A hopeless dawn for Labour, at Allianz Park on Friday morning
We live now, however, in Barnet, in the age of inglorious failure: snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, and then looking at its broken body on the floor, poking it with a stick, and wondering what happened.
Yes, Barnet is still Broken.
And here is what happened.
If you want a simplistic explanation of why Labour failed to win the council, please feel free to go elsewhere. This will be an attempt to look more dispassionately at the facts, and confront some hard truths. None of us will be any the better for it, and some of us will feel worse, but it needs saying.
Here we are then, in a nutshell. Labour lost for a number of reasons. Some are more important than others. Some are very complex. Some are not.
Different parts of the borough were won or lost for different reasons, and some for the same reasons.
There were some very good candidates. There were some pretty poor ones.
Some should have stood down. Some should never have stood at all. One or two newly elected Labour councillors will bring a hugely needed injection of energy and fresh perspective to the party.
It is very difficult to attempt to analyse what went wrong in Barnet with a cool eye - especially at the moment - because of the sensitivity of the one issue that everyone is talking about: and that is of course the issue of antisemitism within the Labour party, and how it is dealt with, or not dealt with, by the leadership and processes of the national party.
A national issue, but one with a huge significance for Barnet, where, as this report in the Mirror states, one in seven voters is Jewish.
Only a fool - or a bigot - would think that the failure of the party to deal appropriately with the issue of a minority of vile antisemites who cling on to the fringes of the party for their own purposes is not a huge factor in the reputational damage to the local party, and its chances of electoral success.
Let us be clear about this, but also not dismiss the need to acknowledge the consequence of other failures.
The impact on Jewish Labour voters and residents of Barnet, is profound, and undeniable: many will have been reluctant to vote for the party. Some will have chosen not to.
But we must consider the question: whatever the impact, was it statistically significant, in terms of the outcome of the election in Barnet?
Immediately after the result was announced, many Labour councillors were of course shocked and disappointed - for those who lost seats, or failed to be elected, this was a very public and painful rejection. The immediate reaction was to attribute blame for the losses on only one issue: the antisemitism debacle.
Quite evidently, and quite reasonably, many Labour supporting Jewish residents have been angered, and hurt, by a prolonged tolerance of antisemitism within the outer fringes of the party - or at least the slowness of some to instigate swift and effective mechanisms to deal with such behaviour. This has undoubtedly lost many Labour votes from the Jewish community, caused huge damage to the relationship between party and the community - and harmed the ability of the party in Barnet to campaign and win the council from a grossly incompetent, and increasingly unpopular Tory administration.
But the picture in Barnet is more complex, and needs closer analysis before we can conclude that the antisemitism issue was the only significant factor in the Labour defeat.
It is necessary to consider the other causes : local and national issues, and variations within the Barnet context, and at this point in its political history.
We do not have figures that prove how many of the one in seven voters in Barnet said to be Jewish were Labour supporters: however many, or rather how few, this is clearly likely to have been catastrophically affected by the antisemitism row. But setting emotions aside, if we can, how crucial was this in terms of the outcome, on a strictly statistical basis? Are there other reasons for Labour's failure - such as concern about the emergence of a left of centre party leadership - or a personal mistrust of the leader himself? And what other local factors were at play?
The loss of West Hendon ward came as a huge shock to many people, and was a personal tragedy for councillor Adam Langleben, who has been prominent in raising continuing concerns about the way in which antisemitism is dealt with within the Labour party. He considers the loss of his seat attributable to Labour votes lost because of anger over the issue.
Adam's departure from the local Labour group will be a huge blow: a hard working, highly astute and experienced member, and a passionate, and well respected advocate for the Jewish community, locally and elsewhere.
But was the loss of this ward, and all chances of gaining the council for Labour, entirely due to one issue?
In truth the loss of West Hendon ward was always a very real risk, and has been, for some time.
The demographic changes within this area over recent years have been very significant. As this ward profile shows, there are now large Muslim and Hindu communities in West Hendon, as well as a broader, increasingly diverse population of other origins, ethnicities and religions. The percentage of Jewish residents, as you will see, was estimated at 14% - smaller even then than the Muslim one, at 17%. The Jewish community within this ward is one that would seem unlikely to have supported many Labour votes, in any eventuality.
