Thursday, 23 January 2014
The council of the wicked - or: sat in the seat of the scoffers - Mrs Angry survives another Full Council meeting
How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!
But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
He will be like a tree [firmly] planted by streams of water,
Which yields its fruit in its season
And its leaf does not wither;
And in whatever he does, he prospers.
The wicked are not so,
But they are like chaff which the wind drives away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
Nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, But the way of the wicked will perish.
Psalm read by the Mayor's Chaplain before the Full Council meeting
Yes. Been a busy two days, here in Broken Barnet. Tuesday night the special meeting to commemorate the life of Nelson Mandela, followed by Full Council. Wednesday night the Barnet Alliance debate in Edgware. But first things first. Tuesday night.
Labour had called for a special commemorative meeting and for the establishment of an annual lecture in Mandela's name, to mark Black History month, particularly aimed the younger residents of Barnet, in recognition of his achievements and to reflect the issues facing the diverse population of our borough. A worthy suggestion, you would have to agree.
Shall I show you my Joe Slovo t shirt? asked Mr Shepherd, ripping open his jacket and shirt with a frankly rather alarming enthusiasm ...
Although the Tory administration agreed to the special meeting, and the idea of a lecture, they simply could not bring themselves to support the move in dignity, but showed themselves up for what they are: shallow, and lacking in graciousness, by submitting some pathetically small minded and mean spirited amendments.
Tory leader Richard Cornelius was keen to insert an agreement that a sponsor must be found for the annual lecture. He made a shabby little speech which, amongst other cheap jibes, all delivered as usual in that passive-agressive demeanour he adopts, suggested that 'the wealthy unions' could be asked to pay for them.
Libdem leader Jack Cohen looked on, in vague disgust. He talked about Mandela and a moral compass - an accessory sadly lacking in the toolkit issued to Tory councillors - and remarked that because of him tonight we stood together, but in earlier times ... we stood divided. The Tories looked down at their papers.
Former Tory Brian Coleman, of course, rose to the occasion with a statesman-like tribute - or rather by delivering a ridiculous, petulant speech centred around not the guiding principles of the great man's life, but around Himself.
Nelson Mandela, he informed us, as Mrs Angry fell off her seat laughing, had been A Methodist (like that other great figure of the age, at least in the world inside Brian Coleman's head, ie Brian Coleman).
This was at least, Mrs Angry supposed, an improvement on Tories referring to Madiba as A Terrorist, wasn't it? Been there, done that, got the Hang Nelson Mandela t shirt.
Not allowed now. Spoilsports.
And, lucky Nelson: Brian had met him. Or in fact, it transpired he had been in the same postal district as him sometime in 2007. And Lord Dickie Attenborough had been there (Brian calls him Lord Dickie, you know) and some Left Wing People, who made speeches which he said bored Mandela (not really into politics, see).
And then: he stopped to remind us that Some Other People (looking at the Labour members, so not Left Wing People) Some People had tried to Stir Up Trouble with Mr Mandela in regard to Tory Councillor Brian Gordon and his 'tribute' act, which consisted of him blacked up at an event at a residential home in front of a captive audience of confused elderly residents ... (Mrs Angry was crying with laughter, by now).
And Some People, the same trouble-making People, had contacted President Mandela's office and told him about it, but - he didn't really mind.
He didn't like the shirt though, did he, yelled an historically well informed heckler, from the public gallery.
But why should we have a lecture in Black History month, asked Coleman? Why Black History Month? There is no Jewish History Month.
There's Jewish Book Week, Brian, Mrs Angry commented, trying to be helpful ... (starts Feb 22nd, and always very interesting, but somehow I doubt he reads very much, do you?)
When Desmond Tutu was a curate at a church in Golders Green, whispered Mr Shepherd, nodding at the Tories, They wouldn't let him become a Freeman of the city of London.
Always dangerous ground, with Mr Shepherd, anything touching on the subject of the City of London.
Luckily by now Labour's Agnes Slocombe was on her feet, enraged. Agnes is a councillor of long experience, originally from Barbados. Mrs Angry, as it happens, once had the privilege of attending a garden party at Buckingham Palace with her, (yes, just imagine) and her daughter, and she was great company, and absolutely refused to be impressed by anything - including the dusty velvet curtains and dingy nets in the foyer.
You can't tell me anything about lectures, said Agnes, or Black History Month.
This was a scheme promoted by Ken Livingstone, but one to which everyone had contributed: we all worked together.
I know, she said, what I'm talking about. Why all this nonsense now? This was all long before your time.
Agnes is one of the few councillors who can reduce Coleman to the state of a chastened schoolboy. He shut up.
Tory grandee Councillor John Marshall rose to his feet. Uh oh, thought Mrs Angry.
But no: to her surprise he immediately rebuked Coleman, as he so thoroughly deserved. The veteran parliamentarian referred with contempt to 'The Independent Member for Totteridge, and said his comments 'ill behoved him'.
He explained that with his son he had visited Robben Island, and saw the tiny cell in which Mandela was so cruelly incarcerated. He could not imagine how anyone could possibly have survived twenty seven years in such conditions.
Marshall recalled Mandela's visit in 1996, and his speech in Westminster Hall, made with such dignity; he remembered the first free election in South Africa, with the extraordinarily long queues: here in our local elections we take for granted, we see no queues. He spoke about the Truth and Reconciliation process, enabling people to move forward - and he mentioned the tribute paid in the House of Commons, an unprecedented honour.
For the first and probably last time, Mrs Angry applauded Councillor Marshall, as he sat down. It was well said, and said with sincerity.
Colemand sat sulkily, staring straight ahead, swinging his glasses impatiently in his little hand, completely unable to comprehend the significance of the moment, the need to acknowledge the real value of a life so nobly spent in dedication to the fight for justice, humanity, decency. That he is unable to understand - that is the reason for his isolation, in life, as well as in the council chamber of Broken Barnet.
Labour's Ross Houston told the meeting that he had been an anti-apartheid activist before he had even joined the party. He quoted from Alan Paton's inspirational 'Cry the Beloved Country', written in the very year which saw the birth of the iniquitous system of apartheid. He referred to one particular quotation:
"I have one great fear in my heart, that one day when they are turned to loving, they will find that we are turned to hating".
And then to the famous words by Mandela: