Saturday 28 August 2010

What I Did on My Holiday

Well, I didn't mean to take Mrs Angry on holiday with me, but she slipped into my suitcase anyway, and I think she enjoyed the break. Where were we? In the wild west of Ireland, in beautiful County Clare, our ancestral heartland, in fact, deep in the heart of Father Ted country. Yes, we did see the Craggy Island parochial house, in fact Mrs Angry nipped out of the car and shamelessly gawped through the familiar gates, and may well have been mistaken by the locals for Mrs Doyle. Ah, go on, go on: you know what I mean.

Now, see, wherever I go on my travels, I always make a point of buying and reading the local papers. Nothing is more enlightening, nor better serves as a corrective to the tedious obsessions of our own local news stories. And what a refreshing contrast the news in the local papers in Clare made to the nasty, grubby little stories we read here in Broken Barnet.

No stories about grasping councillors giving themselves whopping great pay hikes, and then being shamed into giving them back. No stories about 83 year old pensioners being threatened with eviction from the only home they have known for 74 years. Oh: hold on though : eviction is an emotive word in County Clare, as I will explain later.

In true Father Ted fashion, the hot news in Clare was all about Bishop Willie Walsh and his imminent retirement. Indeed there is hardly a page in any of the local papers which does not carry a story and photograph of Bishop Willie. Except for the story 'Simply the Vest', about Sister Gabrielle Murphy, who is lovingly sewing a new set of vestments for the new boy, Bishop elect O'Reilly. Then we have the half page regular column by Fr Kevin McNamara, with useful advice such as 'What a blessing a sense of humour is ... but we must learn to laugh with people, and not at them.' Bless me, Father: I just can't do it. Sure that'll be 560 Hail Marys, two thousand Our Fathers, and five more minutes in hell, then, Mrs Angry. Fair enough, so.

Apart from the stranglehold that the local clergy has on the news, and lots of cheery reports of local events which all end with the inevitable concusion that everything went very well, and everyone had a very nice time, there was one horrifying story which made the BP global ecological disaster look small : "Clare Coast falls foul of Floating Butter Containers."

I wish I was making that up, really I do, but it's true. There were fears of 'a major environmental problem' after hundreds of the containers have been washed ashore from a damaged cargo ship. Kerrymaid, Buttersoft, and even Sainsbury's Butterlicious. The paper states ominously that it is not yet clear if the containers had any butter in them, or were empty when they entered the water. The worry of it all is obvious from statements by the County Council, who are keen to reassure the people that they are investigating the matter in full accordance with their duties under the Waste Management Act. Phew.

The only mention of local politics in the press was a report that the leader of Clare County Council was very concerned that the views of the people of Clare were not being given sufficient consideration, and that he was therefore resolved to launch a major survey to see what people thought of the council's service, and if in fact the authority could do anything to improve its performance. Really. Yes, I know: I had to read this article twice, the underlying concept of respect for the views of the electorate being so alien to the selfserving administration currently messing with the lives of the long suffering residents of Broken Barnet, wouldn't you agree?

Evictions, though ... as in many areas in the Celtic fringe, the past - in the West of Ireland - often appears as close and as tangible as the present. You cannot escape the deep emotions still felt about the historical injustices perpetrated in this country, and the sense of loss and anger felt about the death and dispersal caused by the Famine, over a century and a half ago. In the way of many traumatic events, those who lived through these times and survived were reluctant to speak of it, and it is only relatively recently that a real acknowledgment and reassessment has been made of what happened.

What happened, in a nutshell, if you don't know, is that when the potato crops failed, the British government refused to compromise its economic policy and intervene to help the Irish people to stay alive. No mercy was shown to the starving population: even those destitute enough to qualify for 'relief' - including the elderly and children - were obliged to slave away, half dead already, at pointless labouring jobs in order to pay for paltry supplies of inedible corn, or a watery bowl of soup. When tenants were unable to pay the rent to their landlords, many simply threw them out, knocked the roof off their pitiful cabins and let them die in the fields. In Clare, the Famine was particularly hard, and evictions common. The British government saw the crisis not as a human tragedy, but as an act of God, an inevitable visitation on a feckless, ignorant Catholic underclass, who must be left to suffer the consequences.

