Saturday 19 November 2011

Broken Barnet's Night of the Long Knives - Part One: "That's discipline for you..."

Councillor Kate Salinger

Councillors Kate and Brian Salinger and a public show of support from Eric Pickles, shortly after the Allowancegate scandal

On Thursday morning, at 10 am, there will be a meeting of Barnet Council's standards' sub-committee.

This meeting will formally consider the findings of a report by an officer appointed to investigate a complaint made by a Conservative councillor, Kate Salinger, member for Coppetts Ward, that her fellow Conservative councillor, Andreas Tambourides, allegedly breached the code of conduct for members of the council, on several grounds, in July last year. She claims that he forwarded an inaccurate news article from an online newspaper, The London Daily News, about the allowance rise voted for by Tory councillors -except Kate Salinger - to all Conservative Councillors on Barnet Council, and to at least one member of the general public.

Councillor Kate Salinger alleges that 'the article was forwarded in its entirety in order to denigrate and ridicule her to other Conservative councillors and anyone else the email may have been forwarded (to) ...'

The official investigator has in his report concluded that in his view there is evidence to support the complaint by Councillor Salinger on two grounds. It will be the responsibility of the committee on Thursday to decide whether to accept these findings: further details to follow in a separate post.

If you are unfamiliar with the long dark history of the Conservative party in Broken Barnet, you may well be wondering what all this is about. In this post, Mrs Angry will explain the background, as it is an incredible tale, well worth revisiting, and says so much about the qualities of the Tory party in Barnet: the machiavellian intrigue, the lack of moral compass, the cowardice of the backbenchers, and an institutionalised regime of intimidation, used to maintain a blind obedience to the will of certain self serving malign forces within the party leadership.

Let us travel back in time to a full council meeting held at the Town Hall on July 13th, 2010.

Mrs Angry was present, along with most of the Barnet bloggers, and she remembers this meeting vividly, as it represented an unforgettable introduction to the truly breathtaking extent of greed, venality, cowardice, moral corruption, and the merciless culture of bullying that exists within the ranks of the Tory councillors of Broken Barnet.

If you think that I am exaggerating, take a look at the minutes of the meeting contained within the report going to committee on Thursday. You can also read the post I wrote about the evening here, if you wish:

Item 10 on the agenda was a motion moved in the name of the then leader, Lynne Hillan, which welcomed the new Coalition's emergency budget, and castigated the spending of the previous Labour government, which 'lavished money on bureacracy, put nothing aside for a rainy day, and left the UK with a staggering legacy of debts that will affect generations to come' .... (I say in the name of, as Mrs Angry detects the tell tale sign of Capital Letters in Inappropriate Places, which is the mark of a certain other leading Barnet Tory).

The motion stated, with solemn regret, that although the budget will be tough, it is necessary to put the country back on a sound economic footing. Barnet Cabinet members were accordingly asked to work within the new financial constraints when setting Barnet Council's budget in the coming year, a radical budget which we were told would inevitably include staff losses - and drastic cuts to services for residents.

Shortly following this sternly worded motion was an urgent item.

Item 18: Scheme of Members' Allowances.

This was a bare faced, shamelessly self indulgent attempt by the same Tory councillors, in the middle of lecturing us all on the need for painful economies, redundancies and service cuts, to award themselves a range of whopping pay rises.

Why was it an urgent item? Officially, we were told, by senior Tory councillors barely bothering to try to keep a straight face, that there had been 'IT problems' which meant that this item had had to be slipped quietly onto the agenda late at night, just before the meeting - when they hoped no one was looking.

Unfortunately for the councillors, an eagle eyed blogger had spotted the last minute addition, and uncovered their outrageous plot.

The publicity which we drew to the proposal meant that drastic measures had to be taken by the Tory leadership to force the motion through. Every Conservative councillor was ordered to vote for the pay rise, or face the consequences. With one notable exception, they did as they were told, with barely a whimper.

Let us name and shame the quivering councillors who did as they were told, as recorded in the minutes:

Antony Finn
Lisa Rutter
Maureen Braun
Dean Cohen
Melvin Cohen
Brian Coleman
Alison Cornelius
Richard Cornelius
Tom Davey
Barry Evangeli
Brian Gordon
Eva Greenspan
Andrew Harper
John Hart
Helena Hart
Suri Khatri
David Longstaff
John Marshall
Graham Old
Bridget Perry
Wendy Prentice
Sachin Rajput
Robert Rams
Hugh Rayner
Joan Scannell
Brian Schama
Daniel Seal
Mark Shooter
Stephen Sowerby
Andrew Strongolou
Andreas Tambourides
Joannna Tambourides
Daniel Thomas
Reuben Thompstone
Rowan Turner
Darryl Yawitch

Only one Tory councillor dared not to support the proposal: Councillor Kate Salinger, who abstained.

