Wednesday, 29 April 2015
Shiny Promises: or: when you are about to close your curtains ... on the campaign trail, in Broken Barnet
Where are we now then? What has happened, Mrs Angry, in Broken Barnet, since the last post, I hear you ask?
Well, the usual sturm und drang, blood and tears, a ceaseless display of animosity, fear and loathing in the streets of Finchley, you know: the sort of thing one might expect.
But enough of my problems.
The great unpleasantness.
Mrs Angry has done her best to avoid as much of it as possible, whilst at the same time pretending to do her bit for the comrades: a difficult task.
Happily missing the hustings, for example, wherever possible - almost as if she were a Tory candidate.
Not entirely missing the odd spot of canvassing, sadly: duty calls, and even Barnet bloggers must obey.
Most informative, of course: and one rather enjoys the challenge of doorstepping, treading fearlessly where others leg it, asap: relishing the prospect of smiling sweetly at Tory matrons peering suspiciously round the gap in the door, little knowing they are speaking to the notorious Mrs Angry, identifying her as yet another deluded socialist troublemaker come to trespass on their territory, and look with envy on their privet hedged, wildly manicured front gardens.
In fact, Mrs Angry's expertise appears to lie in evangelising amongst the former Libdem voters.
Pushing on a door nailed wide open, of course, in most cases, but in others - requiring a gentle hand. Easiest with gentlemen of a certain age, still in their dressing gowns at midday on a Saturday morning. This requires, apart from a gentle hand, a spot of mild flirtation, some pleading, a modicum of allusions to the inherent cowardice, lack of integrity, and moral degradation of the Libdem coalition, and, yes: a few compliments about the garden, and their herbaceous borders. Lovely roses. And is that a Morning Glory?
Please do up your dressing gown.
A visit to High Barnet the other week, Chipping Barnet, the seat held by Theresa Villiers, offered an interesting view of the state of things in this once Tory loyal constituency, which all parties have completely misread as a walkover for the present incumbent MP - until now.
A truly surprising number of Labour voters, even in one of the most affluent roads in that part of the constituency. One or two loyal Tories, of course: but only one or two.
And another Tory turned, and another vote for Labour candidate Amy Trevethan, after a discussion with a rather sweet, thoughtful elderly lady who had met Mrs Villiers once or twice, and therefore, out of politeness, it seemed, had always previously voted for her, fell to the issue of the liberal tradition in traditional Toryism, and where did it go, and wasn't it better for those with liberal principles, and a sense of compassion, to remove a government noted for its exceptionally illiberal social policies?
Changing the subject. Being a synaesthete, don't you know, (look it up), Mrs Angry lives in a rather strange world, ruled by a confusion of senses, and a subjective, idiosyncratic language of colour, but really, for the rest of you, one colour -for some people, at least - seems to arrest the intellectual process, a guide that might otherwise inform their political views. Yes: forget about blue, or red, or yellow, or God forbid, the color Purple: we need to talk about the colour Green.
What was really shocking, in fact, to Mrs Angry, on her Chipping canvas, were two Green voting households she encountered. Shocking not that they voted Green, despite their level of wealth and very comfortable lifestyle: but that, as articulate and very well off as they clearly were, they presented the most antagonistic doorstep experiences that Mrs Angry has encountered, in any election so far.
You had your chance, said one, furiously, pointing at her Labour party rosette, and apparently holding a bemused Mrs Angry personally responsible for the career of Tony Blair, the Iraq War, Trident, TTIP, plastic bags, Ebola, the Black Death, Simon Cowell, One Direction, and now - dear God: Ed Miliband.
Worse still, when asked if they acknowledged that voting Green would necessarily return a Tory government with policies of even more devastating social impact on those least able to sustain them, the poor, the dispossessed, those affected by bedroom tax or cruel benefit sanctions, one of them said: I don't care.
Not once, but twice.
Mrs Angry, as yet undeterred, but with a sinking heart, talked about the evictions of social housing tenants in Sweets Way, just down the road, to both households. The social cleansing of vast swathes of the borough. The bedroom tax.
I don't care.
If the tenants of Sweets Way, or West Hendon, were cute baby seals, perhaps, about to be coshed by hunters, some sympathy may have been extended.
Still, eschewing plastic bags in Waitrose, and carbon offsetting your longhaul flights to Thailand; that salves the conscience, doesn't it?
After the door with all its original coloured glass, so carefully restored, and the shiny brass letter box, so nicely polished, slammed closed before her, Mrs Angry walked down the lovely Edwardian tiled path, and carefully shut the reclaimed wrought iron gate, and irrationally felt the urge to rush home and do something really environmentally unfriendly, mad, bad, and un-Green, like ... put her recycling in the wrong bin, in revenge.
She didn't, of course: that is the prerogative of Miss Angry, who apparently cannot grasp the basic principles of separating different types of rubbish, unlike her esteemed mother, who has made a close study of the subject, here in Broken Barnet, and written quite a lot about it, over the last few years.
Of course it is unfair to suggest that most Green voters are like this, and indeed there was a tight lipped Tory woman in the same road who also happily responded: I don't care, when the plight of those less fortunate than her was raised.
Most Green voters support their party's agenda, of course, because they are people of conscience, and are deeply concerned about environmental and other matters they feel are ignored by the mainstream parties.
But the harsh reality is that those Green supporters who feel equally passionately about social issues, and are distressed by the impact of Tory/Libdem policies on such vulnerable citizens, are, in many cases, going to prolong and extend the suffering and humiliation experienced by them by facilitating the election of another Tory government.
Another resident that morning, in the same road, one of the Labour voters, pointed out to Mrs Angry, rather crossly, that there had recently been an idiotic article in a broadsheet newspaper featuring a resident of Broken Barnet, of that constituency, who had swopped his vote with that of another voter in another area, in what he thought was an awfully clever use of tactical voting. He was doing it, he said, because he lived in a safe Tory seat, and his vote for Labour wouldn't count. He was going to vote Green, in a deal with someone in a target Labour ward.
Quite what was the benefit to the Green voter, was not explained. Because the harsh truth is that in Chipping, a Green vote will not return a Green candidate, but will return a Tory MP, and help to return a Tory government. Please, voters, in Chipping Barnet: come to your senses, and do the right thing.