Of course, if only they had been able to demonstrate 'a history of positive contribution to their community' in Barnet-Futureshape style, things might have been different, I am sure Lynne Hillan and co would agree. But sadly, in the absence of morally worthy lifestyles, they had to be taught by their betters to become responsible for their own needs. If they starved, well, they had only themselves to blame.

Until recently, I would bet, most people in this area, and beyond, only associated the word eviction with the Big Brother household: now, here in Broken Barnet, thanks to the Big Brother administration of Lynne Hillan's council, this word has now been brought back into everyday conversation by the appalling story of the 83 year old pensioner Edward Meakins, who had been threatened with being thrown out of his home of seventy four years by heartless council officials. Why? Because here in Barnet the Tory administration adheres to the same faux morality and 'principles' of nineteenth century government; laissez faire policies, market forces, the best housing reserved for the deserving poor, the morally worthy - and an abandonment of the responsibility of the state for the support of those without means. A council tenant is allowed no security, no right to occupation, even after 74 years, and two generations of one family. Tenancy is the gift of the council, no longer the right of the individual. Time is marching backwards, in other words, in Broken Barnet.

Since I've been away, Barnet Council has backed down over its proposal to throw Mr Meakins out of his home. Make no mistake about it, this decision is purely because of the furious outcry his case provoked, both locally and nationally, and for no other reason. Just as in the case of the allowance rise, and the terrible public reaction that ensued, this was only a tactical retreat. In other words, they got found out, and had to resort to damage limitation. The underlying political policies remain, and when no one is looking, far worse things will be sanctioned. The attitude of this administration is no different to the English landowners and government still remembered with such bitterness and contempt in Ireland: an attitude of callous indifference to the vulnerabilities of the disadvantaged; a desire for personal gain at the expense of others justified by a warped sense of moral superiority, and indefensible political and social policies rigidly enforced under the pretext of financial necessity. How very shameful.

While we were in Clare, we went on a long, long trek into the deep wilderness of bogs and mountain pasture where my some of my family once farmed a few hundred acres, for generations, until the Famine. It was a salutory experience, and surprisingly emotional, the past again as real, or more real, than the present. Peering through the cracked windows of abandoned farmhouses and breathing the musty air of rooms which have lain empty for decades, made it easy to imagine the presence of the departed. My family were comparatively fortunate; they had resources sufficient to escape and survive. A million other Irish people did not, and died of starvation or disease.

The place where we were staying in Clare looked down on farmland and fields stretching down to the sea. Also in front of us, I noticed, was the ruined, remains of a large house, collapsed in on itself a long, long time ago. With neat irony, it turned out that this was the former residence of the O'Briens, the wealthy landowners who had once owned my family's farm, and several thousand other acres in the area. One evening, therefore, I ignored the no trespassing signs and sneaked up through the fields to see what was left of this house: only the walls, in fact, with a modern bungalow sat squat in the middle of the overgrown ruins in a rather satisfyingly impertinent Irish way. And so, Mr O'Brien, I wondered, now how does it feel to have no roof over your head?

Sometimes natural justice does prevail, and history has the last word. Wonder where the heartless, grasping landlords here in Broken Barnet will be in a few years' time, when their house has tumbled down?

Wednesday 18 August 2010

Something for the Ladies

A rare public sighting of Mrs Angry, here inspecting some of the candidates for the Tory leadership in Broken Barnet, and failing to be impressed.

I have to share with you, in fact, my profound sense of dismay whilst researching the photos of Tory councillors for this picture: as my Irish granny would have said of the lot of them: 'if they were hanged for beauty, they would die innocent'. Dear God, what an ugly lot. Apart from silver haired, moustachio twirling, smooth tongued lothario, Councillor John Hart, of course.

No wonder Mark Shooter thinks he's in with a good chance: probably the only Tory councillor with his own teeth and a few brain cells.

