Monday, 16 April 2018

On the Road Again - Mrs Angry's Highway Code, and why not to be Angry About Bins - another election special

Four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire: but how many in Broken Barnet? Who's counting, Mrs Angry? No one knows: certainly not Crapita.  

Pic credit © Mrs Angry's Pot Hole photo archive: a work in progress.

Less than a month to go, now, before the local elections, and here in Broken Barnet the fight to win control of the council from - well, from no one in particular, as the Tories have already lost control - has begun at last ...

I say 'fight'. Not sure that is exactly the right term. Bit one sided, to be honest, what with the Tories determined to defeat themselves - for fear of being returned to power and facing the consequences of their own spectacular cock ups - with the aid of a cunning plan: an election strategy sure to deliver failure, and on a spectacular scale.

Yes, after trying out a manifesto based on attacking the outcome of policies of their own administration over the last few years, our Conservative chums have now opted for a campaign of publicising these disasters, whilst at the same time trying to disassociate themselves from them.

Boasting about their record of investment in roads and pavements, for example.

'Investment' in roads and pavements is of course a policy run in parallel with Barnet Tory 'investment' in libraries. 

Tory leader Richard Cornelius and Tory environment lead member Dean Cohen 'invested' your money on this clapped out old bit of rusting equipment, allegedly for pot hole filling ...

In both cases the meaning of the word is grabbed by the neck, given a shake, and turned upside down to disguise a particularly ugly truth: that they are trying to disguise a cut in service, by insulting your intelligence: no, by assaulting your intelligence, in a system of coercive control, incrementally: gaslighting you - they hope -into a state of complete confusion, and ultimately a state of compliance. 

Yes, you will mutter, as you stumble along the broken pavements and potholed roads of Broken Barnet, pavements and roads which have been invested with slightly less money than is needed to repair them, especially if you live in a Labour ward (see below), to the polling station in a room that used to be a children's library - this is not a former children's library, stolen from us, robbed of books, and left empty, and purposeless. The roads and pavements of Broken Barnet are not broken, and pot holed. This is all evidence of the investment of our money, by our Tory councillors. Let's vote for more of the same, over the next four years. 

Well, that's what they think you will think. 

Maybe think again, Tory councillors.

About the ward expenditure, of the Highways budget: yes, that old story, one which pops up at every election. Remember what happened last time?

Yes, concerns were raised, and a complaint made to the external auditors by Labour councillors after Freedom of Information requests submitted to, and eventually answered by, the council, by Mrs Angry exposed an embarrassing truth the Tories would have preferred to keep quiet: that the allocation of Highways funding for roads and pavements favoured Tory held wards. 

A review was allowed by the Tory administration which concluded, rather absurdly, that yes, Tory wards got more funding, but this didn't show any political motivation. 

Or, as they put it:

'Whilst it is clear that the data supports the view that there has been more expenditure in administration held wards, this does not justify drawing a conclusion that there has been political bias'.

Quite what other conclusion could be reasonably be made of the data was not explained. 

Apart from questions over the particularly high expenditure in the ward represented by the Chair of the Environment committee, there were questions about the level of spending in the ward with the next highest level - in what was then considered to be the most marginal ward at the time of the last local election, that is to say Hale. 

As it turned out, Labour did take one of the seats in Hale from the Tories. This time round, two Tory councillors, Tom Davey and Hugh Rayner are not standing: and it seems likely that the ward will return three Labour members.

Well, no tears will be shed at the departure of Tom Davey, or the end of his gloriouspolitical career, the Tory who wanted only the wealthy to live in Broken Barnet.

See ya.

But hang on, Mrs Angry: Hugh Rayner not standing? 

Hugh Rayner, the former Chair of Hendon Tories, and former Mayor, featured in the previous two posts? The star of one of Mrs Angry's most popular posts

Listen: yes, that is the sound of voters the length and breadth of the borough weeping, wailing, and gnashing their teeth. 

Happier times for Cllr Rayner - here at Scratchwoods Open Space (in his capacity as local councillor) 

We knew there were rumours Cllr Rayner was worried about losing his seat in Hale, and wanted to stand in Edgware (where there was a vacancy after the deselection of Joan Scannell). Further rumours then suggested, however, that in the wake of the accusations by Cllr Scannell of misogyny 'rife' within the Hendon Tory Association, another woman had been chosen to replace her, and ... no room then for Hugh. (Mrs Angry has had an interesting chat with a couple of the deselected candidates, btw, & is promised a full account, post election ...)

But Cllr Rayner announced last weekend that he was not standing for council again - and that he had made the decision some six months earlier. A shame, if so, that he had not, along with all the other departing councillors, had taken the opportunity to delight us all with a valedictory speech at the last Full Council meeting: but we must learn to live with this disappointment.

It seems that the Tories have now written off Hale. And it has not been lavished with attention it received last time round, in terms of Highways funding. In fact ... it has had the least amount, over the last four years. Second least, incidentally, is the safest Labour ward, and most disadvantaged ward, Burnt Oak. 

Oh yes: forgot to mention, after the usual struggle, and tactics deployed to try to obstruct Mrs Angry obtaining the information, and a new strategy in which Capita Re Highway officers took over the FOI process from the council's own FOI team, we now have the latest figures. 

And very interesting they are, too. 

Of the top half of ward expenditure, most of the wards are ... Tory. And the bottom half? 

Yes, mostly Labour held. Who could have guessed? Just coincidence, of course.

Now then.

What is the most marginal ward in Barnet, in this election, you may be wondering, if not Hale? The most marginal ward, in perhaps the most marginal borough in London?

Well: it is Childs Hill. Keenly fought over by Tories, Labour, and what is left of the Libdem party in Barnet. 

Funnily enough, readers - and you will be surprised by this, I know you will - the ward which comes top of the Highways expenditure chart, over the years since the last election is ... Ta Dah!

Yes: Childs Hill.

Top of the chart, by a long way. 

More or less double, in fact, the amount given to the next highest spend.

Childs Hill ward has had more than £4.5 million pounds spent on it since 2014/15: most of it in the last two years.  A truly astonishing figure.

In the previous four years up to the last election, the combined expenditure on this ward -(then a Libdem stronghold, represented by three local well known figures, ie Lord and Lady Palmer, and Jack Cohen), was only around £564,000: spending in the last four years on this ward, in other words, has been eight times the amount in the previous period. Here is the full list:

In order of scale of expenditure (ignoring the cross ward listings, as Mrs Angry can't be bothered to devise a way of representing this, (and her graphics consultant let her down, didn't you, Mr Mustard?) ...

Childs Hill 
West Finchley
Mill Hill
Golders Green
West Hendon
East Barnet
Finchley Church End
High Barnet
East Finchley
Brunswick Park
Hampstead Garden Suburb
Burnt Oak

The second highest spend is something of an anomaly in regard to the true blue tinge of the favoured wards: West Finchley. Hmm. An increasingly middle class ward, even though traditionally returning Labour members. Home of course to our local MP and - oh - to Mrs Angry. This is sheer coincidence, of course, and please could you divert some of this lavish expenditure to the long sequence of pot holes in Long Lane, N3, and the broken pavements? Yes, hard not to trip up, on the way to our polling station at St Paul's. 

As it happened, when the Palmers decided not to stand again, (Susette is standing this time) the Libdem votes evaporated, and even Jack Cohen struggled to be returned to his seat, by the narrowest of margins. Two Tory councillors were elected, Peter Zinkin, and Shimon Ryde - enabling their party to retain control of the council  by a slim majority. 

Now the retention of Childs Hill is itself even more crucial, in an election in which the Tories are for once so much disadvantaged - as a result of their own glaring incompetence, and the increasingly evident failure of their farmed out, privatised local services.

Standing in Childs Hill for Labour this time round is a particularly strong team of candidates, Anne Clarke, Lisa Pate and Nigel Young, all of them very active in the community - and the indefatigable Anne Clarke has also taken a prominent role in the Save Barnet Libraries campaign. 

Owen Jones lends his support to Childs Hill Labour candidates Anne Clarke, Lisa Pate and Nigel Young.

Childs Hill Library, of course, is now rarely open, having been turned by the Tories into a 'partnership' volunteer concern - a genuinely local community bid to run the 'library' was of course overlooked. (And the nearest alternative, Golders Green library, is shut much of the time, barring under 16s when unstaffed - and having had its wonderful children's library ripped out, for no good reason).

Other issues in this ward which will most certainly have lost the Tories crucial votes include the aggregate 'superhub' which has been forced on the people of Cricklewood, despite their very valid concerns about pollution, and volume of heavy vehicle traffic in the area.

The Granville Road estate, after Grenfell, had to have its cladding removed (see below). Residents in social housing and leasehold properties alike have been left shivering all winter with no replacement - and have seen green spaces and storage removed from the estate, while the promised community centre has failed to materialise. But then the least advantaged, Labour voting residents of Broken Barnet are always at the back of the queue, when it comes to attention from the Tory council.

Nicky Gavron, Tom Copley and Andrew Dismore with Labour candidates on the Granville Estate this weekend.

Well, the at least the roads in Childs Hill may now be pothole free, if not paved in gold, and the wards favoured by generous spending may also be comparatively well maintained - but throughout the borough there are so many potholes that driving along many roads requires a level of proficiency more generally required in battle scarred war zones. 

This is hardly something that can escape the attention of the usually carefully cosseted Tory voters, already upset by issues such as parking, the cuts to libraries, the threat of over development, in even our parks and open spaces - such as the story of the Lodge, in Victoria Park - and the Capita run planning service which appears so slow to enforce action on those who breach the rules, demolish properties or convert houses to HMOs, without permission. 

I read the news today oh, boy
Four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire
And though the holes were rather small

They had to count them all

No one knows how many pot holes there are in Broken Barnet. 

No one dares count. They don't go looking for them. They wait for people to make complaints, and then you wait to see if something is done. The something that may be done is hardly worth the wait, in the end, as botched repairs all over the borough remind us every day.

But in these last weeks before the election, Twitter and Facebook are now awash with pictures of potholes around the borough left unfilled: or, as in many cases where they are belatedly filled, and left unfinished, with unswept gravel left strewn around the roads - and of ugly broken pavements, fixed only with a patchwork of tarmac in place of replacement slabs. 

Something of a mystery, then, isn't it, why Highways budgets are not being used to address this problem, and how or why we can afford to divert so much of it to a ward that happens to be the most marginal in London? 

Our Tory councillors have not restricted themselves to drawing attention to their own failures in maintaining the roads and pavements of Broken Barnet, however. As part of their masterly election strategy, they have extended their tactic of flagging up their own deficiencies to another issue, launching a most audacious gamble: waving around Mrs Angry's favourite Tory election bingo card: yes. It's time for a round of  ... #angryaboutbins ...

Whenever a Conservative politician or authority is in trouble, flailing around desperately for something to bang on about to electors, either because a. the current Labour administration is well run or b. the current Tory administration is abysmal, they can always rely on one subject that is bound - they think - to galvanise their own natural voters. Bins, waste, and a load of old rubbish. 

There was an amateur attempt to jump into a version of this game early on in the campaign by one enthusiastic new Hendon Tory candidate, who kept tweeting pictures of himself looking stern and picking up litter. Until it was pointed out to him that it was the Tory council who had cut the street cleansing teams, and caused the stuff to accumulate in the first place.

Well, Tory voters do get annoyed by litter, and they do get #angryaboutbins: but they are also astute enough to notice when their elected representatives cannot provide a decently run service - or even cut that service. Hence the problem with this campaigning tactic, in Broken Barnet. Barnet Tories are entirely responsible for the increase in litter, fly tipping (free skip service stopped) - and bin collection, through their own policies and decisions.

#angryaboutbins is a grassroots political issue, on both sides of the Atlantic

Bin collection was taken back in house, much against the will of the Tory members, who are of course ardent outsourcers, and hate to have to admit to any failures in privatisation. But despite warning by the unions, they have cut staffing levels to the point where they need to use agency workers at times of sickness, and rumour has it wanted to cut agency use and force workers to go out without a full crew. Have they done this deliberately to cause industrial strife, blame the workers, and make the case to residents for privatisation? Maybe.

And then of course there is the matter of the depot itself. Why? Well, maybe simply due to their innate love of budget cuts - or maybe, as some have suggested, because they want to run the service down in order to outsource it once more: the old trick, of course.

The bin collection service usually is efficient, and reliable, but in the run up to the election there have been a couple of problems which the council appears slow to explain. First of all the failure to provide the Christmas tree collection until February, when the festive season was ancient history, and Lent had already begun - and then this week the sudden failure to collect bins in many areas of the borough. This mysterious event was further clouded in suspicion when the council gave a series of different reasons for it: lack of agency staff, vehicle breakdown and 'operational issues' at the depot. Ah.

With masterly timing, dutiful Tory councillors had been boasting, just the week before, as their major policy pledge for their manifesto, that they were going to protect the weekly bin delivery. 

Who from? From Labour. There was a Socialist plot to undermine our British way of bin collection, weekly. 

Except of course this was Fake News, there wasn't, as Labour hadn't proposed anything of the sort. 

On the other hand, Barnet Tories appear to have forgotten that they themselves had proposed something of this sort, should they feel the need, in the future. 


See the evidence from Labour's Cllr Alan Schneiderman:

And here they were, anyway, not able to deliver the weekly collection they were promising to protect. 