The Green candidate, Poppy, is a wonderful woman, a local policitician of many years experience, and, quite frankly, wasted with the Greens. We need courageous, articulate women like her, in the Labour party.
But one thing is clear, and must be reiterated: it is simply not any longer the case that Chipping Barnet is a safe Tory seat. And a green vote is a vote for the Tories.;
Chipping Barnet Labour councillors, elected in 2014: Paul Edwards, Phil Cohen, and Amy Trevethan, now Labour's candidate in the general election.
Must we go through all this again? It seems so.
The myth of Chipping being still a Tory stronghold is based entirely on a misreading of the facts - perpetrated, of course, by the Conservatives, but also, unfortunately, by certain local and central Labour strategists, who failed to predict last year's Labour gains in the supposedly true blue constituency, and an outcome that means Labour now have more council seats in Chipping than the Tories.
Such a victory, in what was until recently the stronghold of the local Conservative party, dominated by characters like Brian Coleman, and the Tambourides, living in a twilight world of strawberry tea fundraisers, enforced by a posse of blue rinsed party workers, was a significant development, a marker in the course of change that has affected all three local Tory associations - a decline in membership, an ageing and dwindling cohort of local activists: in-fighting, and financial loss. Oh dear: Mrs Angry is dabbing her eyes, daintily, with her hammer & sickle embroidered handkerchief.
Both Labour and Tory party strategy this time round is focused entirely winning the two other constituencies, Hendon, which was won by the ineffable Matthew Offord by the slenderest of margins, ie 106 votes - and, rather to the astonishment of CCHQ, Finchley and Golders Green.
Hendon has long been predicted to be a Labour gain, and Offord will be history, on May 8th - but Finchley and Golders Green? This constituency is clearly of huge totemic significance to the Tories - to lose control of the constituency held for so long by Margaret Thatcher would be a humiliation made all the more intense by the lack of foresight that would have warned them clearly of the danger posed by Sarah Sackman, the outstandingly good candidate for Labour, a political star in the making, now retracing the path followed by the former PM.
Mike Freer, Finchley Tories - and CCHQ - are in a state of panic at the burgeoning of support for Sarah Sackman, and are completely at a loss to understand why Freer, who was said at one time to have the biggest electoral war chest of any Tory candidate, is now in real danger of losing his seat.
Every picture tells a story
That they are at a loss to understand why this is the case, is predictable, in fact, and the most glaring demonstration of two things: the innate materialism of the Tory ethos, believing that money buys everything, even a successful election campaign, rather than effort, a good record, and the support of committed volunteers on the ground; and that, fatally, they are completely out of touch with the issues that so concern the ordinary families in this borough, this constituency.
Mike Freer has coasted along as MP over the last few years, looking on with pride at his legacy to Barnet council tax payers, the wholesale handover of their local council services to profiteering private company Capita, and doing nothing very much on our behalf in Westminster; a fact that is evident on all his election literature, which has absolutely nothing to say, other than witter on about the Mansion Tax - or the 'Family Homes Tax, as he tried to brand it, until he realised that this is a vote loser, as most families in Barnet can only dream of living in a home of such high value - and now he has been sending out this desperate leaflet:
Scaremongering from Freer
This silly attempt to scare voters over a tax that will deliver funding for the NHS, applies only to those fortunate residents already very well placed in life and more likely already to be Tory voters, makes some interesting claims - nicely rebutted, if you really need reassurance, here: http://www.labour.org.uk/blog/entry/six-things-you-need-to-know-about-labours-mansion-tax ...
Your house will be revalued, claims the leaflet - er, no, no, it won't - not unless you live in a house worth a whopping amount of money, over £2 million, or thereabouts, and of course most of us do not live in a property of this value, and most residents of this borough are worrying if they will be able to keep any sort of roof over their head, while some are becoming homeless, thanks to the lack of any truly affordable housing, to buy or let, for ordinary people on average incomes, and below average incomes.
Another sign of fumbled strategy in the Finchley Tory camp was revealed by the recent gaffe over a local issue which Freer belatedly tried to 'own' - a 'safe' local issue, of course, which did not put him in the unthinkable position of challenging his Tory chums on the council, and would appeal to the ordinary resident: you know, that man on the Clapham Omnibus, or rather, the man, or woman on the No 13 bus, which runs from Golders Green.
Seemed like a good idea: and hoorah! Look! Suddenly, a miracle - the bus was 'saved'. And not just 'saved'. 'Saved' by Mike Freer. And 'saved' by Boris Johnson, who is trying to 'save' Mike Freer. (And, ha ha: Matthew Offord). Ah. Thing is ... can you 'save' things like buses, during an election campaign, and purdah? A question raised here by Mrs Angry's friend, journalist David Hencke:
... where it also transpired that the No 13 bus had not been 'saved' after all, by Mr Freer, (who claimed, rather oddly, that now the No 13 bus was 'going nowhere', which was unfortunate, because before he stuck his two pennorth in, it did at least go to Aldwych) ... not saved by the Tory candidate, or anyone, in fact, but the decision postponed til ... yes, after the election.
Worse still, TFL soon followed up with a very awkward statement, after protest from Sarah Sackman's team, that contradicted the claims made by Freer and Boris: the bus had been 'saved' as a result of a cross party campaign:
The same misplaced confidence as Freer's, in being easily returned to a 'safe' Tory seat had been, until recently, retained by Theresa Villiers, in Chipping. The warning bells only began to ring earlier this year when the library cuts proposed by her constituency colleague, the council 'leader' and Totteridge councillor Richard Cornelius, unleashed a torrent of protest throughout the borough amongst normally loyal Tory residents.
Both parties tend to ignore the potential of untapped Labour votes in this constituency, and have not acknowledged the demographic changes, and other factors, which have at last loosened the grip of the Tory party, and undermined the certainty of Theresa Villiers being returned to her seat, and a ministerial post, in government, or as part of a shadow cabinet. Local Labour agent and councillor Paul Edwards explains in the comments stream of the Indy article:
Labour won the majority of seats on Barnet Council in Chipping Barnet constituency last year, with 35% of the vote compared to 39% for the Tories, the Greens only polled 12%. Ben and Jonathan are simply wrong, Chipping Barnet is no longer a safe Tory seat and with only a 4% gap between the Tories and Labour,the Tories recognise this too.