There will now be a short intermission in the Broken Barnet programme, while Mrs Angry lies down in a dark room, with a cold compress held to her feverish brow.

Do I hear the sound of weeping in the corridors of City Hall? Here - take my hankie and dry your eyes, Brian: Mrs Angry will return.

In due course.

Don't start the revolution without me.

Moving On

An elderly woman in the London Borough of Broken Barnet is appealing to residents to support her attempts to resist eviction by the council, it has been reported.

Eighty three year old Lynne Hillan, of New Southgate, has been issued with a notice to quit by the council after it emerged that she was still occupying a property owned by the authority intended solely for the use of the leader of the Tory group. A council spokesman said: 'Although we have every sympathy for Ms Hillan, the fact remains that she no longer retains the full confidence of her party, or the respect of the electorate, and she is therefore required to vacate her rooms at North London Business Park as soon as possible, in order to make way for the many candidates on the leadership waiting list, standing in the corridor with a knife in their hands, waiting for her to turn her back.'

Brian, a friend and neighbour of Ms Hillan, has pleaded for her to be allowed to remain in her office: 'When Lynne inherited this job from the previous leader, she expected to be allowed to see out her days in this cushy post, pottering about for a couple of days a week, eking out a meagre living on her pitiful allowance ... to take all security and peace of mind away from her at this time of life is unnecessary, and quite frankly, rather cruel. On the other hand, if she does get kicked out, I am available at a moment's notice to take over her position.'

A Facebook group has been created to focus attention on Ms Hillan's tragic plight: sadly not a single person has bothered to join, as nobody gives a toss.

Monday 16 August 2010

Mrs Angry's Allowance Rise: A Statement

Fellow citizens.

Over the past few weeks a vile rumour has been spread around by my enemies that I, in my capacity as leader of the council here in Broken Barnet, have awarded myself an enormous pay rise. This is of course a complete misunderstanding.

It has been alleged that I forcibly obtained this pay rise from the residents of this borough by bullying my servile and spineless colleagues into supporting a claim for more cash, and that I threatened one colleague who refused to support me by pulling her hair, stamping on her foot, and threatening to flush her head down the nearest toilet, if she disobeyed. This is absolutely untrue.

For some time now I have felt that because I am so greedy, I should be given a lot more money, and, in the interests of transparency, should be seen to be given a lot more money, so that the idle working classes of Broken Barnet might be encouraged to aspire to a lifestyle like mine, whereby a few hours of 'work' a week is so richly rewarded at the expense of others much poorer than myself.

I feel that with my vast success in the world of business, (before the unfortunate collapse of the Angry Direct Marketing empire), I am uniquely placed to guide the people of Broken Barnet to a secure and profitable economic future. By reluctantly accepting a larger allowance from the grateful residents, I had hoped to make them realise that painful cuts in their own salaries and devastating loss of services is only, after all, exactly what they deserve, and that it serves them right for not being me.

Sadly, it appears that my philanthropic intentions have been deliberately portrayed by some as a blatant attempt to exploit my position and stick two fingers up at the good people of Broken Barnet. Nothing could be further from the truth. Unfortunately, despite my many tireless and patronising explanations to the electorate via the media, they have stupidly chosen to criticise my actions and threaten to form a residents' revolution. Worse still, some of my craven colleagues have even got up off their knees, and are now openly whispering in corners, plotting against me.

I have suddenly remembered, therefore, that I have never, at any time, had any intention to demand a pay rise, and indeed utterly condemn any such inappropriate measure, which, as I have always maintained, is clearly unacceptable in these challenging times, when it seems you cannot get away with anything without those f***ing bloggers finding out.

Sunday 15 August 2010

Once Upon a Time in Broken Barnet

All is not well on the frontier, here in Broken Barnet.

Calamity Jane Hillan and her sidekick, Wild Bill Coleman, are facing a challenge from amongst their own gang of outlaws. A young(er) gunslinger, Mark Shooter, is peering round the corner of Main Street, looking for an opportunity to fire a couple of slugs in the back of the hapless pair of oldtimers. He claims they are standing in the way of cleaning up the town, and kicking out its no good gamblin', thievin' and whorin' ways. Can't argue with you there, boy.