One of the more entertainingly extreme Tory councillors, little David Longstaff, the Actor (resting) tweeted his thoughts on this subject on Saturday: it was all the fault of Socialists. As well as the Bolsheviks* of Broken Barnet, and, of course, The Unions. 

(*To be fair, it's rarely acknowledged that Lenin only went into politics after his local bin collecting services was outsourced to Kapita, whereas initially Trotsky favoured a workers' buy out, rather than in house options).

Residents queued up to put Cllr Longstaff right, reminding him that the reason for the non collection was in fact not because it is an in house service, or anything to do with union membership, or rampant Bolshevism (how quaint!) but erm: because the Tories' spanking new depot at Oakleigh Road South was ... having problems, despite the enormous cost of the development, which was  - oh, project managed by Capita?

You remember the story of the depot, don't you? 

In their haste to flog the old depot at Mill Hill East some years ago now, our Tory friends somehow forgot to bother to secure an alternative location for all the services which used to be based on the site. They then found themselves running out of time, and options. This is how the gritting service ended up in Harrow, and how we ended up, during the snow that fell one weekend earlier in the year, with gritters unable to cope with the situation, unable to get to Harrow, and back again, with new loads, until after the worst of the situation was over. Or at least until the back roads in Hampstead Garden Suburb had been gritted, while ambulances and buses struggled up Barnet Hill ...

But where to put waste and recycling? First of all they were going to shove it all at Pinkham Way, but that didn't work out. Then they began to panic. And did something rather rash: blew £13.5 million on the old Abbots Way site, which, curiously enough, had changed hands only the year before for only £750,000, sold to ... the council's own landlords. Confused? So were councillors, when they found out. And apparently officers, who hadn't realised. Or forgot to tell them. 

So all this dosh - your dosh - was spent on panic buying a site which anyway was known to be required for the proposed Crossrail 2 scheme, at enormous cost, and the new depot, left in the hands of Capita, has now turned out to be in need of what the council coyly refers to as 'vital works'. Well, Mrs Angry's network of informants (yes, Bolsheviks, Cllr Longstaff, every last one of them) inform her ... that the vital works are necessary because the lovely new depot, only months old, is already literally falling apart - the bulking area must have a new concrete floor laid, for one thing. £13.5 million quid on this? Whose fault is it? Will they be held to account? Or will Tory members continue to load the blame for an inefficient service on the workers, rather than themselves, in a last, desperate attempt to retain some credibility with their own voters?

In truth the signs are that Barnet Tories know the game is up. One of these portents came in the absence of the Tory leader, last week, from the series of hustings held by local business people in North Finchley. The lack of explanation or apology led those left waiting with the impression that the leader was avoiding the opportunity to engage with members of the public.

Elsewhere, on social media, local Tory accounts have been busy tweeting about anything other than local issues, as much as possible. 

But then: what can they say? What can they point to, without drawing attention to the failing delivery of local services, and the cost of easycouncil contracts spiralling out of control?

Time is running out to make sure you are registered to vote. Do it now, and make your voice heard, on May 3rd. 

Find out more here.

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

On the scrapheap - Barnet Tories fall apart: Mrs Angry's (pre) pre-election guide

So. Following on from the last post. Picture the scene, one night last week, at Hendon Town Hall.

A meeting of the General Functions Committee: the last one before the ... sshh. Election. The local election. 

Chair: Joan Scannell. 

Joan Scannell. One of the councillors who, after many years service, have been ruthlessly deselected as a candidate, by Hendon Tories - whose Chairman is Dan Thomas.

Tory committee members: Leader Richard Cornelius, and - oh - deputy leader Dan Thomas. And councillor Wendy Prentice, still hanging on, but only by the skin of her teeth. 

Why? Well, being an older woman, surplus to requirements, by Barnet Tory standards. (Her fellow ward councillor Bridget Perry, another older female member, will not be a candidate at the election, believed also to have been deselected). 

The meeting, then. What could possibly go wrong?

Quite a lot, as it turned out. 

You can watch it here, courtesy of Occupy News Network: see the beginning, and then at 45 minutes onwards.


         Business began with a comment from the Chair that it would be her last, as she had been deselected, and ... oh dear: thrown 'on the scrapheap', after a 45 year association with Barnet Council. 


From the usually calm and mildly spoken Cllr Scannell, this was tantamount to an all out assault. Her male colleagues quaked in their shoes, sitting across the table, wondering how to deal with this unprecedented display of mutiny by a formerly loyal and impeccably behaved group member. Female Tory councillors, of course, are expected to be impeccably behaved, loyal, and know their place. 

Cornelius found himself engrossed in his papers, as a gratifyingly, and visibly, shaken Thomas gulped down some water, and attempted to maintain his demeanour.