The changing face of West Hendon, and the increase in BAME population was something the local party was aware of, and acknowledged, at least privately, at the time of campaigning the last London Assembly elections. There was real concern then about a gain in Tory support in these communities. In fact there were emerging signs of a shift in electoral patterns even as early as 2014, which is why the local Tory party so gleefully celebrated the defection to them of a disaffected Labour councillor, Ansuya Sodha, who stood for them in West Hendon in 2014 - and even then, in those circumstances, won 1, 357 Tory votes. Since then, the Tories have targeted these communities - and benefited as a result.
In fact the figures for last week's results show that the Labour vote increased, despite the antisemitism issue. Clearly so did the Tory vote - but where did the UKIP support go? Looks like it went to the Tories.
There is another hugely important factor in this ward. And that is a subject this blog has covered extensively - the faux 'regeneration' of the former West Hendon council estate: call it regeneration, call it social cleansing- the result in terms of political outcome is a radical realignment of old loyalties.
As this ruthless scouring of the local landscape has progressed, removing a low rise community of social housing, and replacing it with a monstrously ugly development of high rise, 'luxury' developments, the heart has been ripped out of West Hendon - and with that bleeding heart goes a haemorrhaging of traditional Labour voters.
Let's look at another ward: my home ward of West Finchley, which has a Jewish community of more diverse character than that of West Hendon. One might expect there to be a higher level of Labour voters who would be upset by the antisemitism issue - yet this was retained for Labour, with an increased vote, despite the departure of veteran, and much loved, councillor Jim Tierney. Rabbi Danny Rich was elected in his place - he is a senior figure within the community of Liberal Judaism: hopefully voters found assurance in his candidacy, and voted accordingly.
It is true that the Tory candidates in West Finchley increased their votes too - but then again they probably picked up the UKIP voters.
In Finchley Church End, a Tory stronghold, there is one of the largest Jewish populations in the borough - estimated in 2013 at 31%.
Quite clearly the Tory vote has increased: but interestingly the Labour vote has more or less stayed the same, and has not collapsed. No Green candidate, nor one from Ukip: an increase for Libdems - which may bear a clue to something else going on, which we will come back to later.
This is only a snapshot of a small number of the election results, and obviously there will need to be a detailed analysis of all wards - and a period of reflection by the local party. It would be wrong, however, to make conclusions immediately after this massive disappointment without that detailed analysis.
Which brings us to another issue: something easily noticed if like me you were at the count, scrutinising the ballot papers.
When you do this, you note the number of block votes of three, for any party. You have little time to keep up with the flow of papers being counted, and learn to watch every one, looking for the detail of each vote. What seemed extraordinary was the number of split votes: some with the most baffling combinations: one Tory, one Labour, one Libdem, for example. Many of these multiple choice votes appeared to include one Green candidate.
This seemed quite extraordinary, and indicates something that is being missed by all parties. Is it that voters are increasingly confused by the messages put out by mainstream politics, and failing to associate them with a coherent narrative and range of policies?
Another issue which quite clearly must have affected the outcome of this election in Barnet, and may have something to do with the split votes, is one that is hardly being mentioned, in the middle, as we are, of so much debate about antisemitism.
This is of course ... Brexit. Ah yes: remember that? Everyone seems to have forgotten,
It might be time to ask if worries about the lack of opposition to Brexit from Labour, and a mixed message from the Tories, has had an impact in this election - and caused a trend towards split votes.
Again, confusion and disillusion among voters might well have sent them into a random choice of pick and mix votes, thwarting the best laid strategies of election agents and campaigners. We expect voters to be consistent, and loyal to one party. The thought that they might be heartily sick of all of them, and effectively act to undermine the whole system as a result, is quite tempting.
Party activists expect voters to be politically literate, articulate, and think in the same way they do. The truth is something quite different.
Acting as teller earlier in the day at a local polling station, the well seasoned Tory matron doing the same for the Tories was replaced after a while by a man in his thirties who appeared not to know what to do, and kept asking the Labour teller, ie me, if he was doing it right. After a while, to my astonishment, he casually mentioned that he was actually a Labour supporter, and asked did I know how he could join the party? When I had stopped laughing, it occurred to me this might be an ill omen. It was.
But back to the question of lost votes for Labour, and an excruciatingly disappointing failure to win the council from the Tories.
It had seemed so simple: the Tories themselves were in free fall, panicking about the growing evidence of failure of their easycouncil model of hollowed out, outsourced services: the spiralling bills, the decline in those services - they were unable to formulate a credible manifesto, and constructed one seemingly the work of an opposition party, with no connection to their own disastrous record. Tory members thought they were in for a thrashing at the polls - and some may well have been secretly relieved if this had happened, rather than face what is going to happen as the evidence of their own incompetence becomes even more clear, in the coming months. Others were rumoured to be plotting to push a newly formed council - or opposition group - in a new direction, with a new leader.
Tory leader Richard Cornelius interviewed at the count
To be fair, Labour's campaign was slightly better focused than in previous elections. As always, there was great emphasis on canvassing, and leafleting. But there were the same mistakes in target wards, and a failure to see the trees for the wood: or rather the wood as it was maybe ten years ago.
And as always, they tended to forget that you need to have something to put on those leaflets and mention on the doorstep: a clear set of policies, based on a record of strong opposition.
This is where the party must acknowledge failure. The record in opposition has not been strong - or even memorable. Time and again their performance has been too low key, unclear, weak, and poorly communicated to residents. Too many times the Labour group has failed to challenge the iniquitous agenda of the Tory administration, to fight with real passion, and well directed strategy.
The continual struggle to expose the damning truth about the performance of the Capita contracts has been left to Unison, and local activists and bloggers. Blogger John Dix has offered the only real scrutiny of the outcome of this contractual bondage - a fact acknowledged by the Tory Chair of the Audit committee, at his last meeting.
A preference for life in the centre of the party is partly to blame for this fatal inertia, as is a position out of step with the new energy within the Labour movement, and the key policies of a hugely popular manifesto.
Quite apart from the distraction and anger over the antisemitism issue, voters in Barnet did not know what Labour stood for, whatever it was, because there was such poor communication and slowness to get involved in local issues at a grassroots level.
Take the fight against library cuts: this should have come from Labour, not have been left to a campaign group, Save Barnet Libraries, to pursue. Instead we saw the library lead in Labour actually take part in a bid to run one of the Tories' new 'partnership' libraries: an excruciating blunder that horrified campaigners, and further alienated them from the party.
That some later rapprochement took place was down to the great diplomacy of Childs Hill community activist and SBL campaigner Anne Clarke - who has just been elected, as a Labour gain, to represent this ward, which borders on Golders Green, with the closest of margins, replacing veteran Libdem councillor Jack Cohen.
Elected in a ward with a diverse range of residents, including a Jewish population of 17% - and two Tory councillors from that community. Fiercely intelligent, outspoken, but tactful - and strategic, the reason Anne was elected as a new councillor, in a marginal ward - the most marginal in London - was because she is that rare thing: a candidate who has proved their worth by being steeped in local activism, deeply embedded in grassroots local issues and several campaigns, such as the fight against the aggregate depot, and drawing residents towards the party at election time. Hard work, but it paid off, despite the odds.
This is the way forward for Barnet Labour: reconnecting with residents; acknowledging the rapid demographic changes which are now a feature of a borough with an increasingly transient population, and embracing the wide range and diversity of the borough, and the needs of each community. Barnet is changing - and Barnet Labour must change with it.
The rift with the Jewish community is a grievous wound that needs urgent attention. Jeremy Corbyn must find a way to fix this: only he can put it right.
Whatever has gone before, and the rights or wrongs of it, and the part it played in the local election, the only way forward now is through dialogue, and honesty.
The alternative is unthinkable. The future is unthinkable.
Residents have just elected a brutal, re-energised Conservative council that will feel newly vindicated in its role, and believe that their history of incompetence has been rewarded - or at least overlooked - and this will empower them to adopt an agenda of policies that will be even more extreme than anything that we have yet seen.
As the financial health of the borough continues to deteriorate, more and more cuts in public services will be imposed, and standards thrown out of the window.
Time for Labour to become the opposition this borough needs: to end its tendency to seek a path of consensual politics, and mutual ground. There can be no mutual ground with such people.
There are few Labour members who are elected on the basis of wanting an easy life, or not wanting to serve their community: individually all are honourable, decent people, with the best intentions: but collectively, as a group, they have been too ineffectual.
Time to grab hold of the agenda: to wrong foot the Tory administration - to be politically courageous, and assertive, to offer the choice of a radical and persuasive alternative, not choose to rely on the same old routine, an anodyne manifesto, a few stunts, and a barrel load of empty words.
Time to put the questions to committees that residents and activists and bloggers have had to articulate, because the opposition group has failed to do so.
Time to earn the respect of voters, with a defence of their rights, and their concerns.
Then, and only then, when it is time for another election, here or nationally, Labour might - just might - be in with a chance of winning here, one day.