Wednesday, 1 April 2015
Firm but Fair: Broken Barnet - living in a Fools' Paradise
When we are born, we cry that we are come to this great stage of fools.
Mrs Angry has been rather preoccupied with other matters, over the last couple of weeks, and had little time, or much inclination, to blog, and so has had to rely on some of her little helpers to carry on, behind the scenes, and undertaking some field work, on her behalf, in the meantime.
Running the Broken Barnet blog is of course a full time business, and requires the support of a very large back office team, you see - now outsourced to Crapita, at a cost of £160 million per annum, in order to achieve savings of £160 million per annum, minus consultancy costs, naturally, and an upfront capital investment of £16.1 million for paperclips, biscuits, gin, and all other blogging support services.
Staff: dear me, very difficult to find the right sort of easily exploitable interns, willing to work for next to nothing on a perfectly reasonable, zero hours contract, even in these last dying days of the Coalition government, but Mrs Angry has taken on one or two assistants keen to learn the art of bloggery, and one of these new interns, Mrs Alice Fulbright, yes, yes: that is A. Ful -bright (Mrs), has been undertaking some vital research - a spot of 'mystery shopping' of our elected representatives, here in Broken Barnet, to answer the question, Eric - are we getting value for money, from our Tory councillors?
First up, then, a letter from Alice to library boss, Councillor Reuben Thompstone, so keen to promote the nefarious Tory plot to destroy our public library system, by shutting them down, cutting their hours, getting rid of staff, and shrinking the size of of the libraries themselves by a truly eye watering 93% in floorspace.
Dear Councillor Thompstone
I just wanted to write and tell you how much I admire your stand on this library issue.
I am heartily sick of local 'left-wing' trouble makers and other professional whingers complaining about your plan to shut down libraries.
If I had my way, they would all be shut, frankly, and the money saved spent on increasing your wages as councillors, just for putting up with all this constant criticism.
In this day and age, anyone who wants to read a book can buy one off amazon, or from a charity shop, if they are on benefits, as so many are these days, especially, no doubt, the ones who are making all the fuss about libraries.
And perhaps if more people spent less time reading, and more time working, we would not be in the mess we are in now, thanks to the last socialist government. I am sure you will agree.
With Best Wishes
(Mrs) A. Fulbright
Mrs Angry - and Mrs Fulbright - thought that Councillor Thompstone might just feel slightly suspicious at this gushing missive, but subtlety, irony and indeed satire are qualities in short supply amongst the ranks of our Tory councillors, as we shall see. Back came a most gratifying, and gratified response:
Dear Mrs Fulbright,
Many thanks for your thoughtful and supportive comments. Is there a possibility you might write to one of the local press establishments? We do not always receive kind words in these (sic) and it helps balance alternative views.
Councillor for Golders Green, Lead Member for Children, London Borough of Barnet
Goodness, thought Mrs Fulbright, and Mrs Angry: what a marvellous suggestion: yes, every possibility - and here you are, Councillor Thompstone, presented, on behalf of every library lover in Broken Barnet, with your wish come true.
How sad that such 'kind words' are so rare.
Have you perhaps ever wondered why that might be?
Not sure if by 'press establishments' you meant this blog, exactly - but this is the best we can do.
Unfortunately, at this point Alice overstepped the mark somewhat, and decided to continue this correspondence:
Dear Councillor Thompstone
Yes: a very good idea. I am off tomorrow with my husband for a short break, to the Scilly Isles, but I shall try to send something to one of them in the next few days. Of course I believe the local press - and other so called 'social media' so popular with my grandchildren - are completely biased in favour of the sort of communist-style propaganda that seeks to undermine everything that is decent these days, so one cannot hold out too much hope.
Thank goodness for men like you, with vision, who carry the banner of Conservative Values, and continue the fight against such anarchy.
I had the great honour of meeting Lady Thatcher several times, when she was our MP - she once came to a church bazaar I was organising, and was so kind when I accidentally knocked a cup of tea all over her handbag. Don't worry, she said: I have no state papers in there, only a spare pair of stockings!
I know that she would be a staunch admirer of your determination, intelligence and political courage. If libraries need closing: do not listen to the mockers, scroungers and troublemakers - you are the man to do it, and I wish you the best of luck.
(Mrs) A. Fulbright.
No reply as yet, but then of course Mr and Mrs Foolbright are enjoying a second honeymoon in the Silly Isles, as far as Reuben Thompstone is concerned.
NB: Mrs Fulbright's anecdote regarding the milk snatching old bat originally referred not to stockings, but some other form of lingerie, and was censored, in the end, by Mrs Angry, on the grounds of decency. And credibility.
Hmm. Who next? Alice thought she might try it on with that old rogue, man of the world, and expert linguist (rumour has it, anyway) the handle bar moustachioed, Terry Thomas look alike, Councillor John Hart.
This dialogue went awfully well - in fact, rather too well, and Mr Fulbright is not at all pleased, I can tell you.
Mill Hill Library
Dear Councillor Hart
I wanted to write to you about this library matter, as frankly I am heartily sick of reading all these whinging left wing complaints about what seems to me to be a perfectly reasonable proposal, ie save money from a service that is largely unnecessary, in this day and age.
I know that you are a man of letters, so to speak, and a great reader, like myself, and perhaps you would agree that for people like us, who are cultured and well educated, a private library at home, and a 'room of one's own', as Virginia Woolf put it, is all we need to get by.
Those who insist on reading the latest trashy best seller, which is all libraries seem to supply these days, or some tiresome, politically correct novel reviewed in the Guardian, can either go to WHSmiths and buy it, or even the local charity shops, if they are of limited means, or dependent 'on benefits', as so many of these so called library campaigners most probably are.
I really do fail to see, by the way, why a public library should fill its shelves with smutty books like 'Fifty Shades of Grey' or whatever it is called - I have of course not read it, as my husband always chooses my library books for me, and insists it is not suitable!
If we must have libraries, let them be full of improving literature, to elevate the mind, not drag it down in the gutter.
I should add that last time I was in Mill Hill Library, I asked the person behind the desk for a biography of Lady Thatcher, and he said there was nothing available. This was very disappointing, and I have not returned since.
Public libraries may have been a useful thing in the past, but really one must ask now if they do not encourage an attitude of laziness, and feckless dependency on the state, rather than encouraging people to stand on their own two feet, and pay their way.
An alternative, of course, might be to charge users for the library service. If one is happy to pay for a night in the pub, or the bingo hall, one should be willing to pay for access to literature, information and all else.
We live in a market economy, and until the loony left acknowledge this hard fact, we will make no progress, in my view. I see nothing wrong at all in closing all, if not most of our local libraries, and putting the money saved to better use: think of the capital profit to be made from selling the buildings for development (although of course we shall have to endure the usual suspects demanding we build council houses rather than decent, attractive properties that we want to see.
As far as I am aware, none of the libraries are listed, so demolition would be no problem, and the sums raised would go towards keeping our council tax low, or even providing a cut in the rate.
One might even venture to suggest that the revenue from development might enable local councillors - or at least the Conservative members - to be paid a more generous allowance for all the hard work you do!
With very best wishes,
(Mrs) A. Fulbright
Mrs Fulbright, who appears to have something of an idée fixe, for some reason, on the subject of the late Margaret Thatcher, was thrilled to receive a prompt reply:
Dear Mrs Fulbright,
What a refreshing email.
I agree with most of what you write: the library purchases are mostly Millsey Boonsey rubbish; few people visit the book shelves; the premises need to be put to better use (plus library use on a reduced scale); premises may well be disposed of to raise capital for other uses (sadly, not for Conservative councillors’ emoluments).
On Mrs Thatcher’s biography I believe some have since been published. Like you I buy books – on Mrs Thatcher I recommend warmly Cold Cream by Ferdinand Mount and Alan Clark’s Diaries. Both worked for her and admired the lady. Ferdinand Mount is especially insightful.
One point: library usage has to be free by statute. I hope you sent in your comments for the consultation, now closed. Thank you once more.
Mmm. Mrs Fulbright was not shocked by Councillor Hart's dismissive remarks about the libraries, but Mrs Angry certainly was, as they seemed rather at odds with the tone of his views expressed at the library debate in Mill Hill, earlier in the year.
Still: at least we know now, where he really stands, and indeed his opinion would seem to be pretty much what the vast majority of Tory councillors really think.
Mrs Alice Fulbright was not quite finished with Councillor Hart, however:
Dear Councillor Hart
Many thanks for your response. On the subject of Lady Thatcher, according to my husband, Alan Clark was a philanderer, and a cad, and his diaries are unsuitable material for ladies. This makes me more inclined to read them, however, as frankly my husband is inclined to be something of a killjoy, and life is short, is it not?
With best wishes,
And back again, from the game old boy:
Dear Mrs Fulbright,
Override your husband’s objections and read Alan Clark’s Diaries. Philanderer or not (many of the best men are) he is a stylist and considerable historian. His father was, of course, the creator of the famous TV programme “Civilisation”. Life is indeed brief. At my age, even more so.
