Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Brian Coleman: adding insult to injury

*Updated Friday: see below

So: your name is Brian Coleman, you are a former Tory councillor, a former Cabinet member, a former Assembly Member, and a former Chair of the London Fire Authority.

You have been convicted of a criminal offence, an offence to which you plead guilty, of assault by beating of a female resident, in the high street, in broad daylight, in front of witnesses, and most importantly, in front of a CCTV camera, the footage from which shows beyond a shadow of a doubt that you did attack this woman, and have lied when for several months you denied doing so.

Your local Tory chums refuse to condemn you, after the conviction. The local Tory leader says nothing at all, having stated to the press that he knows and likes you, and telling a local resident that he cannot believe you would be guilty of such behaviour.

Conservative Central Office say that you will be expelled from the party, but the local Conservative Associations sit on their hands and Chipping Barnet Association will merely hold a meeting whereby members of the executive will take a vote on whether or not to expel you. You are invited to attend this meeting and present your case. If your friends and colleagues choose to support you, you will not lose your membership, despite your criminal conviction.

You then give an interview to the Barnet Press, in which you state you only pleaded guilty in order to save your driving licence. 

Quite why you were, yet again, in danger of losing your licence is not explained. You have already lost it once, for speeding, you, the councillor who was so desperate to remove traffic calming measures from the streets of Broken Barnet, measures designed to protect residents from harm caused by ... speeding drivers.

You refuse to apologise for your attack on Helen Michael, and, outrageously, now seek to blame the assault on her, and a campaign of 'harassment and abuse' which led to your beating of her, causing injuries for which the judge fined you. 

 Photo taken after the assault on Helen Michael, showing mark on wrist

As the article explains:

I am sick and tired of the virtual stalking by her and others,” he said.
“What right does anybody have to film anybody else at the cashpoint?

“What right do these people think they have to invade elected representatives’ lives?

“Why would anyone stand for elected office if you are going to be bullied and intimidated by this group of obsessives

Brian Coleman, 'bullied and intimidated by this group of obsessives'?

Worse still: 'virtual stalking by her and others'?

It may be a wise move for the Barnet Press to withdraw this article altogether, giving as it does the opportunity for a convicted criminal to attempt to justify his actions by blaming his victim. 

Let's just stop there and remind ourselves of the truth.

This man has pleaded guilty to assault. He had to, because the CCTV evidence proves absolutely that he had attacked Helen Michael, merely because, from a distance, she had tried to film him breaking the law, and avoiding the restrictions of his own parking scheme. He lost control, and became violent in an effort to stop her doing what she had every right to do, in the public interest, to prove that he is a hypocrite, who thinks he is above the law, and beyond the limits of the regulations which he expects everyone else to observe.

While this article was being published, just by chance Mrs Angry was interviewing Helen Michael about the assault, and the effect it has had on her life.

She described the moment Coleman saw her, and suddenly attacked her: 

'It was like a dream, when he first lunged at me ... it wasn't happening ... by the time the police came around, I was actually shaking, in shock ...' 

The physical effects of the assault were described in court: the emotional impact, and the stress caused by the process of waiting for the matter to come to court were substantial. During this period, Ms Michael's mother became terminally ill, and died only last Friday: the funeral has not yet taken place, and clearly this is a very difficult time for her.

Helen pointed out that she was particularly upset (and this comment was before she had seen the article) by the rumours put about by Coleman and fellow Tories, stating that she was lying about the incident: a fiction which he is now seeking to repeat, despite his own admission of guilt and conviction, and despite the CCTV evidence which so clearly proves what really happened.

The fact that Tory leader Cornelius supported Coleman, after the incident, and bleated how he liked him, and told a female resident that he simply did not believe him capable of the assault of which he was convicted, is bad enough: that he now remains silent and refuses to condemn his despicable behaviour is simply beyond contempt. As Helen says: 

'I thought Cornelius was a decent fellow ... I have now been proved completely and utterly innocent, and at least I should have an apology ...' 

Of the total failure by local Tories to speak out about their former colleague's assault, she asked:

 'What sort of message does that give to women, and more importantly perhaps, to other men, that if they lose control, violence is the answer? Coleman is a public figure, so it's even worse - you have a certain standard of behaviour, and you have to maintain that, at all times ...' 

She said she felt 'outraged' at the fact that his membership of the Conservative party had not been instantly revoked: not only was it a matter of the assault, but the lies he had told in the months leading up to his plea of guilty -'if he is dishonest in this, how many other things has he lied about?'

Since speaking to Mrs Angry this afternoon, the article in the Barnet Press has been published. 

Helen Michael has contacted Mrs Angry again to say that she is now taking legal advice in regard to Brian Coleman's remarks. 

She has written to Tory leader Richard Cornelius, and will also be contacting Conservative Central Office directly to complain about the failure of the party to deal with his conviction, and to complain about his allegations published in this interview.

In regard to the piece in the Press, Ms Michael states herself to be very surprised, and very disappointed that it should be published at all, especially without extending any right of reply to her.

As for Coleman, Helen Michael has one last thing to say:

 'Mr Coleman has started a war that he will lose.'