But that was just a taste of what was to come. 

As the meeting drew to a close, it was time for the departing Chair to make a closing speech. She mentioned by name each person at the table, officers and members, and thanked them, even the Leader, who sat there, passively, clearly deeply embarrassed, as so he should.

The Chair thanked all the members present, except one person.

I will NOT be thanking Dan Thomas, she stated.

Because he is Chair of the Hendon Tories, which had deselected her for no reason whatsoever - she wasn't even interviewed, she said. 

Then she launched into the most astonishing accusation, thrown across the table, like a grenade: 

"Anti-Christian, anti-family - and misogyny is rife in Hendon Conservative Association under him ..."

As Thomas froze in silent fury, and the Tory leader stared hard at his papers, the ever polite Cllr Scannell finished with a dutiful, but somewhat unnecessary Thank you.

A typically hard nosed Thomas immediately demanded a right of reply: did you just mention that you failed to turn up to the interview, Chairman?*

*According to a long and distinguished tradition of Tory Barnet misogyny, female Chairs are not Chairs, or Chairwomen, but Chairmen, of course. The title of Chairman was reclaimed, a few years back, under the pretext of rejecting a pointless example of political correctness, but really in order to underline the point that authority can ultimately only be vested in a male tradition.

It should be noted, of course, that Cllr Scannell herself approved the re-adoption of this term. Wonder if she regrets that now?

But back to the committee table.

I think I said, continued a newly liberated and determinedly defiant Joan Scannell: 'anti-Christian, and anti-family' - it happened to be a Sunday, and it happened to be ... Mothers' Day. Thomas looked on. Mothers normally spend it with their families. I've thought about it long and hard, and I sent through a video ...

Here a visibly wrong footed Thomas rudely interrupted her and attempted to exert control of the meeting, suggesting the meeting was over. He had no right to do this, of course, and it is a mark of his arrogance that he yet again tried to speak over the female Chair of the committee of which he is merely a member. The female Chair-man, that is.

'She persisted', as they say - and ended the meeting. Thomas turned now to the silent Cornelius, who had offered brief thanks to her as Chair, but has uttered not one word of public criticism of her treatment, even though he must be aware of the distress it has caused - and the reaction of loyal Tory voters in the deselected councillors' wards.

The two Tory men whispered to each other, knowing they were being filmed, and clearly hoping no one could lip read. 

Cornelius's body language spoke of discomfort, whereas Thomas was visibly shocked, and trying to brazen it out.

Councillor Scannell's failure to attend an interview on the day alloted by Cllr Thomas might seem to be a tactical error - but the reasons given were genuine. She is know to be a devoutly religious woman, and church goer, and Mothering Sunday for her really was a day for family commitments, as well as church attendance.

Hendon Tories, depleted and weakened though they are in terms of numbers, stand accused by more than one of their own councillors as being marked by a peculiar sort of male dominated, unsympathetic tradition that is indeed misogynist, and ageist, in regard to women. See fellow blogger Roger Tichborne's recent post on this subject.

This is, in fact, a symptom of a more general sickness that is rooted deep within one faction of the borough's Tory party, but more evident in the increasingly disaffected Hendon constituency.

Most of the longer serving and more prominent members and activists here are of course ... men, men of a somewhat reactionary tendency, and some of whom may indeed be accused of failing to understand the needs of an active family life.

In turn this minimises their own experience of the wider challenges that ordinary residents meet in their daily lives, and creates a deficit in compassion, and sense of community. 

This lack of emotional intelligence, furthermore, inevitably carries with it the certain failure of their own ambitions: in this case, failing to foresee the extent of upset caused to loyal colleagues over their brutal deselection, and failing to understand the sense of distaste felt by others at the way in which it was done.

Older female members were tolerated amongst Barnet Tories, as long as they conformed to the expectations of the men: if Cllr Scannell, as she had expected, been automatically reselected, she would no doubt have carried on as before, relegated to this passive role. Having been considered surplus to requirements, and refusing to go quietly, however, she may actually have achieved as much for Conservative women in Hendon, and Barnet, as anything else she has done in all her years with the council. 

As Joan Scannell's fellow councillor Wendy Prentice commented at the GF meeting, in thanking her for her service as Chair, and within the Tory group in Barnet, in a remark aimed at those who had brought about the deselection of loyal members: 'What goes around, comes around'. 

All actions have consequences, even in Broken Barnet.

It was clear from the hushed conversation between leader and deputy leader at the end of this meeting that they were horrified by the public exposure of division within their own party: and particularly so, no doubt, at this point, so close to the election.