The tactical voting you wish to use should be for the excellent Labour candidate Amy Trevethan. A vote for the Greens will simply return the sitting Tory MP.
If only 800 of the Green voters had voted Labour last year it would have delivered 2 more Labour councillors in Chipping Barnet and a Labour Council in Barnet borough instead of the right wing neoliberal mob we have now masquerading as Tories. Labour can win if all the anti-Tory voters vote Labour.
If you don't believe me come and join me on the doorstep and see the response you get when these facts are presented to voters. They realise Labour can win, but a vote for the Greens will de facto deliver a Tory again in Chipping Barnet. We can really make a difference this time. So let's do it!
From Green to red, and now to yellow: the Libdems, of course, were responsible, in 2010, for splitting the opposition, and re-electing a Tory MP, with a massive 10,202 votes, to Labour's 12,773 - representing 20% of the turnout. Where are these voters going to go now?
Well: the truth is, for anyone with any sense, there is no real alternative to Labour, in Chipping Barnet.
UKIP? There's some geezer called Victor Kaye. Stood in Chipping in 2005. Got 924 votes. Is, like Tory Cllr John Hart, a keen linguist, sporting interesting facial hair. And like the late lamented Brian Coleman, an active member of Rotary. Wonder if he has ever asked Brian to come over to the dark side? Please go ahead: give him something useful to do, and it might help him stop worrying about Mrs Angry's blood pressure (it's fine, Brian, since you ask. Rather surprisingly.)
Of course you might be tempted by the very interesting election material of one independent candidate - a Mr Mehdi Akhavan, whose leaflet presumably does have an imprint on it, or Barnet Council would have contacted SO15, as they did with Finchley cafe owner Helen Michaels, who had created a poster criticising Brian Coleman's parking policy, without, yes, an imprint. One imagine Mr Akhavan has had the same rigorous interrogation, but who knows.
Anyway: there are some lovely pics of him, in his leaflet, with various Tory mayors, and he makes a few good points. If you are fed up, for example, with 'disgusting' beggars , and dirty buses (the No 13 from Golders Green, perhaps?) and with candidates who give 'shiny promises'.
As he recommends, you need to think about all this sort of stuff, 'when you are about to close your curtains ....'
Ah yes: think very carefully, citizens of Broken Barnet, about those shiny promises ...
Closing the curtains, and shiny promises
The Libdems seem to have just given up in Chipping: putting up a paper candidate Marisha Ray, who thinks, erm ... that 'there has never been a better time to vote Libdem'. Mmm. You might have overstated that, Marisha.
In one road alone, Mrs Angry managed easily to secure three former Libdem voters for Labour, and it is reasonable to assume that is going to be the general tendency. Which leaves Mrs Villiers with a problem, but one which she has only latterly begun to acknowledge.
Without the safety of a swing in favour of her party, and with Labour doing so well, and the Libdems removed from the picture ... what has she done to secure the support of local residents? Not the die hard, old school Barnet Tories, but those infuriated by her colleague Brian Coleman's idiotic, punitive parking scheme, by the proposed destruction of our wonderful library service, and also the incomers, the younger voters, the families the less advantaged voters who have always been overlooked, especially when the ancien regime presided over by the Chipping Barnet Conservative Association was in its heyday?
On Saturday there was the third of four marches organised in support of the campaign to save Barnet libraries: starting from Chipping Barnet library. The march was to be led by the London Metropolitan Brass Band, a fabulous group of musicians, who began to play on the bandstand across the road as marchers turned up: a huge turnout of around two hundred people.
I love these people, these residents, activists and campaigners: they are heroes: people with real commitment, love, and absolute determination to defend their community, and their services.
One of the pieces the band had chosen to play was 'Gresford', the deeply moving anthem which used to be, perhaps still is, played at the funeral of miners - and was also played, at least in some parts of Durham, at the end of the miners' strike, as a sign of defiance, but also marking the passing of not one individual, or one pit, but of so many communities.
Watched over by a group of nervous police officers, it seemed an appropriate choice, for a march in Broken Barnet, where the localised cult of Thatcherism still demands sacrifices from its latterday followers in the town hall, her devotees intent on the destruction of public services, on a scale as widespread and ruthless as anything she did to the coal industry, or could have envisaged for any .
As we walked through the streets of High Barnet, once the centre of Tory dominance, in this borough, the reception from onlookers and passing drivers was quite extraordinary, and certainly not the reaction one might have expected: people were so supportive, and pleased to show it.
Something has changed: you can feel it, and nothing is certain, anymore, in this electoral campaign, is it?
Time to look at the Labour candidate in Chipping Barnet: Amy Trevethan.
Amy has, to some extent, been sidelined, in all the excitement over Finchley & Golders Green, and Hendon. Sidelined by Tories, and Labour, whose resources have been concentrated on disposing of Matthew Offord, and now Mike Freer. But they are wrong to overlook Chipping, as they were at the time of the local elections last year.
Amy Trevethan is a young candidate: this is something that disturbs some people, but that is ridiculous, it is in fact something to celebrate, and very definitely in her favour: Chipping now has a very young electorate. And she is, unlike Theresa Villiers, a local girl: hear what she has to say:
I grew up making the same use of public resources as everyone else in the constituency - the same parks, schools, libraries, buses, leisure facilities, cafes -- these are all part of my life and I value them; I genuinely understand the role that they play in local life and how important they are to local people.
My childhood was spent playing football in the playing fields by Barnet FC; reading in Chipping Barnet library; swimming at QEGS' formerly public swimming pool; going for milkshakes at the Oakhill park cafe; playing at Friern Barnet park and Old Courthouse Recreation ground; that kind of thing.
I first got involved in politics because I realised the effects that Coalition policy were having on vulnerable people up and down the country, including Chipping Barnet, and the destruction they were meting out to public services, particularly the NHS and the stealth privatisation of education. I came to realise I couldn't just stand on the sidelines and wait for, or expect, someone else to stand up for social justice.
The consequence of expcting someone else to do it is just more Tory cllrs, another 5 years of a Tory MP ...
The country that I want to live in is one where public services are valued, accessible, integrated, universal, properly funded; where we don't penalise people for being poor; where we think about things like decent housing and health care as necessities that as a society we should come together and make sure are provided for all.
That's all at risk unless we fight for it -- so I am standing from a 'push' factor; because what the Tories are doing is unbearable and is ruining lives. I see the impact daily. But I also have things I want to fight for --- perhaps unlike Theresa Villiers.
How do we ensure carers and disabled people get a fairer deal? How do we ensure that young people have opportunities when they leave school; how do we address the growing incidence of mental health problems and ensure that resources are in place to support people?
I've been taking up casework on behalf of residents across the constituency. I represented families evicted from Sweets Way to Barnet Homes, trying to negotiate exemptions in their treatment and the acceptance of their appeals against the decisions that the council's homeless duty had been discharged (because of one offer only policy, which Labour councillors opposed precisely because this sort of thing would happen).
As the evictions got underway in mid-February, I also wrote to Notting Hill Housing Trust and Annington Ltd calling on them to halt the evictions and allow Barnet Homes to find suitable accommodation for the tenants. I go down to Dollis Valley almost weekly speaking to families and hold my own surgery there, every fortnight -- helping families who are facing eviction, who are concerned about where they will be removed to during the regeneration; disabled and unwell residents who are being chased by Capita for payments they don't actually owe.
I've had successes in getting residents in sub-standard accommodation rehoused; in forcing Capita to back down from dragging vulnerable people to court for council tax sums they didn't actually owe; achieving fairer treatment of disabled persons and carers in the ward; getting roads repaired, etc. Represented people who've had their benefits sanctioned because they weren't well enough to make their job centre appointments. When I forwarded one of these cases to Theresa Villiers, she said there was nothing she could do. Well -- if a member of the government can't do anything, then who can?
Mike Freer, Matthew Offord, Theresa Villiers, bless their dear little Conservative heads: all so keen to be returned to their comfortably rewarded positions in Westminster, and so proud of their parliamentary records, small but perfectly formed, as they are, so easily summarised in the first paragraph of their respective campaign leaflets, but yet ... so shy, when it comes to debating the issues that might concern their electors, and raised in an open meeting.
Well, as it happens, there is a rare opportunity to hear some of the candidates in Chipping, tomorrow night, in a hustings event, at Barnet Church: Mrs Angry will be there - why not come along?
Here in Broken Barnet, in Hendon, Finchley and Golders Green, and Chipping Barnet, there is a palpable sense of real excitement, and a possibility of something rather wonderful - electing a new set of representatives, who actually wants to make the world a better place, and do something for the residents who have been ignored over the last five years: that is to say, those who do not lie awake at night worrying about Mansion Tax, but rather whether or not they will have a home to live in at all.
Not those who who rubbed their hands with glee, last year, at the thought of 23 pence a week returned to them in the form of a pre-election council tax 'gesture', but rather those parents whose disabled children faced the loss of respite care at their school, as a result of that pathetic gambit.
Not the the billionaire resident of Bishops Avenue, who made his fortune from selling arms, or porn, or robbing a tyrannised country of oil revenue, but the single mother down the road, in Strawberry Vale, reduced to using the foodbank at St Mary's on a Saturday to feed her family.
Not the private developers welcomed with such doting attention by our supine Tory councillors, intent on pursuing their viciouswar on the poor, giving away the land where their homes stand, driving them to despair, or Milton Keynes, in their haste to remove as much social housing as possible, in the name of the lie that is 'regeneration'.
Let's have elected representatives who speak up for the victims of the Barnet Tories' blatantly, gerrymandered, socially cleansed, socially engineered ideological landscape, their mindless, remorselessly cruel housing policy.
Let's get rid of the Tory MPs who have supported, and even directed, the easycouncil philosophy that lies behind the brave new world we live in, here in Broken Barnet: and replace them with Sarah, Andrew, and Amy, who will put the needs of the less advantaged residents of this borough before the business interests of Capita, or Barratts, or any other predatory, profiteering company standing by to feast off the carcass of our dying public services, the skeleton of our social housing stock: and let's try to put the pieces of Broken Barnet back together again.
Tuesday, 14 April 2015
*Updated - see below
Ok. Can't ignore it any longer, much as Mrs Angry has tried.
The General Election, in Broken Barnet, 2015.
Here we go then.
In the early days of writing this blog, three Tory MPs were elected to represent the three constituencies of this borough: two of them, Mike Freer and Matthew Offord, (that would be DR OFFORD: he is a doctor, you know) were formerly the Leader and Deputy Leader of Barnet Council, and now took on the parliamentary seats of Finchley and Golders Green, and Hendon. The third, Theresa Villiers, had been MP for Chipping since 2005.
All three MPs have spent the five years of the last parliamentary term in a state of blissful complacency, enjoying their time at Westminster, and no doubt fondly expecting to be returned again to office, by a grateful electorate.
Until more recently, of course, when the mood of the country, and more particularly, and more importantly the mutinous feelings of many of the residents of Broken Barnet, including those who might have once been claimed as natural Tory voters, have become increasingly apparent.
Why is this the case? Against the backdrop of widespread concern among voters over issues like the NHS, bedroom tax and so on, here in Barnet we have our own matters of discontent, deeply held resentments, old and new, and many of them directly as a result of local Conservative council policies, tacitly endorsed by the silence and inaction of local MPs, two of whom are intimately linked to the easycouncil model that is the source of so much that is wrong with our borough.
In the last year, we have seen the real face of Tory housing policy laid bare, in front of us, in the most visceral way, in the course of the West Hendon Inquiry, and the events leading to the eviction of so many families in Sweets Way.
Former deputy leader Matthew Offord won Hendon in 2010 by the slenderest of margins, with 19,635 votes: a majority of only 106, snatching victory from Labour's Andrew Dismore, while the Libdems pulled in a total of 5,734. Hard working Dismore, who had been widely respected in the constituency, which accounted for his substantial support despite the national swing against Labour - and was a real loss, but perhaps fate played a hand here, as he was to win back the GLA seat of Barnet and Camden from the Tories, marking the beginning of the end for the political career of the ghastly Brian Coleman.
During his term as MP, Offord has pretty much seen the collapse of the local Tory association in Hendon, with rumours of disagreement amongst the ranks, disaffected members running off to UKIP, and membership in a state of decline.
Former Leader, and the founding father of Capitaville, Mike 'easycouncil' Freer, won Thatcher's old constituency Finchley & Golders Green back from Labour, a reclamation partly due to the national swing, and perhaps partly because the Labour MP Rudi Vis had been terminally ill during the latter part of his term, and unable to fulfill his duties. Alison Moore, the current Labour leader in Barnet, stood against Freer, but was never likely to win - and did not. Freer won with 21,688, to Labour's 15,879. The Libdem candidate had 8,306 votes.
Theresa Villiers won her seat in 2005 with 19,744 votes, against Labour's 13,784 - the Libdem candidate coming third with 6,671.
In 2010, in an election with an increased turnout in Chipping Barnet constituency, Villiers came back with an increased vote of 24,700, and Labour dropped slightly to 12,773: the Libdems, however, received a whopping 10,202, and yet again helped to deliver a victory for the Tories.
The three MPs in Barnet began their term in office feeling pretty pleased with themselves, and clearly adopting a sense of complacency about their prospects of being returned to their seats next time round, with all the rush of excitement about the Coalition agreement with the newly revived Libdem party.
This complacency was, and is, ill judged. Not just because of the well deserved implosion we now see in the Libdem vote, but because they allowed themselves to take voters for granted, sit back, concentrate on their attempts to build their own political careers, and remain detached from local issues and the real needs and concerns of residents.
Theresa Villiers, the only really bright one of the three, and always destined to go places, got on with her own career building plan, keeping her head down, never expressing an opinion in public, and attending an optimum number of local resident social functions, so as to keep the local party happy. She was rewarded by an appointment to the role of Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, a well deserved promotion, no doubt, but the demands of the role necessarily meant less time pay attention to local matters: always a difficult balance to achieve, for any minister.
Both Tories and Labour: (the leadership and central party, in the latter case, rather than local members) both assume that Chipping is a safe seat. They made similar assumptions in the last local elections, when Mrs Angry predicted, correctly, that Labour would pick up substantial support, and here they go again, underestimating the result of a changed demographic landscape, and a weakened Tory vote.
Labour's Amy Trevethan, one of those new councillors elected last year, has been poorly supported in this campaign, overlooked because of her relative youth and inexperience, but in contrast to the twin set and pearls approach of Villiers, she has made the effort to involve herself in the issues that affect the less advantaged residents of the constituency, also overlooked in the proscribed vision of a political analysis rooted in the feudal past, when the Conservative Assocation exercised its droit de seigneur over the hapless voters, and worried only about the date of the next strawberry tea fundraiser.
Labour's Amy Trevethan at Barnet A&E, struggling to meet targets
The new political reality in Chipping constituency was made evident on the streets of the Sweets Way estate, a few weeks ago, when tenants were evicted, with their possessions, in order to make way for yet another of the private developments Barnet Tories approve under the cover of 'regeneration'.
Matthew Offord was never going to make any sort of political impact at Westminster, and his rather volatile personality, idiosyncratic approach to his role, and general failure to engage with constituents has not helped his always fragile prospects of re-election. Some of the capers with which he has been associated have frankly been absurd: a gift for the media, and indeed for his rival candidate.
Dr Offord. He's a doctor, you know.
All that time wasted on worrying, for example, on fact finding trips to the lovely Cayman Islands, about the plight of endangered turtles, might just have been better spent worrying about the rather more clear and present threat to the people in his own constituency, another species becoming extinct in Broken Barnet, as a result of Tory social cleansing: the working classes, in particular those living in West Hendon, evicted in order to facilitate the luxury Barratts' development.
Mind you, Mrs Angry is reliably informed that now the Cayman Island Turtles are worrying about Matthew Offord, and thinking of coming over to Hendon, on their own fact finding tour, to support him in his hour of need. Unless they turn into ninja turtles on the way over, Mrs Angry imagines, this would be a wasted trip.
Because after five years of Offord's term in office the result most likely is that of all the constituencies in London, Hendon is set to be taken by Labour, and really Offord has only himself to blame. Does he realise how unlikely he is to be re-elected ? Probably not, for the reasons we shall explore.
In Finchley and Golders Green, until very recently, Mike Freer clearly imagined his own seat to be unassailable, and looked forward to being returned to Westminster for another five years.
Festive fun with Freer
A recent London poll recorded a 6 percent swing to Labour, enough for Freer to lose here.
And a Labour poll this week confirmed that Labour and Tory candidates here are running neck and neck.
(Update*Were neck and neck: now Sarah Sackman has pulled ahead by two points ... See below).
As recently as last weekend, Mrs Angry can report, he was assuring a mututal acquaintance at a local social gathering, that he expected to win back his seat.
In the meanwhile, Sarah Sackman, Labour candidate for Finchley and Golders Green, has demonstrated, throughout the time in which she has been nominated, a real commitment to supporting local residents, in the way that you might expect the current MP to take as a natural part of the job.
Sarah has worked hard to be an effective, compassionate advocate for families of the children with multiple complex disabilities who attend Mapledown School, whose respite care funding was so mercilessly, cynically cut only a week or so after Barnet Tory councillors made a 'pre-election gesture' of a 1 per cent cut in council tax; represented parents and children facing the closure of Moss Hall Nursery, and the residents of Friern Barnet, facing the loss of their library.
Theresa Villiers has been so rattled by the lack of enthusiasm in Chipping Barnet for another five years of Tory government that she has had to embrace another unthinkable concept: actually getting involved in local political issues, and ... goodness me, form an opinion, and express it, not just at the odd tea party with local supporters, but gulp ... via social media.
This unprecedented dabbling with the inelegant arts of political campaigning was provoked by an issue - the issue - that has so frightened our three Tory MPs, in the run up to the general election.
This is, of course, the threat to our libraries, here in Broken Barnet, courtesy of the latest phase of the local Tory council's war on public services, which is now proposing to make a 60% slash in budget funding, in order to make £2.8m, and will see libraries shrunk, shut, cut, and emptied of staff.
What possessed the empty headed Tory councillors to endorse such a savage set of proposals at such a catastrophically ill judged moment, just before the election, is an interesting question.
The answer is simple enough: our ineffably relaxed and complaisant Tory 'leader', Richard Cornelius, and his 'leading' members, have allowed themselves to be led meekly by the nose by officers, as usual, and swallowed their assurances that the library cuts were not only necessary, but easily enforced.
Barnet Tories have no interest in - or understanding of - cultural matters, and see only the development potential of any publicly owned property asset. So: libraries? Meh. Shrink them, shut them, cut them, sell them off: who cares?
Of course this is the most fundamentally foolish misreading of the iconic significance libraries have for the residents of this borough: or at least the residents who deliver electoral victory to Tory politicians: the middle classes, normally politically apathetic, and inclined to be conservative in nature, Barnet residents are fiercely defensive of their local libraries - even if they rarely use them personally, they want them to be there, for others, or for themselves, should they need them.
Predictably, therefore, to everyone but the Tory councillors of Broken Barnet, the threat to libraries has seen the three parliamentary candidates getting it in the neck from irate residents for months, sending them eventually, one week in to the point of each issuing statements in support of libraries, and even daring, at last, to criticise, even if only by implication, the policies of their council colleagues.
This new found love of libraries has been in name only, of course, and they have failed to consummate their feelings by any demonstration of practical support.
The preferred option for library cuts is not due to be announced until after the election: this might have been seen as a wise move, but in fact such a delay was only ever going to extend the period of uncertainty, and magnify the suspicions and anger of residents. It may even prove to be the one issue which wins or loses the election for all three former MPs.
Saturday saw the second of four marches organised by Save Barnet Libraries to protest about the planned destruction of this vital service. I would describe the campaign as having cross party support, but of course our Tory candidates, despite their born again status as library lovers have been conspicuous by their absence.
Saturday's march went from Hendon Library to Childs Hill, via Golders Green. Labour parliamentary candidates Andrew Dismore and Sarah Sackman spoke at the beginning and end of the three mile route.
Just along the road from Hendon Library, across from Labour offices in the Burroughs, there is a derelict former pub, the Old White Bear, a lovely example of thirties tudorbethan architecture, fitting perfectly in the surrounding conservation area.
A local developer bought this once lovely building, and tried to submit plans to replace it with a number of flats, and basement. He is still trying to develop it: in the meanwhile it stands empty, and decaying, enveloped in a ghastly plywood fence: and now proudly displaying two posters for Matthew Offord, nailed to a couple of trees, in a rather alarming prefiguring of his own electoral crucifixion:
As we marched through Golders Green, another Tory poster loomed into view, to the amusement of all:
Now then: Mrs Angry expects her readers to be, by now, well trained in the art of satire, and political symbolism, and fondly hopes you can make up your own jokes about the significance of desperate Tories wanting to associate themselves with the thwarted, decaying dreams of heritage averse property developers, and the decline of our local high streets, clinging, as Freer's poster does, to all the fading, poignant glamour of a former mediterranean themed mini-market, festooned by not one, but two abandoned shopping trolleys.
But cast your mind back, readers, to the GLA election of 2012, in which a local cafe owner in North Finchley, daring to lead a campaign against Brian Coleman's disastrous parking policy was pulled in for questioning by detectives from SO15, supposedly due to a poster in her window, featuring Freer's former colleague and ally Coleman, which they were investigating because, they claimed, there was no imprint?
Is this poster bearing an imprint? Nope. Just a small detail stating it is a temporary sign. Interesting, but presumably perfectly in accordance with electoral rules.
In Golders Green, interestingly, even residents on their way to and from shul stopped to listen, with clear concern, to the library campaigners. It was a clear indictation of the extent to which Freer and his colleagues should be worried.
A real champion of the community should be seen to defend the local library, the high street, local services, throughout his or her years in office - and our three MPs have simply failed to do this.
A strategy of not becoming involved in any significant local issues, and avoiding controversy, and more importantly protecting their council colleagues, was a huge error. But what else could they do?
One thing they can do, and have done, is avoid the deep dangers lurking in any open hustings, sharing a stage with candidates from other parties, and being open to challenge, or taking part in debate.
This is a grave mistake: an admission of fear - or an arrogant statement that says, I do not have to explain myself to my potential constituents.
Oh yes, you do, you do: and here is the proof, from the night before a new poll shows Sarah moving ahead: a hustings with another no show from the Tory candidate.
Villiers, never having been a local councillor, may absolve herself of responsiblity for any of the half baked policies Barnet's Tory administration has adopted, but Freer and Offord, former leader and deputy leader, until 2010, are directly implicated in the promotion of the 'easycouncil' driven massive privatisation of local public services, and indeed in matters such as the West Hendon 'regeneration', which under their watch became the private development it is now, profiting grossly from the land we now know to have been effectively given away to Barratts in the secret 'Poundland' deal.
The price of inaction during their term of office is now being paid by all three MPs, as evidenced by the election material now being produced by their campaigns, trying desperately to make something out of nothing.
In the local Times paper each local candidate has been presenting their reasons why they should be voted into office. Theresa Villiers lists some interesting evidence on her own behalf. She did oppose something, once: the Cat Hill development. Which is in another borough, Labour run. What else? Ah yes:
... securing expanded A&E, maternity and children’s services at Barnet Hospital ...
Hmm. That would be the services that had to be expanded at Barnet, because they were ended at Chase Farm, Hospital, despite the specific promise, made before coming to power, by David Cameron, that he would prevent any such cuts. Here he is, with Theresa looking on and smiling:
Another promise broken by Tories: Chase Farm
Yes: lo and behold: the Tories got into power, Chase Farm lost its A&E and maternity services, and now Barnet General has to take the strain, a severe and added pressure to a hospital whose A&E has continually failed the four hour waiting time limit.
(Indeed, as Mrs Angry discovered last year, with a seven hour stay there with her son, those four hour figures are likely to be even worse, as at that point he was thrown out of his bed & made to sit in a chair round the corner for three more hours 'discharged' while half the beds remained empty ...)
