Tuesday 31 January 2012
After a couple of weeks of asking, several emails, and quite a few phone calls, Mrs Angry was at last allowed today to exercise her right to inspect the register of councillors' interests which is held, under lock and key, at the offices of the London Borough of Broken Barnet.
Mrs Angry was warned before her visit that she would not be allowed to photocopy the details of these interests, even though most are supposedly already available on the council's website. The sight of the actual documents is guarded with jealous and attentive care, and no one must be allowed to vulgarise the contents by putting them into the public domain. Can you imagine the effect on the citizens of Broken Barnet, if they were privy to the intimate secrets of our Tory councillors? Before you knew it, there would be a bloody revolution, with an ugly mob armed with pitchforks marching relentlessly towards Hendon Town Hall, demanding the head of Brian Coleman, on a silver platter, garnished with an array of unpaid parking tickets. Dear me.
But at last, armed with a large notebook, and accompanied by the steely eye of fellow blogger and designated witness Mr Mustard, Mrs Angry was allowed to enter the doors of North London Business Park and granted a rare view of the Register of Interests.
Like a pair of very unwelcome weapons inspectors in the middle east, we were escorted through the corridors towards a secret destination, led in silence by an anonymous council officer, our appointed chaperone, who strangely wore no ID, and declined to say who he was, or what department he worked in. (Comms team, was Mrs Angry's original guess, although this individual matches the description of someone who works on the Chief Executive's staff, she now learns).
Our supervisor was making a few notes during the visit, Mrs Angry observed, so she dutifully made sure, by a system of well aimed kicks in the direction of Mr Mustard's shin, that no mention was made of the real points of interest in the register: sorry, Mr Chaperone, and by the way, she was rather insulted by your lack of interest in the offer to allow you to strip search her on the way out ... (if only you knew what she had concealed in her Broken Barnet blogger's special duty spy knickers - very uncomfortable, mind you ....)
At the end of our inspection, the chaperone went to a phone to report in discreet whispers to an unknown source that we were finished, but, for security reasons, we were not allowed to leave the room until another officer had arrived to take the register back into safe custody: simply ridiculous.
This room was enormous, with seating laid out rather like the Talk London event the other week, a dais with tables set for a panel of speakers, in front of an audience of empty chairs. A senior officer from Corporate Governance was waiting, in charge of the registers laid out on the table like a buffet, before handing over to the official chaperone. Mrs Angry sat down on the panel seating and laughed: are we going to be asked to address a conference on localism, she asked? The officer shook his head gravely. Oh, well, is Mr Walkley making us coffee? Mr Walkley, she was informed, in absolute seriousness, is not available this morning. Mrs Angry rather enjoyed the thought that, were he not otherwise engaged, he may well have breezed in with a cheery greeting and a tray of coffee and biscuits.
We took our place, rather absurdly, on the stage, and the chaperone sat in the audience immediately in front of us, where he remained for the next two hours, arms folded, eyes fixed intently on our every move, just waiting for one of us to slip a piece of paper into our files, or slide something into our pockets. The whole experience was rather like visiting someone on remand in prison, watched over by the screws, on the watch for illicit transfers of contraband.
For the hapless officer, it must have been like being made to sit through a particularly tedious fringe production of some Pinter play: two hours watching a pair of middle aged bloggers turning over the pages of endless lists, scribbling, and laughing at the entries, marvelling at stuff in the withheld interests like the matching set of neck tie, pocket handkerchief, cufflinks and a packet of loose tea given to Councillor Rajput, (oops, that was supposed to be a secret, and do you know he is about the only person Mrs Angry can think of who would be thrilled to receive a matching tie, pocket handkerchief and cufflinks. Not sure about the tea.) or noting the rather poignant offering of a 500 piece jigsaw of the Church Farmhouse Museum to the deputy Mayor, shortly before she and her colleagues decided to shut it and flog it off.
Oh, and looking for a few rather more important things that should have been there, but were not.
And what were all the obsessive security precautions for? What were we doing? Looking at declarations which are supposed to be freely available and in the public domain. Most of it is already in the public domain, on the internet. A handful of Tory councillors refuse to allow their declarations to be published online, ie: Brian Coleman, Sachin Rajput, Daniel Seal, Andreas Tambourides, Barry Evangeli, Joan Scannell.
Mrs Angry wished that the London Borough of Broken Barnet had shown such regard for personal data when they allowed MetPro to film her at the infamous Budget meeting last year, or when they allowed someone to steal the very personal details of her son's educational records from an officer's lap top. But they prefer to report other people for being criminally negligent data processors, even when they are not data processors, don't they, rather than keep their own house in order?
And what is there, anyway, to protect so diligently? Quite a lot, as it happens. The truth, which, in Broken Barnet, as we know, is a dangerous commodity, and must be protected from the cold light of scrutiny. And what is the truth, Mrs Angry, you may be asking?
The really dangerous stuff, oh, you empty headed senior officers of Broken Barnet, lies elsewhere, in the free world, where information is unbound and openly available and may be compared to the works of fiction lying in your register of interests.
Well, here is a funny thing. Since Mrs Angry first asked to come and see the register, a report has been submitted to tomorrow night's Standards Committee which addresses the matter of the register and the councillors' declarations. Item 7, point 4.1 says (my emphasis):
'The levels of in-year updates to the Register of Members' Interests would appear to indicate that members are generally reporting their interests appropriately. If these indications are being interpreted correctly, then this would result in a lower risk of there being breaches of the Code of Conduct for non-declaration of interests and the potential damage to the Council's reputation that could arise as a result.'
Mrs Angry is sufficiently well versed in the language of One Barnet Corporate Governance to know that this is the sound of a senior officer watching his back. Someone somewhere suspects that there are may be significant omissions or, oh dear, even downright lies amongst the register of interests, and he or she would be quite correct.
There are a number of Tory councillors in Barnet who have made apparently inaccurate declarations in regard to their interests.
As it states on the forms they have all signed, to make a false declaration would be a very serious matter: it clearly requires the member to state:
'I recognise that it is a breach of the Council's local Code of Conduct to
1. omit information that ought to be given in this notice
2. provide information that is materially false or misleading
3. fail to give further notices in order to
-bring up to date information given in this notice
-declare an interest that I acquire after the date of this notice and have to declare
I further recognise that any of the above acts or omissions may result in a referral to the Standards Committee for an investigation of my conduct.
Does all this matter, Mrs Angry? Yes, it does matter.
The lazy dolts sitting on the Tory side of the council chamber here in Broken Barnet, the ones who tried to vote themselves a whopping pay rise on top of their already overly generous allowances as soon as they got into power, who sit back and let the cabal of Cabinet members like Brian Coleman walk all over them and what passes for their consciences, and vote through the shameless sell off of our council services to the private sector via the One Barnet scam, and have smothered the lingering last breaths of our town centres through the idiotic new parking scheme, and who will allow our parks and greenspaces to be shut to residents in favour of Brian Coleman's corporate hospitality clients, and who allowed our museums to be shut, and our libraries, and our childrens centres ... yes, all of these guilty councillors are supposed to demonstrate to us, the electors, that they are responsible, and honest, and worthy of our trust and respect.
Would it matter if one of them lied about something on a declaration form?
Of course it would.
Which is why Mrs Angry and Mr Mustard are writing to the monitoring officer to ask him to investigate the apparent 'inaccuracies' in the declarations of several Tory councillors. We hope that this will be done fairly, thoroughly, and openly.
But this is Broken Barnet. We do things differently here, don't we?
Mrs Angry and Mr Mustard have now reported what appear to be inaccurate or partial declarations of interests, gifts or hospitality by seven Tory councillors to the Director of Corporate Governance, in his capacity of Monitoring Officer of the London Borough of Broken Barnet.
We have asked for these apparent breaches of the code of conduct to be investigated, and have expressed our concern that the voluntary system of declarations would appear to be in need of greater scrutiny.
There are many local authorities who, in contrast to Barnet Council, put a real commitment into putting the principles of transparency and accountability at the very core of local democracy. Take a look, for example, at the website of Oxford City Council here where you will find a page dedicated to making the processes of local government more accessible to residents.