Brexit is one faultline that runs between this group, and divides it, under the surface: but gender politics represent a new line of battle, in this true blue context. 

Whatever next?

Next, after shock, comes denial: private and public. 

A press release was rushed out, with a rather more wholesome spin put on the whole backstabbing debacle and published on the Barnet Tories website. 

Apparently, according to Dan Thomas, it had been not so much a deselection, as a process of thanking 'stalwart councillors' for their service. Whilst kicking them out of the back door: 

Stalwart councillors thanked for their service

Barnet’s Conservative Group has thanked three stalwart councillors for their service.

Councillors Maureen Braun, of Hendon ward, Sury Khatri, of Mill Hill ward, and Joan Scannell BEM, of Edgware ward were not reselected to stand in the May 3 elections by members of the Hendon Conservative Association.

Councillor Dan Thomas, chairman of the association and deputy leader of the Council, said: 

"As per Conservative Party rules, all councillors must be reselected by their constituency association to stand for re-election. As this process is conducted by secret ballot, it is neither possible nor appropriate to speculate why applicants are not successful.

Councillors Joan Scannell, Maureen Braun, and Sury Khatri have a combined length of service on Barnet Council of 52 years and both Joan and Maureen served with distinction as Mayor. We are extremely grateful for all they helped us to achieve as a Conservative Council and we wish them all the best for the future.”

Cllr Scannell was first elected to Edgware in 1994, the year the Conservative Group regained control of the Council, and had two decades’ prior experience as a Council officer. She served as chairman of the General Functions Committee for 16 years and Conservative Group Secretary for 21 years. She was awarded the British Empire Medal in the Queen’s 90th birthday honours for her long service to the Council and to the community.

Cllr Braun was first elected to Hendon ward in 1998. She served as chairman of the Hendon Area Planning Committee and holds the highest attendance record for daytime meetings. Cllr Khatri was first elected to Mill Hill in 2010. He is chairman of the Hendon Residents’ Forum, and helped establish the NW7 Hub and Mill Hill Partnership Library.

New candidates for the vacant positions will be selected by the association in due course".

Now here is a very curious thing.

On - or before - March 16th, Hendon Tory chair Dan Thomas was asked by the local Times group to comment on the story of deselection, which had caused so much controversy, and to react to accusations by local Labour group leader Barry Rawlings, and AM Andrew Dismore, that this development had been part of a deliberate strategy, aimed at creating a more right wing group, led by - oh? Hendon chair, Dan Thomas? According to Andrew Dismore:

"I believe this is a coup by the Conservative far-right Brexiteers to further the ambitions of Daniel Thomas, currently deputy leader of the council, who wants to lead the Conservative Group after the election.

"They have taken out three moderate councillors because they are more independent-minded and open to debate."

Thomas denied this was the case.

"The party’s decision not to re-select a small number of councillors is nothing to do with policy, an imagined ‘coup’ or a non-existent faction trying to take control. The selection process is such that no single person can control it and our new candidates are yet to be chosen."

Oh. Make a note of that ... our new candidates are yet to be chosen ...

That was March 16th.

Unfortunately for Dan Thomas, also on March 16th, one of the chosen new candidates announced on twitter that he was, indeed ... a chosen new candidate.

This was, predictably, another nice young Tory Boy in jacket, tie & cufflinks called Ben Brickley, who lives in Hendon, and ... oh, according to his linkedin profile, has been selected for Colindale, one of the wards in ... the Hendon constituency, by the association chaired by Dan Thomas.

Colindale Tory candidate Ben Brickley, endorsed by Liam Fox

Reading through Mr Brickley's twitter timeline (first rule of being a Tory candidate in Broken Barnet, son: cover your traces ...) is most informative. Let's see. 

Ah: active within the world of UGLE (sic) freemasonry, so he'll be very much at home, if elected, with the other masons in the Tory group, if there are any left - a group which at one time boasted so many trouser roller uppers, they used to hold lodge meetings in one of the Committee rooms. (Witnessed by Mrs Angry's brother, who used to work in governance, and accidentally tried to enter the room one night, while a meeting was in progress, and found access impeded by members leaning against the doors ...) 

Men only clubs awfully popular, with Barnet Tories, of course. Keeps the women at a safe distance, for one thing. Before you deselect them.

These days, however, most Tory members are of a type that would struggle to get themselves accepted by a local stamp collecting group, or Rotary club (an association favoured by Brian Coleman, of course), let alone a masonic lodge, so conspiracy theorists should not get too carried away by this line of thought. 

