Wednesday, 22 January 2014
Ask the questions: the election debates begin in Broken Barnet
There is an election coming up in May, here in Broken Barnet - did you know? Probably not. All three main parties seem to be labouring (ha) under the impression that it is best not talked about, for different reasons.
Our Tory friends of course would be well advised to keep their heads down, and hope they are re-elected by mistake, by voters who have been living in a bunker for the last few years, and have lost the use of their faculties.
Labour? Mrs Angry is pretty certain that they have an election policy, based on things they are for, and things they are against, but she is not entirely sure, despite being a member herself, what they are yet - except that they do have a sensible parking policy that will go a long way to repair some of the damage created by the Tories' catastrophic programme, imposed by the now disgraced councillor Brian Coleman.
But look: even if the Labour party manifesto turns out to be a blank sheet, readers, you must, must vote for them, or you will end up with another four years of the appalling bunch of fools who have been running the shop for the last term. And there are some very,very good candidates, who have been closely involved in all the many high profile campaigns here in Barnet, standing this time, in winnable seats, who will bring new life and a new energy to the Labour group.
And what of the other parties, Mrs Angry, you are asking?
Libdems, for example. Well, not sure who will be standing, of the three currently elected to council, ie Jack Cohen, and Lord and Lady Palmer, all of them representing Childs Hill. Jack will be standing, no doubt, and hopefully will be returned to office as he is that rare thing: a Barnet councillor with intelligence, wit, and integrity, articulate and gracious. He will probably survive purely because of his position in the local community, and despite, not because of his position as a Libdem.
Monroe and Susette Palmer equally are very decent, dedicated and well respected councillors: but their tenure in Childs Hill is based on personal reputation and their long careers as hard working representatives, rather than political loyalty. It is difficult to predict what will happen to Childs Hill, therefore, if they stand down.
One often forgets, in the council chambers of Broken Barnet, that there is a coalition government, supported by Libdems, as our own homegrown councillors are still in opposition and -wisely - rarely refer to the national agreement between the two national parties.
Up in Chipping Barnet, another well liked Libdem activist and former councillor, Duncan Macdonald, has emerged from the shadows, and begun to campaign in an area that once had significant Libdem support. Brave man.
Pointless, of course, as no one will ever vote again for Libdems until such a time as anyone with any sense can forget the unforgiveable betrayal of the most vulnerable members of our society by the Libdem party, abandoning all principle in their eagerness to acquire the trappings of office, and all the perks that accompany such appointments. No younger voter will forgive the student loan u turn. And every Clegg-like, squirmingly desperate act of support for welfare cuts, the carve up of the NHS, the removal of legal aid, and all the other shameful, wicked policies stands as lasting indictment of a party so long clinging to the excuse of principle for unelectability, now wallowing in the gutter, like a character in a Hogarthian tale of downfall, immorality and disease. Eurgh.
Not awfully keen on the old Libdems, then, Mrs Angry? No. Let's move on. What alternatives do we have, here in Broken Barnet?
Well ... ok, the Green Party. Mrs Angry knows and loves Green party activist Poppy, former GLA and parliamentary candidate, and standing in High Barnet this May for council. Audrey is a charismatic, very bright woman, and will win support, but is unlikely to win enough votes to win a seat, of course. Green issues are integral to the policies of the three main parties now, and arguably the Green Party is an irrelevance. They would say otherwise, of course, and boy is Mrs Angry going to get in the neck from Poppy, for saying so. The real impact, sadly, is that the Green Party helps to split the vote, to different ends, in different wards.
Which leads us to UKIP.
Rumour has it that UKIP want to field candidates in every ward. Mrs Angry doubts that UKIP has the resources, or members, to do this, but we shall see.
At the last local elections, the Tories won with the help of votes given to Libdems, and local residents' association candidates, and the Green Party, but this time round, all is different. No resident association candidates, no chance of Libdems retaining their vote - but the unknown factor will be to what extent UKIP affect the balance of the outcome. Last time round, interestingly, Labour had increased its share of the vote, in less than favourable circumstances.
This election, though, after all the acrimony over issues like the parking fiasco, One Barnet, the library closures, the closure of Church Farmhouse Museum, the attempt by Tories to vote themselves a nice fat pay rise, whilst lecturing residents and staff about austerity measures ... the rise of the blogosphere, the campaigns fought by Barnet Alliance: oh, and the outrage caused by Brian Coleman's behaviour .... Well. The Tories should be bracing themselves for a fight.
This time round, however, there will be no Residents Association candidates, and the Libdem vote will, if there is any justice, be negligable. How will this affect the result? Where will those votes go?
Well: they are unlikely to gravitate to the Tories, that's for sure.
But there is an another factor to consider - the threat, or not, from UKIP. Any candidates are unlikely to win seats, but they will have an impact on the share of the vote.