On this site you can easily find find links to all local councillors and a full array of information relating to their involvement with the council: not only contact details but their individual declarations of interests, gifts and hospitality, declarations at meetings, and even a record of their attendance at meetings. How amusing it is that a Labour controlled authority has a better understanding of the government's intentions regarding the localism agenda and its much vauneted extension of transparency, than our renegade Tories here in Broken Barnet.
Other easily accessible information includes links to pages dealing with 'transparency and open data'. Freedom of Information, and archives of the recordings of council meetings. There are pages offering advice on how to complain about a councillor - just imagine that here - and even how to become a councillor.
Funnily enough, at a recent meeting, a senior Tory councillor (no: it wasn't Councillor Coleman) whispered a most improper and unwelcome suggestion into the innocent ear of Mrs Angry. Have you ever, he murmured, leaning close, would you ever, you know ... consider becoming a councillor? Mrs Angry was tempted to slap him for his impertinence, and complained bitterly to another blogger about this appalling insult.
The other blogger suggested that the naughty councillor was only trying to get into Mrs Angry's erm, good books. Mmm. Anyway, Mrs Angry pointed out to the Tory teaser that she would rather gouge out her own eyes with a rusty nail than do any such thing. Do not misunderstand me, she told him: I think that to be a councillor is very important and very hard work - if you do it properly.
In this borough, sadly, very few councillors take their responsibilities seriously, and far too many see their roles as some sort of honorary appointment, with allowances distributed as a form of patronage, not as a reward for dedication to public service on behalf of the community. This is the root cause of the sickness and moral corruption gnawing away at the rotten heart of the Tory party in Broken Barnet: the sooner we cut it out, and rid ourselves of these wastrels, the better for us all.
Monday 30 January 2012
Well - Mrs Angry has just returned from the police station.
Yes: tossing and turning all night, overcome by remorse by her dreadful teasing of poor Brian Coleman, she decided there was nothing else to do but take herself to the nearest cop shop and turn herself in, before Brian contacted them and informed them of her dreadful crime.
Can I help you, Madam? asked the officer on the duty desk.
Yes, said Mrs Angry, bowing her head in shame. I have come to report myself for committing a terrible offence.
Dear me. What have you done?
Mrs Angry explained that she had written an email to a local Tory councillor, which he said was malicious because she was being anonymous. But, she sobbed, I was just being me: is that so wrong, officer? I don't even know if I really exist, let alone live anywhere.
And what did you say in this email, Madam?
I referred to the undemocratic assault on our local authority's constitution which has had the effect of repressing the freedom of expression at all local residents' meetings.
And I invited him to the next meeting.
That's about it. Except ... he said if I did it again, he would ... sniff ... report me to the police.
Oh. Er ... I'm not sure ...
Madam, said the police officer, who was a graduate entry fast track policeman with a degree in comparative literature and a well developed sense of irony, What sort of dystopian nightmare world would we live in, if a resident and/or local blogger could not write to an elected representative without fear of the threat of being reported to the police? Is this 1984? Is this councillor some sort of Big Brother dictator?
Yes, said Mrs Angry, with a quivering lip: This is Broken Barnet, and we're talking about Brian Coleman.
Right, said the policeman. You might have a point then. If I were you, Mrs Angry, I would go home and hide under the dining room table and never come out again ... but there, there ... don't cry ...
When Mrs Angry got home, she sat under the table with her lap top, and found a message from fellow blogger, Mr Mustard. He told her he had also had a reply like this from Councillor Brian Coleman, after writing a perfectly reasonable letter to him as Mr Mustard.
============ Forwarded message ============
From : Coleman, Cllr Brian Conservative
Date : Tue, 02 Aug 2011 10:23:26 +0100
Subject : Anonymous letter
============ Forwarded message ============
I believe you to be the author of an anonymous letter sent to my private address ( I am sure you are aware this is an offence )
Any further such letters will be reported to the Police
Please not that I do not wish to receive any further communication from you and should you persist this will be reported under the Council’s malicious communications policy
Goodness me. Wonder what the offence is? Is being anonymous in this sense and not giving a full address similar to say, a councillor who fills out their declaration form and forgets to give the details of property owned in the borough where legally required to do so, as might appear to be the case of some Tory councillors in Barnet? (Not Brian, of course, as we know he lives in a charity owned flat).
Mrs Angry understands that Mr Mustard's solicitor took the matter up, and Mr Mustard tells her "I did an FOI about the council's malicious communications policy and the answer was that one did not exist" ...
Aha. Now Mrs Angry could understand someone objecting to an email or letter in which some sort of personal threat was made, as clearly this would be unacceptable. To respond in such a manner to this sort of communication is of course completely unneccessary and simply makes him look a fool.
So, Mrs Angry thought perhaps she would try again, just to see, if she played by the rules, what would happen. What a good idea! She decided to write to her (interim) Assembly member, Brian Coleman, and see if he would be more receptive to her invitation.
I recently attended the Talk London event with Mayor Boris Johnson, held at the Peel Centre in Hendon, and was rather disappointed that you, as the local AM, were not on the panel to ask questions. I know that there were one or two of us in the audience who would have liked to raise the issues of the catastrophic new parking scheme, and a shocking new proposal to hire out our local parks and greenspaces to private customers. I did keep putting up my hand to ask a question, but sadly you seemed not to be able to see me, even though I was sitting right at the front.
I would like to ask you now if you would care to come to the next Finchley and Golders Green Residents Forum to speak to us about these terrible new schemes. We have already asked the local councillor and Cabinet member who is responsible for the two policies to attend, but he has declined to appear, because he is very shy. As I know you are not at all shy, and always keen to speak up on controversial issues, I am sure you will welcome the opportunity to come and mingle with some of your consituents and listen to their concerns. If necessary, I am sure that we could provide a light buffet and some canapes. And don't worry: we don't bite! Well, no, that's not entirely true: I used to, but I am trying to give it up.
Yours in anticipation,
And do you know, citizens, within minutes she received a lovely reply. Look:
"Thank you for taking the time to write to me. Your email has been received and will be dealt with as soon as possible. If you are a constituent of Barnet or Camden, please ensure that you have included your full name and address. I receive a large number of emails, letters and phone calls each day but I will aim to respond to your message quickly. Kind regards Cllr Brian Coleman AM FRSA"
Thank you for taking the time to write to me ... Kind regards! ... Cllr Brian Coleman AM FRSA! You see: he can be thoughtful, and oh: what do you mean, an automatic response? And did I realise there is a GLA election coming up?
Let's see. I don't see why he would not respond to Mrs X, if not Mrs Angry, do you?
BTW: Mrs Angry and Mr Mustard are coming to NLBP tomorrow: do say hello, if you see us. If we manage to get in and out without being detained, we will explain further, in due course.
Mrs Angry is thrilled to find this in her in box this lunchtime: look - a wonderful example of the Big Society in action: local parking warden volunteer and Labour GLA candidate Andrew Dismore has found time to issue Councillor Brian Coleman with a special 'parking ticket' ...
Here is the latest press release from our next Assembly member:
Dismore gives Coleman a taste of his own medicine
When out campaigning with Labour Councillors and activists against Barnet Council’s monstrous parking charges on Saturday 28th January, Labour’s London Assembly candidate for Barnet could not resist the temptation to “ticket” Barnet parking supremo Cllr Brian Coleman’s car with Labour’s “parking ticket” campaign leaflet (photo and copy leaflet attached)
Mr Dismore said:
“It was too good an opportunity to miss.
When I saw Brian Coleman’s car parked on his off street parking space outside his church owned flat, it seemed to me grossly unfair that while others in his street needed parking permits for which he has jacked up the charges, he did not, so I “ticketed” him.
It’s a pity we can’t levy a fine on Cllr Coleman just as his parking wardens fine so many residents and business customers as they struggle with his outrageous charges and convoluted payment systems. But our parking ticket leaflets make the point by demonstrating the unfairness and asking people to sign labour’s petition against the charges.
He is now planning even higher charges with a proposed increase of 5% from April this year.
People power forced Westminster Council into a humiliating climb down over their proposed night time and weekend charges in the West End. We need people power to stop Conservative Barnet Council’s unfair charges too, so that’s why we are encouraging people to sign our on line petition, which has thousands of signatures already.”
Oh dear, Andrew, watch out: hope you don't get a call from the boys in blue, investigating a complaint about you impersonating a parking attendant. Brian is in a very tetchy mood, for some reason. Mrs Angry is expecting to be arrested at any minute for her gross impertinence of yesterday. Come on boys: see how hard you are ... but you'll never take me alive ...
Sunday 29 January 2012
Yes, really: see below!
Plus:* Monday: an insultingly brief response from Cllr Thompstone regarding the Forum, see half way down.
F*ck this for a game of soldiers: let's upset some Tory councillors instead ...
Mrs Angry hates Sundays afternoons, don't you? Probably a hangover from childhood, in her case, when Sunday meant a grim routine of attending mass, followed by homework, then Sunday lunch, with the terrible ordeal of spinach and brussel sprouts, and Mrs Angry being made to sit at the table until she ate them, which usually involved about two hours sitting sulkily, arms folded, in front of evil, mocking, cold green vegetables, and threatening to throw up. Then more homework, followed by bathtime in an ice cold bathroom with no heating, and a hairwash, and a prolonged episode of crying, or even screaming, as the tangle headed Mrs Angry ran around the house trying to avoid her mother and the hairbrush.
In adult life, or what passes for it, Mrs Angry has eliminated most of these horrors from her Sunday: best of all, no spinach or brussel sprouts. Eurgh. But in adult life you simply swap one set of horrors for another, don't you? And there are always things to do on Sunday that you have put off the rest of the week. Like sending those emails you think about writing, with such relish, at three in the morning, when you can't sleep. Or is that just me?
For example: one to the Chair of our local Residents Forum, the rather grumpy Reuben Thompstone, which has now escaped from the night time wanderings of Mrs Angry's imagination and slipped into the apparently out of office in box of our antipodean councillor:
"Dear Councillor Thompstone,
I would like to ask you the following three questions:
1. As you know, in an attempt to prevent residents from discussing politically sensitive issues of public concern in any council meeting, several amendments to the local consitution were made last year which, amongst other restrictive practices, prevent residents from raising any matter at our Forums which do not meet your definition of 'public works', and we are now forbidden from mentioning, criticising, debating or challenging any aspect of what you consider to be 'council policy'.
At the recent Finchley and Golders Green Residents Forum, several of my questions were excluded from the agenda, including the extremely controversial subject of the proposal by Councillor Brian Coleman, to hire our parks and greenspaces to private customers. These questions were banned despite the fact that they did clearly relate to 'public works', and I was informed in writing by Mr John McArdle, the senior officer in charge of the highly contentious parking scheme, that this was because we may now not raise any matter that is 'boroughwide', even if it is in regard to 'public works'.
Despite the exclusion of my questions, other questions on park hire were allowed, as indeed, rather mystifyingly, a question of mine on the subject of ... park hire. In order to prove the point about the ridiculous new rules on exclusion, I had asked a facetious question about 'dogging', and was amused to see that you are prepared to discuss such an indelicate matter, yet consider a serious and very pertinent set of questions on what is a matter of enormous concern in regard to the proposed hire scheme to be unsuitable for inclusion.
I would like an explanation from you, in your position as Chair of the Forum, as to why this was so, and I would also like to know where in the council's constitution it states that questions regarding boroughwide issues may not now be raised at a Residents Forum.
2. Many of the speakers at last week's Forum were continually interrupted by you and asked to stop speaking, on the pretext that there was not enough time to allow them to express their views, yet the meeting finished early, at 7.20 pm, forty minutes before the end of the time allowed. I suggested to you that you might like to resume the discussion on some of the more contentious issues, but you declined to consider this. May I politely suggest that in future you manage the time better so that the issues which are of so much concern to residents are fully debated and that you do not regard the meetings as something to be endured, rather than an opportunity to engage with the people whose views you are supposed to represent? Which brings me to:
3. At the beginning of the Forum, before I was allowed to raise my question, I expressed my strong objection to the exclusion of my perfectly reasonable questions, and I asked you to explain to me how exactly you thought that the blatant censorship and heavy handed management of the Forums was in anyway compatible with the principles of your own government's new policy of localism, its committment to transparency, accountability and scrutiny, and its stated aim to empower communities to engage more closely with the processes of local government.
You refused to answer this point, saying that you would be happy to answer after the meeting, but at the end of the meeting, with forty minutes to spare, you were still curiously reluctant to discuss this. I would like therefore to offer you the opportunity to explain to me in writing your answer to this question. I am sure that my friend Mr Pickles will be very interested to see what you have to say.
cc Eric Pickles"
Subject: Re: Residents Forums in Broken Barnet
Date: Mon, 30 Jan 2012 16:28:41 +0000
Thank you for your comments which I have noted.
Councillor for Golders Green
From my Blackberry
Mrs Angry was not pleased with this response - and she imagines Mr Pickles will not be either, Mr Thompstone - and has replied thus:
hmmm, good, but I don't want you just to note my comments, that is not enough, I am afraid. I am asking you to reply to some perfectly reasonable questions: I don't mean to be difficult, but if you are not prepared to explain the policies you are enforcing, perhaps you should consider standing down as Chair of the Forum.
oh, and while we are feeling mischievous ... in the words of Margaret Thatcher's favourite prayer - Lord, make me a channel of your peace:
"Dear Councillor Coleman,
I was deeply saddened to hear, at this week's full council meeting, that you are too scared to attend the local Residents Forums, due to the 'appalling behaviour' that ensues at such events.
I must agree with you.
To be lectured by our elected representatives in the form of a long list of new regulations at the beginning of such meetings that we, the residents, may not raise any issue at these Forums that is not a matter of 'public works', or that dares to challenge any aspect of 'council policy' is indeed an outrageous affront to civil liberty, and an utterly objectionable assault on the principle of the freedom of expression. Such behaviour is indeed simply appalling, and quite intolerable, and will I suspect be answered in no uncertain terms by voters at the next election.
Oh dear. Not long til May, is it?
In the meanwhile, may I reassure you that if you should feel moved to accept your invitation to the Finchley and Golders Green Residents Association to discuss your immensely popular and successful parking and park hire schemes, you will receive nothing less than a warm welcome - and perhaps some lighthearted heckling, taken, I am sure, in the spirit in which it is intended.
Love and kisses, as always,
cc Eric Pickles"
No responses yet, for some reason.
Absolutely unbelievable ... oh dear me, Mrs Angry can hardly type for laughing: look at this response just arrived from Councillor Coleman:
I do not accept anonymous e mails which I consider malicious communication and future e mails will be blocked and may be reported to the Police
Right. Excuse me while I reply ... back soon ...
You know perfectly well who I am, this is not an anonymous email, and I am perfectly entitled to write to you. If you want to report me to the police for the dreadful crime of sending an email, and yes, I can see that this could be considered an offence of the most awful depravity, I suggest you contact the Acting Borough Commander, who is a regular reader of my blog, and a very nice man, and I am sure that he will be very amused.
Yours as ever,
Mrs Angry xxx
Thursday 26 January 2012
Have you seen this week's edition of the Barnet Press?
It carries an editorial comment which may puzzle some readers - take a look:
MP should leave it to the professionals
"The life of an MP might seem exciting to some. Speaking to constituents then going to the Palace of Westminster to call the powerful people in the country to account.
But after almost two years in the Commons, Conservative Matthew Offord is looking for a challenge, and the life of an amateur detective has taken his fancy.
Mr Offord has examined the clues and concluded that Labour's Andrew Dismore - in allowing a tenant to stay in his second registered home - is guilty of electoral fraud.
But the fact that this is the third time Mr Offord has attempted to report the crime casts some doubt on whether the authorities are taking his fears as seriously as he is.
Inspector Offord may want to let the real police handle this - he wouldn't want anyone mistaking his unbiased commitment to justice for a petty attempt to smear a political enemy."