The new candidate also appears in a pic taken in the summer of a group of Young Tories in Hendon - sorry, the group of Young Tories, all of them (about half a dozen) - ah, a photo taken by, or at least tagging ... Dan Thomas ... 

Sadly, there is little chance of Mr Brickley being elected anyway, as Colindale has proved to be something of a failure in the attempted plantation of the mutinous, Labour held western side of the borough with Tory voters, via mass 'regeneration'. 

They thought this clever wheeze would grow them lots of property owning Tories, in place of 'decanted' social housing tenants and - well: poor people - but as properties in these areas have largely gone to overseas investors and buy to let speculators, they are lived in by renting younger people who are, as canvassers found out at the last GE, ho ho: Labour voters. 


But what does this admission tell us about the truth behind the Hendon deselections, and the rumours of an attempt by Cllr Thomas to grab the leadership from Richard Cornelius? Claiming that candidates had not been chosen, when clearly at least one Hendon decision had been made?

Some of the other Tory candidate selections for Barnet can be found here: some curious omissions, in fact. Are they shy about announcing the full slate, for some reason? Or are they faffing about, desperately trying to fill slots? Let's take a look at the wards in Hendon.

Colindale, funnily enough, is not listed at all. Mrs Angry hopes that Mr Brickley is not being a little premature in celebrating his nomination.

Mill Hill: now that veteran ward councillor, and older woman, Maureen Braun has been unceremoniously dumped - no, 'thanked for her service' - and then dumped: oh dear. There is a vacancy, To Be Announced. 

Good news: being eighty five is no barrier for a council candidate, if he is a man: that silver fox and expert linguist John Hart is standing again. As well as Thomas's ally, Val Duschinsky.

Oh look: Edgware has a vacancy now, of course, in the place of deselected councillor Joan Scannell. 

Candidate to be announced. 

Hmm. Wonder who that will be?

Well, let's move on to the neighbouring ward of Hale, which has three new candidates ... Lachhya Gurung, an active member of the Burnt Oak Nepalese community, Elliot Simberg, who stood  - and lost - last time, and Laithe Jajeh, who started his campaign tweeting pictures of himself looking very tetchy, and picking up litter in the ward, until Mrs Angry and the rest of twitter pointed out that it was his own Tory council that had cut the street litter service ...

Oh, but: hang on ... 

Where is Hendon Conservative Association's big cheese, former Chair, Hugh Rayner? He is a member for Hale. 

Nope. Not listed.

But then ... it has been alleged that Cllr Rayner wants to stand in Edgware, which is of course a safer position than in marginal Hale. 

Hale was fiercely fought over, during the last local elections, and very nearly turned red: with better strategy by Labour, it would have been won. This time looks even more likely. 

Could he be the mysterious TBA candidate? Mrs Angry asked him, via the medium of twitter, as he has been more than usually chatty there over the last few days. For some reason, Hugh will not clarify this point. Draw your own conclusions. Oh: except - oh no, surely not? Has another stalwart councillor been deselected? 

There is a rumour flying about that after the furore kicked up about alleged misogny within the Hendon Tory association, more female candidates are now being appointed, and Cllr Rayner himself may be surplus to requirements, even in Edgware.

Oh, Hugh. Let us hope this is Fake News, promulgated by wicked Socialists, and that we may expect that he will graciously accept a safe(r) nomination in Edgware, and delight us all with another four years of his presence in the council chamber.

Although our Tory friends seem awfully shy about announcing their full slate of candidates - unless of course that is the full slate, on their website, there are some you would do well to avoid, for example if you are like fellow blogger Mr Mustard, and irritated by a. awful grammar and b. the inability to proof read your election leaflets: here is one delivered by Tories in East Barnet: 

Dear me. As Mr M remarked:

But ... interesting claim, isn't it, that £800K has been spent on East Barnet ward in the past year. In a ward which was won by Labour, from the Tories, last time round. Where is the evidence for that claim, one wonders? Especially as FOI requests for this information are currently being obstructed (once again) - this time by Capita, rather than the response being dealt with by FOI staff. 

Well, Mrs Angry has asked one of the candidates, once more via the medium of Twitter, and will wait for a response. 

It must be said there have been some wonderful photo opportunities provided by our Tory councillors in the last few days.  

Seven bright orange glutton machines. Hmm. 

How many can you spot, readers? 

And how quickly did the PR person who tweeted that find himself directed towards the nearest Job Centre, do you think?

Tory 'leader' (interim) Richard Cornelius appears somewhat ill at ease in the cunning disguise of a working man. 

Mind you, Mrs Angry finds herself struck with awe by Councillor Dean Cohen's adept deployment of the new equipment. Who'd have thought it?

Any other interesting candidates, from other parties, Mrs Angry?

Well: we are all looking forward to the prospect of candidates in Barnet from the new Polish Pride party, which is the creation of one Prince John Zylinski, who apparently once challenged Nigel Farage to a duel (well, who hasn't wanted to do that?) and hopes his admirably pro European party will - well ... stimulate a more interesting political debate:

I think I’m the ideal candidate to use my Polish army to protect and support all the minorities, and in fact all the communities,” he told the Standard. “We’ve touched a nerve here… we’ve found the G-spot of the Polish people.”

Might pick up votes in Barnet, with our large Polish community, old and new.

Who else. Libdems. Hmm. Well: fellow blogger Roger Tichborne is standing in Mill Hill: may do well, but may simply split the non Tory vote. Mrs Angry is praying fervently for a Labour win, of course, but he would make a good local councillor.

Greens? Can't find any info on their website. 

Moving on. 

Ukip? Again, no news on their website. Handy guide for those thinking of standing in 2018, though:  quick! Delete those tweets! Close your facebook account! 

Standing for Council 2018

Please do a thorough check of your social media accounts. The biggest reason for vetting delays is facebook. Liking or sharing anything from a proscribed group or organisation is a breach of party rules and is likely to result in a failed vetting decision. The UKIP proscribed groups and organisations are:


National Front

British Freedom Party

British People’s Party

English Defence League (EDL)

Britain First

UK First Party

So anyway. Back to the Tories, and their little spat. 

Thank goodness all that has been sorted. No one noticed, much, did they? 

Well, except for a bit of press coverage, here and there. 

Like the front page of the local Times. Which was under a rather dreary wraparound advertisement cover.

You probably didn't notice this grubby blue ad, but if you did, and cast an eye over it, you would have been somewhat puzzled.

Here we find a desperate list of pledges, making all sorts of promises, nicked from - erm - the Labour party. 

Yes: in a contortion worthy of Houdini, in an attempt to escape from the self appointed imprisonment of their own record in office, your Conservative councillors have decided to form an opposition to fight their own policies, if returned to office. 

As fellow blogger Mr Roger Tichborne put it: 

Barnet Tories are asking you to vote for them on the basis of a promise to ... stop over development? Er, what? And invest FURTHER in in our roads, and pavements? Is that in all wards, then, or just Tory ones?

Shame if you missed this advert. But your attention may just have been diverted by what was splashed on the front page, thus undoing any questionable benefit gained by splurging election funds on the wraparound. 

Splashed all over, in glaring headlines, and with a posed photo of three sulking Tory councillors: 

'Anti-family and misogyny is rife' ...

Uh oh.

Oh dear me. 

Not going quietly, the deselected councillors. It is rumoured that at least one of them is taking action to appeal against the process, although what sort of outcome is possible is unclear. 

It has been a very long while since any local political story has made the front page of the local paper (now boasting a local democracy reporter, albeit one shared with two other boroughs). And the timing could not possibly have been worse for Barnet Tories. Everything is coming together, now, at the most awkward time.

This morning we learned that a week before the local elections, Capita will publish an announcement of their full year results and update on the 'transformation programme' that will have to be put in place, if the company is to survive. If it survives. This can only have very serious implications for the future of many outsourced services - and the way we run things here in Barnet. It is the best possible reminder of the risk posed by returning another Tory council here, which so recklessly committed us to the investment of Barnet residents' money in the two massive contracts we are now tied to, with no back up plan, and demonstrably no evidence of the delivery of promises of huge savings, or better standards of service.

As Barnet Tories tear themselves apart, and their own policies become too toxic to acknowledge, they are driven to more and more desperate tactics in order to try to retain any chance of retaining the council. Trying to copy Labour's pledges is only one of these ploys. 

Better to try the real thing, Mrs Angry would suggest: vote Labour, and try to undo the damage of 16 years of Tory misrule. 

Certainly if you object to the shameless Tory representation of their destruction of our library system as 'investment', or the claim that they have kept all libraries 'open', when what is left in those buildings is so far short of any definition of a public library, you should note that Labour pledges to address this directly: 

"restoring access to libraries for school children, guaranteeing Saturday opening, and four hours opening after school on at least four days a week".

Think about the library cuts: the perfect and most easily understood example of how Barnet Tories f*ck everything up, even their own cock eyed schemes - throwing our money at policies meant to save money, simply from an ideological mistrust - no, an entrenched hatred, fear and loathing - of the very principle of public sector services. 

May 3rd then: you know what to do. 

Don't let us down. 

There is too much at stake.