Sunday, 10 March 2013

The Second Coming: a week in Broken Barnet

Being indisposed, Mrs Angry had to forego the pleasure of attending last Tuesday's Full Council Meeting. 

Sadly, this meant she missed the usual buffoonery of Cinderella's footmen prancing into the council chamber with that golden phallic symbol of Barnet Council's all embracing power, the Mace, born aloft with such awe inspiring reverence, leading the way for Mayor Brian Schama, beside himself with pride in his rabbit trimmed robes, and frothy lace trimmed cravat, and gaudy mayoral bling. 

Mrs Angry may perhaps have upset one or two of the Tory councillors by describing this Mayoral get up as a corporate vajazzle, so she will not repeat the insult. Hardly as bad as being called an old hag, though, is it, Brian?

current mayor Brian Schama

The truth is that the Tory councillors of Broken Barnet are pathetically fond of the flummery of civic ritual, and plot shamelessly every year so as to engineer themselves into place for nomination as Mayor.

The childish delight that these councillors show when appointed to the role of Mayor or deputy Mayor is awfully amusing: they will do anything, and sacrifice anything, in order to achieve this honour. The thought of being carried around - at our expense - in a chauffeur driven limo, to endless functions, and presiding over full council meetings like a high court judge sends them wild with excitement. When Brian Coleman (remember him?) had to finish his term of office as Mayor -well: he cried. 

This desperate manoevring into position for the honour of becoming Mayor would be comical, were it not so typical of their lazy, troughing attitude to what should be, as councillors, a role dedicated to public service, rather than an indulgence of their own egos.

The election for next year's Mayor has just taken place. As readers know, the eyes and ears of Mrs Angry are everywhere, and her spies in the House of Fun have reported to her the story behind the appointment of Melvin Cohen as the Mayor in waiting for 2013. 

This year's electoral machinations have been complicated by an extra factor: the slow dawning realisation amongst our dopey Tory councillors that they have become awfully unpopular with the sort of voters upon whom they always rely: the conservatively minded, non political residents of Broken Barnet. 

Thanks largely to the Coleman parking cock up, even the least radically minded of this normally loyal section of the community has become politicised, and the publicity given in the last year to the mass privatisation plans of One Barnet has begun to strike fear in the hearts of the moderate Tory vote too. 

Add to that the burden of national issues such as worry over the break up of the NHS, and you have what is for the normally complacent Conservative councillors a real risk of massive defeat at the coming local elections. 

What to do? Some of those in the most marginal seats are seeking to bolster what they fondly imagine is their popularity by taking a more high profile role. Asking a barrage of idiotic questions at meetings. Taking part in campaigns in other boroughs. Trying to get appointed as Mayor, Mayoress, or Mayor's escort. That kind of stuff. Expect more of the same in the next few months. 

Brian Salinger

Melvin Cohen has already been Mayor. Brian Salinger was the other candidate: he has not held this post, despite a record of long service: 27 years. Brian may well not be standing for re-election, so it would have been nice, perhaps for him to have his go at the role. Not to be.

Here in essence was the battle for the soul of the Tory party, or what passes for it, in Broken Barnet. 

Brian Salinger was of course the council leader who was deposed by a coup organised by Coleman the kingmaker, in favour of Mike Freer. That went well, didn't it?

The Salingers, Brian and Kate, are both decent, liberally minded Tories - symbolic of a more caring conservatism, not dogmatic, or hardline. 

It is no coincidence that it was Kate who uniquely refused to endorse the truly shameful move by the Tory group, which, whilst lecturing the rest of us about the need for austerity measures,  decided to vote themselves a whopping pay rise, as soon as they were re-elected in 2010.

Kate Salinger was treated abominably by her colleagues as a result, immediately stripped of all her positions in a public act of revenge by the leadership, and backed by the spineless Tory backbenchers. 

The once and future Mayor, Melvin Cohen

A report about the controversial election appeared in the local Times group paper this week, claiming that 'The appointment of Barnet's new mayor has caused rumblings after a senior councillor was snubbed for the role' ...

Councillor Tambourides was quoted as agreeing that Brian Salinger has served for a long time, but reportedly suggesting that  'you have to take into account whether he has been serving well or not'.

Andreas Tambourides

The report also quoted Councillor Salinger, asked whether he felt he had been snubbed by his colleagues, as saying the appointment had caused 'a few raised eyebrows'.

With no explanation, later in the week this story was rewritten, with the question about Salinger's serving well or not removed, and other remarks edited. 

Added to the piece was a report that 'several Tory members today denied any rift among the group and welcomed the appointment of the popular councillor'.

Why this article has been rewritten in this way, we do not know. 

Were the reported remarks made to the reporter inaccurate? Presumably someone has objected to the tone or content of the article: if so, unless the story was incorrect, should it have been rewritten?  

At all events, the report now presents Councillor Cohen as 'popular', Councillor Tambourides as a man of admirable tact and discretion, and Councillor Salinger as a rank outsider, never in with a chance of becoming Mayor. 

Mrs Angry's spies inform her, however,  that there was only one vote in the balance of the result. Still: it is true to say, is it not, that history is always rewritten by the winning side?  And nowhere is that more true than here in Broken Barnet.
In three years of this administration, the Barnet Tories have learnt nothing, and continue in the same way as they always have. 

The Chipping Barnet Massive retains its grip on the party, and the life of this administration will draw to its natural conclusion in the only way it can, pitifully, painfully, until the new Labour administration  administers a mercy killing, in 2014.

Missing this Full Council meeting also meant that Mrs Angry was not required to conceal her mirth at the other traditional ritual at these events,  when the wicked Tory councillors bow their heads in such touching, humble, God fearing submission, as the chaplain urges them to apply themselves to the noble duty of governance, and beseeches the Almighty on behalf of their feckless, blackhearted endeavours. Always an enjoyable sight.

Such touching piety would have struck a deeper resonance, of course, with the undeserving poor of Broken Barnet, two thousand of whom are about to see their families cast even further into the mire of despair by the new Bedroom tax. 

As reported earlier this week, Barnet Council's housing directors have arranged for residents thrown into financial crisis, thanks to the Coalition government onslaught on those in need of benefits, to receive comfort in their time of trial from the Almighty. Is it the same God who watches over the council chamber of Broken Barnet? 

No. This will be an evangelical God, the rather tetchy sort who expects you to believe the literal meaning of every word in the bible: a God who who will be handing out eternal damnation for those who do not find themselves to be born again Christians. 

Will this God be acceptable to Jewish residents, or muslims, or atheists? We cannot tell, but we can guess. This will be a suitably chastening God, anyway, who will teach those irresponsible poor people to aspire to something better, perhaps: they might like to become Tory councillors, for example, and enjoy a very welcome allowance for sleeping through a few committee meetings, taking turns to play Mayor,  and rubber stamping £750 million pounds worth of contracts with Capita.

Because of course, whilst squabbling amongst themselves about whose turn it is to wear the Mayoral bling, and to remonstrate with the hecklers in the public gallery, but allowing the likes of Brian Coleman free reign to insult the residents who pay his allowances, our Tory councillors have sat back and allowed the senior management team and Cabinet to sign up to the massive NSCSCO contract without exercising their duty properly to scrutinise the deal. 

That this is so was evident even as late as the night of the 'Carry on Up the Khyber' meeting in December where their formal approval was given, despite the most fundamental questions still being posed by Cabinet members. The shocking lack 
of even the most basic grasp of the significance of the outsourcing programme by most Tory members was demonstrated at a scrutiny meeting last week, where Labour councillor Alan Schneiderman tweeted:

Cllr Gordon asking what NSCSO and DRS means!