In his closing remarks in the Press article, Coleman, looking to the future, says he wants to take part in 'I'm a celebrity, get me out of here'. 

In case you think this is a joke: it is not - he has also expressed a wish to take part in Strictly Come Dancing ... Inside the delusional head of Brian Coleman, his fame is so great, that he really is a candidate for such programmes. 

This man is absurd beyond belief - one can expect nothing less, but he is being supported in his folie de grandeur by the Conservative Party, both locally and nationally. Unless and until they move to kick him back into the obscurity where he deserves to languish, this fool will continue to destroy the credibility of his party, and cause untold damage to any prospect of electoral success here in Broken Barnet, or beyond, for years to come.

The Tories care nothing for the intrinsic moral rights or wrongs of this case. Violence against women is a low priority of concern for this party, wallowing as they are in the primeval swamp of sexual politics. But they are pragmatists, and they do care about their electoral vulnerability. 

So: it is time for all good men, and quite a few bad ones, to come to the aid of the Tory party, and deal once and for all with the problem of Brian Coleman. Will they? *See update Saturday below:

Let's sit back, and see what happens next, shall we?

*Updated Thursday:

What happened next, then.

Mrs Angry can exclusively reveal that, unfortunately, this morning Helen Michael's staff arrived to open her cafe and found a threatening anonymous letter stuck to the front of her premises.

Mrs Angry has seen the contents of this letter but will not comment further as the matter is now the subject of a complaint to the police, and Helen Michael is also in the process of taking legal advice.

A certain local paper, which has spent all morning reading this blog, of course, has decided to tweet some of the content, obtained verbally from Helen, who had requested it not to be republished verbatim, which therefore Mrs Angry will not do at this point, except to quote the chilling phrase, clearly meant to intimidate:

"What Goes Round Will Come Round"

*Update 2: 

As the Times group paper has taken upon itself to publish the full details, before the police have seen it, and the material is now in the public domain, here is the full content - or rather here is the accurate version:


Ms Michael :

We hope you are proud of
yourself now.

There was no need to commit 
perjury and pervert the
course of justice to acheive
your petty vendetta.

Why not use a civil lawsuit 

Mr Coleman is not well liked 
hence the verdict!

This is a sad day for British 
justice -when there are real
criminals out there.

The "case" was only a public 
order issue

We won't be using your cafe
any more nor will our friends.

Matter of principle, Remember -
"What Goes Round Comes Round"

We are not friends of Brian 
Coleman  -by the way.

*Updated Friday:

With permission from Helen Michael, here is a photo of the anonymous letter left outside Cafe Buzz.

*Update Saturday:

As to the matter of Councillor Coleman's forthcoming 'trial by peers' hearing at some unspecified time in the future, in which he will put his case for retaining membership of Chipping Barnet Conservative Association - after the objectionable interview with Coleman in the Barnet Press was published, Helen Michael wrote in protest to Tory leader Richard Cornelius. 

There has. of course, been no public condemnation here in Barnet of Coleman's assault, or his subsequent conviction, by Cornelius, or indeed any Conservative councillor, or by any of our Tory MPs, Mike Freer, Matthew Offord or Theresa Villiers.

This is, even by the barrell bottom scraping standards of Barnet Tories, absolutely indefensible.

Cornelius replied to Helen Michael's complaint:

"Brian Coleman is not a member of the Conservative group. He is suspended from the Conservative party nationally.

I have no control or influence over him".

Today we hear that 'a senior Tory' government politician has describe the local Conservative associations as being 'all mad, swivel-eyed loons'.

Here in Broken Barnet, where the three associations refuse to criticise the actions of Brian Coleman, and where he may well win a vote to remain as a member of the party, one can only concur with such a description.


Anonymous said...

My thoughts are with Helen and I hope that Coleman has dug a legal hole for himself with his comments. However I do not have a very good understanding of politics and this situation just seems bizarrely unfair and I am hoping that you might be able to educate me.
In my job, I work in the voluntary sector; if I had acted as Coleman has done I would have been sacked and not allowed to work in a similar role again. Central Conservatives have removed him from their party, as they have already stated, so Coleman became an independent and carried on regardless. As this man obviously has no intention to do the decent thing and resign who does have the power to take action against him. Even if he is removed from local Conservative groups is he not just going to carry on “enjoying his role as an independent”. I just find it all so unfair but don’t see how his, rightful, removal from local Conservative groups will have any real impact on him until next election.
I remember, some time back, in Tower Hamlets the BNP won a few seats, attributed to low voter turnout for the other candidates. The public heckled them whenever they tried to speak at meetings and actions were taken to have them removed shortly after (how this was done I don’t recall). Do we really have to put up with Coleman for another year? How can this be just in any way regardless of your political opinion?

Lost Transport said...

Bloody hell! That's a nonsensical letter and I doubt that the idiot who wrote it has many friends.

I can only pass on my best wishes to Helen Michael and my condolences for her loss.

Mrs Angry said...

The continuing presence of Brian Coleman in the council chamber is the greatest self inflicted wound the Tory party could bear, and serve them right for failing to deal with his behaviour in the past.

