Monday, 15 October 2012

Brian Coleman: How to be badly behaved, in Broken Barnet, and get away with it

Updated below:
It is fair to say that there is a certain amount of curiosity about the unique phenomenon that is the Barnet blogosphere, and one question which is often asked of us is how the whole business began, and why. 

Well, the point at which the disparate voices of the local bloggers came together to form our now infamous chorus of disapproval was in response to an action which really marked the first sign of madness in the current Tory council administration, and one which happened almost as soon as the party was returned to office in May 2010. 

This was, of course, the vote to increase the already very generous councillors' allowances, an act of breathtaking arrogance which was accomplished by stealth - or would have been, if the attempt to slip the plans onto the agenda at the dead of night as an 'emergency' motion had not been spotted by an eagle eyed blogger - and the self awarded pay rise was approved by the Tories at the same meeting at which the leader lectured listeners on the need for savage budget cuts at a time of austerity. 

The rank hypocrisy of this shameless trousering of even more of Barnet residents' council tax, was supported by each and every Tory councillor - except for one very brave woman, Kate Salinger, who abstained from the vote on a point of principle, as her conscience would not allow her to support such a move. She was then treated abominably by her fellow Tory councillors, who voted instantly and unanimously to remove her from a number of council positions she occupied, one by one, in an act of odious, malicious vengeance and public humiliation. 

Kate Salinger, by the way, is one of the councillors for the Friern Barnet area. It is an extraordinary coincidence, is it not, that the decision to close a library should have been in the very ward she represents, along with Labour councillors?

The then Tory whip, Councillor Brian Coleman, was happy to be quoted after the appalling treatment shown  to Cllr Salinger at the meeting, informing a local reporter that this repellant behaviour was perfectly justified:

“That’s discipline for you. It’s the democratic process in action.”

Interesting, isn't it? Very keen on discipline, Councillor Coleman. For others. 

And an obligation to take part in the democratic process is apparently also something which applies to others, but not himself. 

And now look where we are, two years later. Councillor Brian Coleman is still a councillor, although he has lost his Cabinet post, and oh dear, his seat on the London Assembly, and, alas he is no longer Chair of the London Fire Authority. How the mighty have fallen ... the democratic process is to blame, of course, for all that. With a little help from his admirers amongst the blogosphere, and the shopkeepers of Broken Barnet, still reeling at the blow to their businesses caused by Coleman's lunatic parking scheme.

As for party discipline ... well, here is an odd thing.

Councillor Brian Coleman is currently on bail, pending police investigations into an allegation of common assault involving a woman in North Finchley which led to his arrest last month.

He has not been suspended from his duties, and the leader of the council, Richard Cornelius has justified this on the basis that the councillor is innocent until proven guilty. Indeed he is, and he may or may not be charged with an offence in relation to this alleged incident, but it is hard to understand why no suspension has been enforced, while investigations continue. The alleged offence is one of assault, and one might reasonably expect the council, with no implication of guilt, to remove any individual arrested on suspicion of this type of alleged offence from contact with members of the public, just as it would with a council employee.

There are other difficulties presented by Councillor Coleman's recent behaviour which are not a question of allegation, but fact, and yet have not been subject to the process of disciplinary procedures by the Conservative group, or if they have, the leader of the group has failed to reassure the residents of this borough that such procedures have been instigated.

Earlier this year Coleman was found to have breached the members code of conduct in the course of abusive emails he sent to two correspondents, referring to an Israeli resident as an 'anti-semite' and comparing a female resident to Mosley's 'blackshirts'. After an unsuccessful appeal, the sanction to write apologies has been ignored, yet no action has been taken, and again, no suspension has ensued, even though, in this case, the case is proven.

Not only has no apology been received, Coleman was quoted in the Standard as claiming that he was:

 “... under no obligation ... This was a matter dealt with by the flawed Local Government Standards regime, now abolished.” 

At the same time, in his idiotic new blog Coleman even joked about being determined not to wear 'sackcloth and ashes'. In other words, he appears to be refusing to make any apology.