With my best wishes.
Best to leave it there, I think, Councillor Hart.
Mrs Fulbright is not in the habit of overriding her husband, one suspects - in any sense - and it is ill advised, Mrs Angry would suggest, to try to come between a man and his wife. Or to suggest improper reading material to her.
Alan Clark? Tssk. Still, we must be grateful Cllr Hart did not mention the biography of Anthony Crosland, as he once did in the council chamber, horrifying the Mayor with the quotation, gleefully declaimed:
If it's the last thing I do, I'm going to destroy every fucking grammar school in England ...
What is rather shocking, readers, is the habit of certain Tory councillors of not opening their emails, or responding until prompted. Yes, Councillor Rozenberg, Mrs Angry is looking at you, boy - took your time, didn't you? And you Dan Thomas? Very boring response, too, when it did emerge. Yawn. Oh, and Dean Cohen had to be chivvied along by Mrs Fulbright, who wanted a cracked pavement outside her house in Princes Park Avenue fixed by the end of the week, as she was expecting guests, and knew he was awfully good at fast tracking that kind of thing, according to her sister April.
One or two others, in this limited exercise, of course, may have felt at a loss as how to reply, such as the queenly former Mayor, Councillor Lisa Rutter, who may or may not have welcomed Mrs Fulbright's congratulations for her fence sitting - or leaping - over the library and lorry depot issues.
After all, as Mr Fulbright remarked to his wife, and Mrs Fulbright passed on, perhaps rather tactlessly:
It takes great courage to ignore the will of constituents and put party loyalty before the demands of local residents, even if, as my husband has pointed out, this will lose you your place at the next local elections.
Clearly you are a woman of great principle, and I salute you.
And then, last of all, for April Fools' Day, we have the Dear 'Leader' himself, Councillor Richard Cornelius.
A man who is too scared ever to reply to any email from Mrs Angry, for some reason, but felt moved to favour Alice with his views on housing policy, after she raised the issue of - ah, Sweets Way:
Dear Councillor Cornelius
I feel I really must write to you to express my sense of anger about the squatters who have moved into the former council housing development in Sweets Way, Whetstone.
I am not in the habit of contacting councillors, but in this case I feel I really must speak up: if only the 'silent majority' of decent, law abiding residents would do the same.
Do these people have no sense of shame?
They seem to think they are entitled to subsidised housing, simply because they have not, like you and I, worked hard all their lives, and seen the rewards of their labour bring them the sort of home that you and I enjoy, here in Totteridge.
These are, quite simply, the politics of envy. What can we do, with such people? I am glad to see that they are largely being moved out of the borough, and will cease to be a burden on the taxpayers here.
One almost longs for the era of the workhouse, and the deterrant of all that implied for those who refuse to support themselves, and not expect others to hold responsibility for their well being.
Of course we hear nothing but complaints from the usual local suspects, who seem to think living in a socialist paradise will solve all their problems.
My husband and I hope that you will stand firm in the face of all the disgraceful trouble making being encouraged by left wing agitators, who seem to want us to return to a state of anarchy.
(Mrs) A. Fulbright
His response was as follows:
Dear Mrs Fulbright,
Thank you for your email. We will be firm but fair. There is an obligation to house some people but not those who have made themselves deliberately homeless.
Personally I want to help people improve their condition but not support a lifestyle based on welfare hand outs. Barnet gives housing preference to those in work. This has made a big change.
Lets hope the election gives us the result that enables the reforms to continue.
Thank you for your support
So. The unfortunate tenants of social housing in this borough now facing the loss of their homes apparently deserve no help, or sympathy, from Richard Cornelius.
And this is because they have made themselves 'deliberately homeless', is it?
By being forced by his council to remain in non secure tenancies for years on end, subject to being moved around the so called 'regeneration' estates of Broken Barnet, whenever it suits the authority?
Tory housing policy is based not on need but is dispensed by a punitive system driven by the gears of social engineering, oiled by a sanctimonious vision of the feckless poor, benefit scroungers.
Firm but fair?
Tell that - again - to the children of Sweets Way, Councillor Cornelius; the families, hard working families, not 'scroungers' demanding hand outs, who have been evicted from their homes, their lives, security and education thrown into disarray.
What could be the better definition of a fool, this April, the cruellest month of all for so many residents of this borough, than those words, spoken by the Tory leader?
And in the Fools' Paradise that is Broken Barnet, the joke is on us all, not just today, but tomorrow, and the day after that, and all the days until we rid ourselves of their pernicious, heartless governance of our community.