For Ms Villiers to present the 'expansion' of those services at Barnet as anything other than what it really is: in order to try to cope with the cuts made by her government, and the broken promises made regarding Chase Farm is really unacceptable.
I will also work to ensure that Barnet’s schools continue to be among the best in the country, with over 90% graded good or outstanding by Ofsted ...
What does that mean, for heaven's sake? Some of Barnet's schools are very good: such as QE Boys, in her constituency, and St Michael's, in Freer's. These establishments achieve such high results because they are highly selective in intake, and are stuffed full of middle class pupils from all over London, tutored up to the eyeballs for years in order to pass the entry exams.
Other children are fortunate enough to attend a faith school, such as FCH, whose attainment is due entirely to the ethos of the school, and hard working teachers, which is nothing whatsoever due to any efforts by Theresa Villiers, or indeed any local politician.
At the same time, many local children of average ability struggle to find a place at a decent school. And then we have this:
Championing our local high streets will always be a top priority for me ...
Not sure that the High Street traders in High Barnet would agree with this, having seen their business dealt such a devastating blow by the idiotic parking policies introduced by the Tory council, and tacitly supported by all three Tory MPs.
And finally: pushing BT for faster broadband in Barnet ... rather cheeky, when it was her Labour opponent Amy Trevethan who has worked so hard on this, and went to the effort of creating a petition earlier this year on this very issue ...
No mention, of course, of anything addressing the terrible housing crisis in this borough, or the plight of tenants at Sweets Way, or the impact of bedroom tax on families unable to find smaller properties to move to, or any issue that relates to social injustice, and the struggle of so many ordinary people living in this borough, in all three constituencies..
This remarkably selective view of Barnet is shared by all three Tory candidates, in fact.
Finchley and Golders Green's Freer has so little to boast about, his election material makes for deeply unimpressive reading, and the exertions involved to find something, anything, to say, adds a desperate, and somewhat comical tinge to the contents, not helped by the decision to produce for the latest leaflet landing on Mrs Angry's doormat as shown here:
Sorry. As shown here:
Yes: not so much an election leaflet, as erm ... a 'magazine for busy people', in the style of thes sort of rubbish you find in the dentist's waiting room, like 'Chat', or 'Take A Break'. No mention of the C word, sshh ... CONSERVATIVE, except hidden discreetly on the poster on his van.
For busy people, then. Not just any sort of 'busy people', you know, like Barnet Council's hard working, low paid YCB care workers struggling to cope with their duties, and now facing a 9.5 per cent cut in their wages.
No, the sort of busy people who are, what is it ... ah yes ... 'trying to get on in life'.
Like Mike Freer. He's trying, bless him.
Look: happy as Larry, arms akimbo, showing off his Sooty campervan, as keen as you like to, you know get on, and about.
Here is a man who has his own mobile home, and isn't afraid to show it off.
And when it all goes pear shaped, and the parliamentary career comes to an abrupt halt, he will have somewhere to live. No pitches - or tolerance - in Barnet, of course, for travellers and gypsies, and Dale Farm is out of the question, now - but there's bound to be somewhere to stop up for a bit. Not the back of Margaret Thatcher house for much longer, probably, once he gets the old heave-ho.
Because, you know, Finchley Tories take a dim view of alternative life styles.
(Miss Angry took a cursory look at the leaflet, and asked, rather bemused, in the way of someone whose errant mother spends a good deal of her time in occupied properties - 'Squatting? ... Is he for, or against?')
Against, Maddy. Against.
In fact the leaflet is awful: there is nothing in it, nothing of interest, nothing to say. No mention of this voting record:
Voting for: raising VAT on working families, raising tuition fees, opening up the NHS to more privatisation, supporting bedroom tax, and the tax break for millionaires.
Voting against: the £8 minimum wage, a ban on MPs' second jobs, an energy price freeze, protecting Sure Start, guaranteed GP appointments within 48 hours.
Freer complains about what he calls 'the family homes tax', ie the Mansion tax, using as an example, meant to exercise our sympathies, a large detached house of the sort the vast majority of ordinary residents could only dream of living in. To think this sort of issue will appeal to anyone but a minority of privileged voters already likely to be Tory supporters, is again misjudged.
As for Matthew Offord ... he may have latterly tried to present himself as a man of letters, and keen supporter of libraries, but during the first Library march, when his rival Andrew Dismore turned up at his office, en route, Matthew was rather over keen to show him off the premises, and his staff member returned the library campaign leaflets in, well, a state of imperfect condition, shall we say - and in a manner suggesting a profound lack of interest in the contents.
Supporting libraries - Andrew Dismore, endorsed by the People's Mayor, Councillor Lord Shepherd
There has been little help for marginal Hendon in this election campaign, so far. Well, ok: they sent in Michael Gove, and then Boris, but that is hardly going to help, is it?
Mind you, Matthew's agent Max, Hendon Tories' own Lynton Crosby, fell a bit in love with Boris, when he was here.
Word is he is now planning to dump Offord, post election, and work on the new Uxbridge MP's campaign for the Tory leadership. It's that or Battersea Dogs Home.
Same fate for Lynton Crosby, probably.
Marina Hyde in the Guardian wrote a very funny piece about the visit:
Anyway, they got the dog under control, and it turned out its name was Max, and that he was Offord’s pet or chief of staff or something. Explaining Max’s presence, Offord declared: “This is such an exciting day that we wanted everyone to be part of it.” If you want some Offord trivia, his majority in 2010 was a worryingly slim 106, and he voted against gay marriage on the basis that marriage is for the purposes of procreation. Only the humane could fail to warm to him.
Oh dear. Only the humane.
And talking of procreation. Yes, we must.
The birds, and the bees. (Married bees, of course).
Close your eyes, if you are easily shocked. There now follows material, and images, of an educational, and sexual nature - this is procreation, as approved by the MP for Hendon.
No need to be embarrassed, of course.
Dr Offord, being a doctor, you know, is an expert on this subject.
