attempt at a blog he published a version of the Tories's statement, prefaced by this:
An incredible blunder by Labour Group Deputy Leader Cllr Barry Rawlings has effectively cut all Short Breaks funding provided by the council to institutions across Barnet, along with a whole range of other support services for children with disabilities, to the value of £1.9m.
The Labour member ‘called in’ the Cabinet Resources Committee report that extended the contracts for these services to the Business Management Overview and Scrutiny Committee on Wednesday evening and then, with colleagues, voted that it be sent back to the administration. Without these contract extensions, the council is left without the legal power to pay its providers, meaning services would have to be stopped.
An incredible blunder.
Councillor Robert Rams
You will note not one word of remorse or apology to the parents and children of Mapledown, or even any indication that he understands the impact of what he and his colleagues had created by cutting the funding to the school.
And, curiously, no recognition of the fact that the emergency meeting which had been decided upon precisely in order to deal with the issue as soon as possible was mysteriously cancelled just before the Tory smear tactics were put into action.
This is Broken Barnet.
There is nothing more to say.