Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Banished: Brian Coleman is cast out into the wilderness, and an Extraordinary meeting

And where exactly, demanded Miss Angry, do you think you are going? And dressed like that?
Erm, well to the Town Hall, said her mother, shiftily, feeling like Edina in AbFab.
I thought you were supposed to be ill?
I am ... but ...
You are not to stay out late, said Miss Angry, or, she added, with a glinting eye, go to the pub.
And wear something more sensible. It's cold out there.

Suddenly Mrs Angry had a horrible vision of her old age, at the mercy of bossy grown up children, taking her gin away, and making her go to macrame classes at the local day centre. If there are any day centres, when Mrs Angry reaches her old age. If Mrs Angry reaches her old age. Please: no sympathy.

Never mind: off to Hendon, to watch the Extraordinary Meeting before full council, getting there early in order to make sure of a seat, except oh, when she arrived in the public gallery, there were almost no seats left. 

In the front row, a line of suspiously smug looking older residents sat triumphantly in their seats, clutching their agendas, & peering at them in bemusement. Mrs Angry recognised one of the older culprits, who had been, nominally anyway, a Tory appointed governor at her children's primary school - although rarely seen. 

Mrs Angry remembered that a certain councillor from Barnet (no, not that one) had been rumoured to have arranged for a claque of loyal Tory members from the Chipping Barnet circle of infamy to fill out the public gallery, in a rather desperate attempt to keep the rebellious Barnet activists from being able to sit there and observe the scabby Tory councillors conduct their shameful business in the chamber.. 

Worst of all, it seems, in a typical Barnet Tory display of blatant favouritism, the councillor's chums had been allowed to take their places early, before everyone else, in the best seats, while all other other residents were detained downstairs in the lobby by council staff, most of them ending up in an overflow room, allowed grudgingly to hear but not to see, the actions of their elected representatives.

The Extraordinary meeting had been convened in order to debate an emergency motion from Labour of no confidence in the Tory leader, Richard Cornelius. 

There was much interest on this vote not simply due to his position but the relation to his continuing support of the One Barnet programme of mass outsourcing, a strategy now lying in tatters for all but the most obtuse or conniving Tory councillor to see. If that were not excitement enough, there was the other pressing matter of Councillor Brian Coleman, suspended from the Conservative Party by the national board, but still clinging on desperately to his position within the Tory group. 

Almost the last person to enter the chamber was our man. He moved sulkily to the outer fringes of his former colleagues, and sat in the middle of the room, a row of empty seats to his left. Significantly, Mrs Angry noted approvingly, perhaps in honour of his new found radical political alignment, he was wearing a bold red tie. 

Brian positioned his reading glasses on the end of his nose, peered down at his papers and busied himself with his pen, ticking imaginary lists of things to do: cancel tickets for Chipping Barnet Conservative Association Christmas lunch, tick,  write a letter of sympathy to Nadine Dorries, tick, apply for housing benefit, tick ...

The meeting started. Labour leader Alison Moore began on a sombre note, reminding us all that the issue under debate was one of the gravest and utmost seriousness. The Tory councillors looked on indifferently. She remarked upon the astonishing volte face of Brian Coleman, now outed as a One Barnet sceptic. She noted the number of authorities around the country - Cornwall, Edinburgh, Somerset, Birmingham - so many - who have sensibly rejected large outsourcing schemes like One Barnet: although none of course are on what Coleman himself referred to as the 'grandiose' scale of our proposed privatisation. 

Coleman's face was a picture, throughout this speech, grimacing, his back to his former colleagues, and looking towards the public gallery: at one point Mrs Anrgry thought he was nodding towards her, as if to say, if only I had listened to you earlier, Mrs Angry, how differently my life may have turned out, and how much wiser I would be. Mrs Angry smiled back, sympathetically, with a 'Didn't I tell you, Brian?' sort of expression, which clearly was appreciated.

Deputy leader Daniel 'John' Thomas stood to attention now, and read out an attempt to justify the unjustifiable, the continued promotion of One Barnet. There was, he snarled, no real emergency, and this meeting was in fact 'an abuse of procedure'. Oh dear. 

Councillor Moore complained about a lack of scrutiny, due to a lack of transparency over the details of One Barnet. What people must understand, he said, was that secrecy was necessary because if people knew what the risks were, this would be a very bad thing. Erm?

And, said John Thomas, it was hypocrisy for Labour to moan about the unknown risks, and then blame them for employing consultants (Agilisys/iMPOWER, last monthly bill nearly half a million pounds - shall I repeat that - HALF A MILLION POUNDS IN ONE MONTH - and the total estimated bill soaring out of control), when those consultants were there to assess the risks which we are not allowed to know about. 

Ah: but hang on, thought Mrs Angry ... these consultants are implementation partners, in place to arrange the pimping of our council services, not to make a list of why that is not such a good idea. The fact that they are so fond of the Joint Venture model,  recently agreed by senior officers, without the permission of elected members, demonstrates this better than anything, because of course Joint Ventures are even higher risk than the straightforward strategic partnership/thin client arrangement.

John Thomas wanted us to know that it was completely untrue that there was any disagreement between him and leader Richard Cornelius. There was not. Odd, because no one had suggested that, so one must now suspect, from such a denial, that it must be true.

And then, to sign off, he made a slightly mad, Barnet Tory retro chic style lunge at what he told us was the real reason for any whinging opposition to the masterly outsourcing plans: yes, you've guessed it, the Labour Paymasters ie: sharp intake of breath, and a pointy finger - THE UNIONS. 

Barnet Tories are frightened of THE UNIONS. THE UNIONS, for Barnet Tories, are like the monsters in the wardrobe: a nameless, shapeless fear that cannot be seen, but is always lurking, waiting, plotting an attack in the dark. 

It's alright, John Thomas, Mrs Angry is here, holding your hand: and really, really there is nothing there - go back to sleep ...

to be continued ...

No comments: