Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Brian Coleman and an election campaign that dare not speak his name

Brian Coleman: is he chicken?

Mrs Angry is having a few technological problems at the moment. In fact, to be honest, Mrs Angry's life at present would appear to consist of rather too many problems, and too few pleasures. Mrs Angry does not like January anyway, but this is not a good start to the new year, and Mrs Angry would quite like to go backwards to December, like her blog feed, and start again. Or back a little further, perhaps. Quite a lot further. If only time could be rewound - and yes, yes, please don't take this as an opportunity to tell her about neutrinos and the speed of light and all that stuff, because Mrs Angry's son has tried this, at great length, until his mother's eyes glazed over and she fell on the floor in a dead faint, and nothing about it has stuck in her feeble brain, so you needn't bother.

Well anyway: there is some good news to restart the new year, here in Broken Barnet.

In less than five months time we will be facing an election for Mayor and for the London Assembly. Boris Johnson has of course asked for, and received, a certain amount of help from Mrs Angry in his campaign, and perhaps it is this warm encouragement that has persuaded him now to gird up his loins, and to make a rare visit to our borough.

On the 17th January 'Talk London Barnet' will take place at the Peel Centre, in Hendon, from 7 to 8.30pm, and the Mayor of London will be there with a panel of guests 'for an opportunity to question them on investing in Outer London'. Interesting turn of phrase, isn't it? Investing in outer London. Mrs Angry believes that means handing out grants to favoured Tory voting areas in the last few months before an election, rather than supporting the needs of residents in a fairly assessed and regulated programme, so try not to get too excited.

You may not have heard of this interesting event, as it happens, as the publicity for it has been, well, awfully discreet. So discreet that even obtaining tickets has been a test of initiative, involving registering on a website, trying many times to submit an application, eventually receiving a ticket, but then being told that one must turn up an hour before the session starts as entry will be on the basis of first come, first in. If Mrs Angry were of a cynical disposition, and not the trusting, open hearted woman that she is, she might think that actually Boris' people don't want anyone to know about the event, don't want anyone to turn up, and don't want to let anyone in if they do. Why would that be, do you think?

The Tory candidate for the Barnet and Camden constituency is the current member, our much loved local hero, Brian Coleman. Coleman has had his backside firmly wedged in the seat since 2000, and indeed receives the greater part of his £130,000 publicly funded income from the GLA post and associated position as Chair of the London Fire Brigade. If, as many expect, he loses his seat in May to Labour's candidate and former local Labour MP Andrew Dismore, this will be a devastating humiliation for Coleman, albeit a cause for celebration in the streets of London by the liberated populace, on a scale unseen since VE Day, 1945.

Now then: since news of the the Talk London event has emerged, there has been a curious lack of uncertainty regarding the other participants. At first it appeared to be the case that Brian Coleman would be chairing the event, but later publicity inexplicably failed to confirm this. Some naughty suggestions were then made that Brian, who is not, let's be brutally honest, awfully popular in these parts, was too chicken to turn up. Not an idea entirely to be discounted. Every town centre and forgotten street in Broken Barnet is rapidly becoming a no go area for any Tory councillor, thanks to the catastrophic parking scheme, and a heavy catalogue of similarly disastrous policy actions, and now they are all shit scared of engaging in any public forum in which the hostility of the mutinous residents might be openly expressed - and so they should be.

The Tory campaign for the May elections has been a most remarkable thing: poor old Lynton Crosby has clearly decided that the only way to neutralise the Coleman factor, and prevent the toxic stain of Colemanism and Broken Barnet lunacy from creeping over Boris's election prospects, is to shut Brian up, and keep him as far away from Boris as possible, a bit like the embarrassing uncle at a family wedding. Uncle Brian, therefore, is locked in the cupboard under the stairs with a bottle of babycham until the wedding is over - although the guests can still hear him yelling through the crack under the door and demanding more sandwiches.

Our GLA member has issued no press release since July 15th, interestingly: his rival candidate Dismore, on the other hand, has issued numbers of them, many based on information extracted from FOIs regarding the activitities, or lack of them, of our Brian on behalf of constituents.* See below.

No, Brian's own campaign of gentle persuasion and wooing of voters has been carefully based on a charm offensive, all centred around his militant defence of the Titanic flagship parking policy, and supported by memorable utterances on the subject of housing and instructions on 'living in the real world', not subsidised by 'the system', or any local charity, and the burden of cost presented by the transport needs of children with special needs and vulnerable adults - 'these people'. Brian has thus endeared himself to every driver in the borough, every resident with a disability, or with a disabled relative, and every elderly person in the borough who foolishly wishes to use a car, but does not have a mobile phone. Brian has told these senior citizens, in fact, that they do not exist, so presumably they would not qualify for a vote anyway.

Local Tories and the wider Conservative party appear to be deeply concerned about the Coleman effect: dear, dear - tragically, only a few months ago, a fund raiser event for the May elections had to cancelled, despite the glamorous allure of star guests Brian and escort Raine, Countess Spencer. How times have changed. Rumours abounded not sop long ago that many Tories want to dump Coleman as candidate, and every Labour voter in London held their breath, fervently praying it was not true, but - thankfully it's too late to change now - the dangerous moment passed, and our biggest election asset remains in place.

After some probing today it now appears that Coleman has now been listed as Chair for the Talk London event: whether he turns up or not will be interesting to see. Others attending will be Isabel Dedring, Deputy Mayor for Transport, someone called Gail Laser, 'Chair of Barnet Traders & Barnet Town Team', oh, and easy to overlook - Richard Cornelius, the so called leader of Barnet Council. (Mrs Angry hears the dear leader Cornelius has been inspired by North Korea to work up some sort of cult of personality, Coleman style, here in Broken Barnet. Sadly, at the time of writing, he has so far been unable to locate one.)

Mrs Angry has been racking her brain to try and remember where she has heard of Gail Laser before ... oh, and then she did - here is a Barnet Council press release from the 9th August:

Chipping Barnet residents 'thrilled' at £400k town centre boost

"Chipping Barnet traders and residents had reasons to celebrate after hearing of their success in obtaining £416,000 from the Mayor of London’s Outer London Fund to improve their town centre.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, announced that Chipping Barnet will be amongst the 30 winners of the first round of £10m made available for outer London to “bring the buzz back” to their high streets.

Set up in March, the Mayor’s Outer London Fund is a £50m three year initiative to grow economic activity and drive employment in parts of London benefitting less directly from large-scale infrastructure investment in the capital such as Crossrail and the 2012 Games.

The proposals for Chipping Barnet include physical improvements such as enhancing the green space at St John the Baptist Church in Wood Street. as well as clutter removal and tree planting on the High Street along with other economy boosting initiatives.

A number of these schemes will be delivered in time for Christmas to provide financial help for this historic town centre to attract additional local shoppers over the festive period and beyond.

A bid for Edgware Town centre was submitted, but was unsuccessful.

Chairman of Chipping Barnet Traders’ Association and local resident Gail Laser was “thrilled” to hear that their close partnership with the Barnet Society, Hadley Residents’ Society and Barnet Council enabled a successful bid to the Mayor of London that will now “inject economic vigour into our high street”.

Councillor Brian Coleman, Cabinet member for Environment, said: “This is a much needed boost to Chipping Barnet during these difficult financial times. It is important that we all try to support our local economies so they can continue to serve us long into the future.”

Clearly Ms Laser has reason to be grateful to the Mayor and Brian Coleman. Let's hope she has the nerve to stand up for all the other retailers and small business owners in the rest of the borough who are watching their businesses bleed to death through loss of trade caused by the fatally idiotic parking policy, the gift of Brian Coleman and his Cabinet colleagues.

That the already affluent Chipping Barnet town centre could be deemed in greater need of the Mayor's grant than Edgware is an absolute scandal, in Mrs Angry's opinion. Edgware town centre is of course on the border with Harrow, and populated by substantial numbers of less advantaged residents ... shh, you know, Labour voters. Chipping Barnet is the home of the most influential Broken Barnet Tory councillors, the heartland of their core voters, and a source of lucrative fund raising.

