Sunday, 3 June 2012

Mrs Angry's Return: and a view from the Wild West

Yes. Relax: Mrs Angry is back in Broken Barnet, and do you know, it was awfully touching to return to London and find that everyone had put out bunting and flags and all sorts of celebratory decorations to welcome her return ... funny thing was, no sooner had she arrived in Cornwall than the locals did the same thing to welcome her. Really no need, but very nice of them to take the trouble.

Mrs Angry has spent a lovely week in Fowey, a beautiful spot in south Cornwall, which she would ask you never to visit, as the fewer people who go there the better, in her opinion.

The last time she visited Fowey was rather overshadowed, in retrospect, by returning home to find from his column in a local paper that of all people, Brian Coleman (yes, really) had spent the same week there, staying at a local hotel where, he told his readers, he had surveyed the tranquil scene from his balcony, but clearly somehow failed to spot Mrs Angry in her fitflops trailing past his window.

On this latest visit the thought that poor Brian might be there too, convalescing, after his recent downfall, at the Fowey Hotel, was the cause of much amusement to Mrs Angry and son, on their regular passing of this venue. Mrs Angry suggested to her son that it might be useful to make enquiries amongst the local shopkeepers so as to make possession of a small catapult, or pea shooter, just in case, but our plans came to nothing, and sadly proved unneccessary, in the end.

Mrs Angry is always banging on about her mother's rather lairy family, in the North East, but her father's family were largely eminently sensible West Country people, mostly from Cornwall, and her own earliest memories, in fact, are from summers spent with relatives in the wild west of the county.

A great aunt, who had been a Du Maurieresque housekeeper on a large Cornish estate in Perranarworthal, (... he said he would never marry me, she once told Mrs Angry, in a tantalising glimpse of her life there ... ) lived in retirement in a weatherboarded cottage on the cliffs in Gwithian, in sight of Godrevy lighthouse, and where we used spend a month every year. Mrs Angry's father used to spend every summer of his own childhood and young adult life, between the wars, in Cornwall too, mostly with his aunt in Redruth. His ashes are scattered now on the dunes - the Towans - opposite Godrevy. Mrs Angry looked across the bay last week and enjoyed the thought that, in some atomic sense, he has become a part of the landscape he loved.

Passing through the station this year, noting the GWR ironwork still picked out in the company colours, Mrs Angry thought about her father, as a small boy, stepping off the steam train, eight hours from Paddington, met by his uncle Ben with horse and cart, taken back to the house in Green Lane, where the family had a market garden business supplying garden plants and seeds to the landed gentry of Cornwall, the Vyvyans, Boscawens and so on. Redruth is a ghost town now, a former area of huge prosperity, all vanished since the mining industry died. And how many other ghost towns are there, now, wonders Mrs Angry, in the UK, left to die, in a Tory laisser faire world, where only market forces count?

The family connection with Cornwall goes back even further, though: Mrs Angry once spent an amusing afternoon in the county record office at Truro, reading through documents relating to a five times great grandfather, Richard Musgrove, in the 1740s, who although a prosperous man, owning several properties up on Bodmin moor, was continually in court for starting fights and erm ... not paying his debts. Oh dear. While banged up in Bodmin Gaol, he took exception to the conditions, and wrote a letter to the County Lieutenant, complaining about his sleep being disturbed by friends of the Governor getting drunk every night in the prison, & singing 'Down Among the Deadmen', over and over again' ... When this failed to provoke any interest, he started up a petition in protest about the governor, and got his fellow prisoners to sign up too. The petition still exists, with his signature at the top. Mrs Angry eschewed the cotton gloves you are supposed to use when handling archival material, and traced his signature with her finger, proud to feel a connection with such an obstinate old fool. And who dares say that genetic heritage counts for nothing?

One of the notable features of Cornish tradition is in fact this rebellious, counter establishment tendency. Anyone who thinks that the Cornish are anything but Cornish first, and English second needs to review their opinion: even now, as the country is celebrating the Diamond Jubilee, Mrs Angry was amused to see that the displays of Union Jack bunting were very often below a display of bunting made up of the black and white Cornish flag of St Piran. Significantly, the Cornish language now appears on local council signs, as it should, and certainly in certains parts of the county, including the Fowey/Restormel local authority area, there is a resurgence of support for Mebyon Kernow, the Cornish independence party, a party in existence since the 1950s and still continuing to represent a uniquely Cornish interest . Local autonomous political parties are thriving in this era of cynicism, have you noticed?