On the other hand, the fact that a serving councillor does not automatically lost his or her seat once convicted of a criminal offence is clearly unacceptable. Elected members of the community are expected - or were expected - to maintain certain standards of behaviour. Unfortunately Eric Pickles' tampering with the standards regime has made the disciplining or sanction of badly behaved councillors almost impossible.

Mrs Angry said...

Martin M: I have a reason for not publishing your comment at the mo - because yes, you are quite right ...

Martin Milan said...

Totally understand on decision not to publish the comment Mrs. A.

I have to say, I personally don't have a problem with someone with a criminal record serving as a council member... The function of the council is to represent the views of local society, and whether we like it or not, criminals are a part of society. If someone with a record is prepared to stand for election then I say fair play to them, and let the public decide.

The Coleman case though is a little different - here we have a man who has used violence to try to suppress evidence that he has flouted the very same rules which he himself has championed in public office. This calls into question his suitability for a role in public office, in my opinion...

nae URL said...

look on the bright side! he hasn't lost his licence....just think what we will save in taxi fares.

How does one do "virtual stalking?"
so sorry about your Mum Helen.

Mrs Angry said...

party girl, same note as to Martin previously - dont want to give the game away yet!

Martin: no,there is no justification for someone with a criminal conviction holding the responsibility of a public post, and for very good reasons. And yes, in this case the seriousness of the incident is compounded by the breach of trust placed in someone who is an elected representative.

Martin Milan said...

Mrs A,

I guess this is a point we will have to agree to disagree on...

It's certainly true that there are some offences which ought to serve as an immediate bar on public office - one immediately thinks of fraud, obtaining money by deception, bribery etc... There are other offences though which really wouldn't trouble me all that much - death by dangerous driving for instance... I think it's important when deciding eligablility for public life that consideration is given to who the candidate is now, and not to get overly hung up on who they were 10 years ago... People change - in both directions.

Want a good example to mull over? Think of Paul Chambers - the chap involved in the TwitterJokeTrial. You'd be hard pressed to find someone with more integrity, but the fact remains that for almost two years we was convicted of sending a menancing message... Personally, I'd rather have Paul in Parliament than almost any of the current lot.

I have a serious issue with the fact that prisoners are denied involvement in our democractic process as well.

Declaration of Interest time:

1/ I did used to work as a volunteer with convincted prisoners at HMP Doncaster, and
2/ Though I shouldn't have to say it, no - I do not have a criminal record.

Mrs Angry said...

Martin: there are always exceptions to every rule, but I do not think causing death by dangerous driving is a good one - think of the feelings of the family of the victim.

I think it is time to reintroduce a higher standard of expectation for those who want public office, not lower the bar.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Mr Milan, you have given me food for thought. We had a wonderful volunteer who failed a CRB check and was asked to leave, which upset those of us who knew him. However, the fact is if I had done what Coleman has done I would not be allowed to work in the voluntary sector anymore. Coleman has not expressed any sorrow and is a proven liar, which is the main issue here I feel.

Mrs Angry said...

A councillor who has been convicted of assaulting a woman in a high street, in full view of witnesses, not only showing no remorse but attempting to justify his behaviour and make further disgraceful allegations is quite evidently not fit for public office, quite apart from the question as to whether he should be allowed to continue as a party member.

There should be a process by which any elected representative is instantly dismissed from his or her post if convicted of a criminal offence, most certainly a violent assault, as clearly to allow such a figure to remain in office may put members of the public at risk.

Anonymous said...

In addition to being a convicted criminal (although dependent upon offence there needs to be a cut off period) shouldn't blatent lying upon important matters also be a pre-requisite for dimissal or barring from public office?

Albeit, I am not exactly sure who would be left to run the country if this were implemented overnight!

And if this policy were to be adopted, I can't help thinking a rudderless ship might well be a marked improvement upon our current ship, which constantly turns more and more starboard (right) as each day goes by.

Tim Horgan said...

Have we all been here before - a long time ago- The Iliad?

"Chapters 3-4
Chapter 3: Paris, the beautiful and cowardly son of the Trojan king Priam, starts to boast and defies any Greek to fight him. Menelaus, brother of Agamemnon, takes this boast. Both sides agree to a truce, and the winner of this single combat will win the war. Paris is overmatched, but he is saved by divine intervention by Aphrodite.
Chapter 4: The truce becomes tense, and is broken by Pandarus. Athena assists in helping Pandarus to throw a spear that grazes Menelaus. The battle begins in earnest"

I see Brian as Paris in a new production at the Phoenix. Ha Ha!

Mrs Angry said...

Hmm. I think Oedipus Rex is more appropriate, possibly, Tim ...

Martin Milan said...

Mrs A,

To cite the case of Death By Dangerous Driving - is it really fair that someone should be prevented from taking a role in public life by a conviction which has no element of dishonesty?

The view of the victim's family, tragic and upsetting as I am sure it is, does not trump all. The person has paid their debt to society, and has every right to partake in public life in the (unlikely) event they can persuade the public to support them.

Mrs Angry said...

I think it is perfectly fair, yes: it is not just a question of honesty but judgement which matters in considering suitability for office.