Seems to old Ma Angry, though, sat over here on her stool in the Last Chance saloon, spittin' tobacco cross the street, that it don't make no difference which of 'em has their finger on the trigger - the same old innocent bystanders are surely going to get hurt. And besides, who is this new whippersnapper? Ain't he the guy mixed up in that bank job some while back? Why did he go along with the rest of the gang when they held up the Broken Barnet stagecoach and robbed it of the townsfolks' hard earned savings? And where was this six gun Shooter when they pistol whipped poor old Kate Salinger just for trying to stop'em?

One thing is for sure: there is going to be blood spilt in Deadwood City afore the week is out.

Friday 13 August 2010

A House is Not a Home in Broken Barnet

I realise that the Tory councillors of this borough are not blessed with an abundance of intellect, but I would have thought that even they, and the Dear Leader, Lynne Hillan, might spot the ironic contrast of two stories on the local Times group newspapers website today.

Many people will have been upset to read the case reported this week of the 83 year old pensioner, Edward Meakin, who is being thrown out of his council home in Cricklewood, thanks to a decision by Barnet Homes, the housing agency of our local authority.

Edward has lived in his home for 74 years. Yes, seventy four years. He moved in, with his family, as a nine year old boy in 1936. He recently lost his sister, with whom he shared the house, and now faces being thrown out of his lifelong home, at his age, and despite the long history of occupation he has, because the faceless, heartless housing officials have decreed he cannot remain in a three bedroomed house. Mr Meakin is pictured forlornly outside what looks like a scrupulously maintained property and is quoted as saying that such a move at his time of life will probably kill him.

It is true to say that there is a chronic shortage of social housing in this borough, and that there are tenants who need three bedroomed properties. And we have the longest housing waiting list in the country. But why? Well, perhaps the most significant factor is the ideological resistence that our Tory authority has maintained to the need to replace the stock of housing that it has so enthusiastically sold off.

And so you could argue, as does Barnet Council, that with such a shortage, any three bedroomed property not fully occupied to the maximum potential should immediately be handed over to tenants with a family. But how do you operate such a policy fairly? Who is to judge what a household's needs are, and for how long? Is there no longer to be any security of tenancy for any council tenants? Is there really no need for discretion, compassion, and common sense? How many tenants currently inhabit properties which could theoretically house a larger family? A vast number, I would guess. Is Barnet Homes going to evict them all?

Mr Meakin has lived in this house for nearly eight decades. He has paid rent throughout all this time, has evidently maintained the property to a good standard, and presumably been a model tenant. When his family first moved in, and in all the years since, they would have believed that it was their right to live in this property as long as they needed to: and I think it would be a very interesting case if this were taken to court to prove whether on any basis Barnet has the ability to remove this right from them. But even if the legal protection is not there, surely any decent person would see that it is cruel and quite unfair to subject such an elderly person to such a traumatic move?

Contrast this story, then, with the comments made by Lynne Hillan in regard to Labour's opposition to her new easyBolics housing policy. She says they are only opposing the policy for the sake of it. And because they can't come up with such a brilliant plan themselves. Er yeah. Being the sort of person she is, she cannot understand that some people might object on a point of principle to a move which seeks to combine an amateur and highly dangerous foray into the dark arts of social engineering with a sticking plaster solution to the housing crisis in this borough. To be honest, I doubt whether she and her pals actually understand the point of a point of principle, anyway.

In easyBarnet, sorry, One Barnet, you see, there are two sorts of disadvantaged people: good and bad. The feckless poor must be punished and kicked off the housing list for their sins, into private accommodation - ha, like the luxury rat infested one supplied to my neighbours from hell. The deserving poor, who have a proven 'positive' contribution to their community, (you know, like Lynne and her mates) will be fast tracked to the top of the list and rewarded for their virtue.

Ah: so Mr Meakins, who has lived quietly in his home and worked all his life to pay his rent, and his taxes, can now be told at the age of 83 that his reward is to be thrown out to make way for what? For whom? Where is the justice in that? Is he not entitled to some recognition for his contribution to society, by being allowed to see out his remaining years in the house which represents his only home, with his memories of his late family, where he can enjoy the garden he has so lovingly looked after for so long? Where is going to go: some flat in a crack dealing estate where he will be too scared to open his front door?

Hillan and their chums can't have it both ways: if you are going to bring subjective moral judgement into the housing equation, then you have to make allowance for cases like Mr Meakin.

One thing is sure, whatever rationale this lot may present for their new housing policy, it is firmly rooted in inflexible ideology, cost cutting, and an urgent need to massage the housing list figures, rather than based in a compassionate understanding of what it is like to be homeless, poor or old in the rotten borough of Broken Barnet.

Update: this awful story has now been featured on ITV news: if you can watch this and not feel outraged on behalf of this man, there is something very wrong with you.
There is also now a facebook group which is, at the time of writing, acquiring nearly 1,000 new members per day ...

Wednesday 11 August 2010

No Future(shape)

It's official. You heard it here first. Probably.

Futureshape is dead.

The very name has been struck from the official vocabulary of Broken Barnet. Before you start organising the street parties in celebration, however, there is bad news.

Futureshape is dead, and yet it lives by another name. We must now learn to call it 'One Barnet'.

You see, last night Mrs Angry's spy network was in attendance at the Policy Formerly Known as Futureshape Overview and Scrutiny Panel - zzzzzzz - and she has it on very good authority that the eager councillors and officers there present were already paying homage to the newly christened baby, abandoned on the Barnet doorstep by former leader Mike Freer. Aunty Lynne, of course, had loved the baby at first sight and held it in her motherly arms, while Uncle Brian and all the other Tory councillors, stood around and cooed. But Futureshape was a very ugly baby, and very badly behaved, crying all night and upsetting the neighbours. (Not that that would matter, in Broken Barnet, as we know.) Perhaps, reasoned Aunty Lynne, if we gave it a new name, people might forget that it is such an ugly baby, and learn to love it.

I do think 'One Barnet' is a fabulous name: actually, (is it 'One Barnet', or 'oneBarnet', or maybe Barnet One, Residents Nil? )It has the right kind of empty, meaningless, Michael Jackson, We are the World kind of vibe going on, doesn't it ... you know, we are all in this together, one for all and all for one sort of thing. Of course, this is crap: unity is a concept alien to the grasping Tory councillors of Barnet, except when it comes to ganging up on Kate Salinger if she won't join in their shabby little Allowancegate plot, and a free for all for all councillors, rather than one for all concept, is closer to the truth.

One Barnet, One Nation: no, actually, doesn't quite fit, does it, here in a borough where the gulf between those with and without means is being wrenched even further apart as each day of this cynical and morally bankrupt administration proceeds? One Barnet, where 'differential pricing' and two tier service systems are under active consideration? One Barnet, where poor people who are morally worthy get fast tracked to the top of the housing list and to hell, or unregulated landlords, with the rest? One Barnet, where all the best schools are being urged to opt out of the local authority and 'free' themselves, while so many of the crap schools where disadvantaged kids must go, or special schools for children with disabilities, are having desperately needed funding taken away without even the whimper of a protest from the Tory councillors?

Talking of Kate Salinger, goodness me, she was allowed to take part in the scrutiny panel last night. I say allowed, actually she was there because they couldn't stop her, or apparently remove her from that - yet -without a vote from a committee. So there she was, watched by her husband Brian, and also attending were Alison Moore, and Barry Rawlings for Labour, with Libdem Monroe Palmer instead of Jack Cohen. Chair was Tory Darrel Yawitch, but there were some Tory absences, such as Bridget Perry.

Oh, and Braveheart Tory Councillor Graham Old is a member of this panel, but sent his apologies. Perhaps he was too shy and retiring to sit in close proximity to his great heroine, Mrs Salinger.

Incidentally, I wonder, in the light of the new allowance scheme in which our representatives are supposed to be - ha - more accountable, if anyone is keeping record of how many councillors fail to attend the meetings they are paid by us to represent our interests? I think we should be told, don't you?

Of course, some councillors are more keen than others to attend meetings. Some just can't keep away. Last night, for example, guess who was sitting in the public area? In a rather fetching pink and white polo shirt and a marked absence of bling - perhaps in a humble effort to dress down in an age of austerity and mingle with the common people - yes, Mrs Angry's favourite, Uncle Brian. He spent the meeting making faces at remarks by his councillor chums- careful the wind doesn't change now, Brian, oh - hang on, too late - and playing with his blackberries. No, really; he has two: perhaps he sends himself messages to pretend he has a friend?

This panel exists, it would suggest, from the giveaway title, to scrutinise the progress of Futureshape. It was clear, however, from the questions of Alison Moore and Monroe Palmer that, in the time honoured tradition of consultation in Barnet, they are pretty much out of the loop as to the current state of affairs.

A member of the public had submitted what was, after all, a perfectly reasonable question to the panel, (see what I did there, JD?) asking when the promised 'engagement' with residents will commence, what form it will take, and will the findings be made public? He observed that to date the public have been kept in the dark about the specifics of Futureshape - not just the public, it would appear ...

The response to this was rather vague. There will be some public meetings, sometime. Don't tell anyone, in case they turn up. Some internet based models (no, not that kind). Er and some 'dialogue' with service users. What? Who? Well, said Alison Moore, this is the first we have heard about it ... Ah: did Barnet forget about the need for consultation again, by any chance? And should it really be necessary for a member of the public to remind them of this statutory requirement?

The councillors remarked on the remarkable lack of detail they receive in relation to finances, and the obscure language in which any information is delivered: the word gobbledegook was used. How can they approve progress made when the necessary detail is unavailable?

Monroe Palmer asked an interesting question: can a local authority seek to trade at a profit, or is it actually illegal? Uh oh. No one knew. Oops. The officers were unable to answer that rather crucial point, and eventually had to offer to look up the relevant legislation. Had no one bothered to check this before? This sort of thing hardly convinces one that the Futureshape model has a well researched foundation, does it?

Alison Moore asked for some specific clarification of issues such as a reference to libraries, and a worrying mention of 'non core services'. She was assured that this was merely an interest in expanding such services, and that 'more detail would come out' - when? Let's hope they keep to that promise at least. She also asked about domestic waste collection, and the possiblity of change: she was assured by little Robert Rams, Uncle Brian's mini-me, that this will remain weekly. 'This will remain weekly.' he bleated, adding manfully, 'Full stop.' 'FULL STOP!' blared a man in the public seats, wearing a pink and white polo shirt, texting away like a manic teenager.

So: change is coming, but with a new name.

We don't know in any detail what these changes will be, or the financial consequences, and evidently neither do the officers, the councillors, or anyone else.

This is how they do things in Broken Barnet, and we must just learn to accept it.

Full stop.

Tuesday 10 August 2010

Somewhere Over the Rainbow: The Road to Broken Barnet

No brains, no heart, no courage:

Toto: I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore ...

The Oldest Profession

A few days ago, senior Tory Francis Maude suggested in an interview that the new coalition administration is more radical than than the government of Margaret Thatcher, and more daring, in that it is introducing hugely significant policies much earlier than is traditionally considered acceptable.

I don't think that you can disagree with that. In fact, you might almost be forgiven for becoming slightly misty eyed and nostalgic for the good old days of Maggie Maggie Maggie, Out Out Out, and all that stuff. Ok, she brought us mass unemployment, the poll tax, the large scale destruction of the mining industry, the abandonment of our industrial base, the Falklands War and oh, so much more, but look what we are having thrown at us now ...

Like post revolutionary France we are becoming victims of a reign of terror, with a newly installed administration heady with bloodlust, and lining up victims on an almost random basis. The NHS, our schools, the welfare system, pensions, taxation: off with their heads - nothing and no one is safe. Every aspect of our lives is going to be affected, and all under the guise of revolutionary fervour, the empowerment of the people; the 'Big Society'.