So: with Brian in the chair, a hand picked panel, and the topic of 'investment in outer London', do you think we will be able to have an honest and open debate on the issues that really matter to the residents of this constituency?

Who knows, but Mrs Angry believes that many in the audience will do their best to make sure these issues are raised anyway. Coleman might do well to stay away: it's not going to be an easy night.

*Here is another press release from Andrew Dismore:

As fare rises hit Barnet and Camden commuters returning to work today, Londoners have a clear choice in 2012

Barnet and Camden residents were today suffering a fourth year of inflation-busting fare increases from Boris Johnson, as new research shows that fares in London are now costing over a quarter of minimum wage take home pay.

Today is the first working day back under the new high fares package. It hits Barnet and Camden residents hard at a time when people are facing a squeeze on their quality of life and the London economy continues to struggle under George Osborne’s failed policies.

Ken’s Fare Deal would wipe out Boris Johnson’s planned increases for 2012 and saving the average Barnet and Camden commuter £1000 over the next four years.

Under the Conservative mayor the cost of a single bus ticket has risen by a massive 50 per cent since 2008, whilst the price of a monthly zone 1-2 Travelcard is up 21% costing £230.40 per year more, and the price of a zones 1-6 Travelcard is up a fifth.

New figures from the House of Commons library show that this means an office manager in central London earning £25,600 living in zone 1 or 2 would have to work for three weeks and three days before the cost of their travel was covered. A cleaner on the minimum wage (£11,730) would have to spend 27 per cent of their take home pay in order to pay for a weekly zones 1-6 Travelcard. A newly qualified nurse working in inner London (£25,411) and living in Zone 4 would have to have to work for 5 weeks and a day before they'd paid for their travel, whilst a shop assistant earning the London Living Wage (£16,013) would have to spend 21 per cent of their take home pay to be able to afford to pay for a weekly zones 1-6 travelcard.

Andrew Dismore, Labour’s London Assembly candidate for Barnet and Camden said:

“Before residents even arrive at work this morning they will have felt the pain of a fourth year of above inflation bus, tube and train fare hikes under Boris Johnson.

“This is the wrong fare rise at the wrong time, taking money out of people’s pockets when the London economy is struggling and when people are very hard pressed.

“The impact applies across Barnet and Camden and London as a whole and across ages and income brackets. Yet every year the Mayor rakes in more income from fares than his budgets and business plans says he will.

Ken Livingstone said,

“It’s time for change. Exactly four months today Londoners will face a very clear choice – a Labour mayor who will cut the fares, or a Tory mayor who raises fares, forcing many to spend a quarter of their wages merely getting to and from work. In elected in May I'll cut the fares saving the average Londoners £1000 over four years.


Mr Mustard said...

Hello Mrs Angry I just wanted to speak up in favour of Gail Laser whom I have met. She is very enthusiastic and hard working and determined to keep a functioning High St in High Barnet and all this without even having a shop herself so completely selfless and unpaid so she is much better value than our councillors.

Mrs Angry said...

Good to hear it: let's hope, as I said, that she has the nerve to stand up to Coleman et al & give them what for on behalf of all the other town centres who have not had the benefit of the Mayor's pre election handout.

Mrs Angry said...

... and good morning Brian,see you are looking in - Happy New Year, btw ...

baarnett said...

I hope Bwian is keeping an eye on the gritting of his road. Some mornings have been a bit nippy.

Regarding Gail Laser, I have also heard good of her. In a sense, it is unfortunate she is a champion of a town centre that is (relatively speaking) wealthy, and not of a town centre that is in a poorer part of Barnet.

But Chipping Barnet is a mixture - luxury car showrooms near the second weathiest part of the UK, with also standard semis, and overcrowded flats/'rooming houses' (as I think they were called decades ago).

baarnett said...

Futhermore, she's mentioned over Barnet Market: