Mrs Angry has spent a lovely week in Fowey, a beautiful spot in south Cornwall, which she would ask you never to visit, as the fewer people who go there the better, in her opinion.
The last time she visited Fowey was rather overshadowed, in retrospect, by returning home to find from his column in a local paper that of all people, Brian Coleman (yes, really) had spent the same week there, staying at a local hotel where, he told his readers, he had surveyed the tranquil scene from his balcony, but clearly somehow failed to spot Mrs Angry in her fitflops trailing past his window.
On this latest visit the thought that poor Brian might be there too, convalescing, after his recent downfall, at the Fowey Hotel, was the cause of much amusement to Mrs Angry and son, on their regular passing of this venue. Mrs Angry suggested to her son that it might be useful to make enquiries amongst the local shopkeepers so as to make possession of a small catapult, or pea shooter, just in case, but our plans came to nothing, and sadly proved unneccessary, in the end.
Mrs Angry is always banging on about her mother's rather lairy family, in the North East, but her father's family were largely eminently sensible West Country people, mostly from Cornwall, and her own earliest memories, in fact, are from summers spent with relatives in the wild west of the county.
A great aunt, who had been a Du Maurieresque housekeeper on a large Cornish estate in Perranarworthal, (... he said he would never marry me, she once told Mrs Angry, in a tantalising glimpse of her life there ... ) lived in retirement in a weatherboarded cottage on the cliffs in Gwithian, in sight of Godrevy lighthouse, and where we used spend a month every year. Mrs Angry's father used to spend every summer of his own childhood and young adult life, between the wars, in Cornwall too, mostly with his aunt in Redruth. His ashes are scattered now on the dunes - the Towans - opposite Godrevy. Mrs Angry looked across the bay last week and enjoyed the thought that, in some atomic sense, he has become a part of the landscape he loved.
Passing through the station this year, noting the GWR ironwork still picked out in the company colours, Mrs Angry thought about her father, as a small boy, stepping off the steam train, eight hours from Paddington, met by his uncle Ben with horse and cart, taken back to the house in Green Lane, where the family had a market garden business supplying garden plants and seeds to the landed gentry of Cornwall, the Vyvyans, Boscawens and so on. Redruth is a ghost town now, a former area of huge prosperity, all vanished since the mining industry died. And how many other ghost towns are there, now, wonders Mrs Angry, in the UK, left to die, in a Tory laisser faire world, where only market forces count?
The family connection with Cornwall goes back even further, though: Mrs Angry once spent an amusing afternoon in the county record office at Truro, reading through documents relating to a five times great grandfather, Richard Musgrove, in the 1740s, who although a prosperous man, owning several properties up on Bodmin moor, was continually in court for starting fights and erm ... not paying his debts. Oh dear. While banged up in Bodmin Gaol, he took exception to the conditions, and wrote a letter to the County Lieutenant, complaining about his sleep being disturbed by friends of the Governor getting drunk every night in the prison, & singing 'Down Among the Deadmen', over and over again' ... When this failed to provoke any interest, he started up a petition in protest about the governor, and got his fellow prisoners to sign up too. The petition still exists, with his signature at the top. Mrs Angry eschewed the cotton gloves you are supposed to use when handling archival material, and traced his signature with her finger, proud to feel a connection with such an obstinate old fool. And who dares say that genetic heritage counts for nothing?
One of the notable features of Cornish tradition is in fact this rebellious, counter establishment tendency. Anyone who thinks that the Cornish are anything but Cornish first, and English second needs to review their opinion: even now, as the country is celebrating the Diamond Jubilee, Mrs Angry was amused to see that the displays of Union Jack bunting were very often below a display of bunting made up of the black and white Cornish flag of St Piran. Significantly, the Cornish language now appears on local council signs, as it should, and certainly in certains parts of the county, including the Fowey/Restormel local authority area, there is a resurgence of support for Mebyon Kernow, the Cornish independence party, a party in existence since the 1950s and still continuing to represent a uniquely Cornish interest . Local autonomous political parties are thriving in this era of cynicism, have you noticed?
Cornwall has always been resistent to the predominant political realities of national government. The historical influence of the Methodist church is inextricably linked to the rejection of Conservative and land owning interests, and the absence of any urban capital has contributed to the lack of support for Labour. The opposition vote in Cornwall, therefore, has traditionally always gone to the Liberal/Libdem party (yes: I know, I know: just imagine ...). Even today, the country is represented by Liberal and Tory MPs, and it was inevitable, therefore, that George Osborne's infamous pasty tax was doomed: the outrage over this assault on the famous Cornish speciality was so strong - oh yes, so much more than a, ahem, a heated debate: it frightened the local MPs into pressuring the government into another U turn, during Mrs Angry's visit to the county. Is that a coincidence? Mmm. Well. Maybe.
Another miraculous development during Mrs Angry's absence from Broken Barnet was in fact, in acccordance with another of her predictions: the triumphant victory, with a modest but significant majority, of the Labour Candidate Andreas Ioannides, in the Brunswick Park by election.
Mrs Angry sends her warmest congratulations to Andreas, who is a very nice man, and will be a conscientious and dedicated representative of the people of Brunswick Park. But this result is hugely significant - the by election was called due to the untimely demise of former Tory party leader Lynne Hillan. For a Labour candidate to win in these circumstances is a real slap in the face for the Tories, and follows the message sent to them after the East Finchley by election, and the loss of the GLA seat formerly held by Brian Coleman. That message is quite clear: it is an utter rejection of the policies and performance of the current Conservative administration. Oh and by the way, for any Libdems reading this blog with panting breath: only 97 people in Brunswick Park were prepared to come out and vote for your treacherous, student debt facilitating, NHS destruction enabling party. Mmm. Why is that, do you think?