Funny, because Tory councillor and part time Nelson Mandela impersonator Brian Gordon is very keen to ask questions at full council meetings when asked to provide excuses for the 'Yes, Council is performing fantastically well in everything' sort of responses that Barnet Cabinet members so love, but has clearly forgotten, despite being a scrutiny committeee member, to ask the right sort of questions about the One Barnet £1 billion outsourcing programme, such as 'What is it?' or 'What am I rubber stamping, again,  exactly?' 

Brian Gordon for Mayor, says Mrs Angry.

And finally, the other excitement that Mrs Angry missed on Tuesday night, something luckily that has been captured for your viewing pleasure by the dutiful Revel, was a spectacular piece of oratory by Leader Richard Cornelius. 

(Note for Libdem readers: oratory, as in an example of public speaking, not The Oratory, as in a posh school for atheist snobs to send their offspring for an education free from the risk of mixing with poor people ...)

Watch, and enjoy Councillor Cornelius, and his salami, unsliced:

This marvellous performance displays all the bonkers, antediluvian preoccupations of our Barnet Tories, and explains why they are so far from any understanding of modern Conservative policy, wallowing in the Thatcherite backwaters of another era, dragging us down into the swamp with them.

Note the disdain for foreigners, 'American Exiles', who have been living in this borough before some  of our Tory councillors were even born: the reds under the bed, retro, Cold War  fear of ssshh ... Socialism, the barking, obsessive, but ultimately rather flattering conviction that THE UNIONS are behind any expression of dissent in Broken Barnet. And shake your head in bafflement at Cornelius' failure to understand that it is the right and duty of a trade union to fight for the livelihoods of members with families to support. 

If you pay careful attention, friends, you will see a treacherous lunge by Cornelius at a former colleague, turned renegade independent councillor: note the Tory leader's quotation of an exhortation by this erstwhile supporter, at a full council not so long ago, to 'wake up and smell the coffee .... there is no alternative .... bring it on ...' 

Yes - this was Brian Coleman, in the middle of venting his spleen at those who opposed One Barnet. This speech is remembered now only for the insults he cast at residents in the public gallery, after being heckled, referring to the 'sad, mad, bad, and a couple of old hags' ... and this, of course, was before his complete hypocrisy in supporting One Barnet was betrayed by his subsequent u-turn and public rejection of the same policy, after being suspended by the party in the wake of his pending court appearance.

The delusional Richard Cornelius and his Cabinet colleagues refuse to accept that they have alienated the previously compliant voters of this borough by the incompetence and reckless ideological policies and actions of their administration. They label us, the 'usual suspects', the public face of any opposition, as 'eccentric socialists', and think we will be insulted. 

Not Mrs Angry. Some of the nicest people she knows fit that label, and she herself is proud to come from a long line of eccentric, opinionated, argumentative women: exhibiting all the things about a woman, in truth, that frighten a Barnet Tory, and make him grateful that his own dear lady wife knows her place, and keeps her mouth firmly shut.

As fellow blogger Citizen Barnet remarked in this post here , with such aplomb:

"I am definitely a socialist, and possibly eccentric, but there are worse things one might be.

A complacent Tory, for example, who blandly complies with his party's decimation of public services, and denigrates those Barnet residents who won't just sit back and let them do it."

As Cornelius admits in his speech, everyone has a right to speak to the courts, and speaking to the High Court is what we shall be doing, from the 19th to the 21st of this month, in the course of a Judicial Review of the One Barnet programme. 

Mrs Angry is counting down the days.


Anonymous said...

Please shorten your post.

It's great stuff but too long and rambling.

From a supporter.

Mrs Angry said...

lol: please lengthen your comment: it's great stuff but too short and lacking in detail.

Alternatively, go and read something shorter elsewhere.

I do my best, but I don't have the time to sit and edit things down to an easy read. Also I am trying to create an accurate record of events. If you want soundbite stuff, you have come to the wrong place, Anon ...