Strong stuff. What is it all about, you may be asking? To explain, Mrs Angry will publish the following extract from Hansard, the Parliamentary record, taken from a debate about 'Individual Voter Registration' in the House of Commons. The following statement was made by Offord, the Conservative MP for Hendon, on 16th January:
"As Labour Front Benchers have tabled the motion, they need to answer some questions, particularly about a candidate in the Greater London authority elections who resides in Westminster, in Westbourne Grove, and registers himself on the electoral register with his girlfriend at his permanent residence, but has continued to allow himself to be registered at a second property he owns in the London borough of Barnet that is inhabited by his tenant. If that is not legally wrong, it is certainly morally wrong, and it is dishonest to mislead voters into presuming that the candidate lives locally. Where would Labour Front Benchers say that that person lived? For sure, many Members of the House have access to two properties, and the law states that people who have two homes are allowed to register at both addresses, but it is an offence to vote more than once in a general election, although such people may vote in both areas at local elections."
Mr Offord won his seat from Labour's Andrew Dismore in May 2010, after a close run campaign in a marginal constituency rumoured to be amongst those favoured by Tory donor Lord Ashcroft for extra support and attention: a tactic which, if true, would have appeared to have been successful, as Offord scraped in with a majority of around only a hundred votes.
Since being elected, Offord has hardly covered himself in glory, inspiring a series of idiotic stories about his unfortunate Mr Bean like tendencies, rather than glowing reports of his work on behalf of the constituency: breaking a wrist in the bathroom on honeymoon, damaging his sight when a mug flew out of his kitchen cupboard, etc. Very accident prone, is our Matthew.
Since acquiring a cute little puppy called Max, who has far more political acumen than his owner, Offord has attempted to adopt a more positive image. Max has has generally been a good influence, and a wise mentor. But oh dear, try as he might, Max has failed to stop Matthew from succumbing to the temptation of using parliamentary privilege to cause trouble for his political enemies.
Take a look at these comments, made a year ago, on the 20th January 2011, in a parliamentary debate on anti-semitism. Reading this now, incidentally, Mrs Angry is struck by the ridiculous comment immediately preceding the remarks which caused so much controversy.
"We heard today from my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford North (Mr Scott). However, it is not just Jewish people who are subject to anti-Semitism. My hon. Friend the Member for Harrow East (Bob Blackman) said he has also been subjected to it."
Er: what? It is not just Jewish people who are subject to anti-semitism ... Really? He continues:
"A useful illustration comes today from my local paper, the Hendon Times, where I have been attacked by someone who helped us in the general election campaign. I was always rather concerned about some of the views of this individual, but we are a broad church in the Conservative party. However, this individual started making anti-Semitic comments. Once I was elected, I would have no truck with any such individuals. I hear today through the local press that he has decided to join UKIP. UKIP is welcome to someone who makes anti-Semitic remarks, because he is certainly not welcome in the Conservative party."
Offord was challenged by the individual whom he accused of anti-semitism to repeat such allegations outside parliament. He did not.
An article in the local Times on 21st January explained the background to this story, referring to the man he had mentioned in parliament, a former Tory activist and Chair of the local ward, who had -
"criticised Mr Offord for being “uncontactable” among his reasons for quitting the Conservative party.
He told the Times Series he was joining UKIP and intended to stand against Mr Offord for the Hendon seat at the next General Election.
Mr Offord refused to give a statement on the matter to the paper, but instead used Parliamentary Privilege, where MPs can say what they want without fear of legal action, to launch his attack"Clearly, as we are reminded today, which happens to be Holocaust Memorial Day, anti-semitism is vile, and always utterly unacceptable. An accusation of any act of racist abuse is very serious - but it is a smear which cannot be legally challenged when made in such circumstances.
Offord did himself no favours by resorting to such tactics in the course of his spat with a former Tory colleague.
Parliamentary privilege is exactly what it says, a privilege, and one which should not be abused or misused. It offers an MP a legal immunity which should be used sparingly and carefully for matters of public interest, not for the purposes of private bickering. But it seems Mr Offord has resorted once more to such a shabby ploy in an attempt to discredit a former rival, and the new Labour candidate for the forthcoming London Assembly.
After Matthew Offord's latest remarks in parliament about Dismore, a particularly nasty story appeared in the London Standard repeating his accusations, and naming the tenant - a local Labour activist - who has been dragged into this debacle, through no fault of his own.
As it happens, Mrs Angry knows the tenant who has been staying in Mr Dismore's home: he is a decent and honest individual, and so, in her opinion, is Andrew Dismore.
As the article in the Standard actually admits, under City Hall rules, candidates for the London Assembly do not have to live in the constituency in which they stand. Dismore is breaking no laws by owning two properties, and many people are registered in more than one place, especially in Barnet where there appears to be a difficulty in maintaining accurate records. Does Offord mean to suggest in all seriousness that he thinks Dismore will vote twice? What is he suggesting, exactly? Or is he just trying to cause trouble? Has he really not got anything more important to raise in Parliament?
What has Offord done to help the local traders seeing their businesses bleeding to death, as a result of the catastrophic parking policy his former fellow Tory councillors here in Barnet have imposed on our town centres?
Where was he when they shut Hendon's Church Farmhouse Museum, and where is he now they are trying to flog the listed building and historic grounds off to developers?
What is he doing to fight Brian Coleman's plan to pimp our parks and greenspaces to private customers, shutting the parks to residents or charging them for admission to events?
Andrew Dismore was a hard working constituency MP when he represented Hendon, and well respected by residents of all political allegiances. He got on with his constituency work with diligence, and commitment, and with a notable lack of self promotion, in contrast with other MPs of our acquaintance, here in Broken Barnet.
He didn't disappear during times of crises abroad, playing Action Man and posing in a wet shirt for ridiculous photo opportunities on hotel balconies, claiming he was fighting 'narco terrorism' on behalf of the people of Hendon.
He didn't make a fool of himself invoking the Human Rights Act when he was told to stop bringing his dog into Westminster.
He didn't waste the time of our already overworked and under supported police with idiotic complaints about the perfectly reasonable living arrangements of his former rival.
He didn't use parliamentary privilege for personal attacks on political opponents.
In the next election, it is becoming increasingly unlikely that the voters of that constituency will want to return any Tory MP, let alone the one we have now: indulging in this sort of gutter politics is hardly going to make that possibility any more likely.
And there is another angle to this story, of course.
Andrew Dismore is standing as the Labour candidate for Barnet and Camden in May's GLA elections. The present assembly member is one Brian Coleman. Coleman is in deep shit: he has made himself hugely unpopular over the last few years, and the parking fiasco in Barnet has really incensed the normally reliable Tory vote in this area: he is very likely to lose his seat to Dismore. If Barnet and Camden is taken by Labour, the chances of the Tories losing control of the Assembly is a very real one.
Boris came to Barnet last week, and was clearly taken aback by the level of hostility shown by residents to Coleman and Barnet Council. If Barnet and Camden falls to Labour, the balance of power on the London Assembly will be in real doubt. Brian Coleman is a candidate impossible now to promote in a positive way: so what to do? Go for Dismore. The Standard, of course, is always ready to help out Boris, and look there we are, a horrible story all wrapped up and in print for everyone to read on the tube on the way home.
Of course the really amusing story in relation to our GLA candidates' accommodation is the story of the current Tory member Brian Coleman, and his charity owned home.
Do we have to repeat it again? The man who earns around £130K from his publicly funded posts lives in a flat belonging to a charity, Finchley Methodist Church, of which our Mr Coleman happens to be a member, and he is also the beneficiary of a fixed rent which is set at a level half of the current market value. He has told a single mother constituent of his, struggling to support a six year old son with special needs, and pay her rent for the same sized flat, in the same area, at double the rate he pays, that she should 'live in the real world' and not expect to be supported by 'the system'.
Not sure why the Standard forgot to mention this story, or why Matthew Offord has not used parliamentary privilege to highlight such hypocrisy, but then, as we know, in this borough, the things which really matter tend to be overlooked in favour of political expediency.
This is Broken Barnet, and this is how things are. If you don't like it, don't vote for it. In May you will have the choice of voting for Brian Coleman, or Andrew Dismore. Does Mrs Angry have to make it any more clear where your duty lies? Ignore the black propaganda: it's a sign of how desperate the Tories are. Do the right thing, and give Coleman a kick up the *rse.
Have a nice weekend.