Well, so one must assume. He has not procreated, as far as we know, but is a staunch advocate for marriage, exclusively between a man and a woman, because, he tells us, the true purpose of wedded bliss is in order to have children. Did you know? Not for visits to Ikea, arguments over recycling, and whose turn it is to fill the dishwasher, and necessarily thinking about someone else, anyone else, (except maybe ... Michael Gove, or Jeremy Clarkson, or ... fill in your own list), when engaging in conjugal activity.
Well, despite all that, Mrs Angry has procreated: twice, and has come to the conclusion that marriage is not at all necessary to the process, or indeed necessary in the first place, and indeed is best avoided, in favour of a life of freedom, free love, and senseless, sensual pleasure, whether between man and woman, man and man, woman and woman.
But if such individuals, men and men, women and women, should wish to marry, that is a lovely thing, and something to be celebrated - and no f*cking business of Matthew Offord's.
Here is a curious thing. A resident of Hendon has brought this leaflet to the attention of Mrs Angry: apparently published by the 'Coalition for Marriage' ...
Is this being distributed with the consent of Matthew Offord? Hard to believe that is the case. A risky move, whoever is behind it, gambling on the assumption that the residents of Hendon are interfering, mindless bigots who disapprove of equal marriage - and to the extent that it will influence the way they vote.
One would hope that the decent silent majority of rather more tolerant constituents will prove that is most certainly not the case, on May 7th.
Mrs Angry has just reviewed the draft for this blog, and noted that it started awfully seriously, and has descended, as usual, into casual irreverance, and trivia.
Mrs Angry has had a trying few days, and life is too short to waste on all this stuff, really.
The message is pretty straightforward. To conclude, and maybe just skip the bit before, and concentrate on this:
Don't waste your time voting for Tory candidates.
Don't waste your time voting for other parties, unless you really mean to vote Tory, but the hard way.
Don't sit at home thinking you can't be bothered to vote, because all politicians are the same. They're not, but you will end up with the same ones, if you don't do the right thing.
Please vote for Sarah Sackman, Andrew Dismore, and Amy Trevethan.
Mrs Angry tries always to be honest in her political analysis, and would not recommend any political candidate in which she had any doubt - yes, even Labour ones.
Having come to know all three Labour parliamentary candidates over the last few years, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that they deserve your vote - need your vote, if we are to rid ourselves of the scourge of three Tory MPs - and a Coalition government - who only care about people like themselves, those with means, not with needs, ordinary families working hard to keep a roof over their heads, look after their children, their elderly parents, their neighbours: their communities.
Which brings us back to today, and an Ashcroft Poll which - hurrah - puts Sarah Sackman two points ahead of Freer in Finchley & Golders Green.
In this piece by the Guardian's Dave Hill, he notes Ashcroft's commentary includes ...
... the rather fascinating finding that optimism about the economy, “both for the country as a whole and for themselves and their families” was highest of all in Finchley and Golders Green. In other words, while voters there seem to agree with Cameron that things are looking up they are going off his government anyway.
This is really the point, as stated so many times by Mrs Angry, in regard to the political landscape here, in Barnet - and it is evidence, often overlooked, of something that is not understood by Tory politicians, perhaps because they lack the very thing themselves: a feeling of empathy with those in need, and a sense of concern for the loss of public services and the threat to the NHS.
Those who do not currently use a public library, or rely on social housing, who may prefer to use private healthcare, are not fools, and they are not without concern for those who are not as fortunate, and they also know that one day they, or their families and friends, may have to rely on these support systems being in place. We don't all live in a world where if we have a roof over our head, we don't care about anyone else. Our Tory politicians assume that our motives are selfish, exclusive, complacent: they are wrong, and they will be proved wrong on May 7th.
Now is not the time to take anything for granted, but we must allow ourselves a moment of excitment, as Finchley & Golders Green is outstripping expectations by a swing of 7 per cent. And deservedly so, with such a candidate.
Let's cast our minds back to the happy month of September 2013, and this post:
Sarah Sackman is set to be the second female MP for Finchley: and it is not entirely impossible to imagine her as someone who is perfectly capable, one day, of being the second Prime Minister of this country.
Like her predecessor she is very very able, astute, hard working, and determined. Unlike her predecessor she is compassionate, funny, and absolutely committed to the ideals of social justice.
As Mrs Angry observed in 2013,
We need to win seats like Finchley and Golders Green in the next election, if Labour is to have a chance of forming the next government, and work at undoing the damage caused to our NHS and our least advantaged citizens.
How do we do this?We can fight back, and we have, here in Barnet, Sarah told the Labour party members of Finchley and Golders Green . The example of the library occupation with which she was involved, a campaign which united a range of residents, from squatters, and rabbis, and retired accountants is one such demonstration of our power and potential.
Here in Thatcher's old constituency, she said, we have proved there is such a thing as society - and such a thing as community.
Barnet may be broken, but amongst some of the fabulous people here who want to put it together again there is, thank God, a greater sense of solidarity, compassion for those who need support, and a vision of a better way of living together, for each other: something our Conservative politicians will never understand, and the reason they must suffer the consequences of their relentless promotion of an agenda of ruinous, self indulgent policies, on May 7th.
Unsurprisingly, there has been a good deal of media interest in yesterday's poll, putting Sarah Sackman two points ahead of Tory rival Mike Freer. The Guardian today has an excellent piece: http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/apr/15/labours-ground-war-advances-into-thatcher-territory in which the point is made, as it was here, that Sarah has worked very hard at acting as an advocate for local community issues - the role, you might think, that would not be necessary if the current MP had truly become the 'champion of the community' he now claims to have been.
Since her nomination in 2013 she and her team have worked with parents to stop cuts for children with disabilities, successfully kept a threatened local nursery open, fought planned closures to GP surgeries, and campaigned for a better bus service.
Her Tory rival, Mike Freer, dismisses this succinctly: “If you can find a bandwagon you will find her on it.”
One can only wonder what the parents of children at Mapledown will think of their dreadful plight - losing their vital respite care funding - being regarded as a 'bandwagon' by the local MP; or the families dependent on Moss Hall nursery - or the library users furious at the prospect of the loss of their service, as a result of needless, savage cuts by Freer's easycouncil Tory colleagues ...