The victims of Coleman's insulting remarks in this case were not informed by Barnet Council that the deadline for an apology had been passed: in fact it was Mrs Angry who told one of the parties in September, who then contacted the Monitoring Officer. There has been no further response after an initial reply.

At the last full Barnet council meeting, Coleman disgraced both himself and his party by making deeply offensive remarks to residents in the public gallery, (including Mrs Angry) jeering at them, calling them:

 'the sad, mad and bad, and a couple of old hags'. 

 He also named and referred disparagingly to a local council union official. 

The Tory leader has refused to condemn these highly insulting remarks, and indeed despite the private criticisms of one or two of the more decent party members, no Conservative councillors has had the courage to speak out in public. Not one.

 Complaints about this incident have been submitted, including one from Mrs Angry, but in her case, following an enquiry to the Monitoring Officer, more than a month ago, regarding the procedure, no response whatsoever has been made, even after a further request last week. 

The query raised was in regard to the allegations that the leader and deputy leader, as well as other Cabinet members were seen to be laughing and applauding Coleman's insulting jibes: the emasculated new standards regime depends on the judgement of party leaders - who is to decide on a complaint when the leader and his senior colleagues are also said to be implicated? Stony silence.

a scene from the childhood of Brian Coleman? Unlikely.

A further incident involving Coleman is the complaint made by a resident at a committee meeting after the councillor was reported to have said:

 'you've had your answer, now clear off',

and then, it is claimed, he called him a 'twat' (there were children present) after presenting a public question ...

This incident was filmed, and this footage and other evidence was submitted to the Monitoring Officer in May, yet by the end of September the complainant was obliged to ask why he had heard nothing further. 

He was told that, despite the subsequent four months of inaction, the investigation was of course 'very much current', and would he like to come for a chat to discuss his complaint and evidence? Clearly nothing has been done in the meanwhile, one would imagine in breach of any reasonable expectation of the processing of a complaint. Yet again, in other words, a complaint in regard to Coleman's behaviour has been effectively ignored.

Additionally Mrs Angry believed that the matter of the allegation that Councillor Coleman misused his free parking permit in April is only now being processed. A witness this weekend claimed to have been asked, as in the previous case, to come now for a nice chat about his complaint. Why only now?

There is also the small matter of the indemnity which was given to Coleman by the council to cover costs when fighting his complaint in regard to the 'anti-semitic' smears made in the emails: as he has lost the case, he should repay this to the tax payers who bailed him out, albeit temporarily. An article in the local Times of 3rd October stated merely:

Barnet Council confirmed it would only cover the legal costs of a members' appeal hearing if they were successful. 

Has this money been repaid, then, or not? If it has, should we not be informed about it? and if not, why not, and what are they going to do about it?

Even more outrageously, at a Cabinet Resources committee meeting this week, our Tory councillors are proposing to quadruple the amount in cost that can be covered by an indemnity - a press release from Labour leader Alison Moore today expresses what will be  widespread view: 

'this is a ridiculous amount of money ... At a time when Library services and services to vulnerable children and the elderly are being slashed by the council, should this really be a priority? ...' 

Such generosity is clearly inappropriate, but to propose such a measure at this particular point, surrounded as we are by so many allegations of behaviour that if true are utterly unacceptable in any person holding public office: this is simply another insult aimed at the residents of this borough, who must expect to put up with any abuse from their elected representatives, and then offer them a loan to defend themselves against any complaint, while the victims of such alleged behaviour must fund their own legal costs.

Mrs Angry understands that senior Conservative party politicians are utterly fed up with the constant embarrassment caused by the antics of the troublesome Tory Brian Coleman, and Mrs Angry has been informed that the same sources have suggested that a failure to censure such reported behaviour, or to distance the party from an individual alleged to have brought the party into disrepute, may well be in breach of the party's constitution or standing orders.

One must ask why the local Conservative Association has been completely silent on the subject of Brian Coleman's arrest, and his failure to make his apology to the victims of his abusive emails. What is the Chair of Chipping Barnet Conservative Association, and former councillor, Fiona Bulmer, doing about it? Is she interested in party discipline, or is that only used against courageous councillors who dare to abide by a moral code, rather than those who are found to breach the council's code of conduct in regard to members of the public, the tax payers who pay for our arrogant, offensive Tory councillors' allowances, and expenses, and indemnities?

Are the local Tories not going to take any position on either of these issues? Is the leader Cornelius really happy to be seen condoning a refusal to abide by the decision of a Standards committee and an appeal tribunal? Is he happy that his party is seen as the party which condones the sexist, ageist and offensive remarks made to residents in a council meeting? Clearly he is.

And we must all ask why, in the face of so much criticism of Coleman's behaviour, and his refusal to show any understanding of the duty of respect he owes to those he has the honour to represent, this fool is allowed to continue, unsanctioned, and without challenge by his Tory colleagues?

Partly it is because they secretly share some of his attitudes: and partly because they allow themselves to be bullied by his bluster and relentless self promotion. 

Ultimately it is because they do not realise that their failure to hold him to account is going to pull them further into the electoral abyss into which they are free falling, hurtling towards oblivion.

Mrs Angry is looking over the edge of the abyss, and rubbing her hands with glee.


Oh look: Mrs Angry's attention has been drawn to a new blog post by our tedious Tory chum. No, she is not going to link to it, as really one must not encourage him. Find it yourself, if you must.

Councillor Coleman has given the world his views on the sudden departure of Chief Executive Nick Walkley. He says:

" ... the shock amongst Councillors at his sudden departure and for Haringey of all places is palpable ..."   

Oh really? 

"Having been appointed by an Administration lead by a radical and reforming Conservative Leader (Mike Freer) there is a theory that Mr Walkley was not as comfortable with a more traditional Conservative Leader determined not to throw out the baby with the bathwater who is more relaxed with Government at all levels doing less and achieving more ." 

Hmm. So that theory suggests that there is trouble in paradise, and Cornelius' funk over One Barnet may have acheived nothing practical in terms of a withdrawal - as yet - but the dithering may be causing some alarm and frustration amongst certain interested parties. Interesting.

And of course, according to Brian's forensic analysis of the reasons for Walkley's jumping overboard, Nick was tormented by mean words from certain quarters -  Mrs Angry's emphasis:

"However it was clear that despite his strength of character and the most disgraceful and personalised abuse by the sad , mad and the thoroughly nasty (and supposedly angry) , all was not well in the State of Denmark, (I am fond of my Shakespeare) ..." 

Do you know, citizens, I think he means me, which is rather amusing, after spending some time on Another Blog only the other day, defending Walkley over the Big Brother poster scandal, and God knows why, publishing the story absolving him of guilt over the Helen Michael SO15 fiasco. Of course what he really is talking about, as usual,  is Himself. 

Don't expect any sympathy on that count, you old fool.

Mrs Angry is fond of her Shakespeare too, Brian:

King Lear, Act 1, Scene 1:

Time shall unfold what plighted cunning hides:
Who cover faults, at last shame them derides.



Rog T said...

Mrs Angry,

He didn't get away with it, the people sacked him from the GLA. The people will sack the Tories from the Council in 2014. The irony will be Coleman will be one of the few left, courtesy of his ultra safe Totteridge bunker.

That is the best thing of all, because he will still be there to remind us of how horrible he is, just stripped of all responsibility.

The rest of them will rue this decision but I for one am happy to see him linger on like a bad smell.

Mind you, he could always have to give her majesty some pleasure.

I wouldn't worry too much about him, if I were you

Mrs Angry said...

I also hope he continues to cause major embarrassment for the Barnet Tories,and to facilitate a Labour victory at the next election.

Coleman is incapable of behaving in any other way, but that does not relieve his party of the responsibility they owe to residents properly to investigate allegations of inappropriate behaviour.

By refusing to act in an open and timely manner in regard to these complaints, and the failure to abide by the findings of the standard's committee, the leader and senior officers of Barnet council are failing the people they are supposed to serve. This is unacceptable.

Richard Armbach said...

HMMM But wasn't Tony Blair labour ?