Wednesday 26 September 2012

Who's sorry now? Not Brian Coleman: more embarrassment for Barnet Tories

Yes: just when we thought we may have been delighted rather too well by the never ending one man show that goes by the name of Brian Coleman, along comes another story to distract us.

Here, in fact,  we have another extraordinary example of the remarkable indulgence shown to this tedious man by the vacillating leader and equally submissive Tory councillors of Broken Barnet.

Readers may recall that earlier this year Brian Coleman was found by a Standards Committee in Barnet to have breached the Members' Code of Conduct, in failing to treat others with respect, specifically after sending emails in which he accused an Israeli resident, Mr Ron Cohen, of being an 'anti-semite', and comparing another correspondent, Dr Charlotte Jago, to the 'blackshirts'. See here:

The sanction from the Standards Committee required Coleman to write a letter of apology to Dr Jago and to Mr Cohen. Instead of submitting to this judgement, however,  he exercised his right of appeal. This appeal was heard by the First-Tier Tribunal on 27th July, and the judgement issued on 8th August.

The decision of the Barnet Standards committee was upheld by the appeal tribunal. The  appeal summary referred to what it viewed as, in the case of Mr Cohen: 

 'personal, offensive and insulting abuse which lacked any reflective content'

and  the case of Dr Jago:

 'ill-tempered, irascible personal abuse'

The summary concluded:

The Tribunal noted that there was nothing in the papers which provided any mitigation for the Appellant’s actions and indeed was surprised that such an experienced councillor should behave in this manner.

Councillor Coleman could have appealed again: he did not, yet neither Mr Cohen nor Dr Jago have received an apology. The deadline for submitting such an apology has elapsed some three weeks ago.

Mrs Angry understands that Barnet Council has not had the courtesy to explain to the two victims of Coleman's abusive emails that the apology was overdue, and it seems that they were obliged to raise the issue with the authority in order to clarify this point, as they had not been kept informed of the progress of the appeal. 

Yesterday the local Times paper confirmed in a report here that Barnet Council is aware of the lack of an apology from Councillor Coleman. It quotes a spokesperson for the Tribunal appeals service as stating:

“There is no real sanction the tribunal can put in place – we can’t force him to make an apology. It would be down to the local authority."

The article continues:

The Times Series understands Barnet Council is looking to sanction Councillor Coleman for failing to apologise but the authority is yet to make a statement on the matter. 

So: yet again, neither Barnet Council's press team nor any spokesperson for the Conservative party would appear to feel obliged to make any comment on an issue of significant public interest concerning the behaviour, alleged or otherwise, of this elected representative. 

Here we have a clear case of a blatant defiance of a ruling regarding the breach of a code of conduct, and no action is taken by the authority to enforce any sanction. The victims of this breach have not been extended any support by the authority, and were not given any information regarding the appeal until inquiries were made by them. It would appear, in the absence of any statement to the contrary, that Barnet Council has not taken action to enforce the judgement of the Tribunal.

What is going on?

Why does Barnet Tory leader Richard Cornelius show such indulgence for the offensive behaviour of Brian Coleman, and refuse to criticise him when he insults members of the public, whether in the Town Hall, sitting in the public gallery, or by email? 

Why did he refuse to take any action or to issue any statement when Coleman was arrested last week on suspicion of common assault?

Why should the residents of this borough be expected to tolerate such a craven attitude from someone who is paid to be leader of the council, and is supposed to be undertaking such duties in order to serve the community who pay his allowance? 

Is there not a duty for the leader to put the best interests of the residents of this borough before any personal sympathy or the pressure of his own party's political sensitivities?

The Tory party in Barnet is in complete disarray: they have lost control of the One Barnet programme, and now they have entirely lost all sense of integrity and any credibility as the elected administration of this borough.

Richard Cornelius has a simple choice to make: start acting like a leader - or resign. 

What will it be?


This story has now appeared in the Standard, quoting a comment from Coleman himself :

"Barnet said it was unclear what sanctions were available to discipline Mr Coleman. He was censured by the Local Government Standards Tribunal, which has since been scrapped, and a council spokesman said they were in “uncharted territory”. The spokesman said he was still required to apologise. But Mr Coleman, who lost his London Assembly seat in May, said he was “under no obligation ... This was a matter dealt with by the flawed Local Government Standards regime, now abolished."

So our Tory council finds itself in 'uncharted territory'? Clearly, Councillor Cornelius, you are all at sea, but rest assured: you are still in Broken Barnet.

Do you really need Mrs Angry's advice?

Find your balls, stand up to Coleman - and suspend him from the Conservative group. 

Or face total annihilation at the next local election.

Update no 2:

 The local Times website now has a story quoting the Standard and a response from Tory 'Leader' Richard Cornelius:

Sadly the article does not quite live up to the promise of the headline: it claims that Cornelius ... ' is reported to be furious with the Totteridge representative’s defiant stance' ... but such a claim is belied by the rather less than challenging comment from the leader, as described:

'Councillor Cornelius said he would be speaking with Councillor Coleman about the issue tomorrow morning.
When asked if he was disappointed or surprised by the senior politician’s attitude, Cllr Cornelius said: 

I certainly look forward to hearing his views. He has not said to me what he will or will not do as of yet. I can’t make any comment on my own views of the situation. We’re all part of a larger party and there is a way of dealing with matters that will be followed.'

 Well: I think we are all looking forward to hearing Coleman's views, aren't we?


Mr Mustard said...

Have you written to Uncle Eric (Pickles MP) Mrs A?

You know how he loves to hear from you being such a fan and all.

Mrs Angry said...

hmm, I'll have a word, I think. He does value my advice, obviously.

baarnett said...

Does this:
mean that Brian is left twisting on the rope (so to speak)?

Surely a change of policy by Eric doesn't stop the completion of cases under an earlier policy.

Can you ask Eric?

Mrs Angry said...

well, if one were to follow Coleman's argument, one might just question why he bothered to attend the Standards' Committe hearing, or the appeal.

But then logic is not really Brian's thing, is it, poor old boy?