And who is going to suffer from the consequences of all this mindless destruction? Not the privileged elite who have taken power: the Philippe Egalites of the coalition: Poshboy, the Chancellor, and their creature Nick Clegg; all of them indisputably more High Society than Big Society. Not one of this triumvirate would know what it is like to have to claim any sort of benefit, or live in a high rise flat in a run down council estate, or send their child to a crap school, or struggle to exist on a basic pension. Sacrifices have to be made in these hard times, as we are told, but not by the people bringing us this grim news, you may have noticed, both nationally and here in Broken Barnet.

The proposed policies which are daily being dangled in front of us, in cheery new announcements from the government, are often horrifyingly extreme in their ambition and yet peculiarly short on detail, and seem more like reckless vandalism than part of a carefully thought out strategy. Perhaps a better analogy than revolutionary leaders, in fact, would be a class of nursery school kids let loose in a sweet shop, grabbing anything and everything within reach and knocking it on the floor in the scrabble to avail themselves of the opportunity.

When you watch David Cameron now he still seems oddly ill at ease in his new role as PM, almost as if he still needs convincing, along with the rest of us, that he is worthy of the responsibility. During the election period, the televised debates did great harm to his image because they showed what a curiously two dimensional character he is: the Flat Stanley of politics. He needed a partner in government to be anchored to, or he might just have floated away, up in to the sky. Nick Clegg is a similar flyweight and the ideal balancing act, therefore.

Nick Clegg. Oh dear.

I used to have respect for the Liberal Democrats.They were liberal in outlook, and believed in democracy - do you remember? But that was in the good old days, when they had the luxury and privilege of holding the higher moral ground, because they were utterly unelectable. Then look what happened. They still weren't elected but the Tories put them in power anyway.

They say absolute power corrupts absolutely: the Libdems didn't wait for absolute power - just a sniff of it and they were gone. Dave seduced Nick, and Nick played hard to get just long enough to make Dave absolutely gagging for it. And then Nick brought his friends to the party too. One third of all Libdems MPs now have ministerial jobs, with all the perks and financial rewards that brings, something they could only ever have dreamed of without their Tory sugar daddies helping them out.

You expect the Tories to be ruthless and despicable: that's their traditional role. One might have hoped, however, not to see the the Libdems act like whores, and support the exploitation of the country by a party whose political and philosophical views are so divergent from their own. Pre election, Nick Clegg laughed at the idea of Cameron's Big Society: who's laughing now? Not me.

I don't believe that this Coalition government is supported by the ordinary, decent members and supporters of the Liberal Democrat party. I don't believe that the well respected Libdem councillors here in this borough, or anywhere in the country, who have spent their political careers fighting for a set of values that have been thrown aside so contemptuously by their leadership, are happy at the humiliating position in which they have been placed. But it's up to them now: only they can rescue their party from a life of shame. They have to have the courage to exert pressure on the leadership to withdraw from a government which may have a hugely destructive impact on our society.

If the coalition government were to fail, and and there was need of another general election, just think of the consequences in this area. Alright, we may be stuck with the bunch of self serving, gutless Tories running our council, but their more loopy ideas will have to be held in check during an election period. Thanks to the fall out from Allowancegate, the three local Tory MPs may well lose their seats, and of course nationally, fears over the radical proposals so hastily unveiled by a keen new government may well frighten the electorate leftwards to a new Labour government, with a nice new boy or girl in charge.

So come on, you Libdems: put a stop to the betrayal and exploitation of your ideals: teach your party leadership some self respect, throw out the parliamentary pimps, and save us all from a fate worse than death.

Friday 6 August 2010

Mrs Angry's Problem Page

Dear Mrs Angry:

I'm so worried about my son. He's got into the wrong crowd, and is completely out of control.
For some time now, he has been a member of a notorious local gang, the infamous 'Townhall Family' who, as you probably read in the local press, plague so many parts of our borough with their loutish, anti-social and threatening behaviour. These yobs spend their days hanging out together, dealing, thieving, living off society, claiming they have no money because they can't get a proper job: there is a great big mob of them and they all seem hell bent on terrorising the whole community with their bullying and self indulgent behaviour. As a mother yourself, do you have any advice?

Troubled Mum

Dear Troubled Mum:

Hmmm. I think it is quite clear that your son suffers from a condition known as 'ADHD' - in other words, 'A Desire for a Higher standard of living than he Deserves'. This is a grossly misunderstood problem, particularly amongst the residents, press and bloggers of Broken Barnet, and it requires sympathy and support rather than punishment. I blame the parents. You have encouraged him to believe that he is owed a living, rather than have to go out and do an honest day's work. Hanging around the Town Hall all day and night with his 'crew' is simply his way of expressing his needs, which are obviously profound and and require substantial support, especially financially.

Of course in the faraway days of the Labour government we had something called ASBOs, which would have helped to deal with this sort of problem, although obviously not here in the forgotten paradise of Broken Barnet, where ASB does not exist. Unfortunately, however, the new Tory/Libdem government has recognised that this approach is grossly unfair, and coincidentally too expensive, and therefore an inappropriate approach to an issue that ministers and their own priviliged families will never have to experience, and so now, sadly, there is pretty much f*** all that can be done about it.

Why not have a word with your local community police, before they are all made redundant? Say that Mrs Angry sent you: see the rising look of panic in their eyes, and the cold sweat breaking out on their brows. Ask if they will have a quiet word with your son, pat him on the head and ask him very nicely to be a good boy, now, sonny, and maybe do a spot of community service for Mr Cameron's Big Society?After all, with so many council services facing devastating cuts in spending, we will need an awful lot of help to fill in the gaps in social services, health care, teaching, housing, etc. I know I am just run off my feet with the rest of the volunteers from the Womens' Institute, trying to organise the new monthly wheelie bin collection, as well as removing the foul mouthed graffitti in the staff carparks at NLBP!

Now then.

'Worried of West Finchley': No, it isn't normal, and you should urgently seek professional help. Yes, you are a complete twat, and no one likes you. When you lie awake at night in your lonely bed wondering where it all went wrong, you have only yourself to blame. Frankly, I feel that your classmates should have taken you behind the bicycle shed and given you a good kicking. Regularly. All is not lost, however: you can turn things around. Be nice to people. Smile at them. Ask them how they are doing. Start listening to the opinions of others without a look of utter contempt playing on your face. Try and show some respect. Stop measuring life by how much money you have stuffed under the mattress, or how many people you have upset. Do nice things. Adopt a kitten: ah ... isn't that lovely? Try and resist the temptation to tie it to a railway track to see what will happen. Go for a walk in the park: smell the scent of the roses, listen to the innocent chirruping of birds in the trees. (Maybe avoid walking past the children's playground, in case you frighten any of the babies.)

Find a partner, fall in love, settle down, and join the human race. It's not too late, even for you.

Finally, I have a plea for help from Ms Anon.

Dear Mrs Angry,

I work part time, and have recently had an unexpected pay rise. Instead of congratulating me for it, some of the people who work in my team have lodged a complaint with the company owners saying I am lazy, not qualified for my job, that they do all the real work and deserve rises too. They have sent me to coventry and when I stand at the coffee machine, everyone turns their back on me. Just because I threatened another colleague that if she didn't support my pay claim, her job security would be affected, she burst into tears and said I was a bully. What do you suggest I do? Can you help?

Dear Ms Anon,

You are clearly beyond help, and all I can do, my dear, is offer some fashion advice. Now that you have a whopping great pay hike, spend some of it on a bit of a Gok Wan style make over. You don't have to shop at Primark anymore: (darling, that dress! Those shoes! What were you thinking?) In the coming weeks and months you are going to be spending a lot of time being scrutinised, criticised, and the subject of intense speculation, and I suggest you try to smarten up and look like the high powered professional you aspire to be. And after all, if things don't work out the way you hope, you never know when you might have to go for another job interview, do you?