Gains from Libdems will be measured up against protest votes for UKIP, who will take some support from disaffected residents fed up with Tory blundering in Barnet, and it must also be acknowledged, by Labour voters fed up with a perceived lack of strong opposition from their party, nationally and locally.
That UKIP is picking up support to the extent it is can only be the fault of the mainstream parties, and until they face this uncomfortable truth, nothing will stop the appeal of Farage's comical band of saloon bar bores getting far more attention than they deserve.
One leading light in the local UKIP party, such as it is, is one Adrian Murray-Leonard, a former Hendon Conservative activist and association officer who defected to UKIP after rows with his MP, Matthew Offord. In retaliation, Offord took advantage of the rules of parliamentary privilege to make personal allegations about his former colleague, which caused widespread disapproval at the time.
It came to the notice of UKIP members that Barnet Alliance is to hold a series of question times, related to the forthcoming elections in May - there is one tonight, in Edgware, see details below, which will be graced by Mrs Angry's presence.
And then Tirza Waisel, one of the organisers received a call from Mr Murray-Leonard, objecting in rather loud terms about what he saw as deliberate exclusion from the panel of speakers. He threatened to attend with other UKIP members, and 'hijack' the proceedings. Tirza refused to bow to such threats, wrote to Nigel Farage to complain - and contacted the police. Mr Murray-Leonard denies threatening to disrupt the meeting.
Dear Mr Farage,
This is an official complaint about Adrian Murray-Leonard, the vice-chair of the Barnet and Hendon Branch UKIP,.
Barnet Alliance for Public Services (BAPS) is a campaign group of the borough’s residents and workers and their trade unions. We are campaigning to defend our public services, which are being privatised en masse. We have organized a public meeting in Edgware next week in the run-up to the local elections. The meeting is intended for the public to ask current councillors and candidates their position on a range of local issues about which we have been campaigning since 2010.
Last night, Tuesday, 14 January 2014, at around 9:40 pm, I, as the BAPS’ coordinator, returned a call to Mr Murray-Leonard and had a conversation with him in which he demanded an invitation to sit on the panel. I explained to him that the panel speakers had been chosen because they were serving councillors or because of their known and stated positions on local issues, first and foremost the One Barnet Programme of Privatisation. I invited Mr Murray-Leonard to attend this meeting, along with any other local members of UKIP, as a Barnet resident, and offered him the opportunity to speak from the floor. However, Mr Murray-Leonard declined this invitation and said that unless he is invited onto the panel, he will go to the press, and he and his branch members will ‘crash’ our meeting. When I asked him to explain what he meant by ‘crash’, he said they will ‘hijack it’.
This was, to say the least, a most unpleasant conversation. We find it completely unacceptable for a member of your party to threaten anyone – in this case, a member and the coordinator of our community organization, and, by extension, all the people who will attend the meeting.
Since UKIP is presenting itself as a democratic party, we are puzzled by this behaviour.
Please investigate this as a matter of urgency and let us know your position.
Coordinator, Barnet Alliance for Public Services
In fact, although she may not get to the meeting in time herself, if she has not been able to finish cleaning behind her fridge, Mrs Angry really has no objection to debating with UKIP, on the panel, or from the floor, being reasonably confident that their cockeyed opinions are easily deconstructed and disposed of.
And if there is going to be any sign of a groundswell of support for UKIP in this borough, and at this stage there is not, then it will be the duty of all the major parties to blame themselves, and examine what must have gone so horribly wrong, that voters feel the need to find a voice through this party's amateur recital of tired old obsessions, dated misconceptions, and divisive politics.
What is not acceptable, however, is the reported attempt to bully their way into participation in this meeting as members of the panel. It is up to Barnet Alliance to decide who will be invited to take part.
Last night's Full Council meeting report to follow later, and boy does that need reporting: in the meanwhile, if you are short of entertainment tonight, do come to the debate in Edgware. Rumour has it that the BBC will be filming some of it, as Barnet is of no little interest from its position as a potential Tory loss in May ...
Updated: according to the Barnet Press , which has suddenly woken up after a period of hibernation and then a flurry of groundbreaking investigative journalism into the disappearance of a bench in East Barnet, UKIP is fielding only eight candidates, and will not be attending tonight's meeting. Shame.
Oh, and in case you are wondering why there are no Tory speakers on the panel - it is because they wouldn't come. As usual they are too frit to face a public audience and stand by their record of the last four years. Today the Press reported:
"Conservative council leader Richard Cornelius, said his party would not be sending a representative.
"It is not a public audience," he told The Press. "It is an audience of BAPS people. I'm sure there would not be an open debate and the panel is against us."
Open debate? What a f*cking liberty, from the man who amended the council constitution during the One Barnet privatisation procurement process, so as to forbid residents from discussing ANY council policies at Residents Forums.
Still. Elections are usually won, of course, in the rule book used by Barnet Conservatives, by preaching to the converted, if you can find any, and spending the rest of the campaigning period hiding behind the sofa.
See you tonight.