Cornwall has always been resistent to the predominant political realities of national government. The historical influence of the Methodist church is inextricably linked to the rejection of Conservative and land owning interests, and the absence of any urban capital has contributed to the lack of support for Labour. The opposition vote in Cornwall, therefore, has traditionally always gone to the Liberal/Libdem party (yes: I know, I know: just imagine ...). Even today, the country is represented by Liberal and Tory MPs, and it was inevitable, therefore, that George Osborne's infamous pasty tax was doomed: the outrage over this assault on the famous Cornish speciality was so strong - oh yes, so much more than a, ahem, a heated debate: it frightened the local MPs into pressuring the government into another U turn, during Mrs Angry's visit to the county. Is that a coincidence? Mmm. Well. Maybe.

Another miraculous development during Mrs Angry's absence from Broken Barnet was in fact, in acccordance with another of her predictions: the triumphant victory, with a modest but significant majority, of the Labour Candidate Andreas Ioannides, in the Brunswick Park by election.

Mrs Angry sends her warmest congratulations to Andreas, who is a very nice man, and will be a conscientious and dedicated representative of the people of Brunswick Park. But this result is hugely significant - the by election was called due to the untimely demise of former Tory party leader Lynne Hillan. For a Labour candidate to win in these circumstances is a real slap in the face for the Tories, and follows the message sent to them after the East Finchley by election, and the loss of the GLA seat formerly held by Brian Coleman. That message is quite clear: it is an utter rejection of the policies and performance of the current Conservative administration. Oh and by the way, for any Libdems reading this blog with panting breath: only 97 people in Brunswick Park were prepared to come out and vote for your treacherous, student debt facilitating, NHS destruction enabling party. Mmm. Why is that, do you think?

Fowey Jubilee tribute

In the electoral campaign that preceded this result, the Tories issued a series of expensive leaflets, making very interesting but largely unsubstantiated claims: in one case the Returning Officer was obliged to order the party to withdraw one leaflet that stated the candidate's team was responsible for oh dear, fighting for residents against the Tories' own parking charge scheme, and getting such proposals overturned ... Labour party members slogged away, knocking on doors with their candidate, and speaking to residents. Significantly too, Barnet Alliance members delivered more than 10,000 leaflets explaining the One Barnet agenda of mass outsourcing that our Tory council wants to push through, on the quiet, with no mandate from voters, delivering all our council services, from social care to cemeteries, to the profit hungry global companies circling our borough in an all too visible state of excitement, ready to pounce and sate their desires on the defenceless body of Broken Barnet.

In truth, Mrs Angry has been told that many Tory councillors were, for reasons of their own, secretly relieved at the Brunswick Park result, just as some Barnet Tories were open about the fact that they had voted for Labour's Andrew Dismore in the GLA election, rather than their colleague Brian Coleman. We live in interesting times, here in Broken Barnet, don't we, where nothing is ever really what it seems ... ?

Oh boy, though, if you are in any doubt about the significance of this result, take a look at the comments here on the Conservative Home blog: as reported there:

"This had been regarded as a pretty safe Conservative ward and the swing to Labour is calculated as 13.25%. So as they say a "wake up call" with Council elections in two years time for the Conservative-run council. They have not exactly embraced transparency or welcomed being held to account by the borough's thriving blogging community."

There are several very important lessons to be learnt from this by election: and one in particular which Mrs Angry was reminded of on her visit to the ward, a couple of weeks ago, to attend a screening of the Tale of Two Barnets.

The leaflet delivered by the Barnet Alliance in regard to the One Barnet programme tries to explain something which most residents simply do not understand - the significance of the One Barnet concept, and the reality of the current supposedly 'competitive' dialogue process which has been engineered to deliver the profit making potential of our vital services to the private sector.

In Cornwall this week, although there was much rejoicing over the retraction of the ludicrous pasty tax, the really important headline story was concerned with something else entirely. This was the story about the alleged failings of the privatised out of hours health care service run by Serco - one of the cabal of favoured global companies who have been allowed to take over control of so many local vital services - in this case, in Cornwall, the provision of medical response to patients needing attention when their GPs are unavailable.

