So. The greedy, shameless Tory councillors of Broken Barnet have got their sweaty little palms on even more of our money, whilst lecturing you, me and all the residents of this borough about the need for austerity and also preparing to slash council funding, services and jobs.
Lynne Hillan, the Leader of this band of brigands, has mysteriously and conveniently gone to ground, and left her Svengali, Brian Coleman, who is well practised in the art of insolent defiance, to deal with any fall out and awkward attention from the media.
Our gang of three local Tory MPs, Freer, Villiers* and Offord, yesterday stated their lack of support for their Tory colleagues' actions. As this response came nearly two days after the event, Mrs Angry fails to be convinced by the depth of their commitment to this position. She predicts that there will be no visible difference whatsoever in the chummy relations between parliamentary Tories and the local Tories, and no efforts made to ask them to reconsider their actions. * (Updated Monday - it seems that actually Mrs Villiers has made no comment on the issue, so one can only assume that she is in support of her colleagues' exorbitant pay rise.)
Government minister Grant Shapps was furious at the allowance hike and asked them to think again. Yeah right, pal. That's telling'em. Now let's see some real hard line response from the government and Conservative party, and action to deal with this renegade bunch, and then I might begin to have some belief in David Cameron's ability to run the country.
Someone suggested to me that the Tories in Barnet were threatening to be almost as much an embarrassment to Cameron's government as Derek Hatton's administration on Merseyside was to Labour in the days of Militant: time to assert your authority, I would suggest Dave, and any other Tory who cares about the reputation of your party. Are you up to it, though?
It's good to see that the Libdem councillor Jack Cohen has apparently reported the council to the Standards' Board, following allegations of deliberate delaying of the inclusion of Item 5.3, the now notorious allowance rise proposal, sneaked into the council meeting agenda at the last moment, allegedly due to 'IT' problems. This last minute inclusion conveniently prevented the usual consultation process with councillors and of course the public too.
This is how the democratic process works, you see, in our borough. During the meeting itself, as soon as the debate on the allowance had started, it was apparent that the Tories were terrified of allowing the discussion to continue: guess which enemy of free speech immediately yelled for a move to end all debate, seconded instantly by a colleague. End of discussion. This is how corrupt and repressive regimes function: fearful of debate, remorselessly intolerant of dissent. Their views are the only ones that are valid, and they will either bully you into agreeing with them, or silence you. This behaviour stinks of the type of political thuggery which my father's generation fought to prevent being imposed on this country: dictatorship, fascism, call it what you will, it is a betrayal of our fundamental rights and freedoms and must be challenged.
In the course of the council meeting on Tuesday, we sat and listened to Tory councillors sneering at the poor who live in council housing, the poor who are dependent on benefit claims. They have no aspirations, they complained. Not like them, desparately aspiring to comfortable life styles at our expense, you understand. They meant scroungers, of course: idle people claiming something for nothing, something they do not deserve.Because the majority of the Tories in Barnet are so intellectually challenged, and the rest of them don't give a shit anyway, no one mentioned the irony of their own frantic clawing after more tax payers money. Lynne Hillan moaned that she had to pay her bills, that she had too much work to do. Oh dear. My heart bleeds. Perhaps she might like to go and get a job, or maybe start another business? Well, perhaps not the latter, eh?
The truth is, Hillan, and your hard-done by colleagues, that being a local councillor is meant to be an act of service to the community, voluntary, with expenses and allowances paid in respect of this service. It is not a salaried position, and not intended to be. If you can't combine being a councillor with supporting yourself, don't stand for council. The tax payers of Barnet have elected you to represent their best interests, not as a favour in order to provide you with gainful employment. It may well be that many councillors actually are incapable of finding and following a position of gainful employment, or running a successful business: these are exactly the sort of people we should not be giving what is, as you claim, such a demanding responsibility, in fact.
At the eventful meeting on Tuesday, Councillor Kate Salinger was the only Tory on Barnet Council to show any integrity whatsoever: she abstained from the allowance rise vote. Even she dared not oppose it. She abstained, she said, in line with her conscience. As I mentioned in the earlier blog, The Tell-tale Heart, conscience, in my opinion, is fairly evidently not something which can be accommodated within the political life of the Tory administration in Barnet. Let us salute her courage and integrity, all the same, in the face of the frankly horrific bullying and intimidation that she received from her Tory colleagues as a result of her refusal to support their grasping pay rise.
What happened to her was vile, ugly, and sickening: an act akin to a public stoning, a ritual humiliation by a largely male group of bullies and tyrants, supposedly her colleagues. Only in the dark disturbed depths of Tory Barnet could you expect to find such pleasure taken in such an unnecessary procedure. One might expect such behaviour by the usual culprits in this administration, but what about the rest of them, the ones who said nothing, kept their heads down and voted with the proposal. What sort of cowards are they? The sort of people who turn aside when someone is scapegoated and bullied and are just as culpable as the bullies themselves.
There is a little known online paper called the London Daily News, which is supportive of Coleman and his gang - reporting the pay rise story it includes a particularly shabby reference to Councillor Salinger: take a look if you want to see how truly pathetic and ruthless this lot really are.
After the council meeting, Coleman tried to justify the treatment of Mrs Salinger as being for the purpose of 'discipline'. Of course discipline is something that he feels should be applied to everyone except himself, and self discipline, the curtailing of one's own self indulgences, is a concept with which he is markedly unfamiliar. The need, for example, to forego an increase in his allowances at a time of hardship for so many. The need to follow the policy of his own party and forego an increase in his allowances in line with government policy, even. Let's hope that senior Tory party members feel moved to sanction their own form of discipline on Mr Coleman, Ms Hillan and their shabby Barnet colleagues. Alternatively, Mrs Angry would be willing to bestow some corrective discipline on Mr Coleman on behalf of the electors of Barnet, if duty called: as Churchill said - give me the tools, and I will do the job - but I'm not entirely confident it would be gratefully received.
In the report submitted to council in defence of the pay rise, scrabbling around for some desperate justification, there was mention of the increased workload due to email correspondance to councillors from residents. Of course this failed to take into consideration the fact that it is a damn sight quicker and easier to correspond by email than by post, telephone or in person. I think perhaps a lot of residents are unaware that they can correspond with their elected representatives in this way. I know that many disgusted and angry voters of this borough may have views on this weeks's events which they might wish to convey to their Tory councillors. You may also feel moved to send a message of support to Mrs Salinger.
This weekend, then, if you feel you would like to make your councillors earn some of their new pay allowances, I suggest you do just that: tell them politely, and succintly, how you feel: their email addresses are easily obtainable from the Barnet website, as are the details of all councillor surgeries, should you wish to visit your councillor in person.
Let's remind the Tory councillors of Broken Barnet that they are the elected representatives of the residents of this borough, that they are the servants of the electorate, and not their masters, and that they are ultimately accountable to us, if not to their own consciences.