In Kate Salinger's interview with the investigating officer who dealt with her complaint to the Standards' Committee (page 38) she explains why she refused to vote with her colleagues:

"This vote increased the sums paid to some members by very large percentages and I found this indefensible, immoral, obscene and unsupportable in the current economic climate."

Kate Salinger was not the only Tory member to realise that such a proposal was totally unacceptable: she was simply the only one to have the courage and integrity to abide by her conscience, and vote accordingly.

What happened next was described to Mrs Angry by a senior council officer who was present throughout the meeting as completely unprecedented, something not seen in many years of service in Barnet, 'a truly shocking display of ruthless, instant revenge, carefully calculated and carried out with nauseating efficiency'.

On the nod from Tory whip and Cabinet member Brian Coleman, group secretary Councillor Joan Scannell 'from the floor' (where the integrity of the Tory group was lying in a pool of blood) moved a series of changes in committee membership, stripping Kate Salinger of all but one of her five positions - the only one that remained being impossible to take way for technical reasons. One by one they were announced, and her Tory colleagues moved in to take her place:

Councillor Wendy Prentice took her seat on the Policy and Performance Overview and Scrutiny Committee.

Councillor Sury Khatri replaced her on the Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee

Councillor Maureen Braun replaced her on the Appeals Committee

Councillor Alison Cornelius took her place on Licensing

Councillor Barry Evangeli replaced her in the Chipping Barnet Residents Forum

More punishment was to follow. After this was voted through, the public stoning continued.

Councillor Scannell moved the following changes to external boards:

Kate Salinger's place on a religious advisory committee SACRE was given to - ha - Councillor Brian Gordon

The Friends of Barnet Borough Libraries: step forward, oh dear, Councillor Robert Rams

Friern Park Management Centre: subsitute Councillor Stephen Sowerby

Adoption and Permanency panel: make way for Councillor Wendy Prentice

By this point, Mrs Angry had left the public gallery in utter disgust. She was told that after this public ritual of humiliation by her gutless, shameless Conservative colleagues, Kate Salinger left the chamber in tears.

Who could blame her?

A couple of weeks after the meeting, Mrs Angry went to her local Residents Forum. This was in olden times, when Broken Barnet still had the last vestiges of democracy, and the Tory dictators had not censored the forums so as to prevent awkward questions about their activities being raised by well, you know, residents, local voters, tax payers, and other troublemakers.

By this point, the publicity given by bloggers and then the local press to the gobsmacking arrogance and greed of the councillors' self awarded payrise had provoked a massive reaction of outrage amongst residents. In fact the damage caused by the pay rise vote was so great that Hillan and her Cabinet chums were obliged to resort to a graceless u turn, and partially retract the rises, although all committee chairs still received a massive 54% increase, in some cases for a committee which meets only twice a year.

By now, a few Tory councillors were feeling deeply embarrassed at their participation in the vote, as well as - rather belatedly- somewhat ashamed by the exposure of their own spineless behaviour towards colleague Kate Salinger.

At the forum Mrs Angry asked Councillor Graham Old how he felt about the way in which Councillor Salinger had been treated. To her surprise, he blurted out a confession that he thought she was in fact 'a great heroine'. Mrs Angry found it difficult to understand why Councillor Old or any other Tory councillor with any conscience had therefore acted as they did, and betray their colleague in this way, merely for acting in accordance with her principles.

Reading through the report yesterday, however, Mrs Angry noted that Councillor Old had at least supported Kate Salinger in her complaint to the Standards committee by confirming that he had received a copy of the email in question, which he had deleted because he had felt the contents were a slur: you are therefore partially redeemed in Mrs Angry's eyes, Councillor Old, and Mrs Angry would hope that Lessons Have Been Learned, One Barnet style.

Of course there is one Barnet councillor and Cabinet member who is unlikely to have learnt anything at all from this shameful episode. Yes, we are talking about Councillor Brian Coleman. After the infamous council meeting, and even as poor Kate Salinger was stumbling down the stairs of the Town Hall, the Tory whip was telling the local press who had dared to question the vitriolic punishment handed out to her:

"That's discipline for you. It's the democratic process in action."

Councillor Coleman is of course a keen advocate of discipline - for others. Self discipline is another matter.

And this night of the long knives was not the first act of conspiracy and betrayal that has involved the Salingers and the Tory leadership.

Kate Salinger and her councillor husband Brian are both known as decent, liberally minded Conservatives, and well respected by - almost - everyone. Brian, who was absent on the night of the allowance vote, was once leader of the party. In 2006, shortly after delivering electoral victory for the Tories, he was deposed by a coup engineered by a group led by kingmaker and arch meddler Brian Coleman, and Mike Freer, now a local MP, took over as leader. Since then, the predominance of a certain dark element in the Tory party has set it on the course to self destruction it is now following, with fatal dedication.

Coleman was right in one thing, however, in his statement to the press on the night of the allowance vote, and act of remorseless revenge on Kate Salinger: this was the perfect example of democracy in action - at least it is true to say democracy in action as we do it so well, in the ugly, brutal world of Tory politics, here in Broken Barnet.


APML said...

Regarding your long list of the spineless.I,m going to stand up for Mark Shooter as it was this very subject that prompted him to launch his leadership challenge,i have to say that.There was also some of us that were discusted by the allowance proposal thus some of us quitting :).

The rest on your list are just sheeple,lemmings going over a cliff,useless,very useless individuals..!!!

Don't Call Me Dave said...

Many years ago, when the late Victor Lyon was Leader of the Council and DCMD was Chairman of Chipping Barnet Conservatives, he (DCMD) became aware of a Machiavellian plot to overthrow him (VL) to be replaced by Lynne Hillan. This was the first of her three attempts to become leader. No prizes for guessing who was behind the plot.

DCMD was not VL’s biggest fan, but he recognised that the proposed coup would seriously damage party unity, and he made his feelings known accordingly. One day, whilst walking down the street minding his own business, Brian Coleman drove past. This was in the days before his taxi allowance. BC stopped his car, approached DCMD and started yelling at him: “In order to rebuild, you must first destroy.”

Those words will now come back to haunt Brian Coleman. On the assumption that the Conservatives in Barnet do not want to be driven out of power in a spectacular landslide defeat, they must remove the architect of so much of the rancour and duplicity. If they do not, the voters will do it for them next year in the GLA elections.

Mrs Angry said...

hmm, button55: I am inclined to forgive Mark Shooter as a.he is a nice bloke and b. he once bought Mrs Angry a drink. (Don't tell anyone, it is supposed to be our little secret).I would encourage him to rebel a bit more, and wish to God he had succeeded in his leadership bid.

DCMD: I love the idea of Brian Coleman following you and shouting rentaquote political advice across the road. You are right: his days are numbered, and he is the architect of his own downfall. Oh no. It's happening again ... I'm already feeling nostalgic. Time to go to bed.

APML said...

Oooooo,look at you getting the 5 star treatment in the Bahammas from Commander "Action man" Offord...But as far as Shooter buying you a drink,i don`t believe you.Iv`e never known him to buy a drink in all the years iv`e known him...

Mrs Angry said...

I think it may have been more than one, button55. I had a bit of a headache the next morning & couldn't rememember any gossip, which was unfortunate. See: I am a useless citizen journalist and a disgrace to the Barnet blogosphere.

baarnett said...

A hangover, Mrs A?

Miso soup is a cracking cure for a hangover … although this isn’t of course the only reason to drink it, after all you should never need a reason for a good bowl of miso soup, because it's so delicious, but …

… it does work as a cure if you had one too many, in fact in Japan some companies even market special “hangover cure miso soup” like Nagatani-en whose packaging specifically shows a beer glass with the words “For people who like their drink” …

I understand the soup is available from a certain Mr Offord, Minister of State for Soups. He's doing splendidly in this role, and Mr Cameron is apparently seeking to promote him to maĆ®tre d’, with special responsiblity for suet puddings.

APML said...

LMAO,you little lush!!

Mrs Angry said...

hmm, don't really like miso soup, baarnett (if that's the stuff with eurrggh slimy mushrooms) (no offence button55 as I see you are a tin of vegetable soup in real life). And I was lying about forgetting the gossip: some of it resurfaced eventually, and is being stored up for future use.

APML said...

I will take that as a great compliment Mrs A xx