Read the Guardian's reports of what has been happening here: the orignal story -

and follow up:

and consider if you are happy to live in a borough where not just one service, but almost every support service now maintained by your local authority is supplied by a private company looking to make a profit from your sick baby, or your child in need of support for special needs, or your mother in need of care for dementia ....

In the case of the out of hours service, previously run, of course, by a not for profit body of local GPs, Serco whistleblowers have had the courage to speak out about what they allege are very serious failings in the way a vital health support service is being run.

It is claimed that at one point only one GP was available in the whole of the county, west of Bodmin (a huge area) to deal with call outs, and other reports state that call centres are being staffed at dangerously low levels, which has meant at times a queue of ninety or so callers waiting to ask for help for what in some cases were very ill patients. Even more worringly, critics allege that performance targets have been 'manipulated' in order to present a more acceptable record. Of course Serco managers deny the vast majority of the claims: Mrs Angry watched with a rising sense of unease as local news coverage showed an interview with one of the senior executives, who smoothly dismissed most of the allegations, and simply said he could find 'no evidence' to support them. Hmm.

Listen up: this is what is going to happen in Barnet, if the Tories get their way.

It is not too late to stop it, and if the leadership of the Tory party has any sense at all, they will read the message sent to them by the three recent electoral results, and start to rethink the commitment they have made to such reckless mass privatisation.

It is not only local services that are due to be thrown at private companies and pout our well being at risk, of course: what has happened in Cornwall with Serco is an ominous warning about what is to come as a result of the NHS 'reforms', when companies like this will be making profit out of similar care provision all over the country. Funnily enough, two of the people raising concerns in Cornwall with the CQC are local MPs, one Tory, one Libdem. One might hope that they may choose to reflect on the wider impact of their coalition government's reckless assault and plundering of our health service. Mrs Angry imagines that this is, however, rather unlikely.

Today we have been celebrating the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. As a swivel eyed trot, Mrs Angry, what were you celebrating?

Well, after some reflection, a respect for a woman who has always worked hard at what she sees as her duty, in an impossible role placed on her by an accident of birth. And, yes, ok: a sense of pleasure at something, anything, which binds us all together, rather than drives us apart.

And also, most importantly: sixty years of our common history.

A period in which we have seen huge social progress, supported by a welfare state which over the decades has become the mark of a civilised society, with free healthcare for all, and support given as a right for all those in need. Sixty years later, this jewel in our crown is being gouged out and flogged off by the robber barons of HM's coalition government.

So: enjoy the bread and circuses; jubilee bunting, pageants, and street parties. Nostalgia for the 1950s is great fun - until your remember that much of the prosperity, rights and benefits which we have enjoyed and taken for granted since then is slowly being removed from the grasp of those who most deserve it, and returned to the hands of the privileged few with means, power, and influence. Maybe there is a lesson here from the independently minded people living west of the Tamar, and their history of obstinate non conformity, still continuing today.


Don't Call Me Dave said...

I know it is fashionable to consider the Brunswick Park by-election result as signalling the beginning of the end for the Tories in Barnet (or perhaps Chapter 2, following Brian Coleman’s defeat) but I don’t think it is that clear cut.Coleman’s defeat was personal. People still voted Conservative in the Mayoral contest in Barnet and a different GLA candidate would likely have held the seat.

I also question whether the result had anything to do with the One Barnet campaign. 10,000 leaflets may have been delivered, but 10,000 people did not vote. The Conservatives lost primarily because they chose a candidate who knew nothing about the local issues, despite making her localness a key point of her campaign. It was one of the most inept campaigns in living memory.

History shows that electors will often vote out a member of the ruling party in by-elections, in order to send a message, but return to the fold at the next full election. The Conservative vote collapsed, but Labour only won because of LibDem tactical voting. If Labour still cannot get out their core vote, despite everything that has been written about the Conservatives, then they will struggle to win control in 2014.

Mrs Angry said...

DCMD: I agree, it certainly was an inept campaign, and whoever was responsible for running it made some serious errors of judgement, in my view.

I think the BAPS leaflet certainly did have some impact, and I disagree with your theory that there was any Libdem tactical voting - there is no evidence for that. I don't really think there are enough Libdem supporters left with the desire to vote tactically - I really think most disillusioned former Libdems will never return to a party which has so blatantly betrayed the trust they were given at the last election, and I think they will remain as Labour voters.

