Saturday 22 May 2010

Invasion of the Body Snatchers

Great film, 'Invasion of the Body Snatchers' - one of Mrs Angry's all time favourites.

It tells the story of a community whose population is quietly being replaced by emotionless alien lookalikes; humanoid creatures who are bent on transforming the world into 'a better way of life', one which has evolved beyond the limitations of human emotions like hatred - or love. These alien invaders are heartless, cold, devoid of sympathy, ruthless in their desire to dominate their communities and to eradicate all dissent.

Which brings me to the annual meeting, held last week, of our new council.

Leading humanoid Councillor Brian Coleman was apparently showing vestiges of his former terrestrial incarnation by becoming tearful at the ceremony in which he was obliged to terminate his office as Mayor. Some put this rare display of vulnerability down to his speech of thanks to his elderly mother, Gladys, by all accounts a nice woman and a devoted mother, who has been loyally at his side throughout his reign: but others concluded it was Brian struggling with the notion of having to surrender the Mayoral bling and dressing up gear. The new mayor, Anthony Finn, was singled out for praise for his good humour and even tempered nature, so that will make a nice change, won't it, fellow citizens?

Having enjoyed being (in his own imagination, anyway) an absolute monarch, (think that's the term) with a divine right to lord it over the citizens of Barnet for the past year, Coleman has evidently been spending a lot of time pondering the careers of other great British rulers. Turning to the enviably long reign of Gloriana herself, our Brian decided to take his inspiration from her for an intended pat on the back for interim puppet queen, Lynne Hillan. Misquoting Elizabeth, he issued his royal endorsement, proclaiming:

'She may have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but she has the mind of any male politician!'

Oh dear. It seems ever more apparent that our ex Mayor holds a dim view of the female sex.

With the honourable exception of his mum, and Margaret Thatcher, (or should that be 'Mrs T'?) they can evidently only hope to reach equal status with a man if they agree with Coleman and become his political poodle.

Queen Lynne, a fully evolved humanoid, is reported to be determined to 'drive forward the Future Shape' agenda, now that the aliens are gaining the upper hand in Barnet. Her body snatching - or rather warden snatching - plot is set to be repeated, no doubt on a larger scale, easy pickings for the newly energised invaders. Quoted in the local Times group newspaper she states that she will, with the new dawn of the Future Shape vision for our borough, make the council 'responsive to what our customers need' - again, that will make a nice change, won't it? - and to 'ensure residents get better services with less money' which, in Mrs Angry's modest opinion, will undoubtedly be nothing less than a f***ing miracle.

And please notice the ominous use of the phrase 'customers'.

Some cabinet appointments have remained the same, such as Councillor Joanna Tambourides, whose responsibilities for 'Community Safety' include the glaringly inadequate 'Priority Intervention Team' and the council's pathetic approach to antisocial behaviour. Obviously she has made such a marvellous success of things, that it is totally unnecessary to give the role to someone else.

According to an article on the online version of the local Times newspaper, Barnet police have announced that they have been set rigorous new targets 'aimed at providing added reassurance to residents'. Deputy Borough Commander, Superintendent Neil Seabridge, gives details as to how the police will address these new targets, focussing on issues such as reducing overall crime and, yes, you've guessed it, reducing antisocial behaviour, ensuring more cases are taken through court' etc. 'Police recognise how antisocial behaviour ruins lives.' Tell me about it, Mr Seabridge: well, in fact, to be fair, I have told him all about it, and he did take the time to meet me and listen to what I had to say, (how's that clock, by the way?) which was in stark contrast to the response from the senior officers and political leaders at Barnet Council.

Barnet police, it is announced, will make improvements, 'in partnership with Barnet Council, housing associations and community groups.' Says Supt Seabridge: 'It is necessary to work with all our partners to increase our collective efficiency ...' And that, Mrs Angry would humbly suggest, is where there is huge scope for Mrs Tambourides to pull her finger out and ensure that Barnet council makes a drastically improved contribution to the fight against crime and antisocial behaviour in this borough. A resident who left a comment on one of the Broken Barnet blogs remarked that in his opinion, based on an experience similar to ours, Barnet's current approach to dealing with such issues was 'not fit for purpose', and I can only agree.

Returning to the subject of the 'new' cabinet', Councillor Richard Cornelius, who is responsible for housing and regeneration, has presided over the longest housing waiting list in the country, and the fabulously innovative cut price housing scheme, 'Homechoice', (remember, the agency which placed our neighbours from hell in a subsidised privately owned and rat infested property) has rightly been allowed to carry on doing more of the same for the foreseeable future, with the added responsibility of planning matters. Well done, Ms Hillan, I say.

Oh, and there is an interesting new appointment: Councillor Robert Rams has been appointed to the newly created post of 'customer access and partnerships'! The c word again, you see: as the aliens take control, and we move towards the bright and shiny new Future Shaped future that is easyCouncil Barnet, we are all painlessly metamorphosing from residents into 'customers'. Not sure about being partners, actually: sounds like working for John Lewis, but without the discount, and somehow I think that any partnership is going to be awfully onesided, don't you?