Fowey Jubilee tribute
In the electoral campaign that preceded this result, the Tories issued a series of expensive leaflets, making very interesting but largely unsubstantiated claims: in one case the Returning Officer was obliged to order the party to withdraw one leaflet that stated the candidate's team was responsible for oh dear, fighting for residents against the Tories' own parking charge scheme, and getting such proposals overturned ... Labour party members slogged away, knocking on doors with their candidate, and speaking to residents. Significantly too, Barnet Alliance members delivered more than 10,000 leaflets explaining the One Barnet agenda of mass outsourcing that our Tory council wants to push through, on the quiet, with no mandate from voters, delivering all our council services, from social care to cemeteries, to the profit hungry global companies circling our borough in an all too visible state of excitement, ready to pounce and sate their desires on the defenceless body of Broken Barnet.
In truth, Mrs Angry has been told that many Tory councillors were, for reasons of their own, secretly relieved at the Brunswick Park result, just as some Barnet Tories were open about the fact that they had voted for Labour's Andrew Dismore in the GLA election, rather than their colleague Brian Coleman. We live in interesting times, here in Broken Barnet, don't we, where nothing is ever really what it seems ... ?
Oh boy, though, if you are in any doubt about the significance of this result, take a look at the comments here on the Conservative Home blog: as reported there:
"This had been regarded as a pretty safe Conservative ward and the swing to Labour is calculated as 13.25%. So as they say a "wake up call" with Council elections in two years time for the Conservative-run council. They have not exactly embraced transparency or welcomed being held to account by the borough's thriving blogging community."
There are several very important lessons to be learnt from this by election: and one in particular which Mrs Angry was reminded of on her visit to the ward, a couple of weeks ago, to attend a screening of the Tale of Two Barnets.
The leaflet delivered by the Barnet Alliance in regard to the One Barnet programme tries to explain something which most residents simply do not understand - the significance of the One Barnet concept, and the reality of the current supposedly 'competitive' dialogue process which has been engineered to deliver the profit making potential of our vital services to the private sector.
In Cornwall this week, although there was much rejoicing over the retraction of the ludicrous pasty tax, the really important headline story was concerned with something else entirely. This was the story about the alleged failings of the privatised out of hours health care service run by Serco - one of the cabal of favoured global companies who have been allowed to take over control of so many local vital services - in this case, in Cornwall, the provision of medical response to patients needing attention when their GPs are unavailable.
Read the Guardian's reports of what has been happening here: the orignal story -
and consider if you are happy to live in a borough where not just one service, but almost every support service now maintained by your local authority is supplied by a private company looking to make a profit from your sick baby, or your child in need of support for special needs, or your mother in need of care for dementia ....
In the case of the out of hours service, previously run, of course, by a not for profit body of local GPs, Serco whistleblowers have had the courage to speak out about what they allege are very serious failings in the way a vital health support service is being run.
It is claimed that at one point only one GP was available in the whole of the county, west of Bodmin (a huge area) to deal with call outs, and other reports state that call centres are being staffed at dangerously low levels, which has meant at times a queue of ninety or so callers waiting to ask for help for what in some cases were very ill patients. Even more worringly, critics allege that performance targets have been 'manipulated' in order to present a more acceptable record. Of course Serco managers deny the vast majority of the claims: Mrs Angry watched with a rising sense of unease as local news coverage showed an interview with one of the senior executives, who smoothly dismissed most of the allegations, and simply said he could find 'no evidence' to support them. Hmm.
Listen up: this is what is going to happen in Barnet, if the Tories get their way.
It is not too late to stop it, and if the leadership of the Tory party has any sense at all, they will read the message sent to them by the three recent electoral results, and start to rethink the commitment they have made to such reckless mass privatisation.
It is not only local services that are due to be thrown at private companies and pout our well being at risk, of course: what has happened in Cornwall with Serco is an ominous warning about what is to come as a result of the NHS 'reforms', when companies like this will be making profit out of similar care provision all over the country. Funnily enough, two of the people raising concerns in Cornwall with the CQC are local MPs, one Tory, one Libdem. One might hope that they may choose to reflect on the wider impact of their coalition government's reckless assault and plundering of our health service. Mrs Angry imagines that this is, however, rather unlikely.
Today we have been celebrating the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. As a swivel eyed trot, Mrs Angry, what were you celebrating?
Well, after some reflection, a respect for a woman who has always worked hard at what she sees as her duty, in an impossible role placed on her by an accident of birth. And, yes, ok: a sense of pleasure at something, anything, which binds us all together, rather than drives us apart.
And also, most importantly: sixty years of our common history.
A period in which we have seen huge social progress, supported by a welfare state which over the decades has become the mark of a civilised society, with free healthcare for all, and support given as a right for all those in need. Sixty years later, this jewel in our crown is being gouged out and flogged off by the robber barons of HM's coalition government.
So: enjoy the bread and circuses; jubilee bunting, pageants, and street parties. Nostalgia for the 1950s is great fun - until your remember that much of the prosperity, rights and benefits which we have enjoyed and taken for granted since then is slowly being removed from the grasp of those who most deserve it, and returned to the hands of the privileged few with means, power, and influence. Maybe there is a lesson here from the independently minded people living west of the Tamar, and their history of obstinate non conformity, still continuing today.