As always, I exempt our councillors, the Palmers & Jack Cohen from the list of shame as they are good people, work hard for constituents & are personally respected on the basis of their own history. But generally, I think the Libdems are finished, at least for a very long time.

Another point is that I think for all the Tory voters who simply did not bother, there were plenty of new voters politicised by what is happening locally, as well as nationally. We can't assume that only the same people take part in elections and withhold or transfer their votes.

Mrs Angry said...

Ahem: historical footnote, especially for the jubilee: ( can see why this might keep you awake, especially when banged up) ...

Here's a health to the Queen and a lasting peace,
To faction an end, to wealth increase;
Come, let us drink it while we have breath,
For there's no drinking after death,
And he that will this health deny,

Down among the dead men,
Down among the dead men,
Down, down, down, down,
Down among the dead men let him lie.

Let charming Beauty's health go round,
In whom celestial joys are found;
And may confusion still pursue,
The senseless woman hating crew,
And they that woman's health deny;


May love and wine their joys maintain,
And their united pleasures reign;
While smiling plenty crowns the land,
We'll sing the joys that both afford:
And they that won't with us comply,


Anonymous said...

It's a shame that this formerly excellent blog is slowly but surely turning into a front for the local Labour Party. There are plenty of people in Barnet concerned about the way the Council is currently being run who don't necessarily warm to such partisan propaganda!

Mrs Angry said...

Ha, thanks for that, Anonymous: why don't you have the courage to make your comment in your own name, by the way?

Funny how suddenly I am being treated to anonymous rude remarks. Must be doing something right at last.

Erm, this formelry excellent blog has always been Labour party supporting. I'm not sure how you have managed to miss that feature, or what it is about this Cornish flavoured post that it presents itself as Labour party propaganda. And if you don't warm to what I write, well then, you are more than welcome to feck off and read something else.

Mrs Angry x

baarnett said...

Mrs A, you should consider it necessary to mention that, during your interrogation by Citizen "Anonymous", the latter declared that you must not invent facts that have never happened. "Anonymous" has also demanded that this statement of his/her should be placed on the record.

You, Mrs A, must once more repeat that you are guilty of treason to the London Borough of Barnet, the most heinous of possible crimes, of the organisation of uprisings amongst the wealthy kayaks [on Dollis Brook?], and of belonging to an underground, anti-Corneliusian organisation. You must further admit that you are guilty of organising a conspiracy for a 'council chamber coup.'

All this proves the incorrectness of those passages in the speech for the prosecution made by Cltizen Coleman, where he makes out that you adopted the pose of a pure theoretician, the pose of a philosopher, and so on.

These are profoundly practical matters. You must now repeat that you and Mr Mustard were leaders, and not just cogs, in the counter-revolutionary affairs. It follows from this, as will be clear to everybody, that there were many specific things which you could not have known, but that does not relieve you of responsibility.

It be asserted that the bloc was organised on the instructions of Barnet Council Communications Department (the 'BCCD').

Finally, you can point out that you narrowly missed death due to a poisoned Cornish pasty, at the hands of an agent of the borough, a fact very well known to everybody who stood close to the Party leadership, although this was while you were slacking in your duties to the borough, on your wild fling in the West Country last week.

Mrs Angry said...

Comrade Baarnett:

I want briefly to explain the facts regarding my criminal activities and my repentance of my misdeeds.

I already said when giving my main testimony during the trial, that it was not the naked logic of the struggle that drove us, the counter-revolutionary conspirators, into this stinking underground life, which has been exposed at this trial in ail its starkness. This naked logic of the struggle was accompanied by a degeneration of ideas, a degeneration of psychology, a degeneration of ourselves, a degeneration of people. There are well-known historical examples of such degeneration. One need only mention Briand, Mussolini and others. And we too degenerated, and this brought us into a camp which in its views and features was very much akin to a kulak praetorian fascism.

In other words: yes, I am now thinking of becoming a liberal democrat.

Take me out and shoot me.

Comrade Mrs Angry

baarnett said...

(Most spooky of all, the quote REALLY DOES SAY "Briand" - as Renegade Comrade Coleman would already know.)

Mrs Angry said...

Mrs Angry endeavours always to be accurate, Comrade Baarnett. It is no doubt a relic of her petty bourgeois education, and a lesson for all liberal democrats everywhere, skulking in the dark recesses and furthest margins of the wider blogosphere.