And what, you may be wondering, about our esteemed ex Mayor, who will now have a lot of spare time on his hands: what of he? Well, don't worry. Apparently naughty Queen Lynne forgot to keep one of the plum jobs for her erstwhile mentor, but to keep him out of mischief (unsuccessfully, it seems) he has been given the environment and transport portfolio. He is quoted as saying his priority will be 'roads, roads, roads and roads'. Brian is, as you may remember, very interested in roads, that is to say, in prioritising them for motorists who wish to travel at high speed around the borough, untrammelled by those selfish, spoilsport whingers who want to prevent their children from being knocked down in residential areas. Councillor Coleman has in his career been very active in objecting to traffic calming measures and pushed to have road humps removed. In 2006, Councillor Coleman lost his licence for speeding. Call me over sensitive, but I am not happy about someone with this history being put in charge of 'roads, roads, roads and roads'.

Three years ago, I had the extremely distressing experience of being woken up in the middle of the night by the terrifying sound of a violent collision outside our house. Looking outside, I saw a figure lying, like a broken puppet, in the gutter below our window. I ran outside, but it was too late, and before the ambulance came I watched helplessly as the poor man slowly died in front of me. He had been hit by a car speeding at what the police estimated was about 80 miles an hour, and the man who caused the accident had abandoned his car and left his victim to die in the road. Luckily, he was eventually found and prosecuted, but no doubt this was small comfort to the family of the victim.This is the reality of what happens when there is an absence of speeding restrictions in residential areas. Speeding kills, and we need protection from selfish drivers who refuse to obey the law.

Finally, as I mentioned in the previous blog, one of Barnet's best bloggers, 'Don't Call Me Dave', the writer of 'Not the Barnet Times', has become so disgusted at the way in which the Conservative party is evolving, and the antics of the Conservative administration here in Broken Barnet, that he has thrown in the towel and stopped writing. I hope this is just a temporary break. I think that there has long been an enormously important tradition in this country of political satire and comment, and it is a wholesome and necessary feature of any healthy society, and more than ever here in Barnet we need people like DCMD to keep a watchful and informed eye on the deeds and misdeeds of our local council.

Recently I was in Brighton and visited the Pavilion, where they have a nice collection of regency cartoons, which joyfully lampoon the self indulgence, gluttony and corruption of the court and political world of the time. It struck me then that such irreverence is a characteristic of our nation, and a vital part of our democracy. Political blogs are the latest in a long line of expressions of this typically British corrective instinct, and long may they flourish.

A feature which I hope soon withers and dies, however, is the type of vile abuse and underhand activity which has featured in the comments' list of another local blog in the last week or so.

I mentioned in the last blog 'Fear and Loathing' that an individual purporting to be 'Mrs T' - the creator of the blog of our new Tory MP Mike Freer, 'The Friends of Mike Freer' - had posted a childish and spiteful comment on a blog written by 'Barnet Eye' blogger Roger Tichborne. Roger's blog was about children with dyslexia and the bullying they endure, written from personal experience. 'Mrs T' immediately wrote a comment informing Tichborne that he was a 'thickhead'. On 'her' blog 'she/he/whoever' also suggested that bloggers and critics of Mike Freer were 'homophobic'.

Yesterday Tichborne wrote a blog about the new eruv proposal in Mill Hill. In case you don't know, an eruv is an area defined by an almost invisible wire border which allows Jewish people to carry out certain activities on the Sabbath, which they would not otherwise be able to do. This includes pushing buggies and wheelchairs, which obviously is of huge benefit to parents with babies and small children, and disabled people, who wish to attend services at a synagogue which may be a long walk from home. I cannot see any reasonable objection to this proposal, and nor can Tichborne, who has urged people to debate the matter without being abusive or motivated by racism. Imagine, then, if you can, why 'Mrs T' felt the need to immediately leave the following comment on his blog:

'I think the only debate we need to have is whether RogT is a closet anti-semite.'

Yet again, a completely unprovoked and indefensible attempt to smear the reputation of someone who, if you take the time to read his blogs, is self evidently a decent, honest and fairminded individual, with a genuine commitment to his community. To imply that he is homophobic, antisemitic - or thick - is personal abuse of the worst kind. I am sure that our new MP will instantly disassociate himself from such remarks, and if not, I think that will tell us something about him, too.

If you visit the Barnet Eye blog in question and read through the comments, you may find some surprising and very interesting clues as to the origin of these vile, and infantile, remarks. It would appear that at the time the last comment from self styled Finchley housewife 'MrsT' appeared, site stats show a visit from someone at the GLA. If the comments really do come from someone working there, this is frankly appalling. Now, tell me Boris: are GLA employees or God help us, even Assembly members, or their political associates, allowed to idle their days away reading blogs and leaving abusive messages? And who on earth could it be? I am sure that none of us could possibly imagine why anyone at the GLA might have an obsessive interest in Roger Tichborne, can you?

How interesting, by the way, that this disturbed individual subconsciously displays a Freudian clue to their preoccupation, by their choice of name: RogT ... MrsT ... unless your good lady wife has taken up blogging for a laugh, Rog, Mrs Angry would suggest that someone out there has a bit of a thing going on for you, in a slightly scary way ... Have you noticed anyone lurking in the bushes outside your house recently? Or had any funny phone calls? Oh: hold on ....

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