Monday 4 August 2014

Turtle Soup, or: the last days of Matthew Offord, and the long slow death of Tory Hendon

Ah! Then yours wasn't a really good school, said the Mock Turtle in a tone of great relief. Now at OURS they had at the end of the bill, "French, music, AND WASHING--extra.

You couldn't have wanted it much,' said Alice; living at the bottom of the sea.

I couldn't afford to learn it.' said the Mock Turtle with a sigh. I only took the regular course.

What was that?' inquired Alice. 

Reeling and Writhing, of course, to begin with,' the Mock Turtle replied; and then the different branches of Arithmetic-- Ambition, Distraction, Uglification, and Derision.

August, not April, is the cruellest month, isn't it? 

In the full glare of the sun, and in the absence of many of us in foreign parts, escaped from the confines of Broken Barnet, it often happens that moments of great significance occur, almost unremarked, in our beloved borough. 

Of course Mrs Angry is not allowed to take holidays, as the duty of citizen journalism forbids such self indulgence, and she must remain here, her beady eye focused on the front door - and back door - of North London Business Park, where the senior management stand by, waiting for a convenient moment to slip bad news, wrapped in the cover of a carefully spun shroud, safely out of the building - before the smell becomes too noticeable.

While our council managers sit at their desks, inventing joint venture business models, and writing the Tory policy agenda for the next twelve months, our elected representatives disport themselves abroad, lying on their sunbeds in their French holiday homes, dreaming of ... of what? Mmmm ...

Who can tell?

Some of our local politicians prefer to go further afield, of course. Those of a more adventurous nature. Take Matthew Offord, for example. No, please: take him, stick him on a slow boat to China, with a one way ticket. Alternatively, sit back and enjoy the thought of him as he is now, in the Cayman Islands, enjoying a well deserved rest from his exhausting political responsibilities,  (asking Important Questions in parliament, sitting on committees, going on fact finding tours of erm ... the Cayman Islands and ... well, that sort of thing).

It's a dog's life, isn't it Max?

Max, of course, is the mentor, guru and political inspiration who guides Matthew Offord's career. See above, with a campaign he was very keen for Matthew to endorse, against the use of the sort of appliance in the picture - I know what you're thinking: is there something missing, Mrs Angry? But no, apparently it's used (by horrible people) for punishing badly behaved dogs - instead of using 'positive encouragement', the system which Max now employs with Matthew, rather than an electric collar.

Matthew has also been  giving his time to another important dog related subject, according to his marvellous website, which Mrs Angry recommends as a source of amusing photographs, if nothing else. Here we learn that our canine expert has given his support to a Royal Mail

Dog Awareness Week , because, as Dr Offord tells us, rather pointedly:

postal workers are not alone in facing the risk of being attacked by a dog while carrying out their jobs. Politicians and volunteers may also encounter dogs when out canvassing and leafleting in their local areas ...

Oh dear. Is there a subtext here? Has someone taken a bite out of the Hendon MP's rear, while walking the streets of his constituency? Or has Max ... no, surely not.

That said, one can sympathise with politicians worried about attacks of this sort. Mrs Angry's delinquent cat has been waiting for some time to have a go at the Right Honourable Mike Freer, MP, should he dare to venture up our path, and ring the doorbell: (and the mood he's in this week, I really wouldn't push your luck).

I'll see the ******* off, vows Tommy Angry

And ... has Labour rival Andrew Dismore given up kissing babies and frightening residents on the doorstep with his cheery grin, and decided to adopt a dog, as a vote winning companion? Seems so. Not a bad idea, especially as Cllr Langleben has better things to do these days, is barely housetrained - and has been known to bite.

But yes: the current MP for Hendon is a very busy man. 

Look at the number of parliamentary questions he has asked in the last year: 249 - well above average. Interesting range of questions, too, although, well, you would be hard pressed to find any direct relevance to his constituents in any of the subject matter. In fact you have to go back to January to find one that mentions Hendon.

This is a similar pattern, of course, to the deluge of written questions submitted over the last few years by his Finchley and Golders Green colleague Mike Freer. Short on local relevance, and obsessed by a limited but deeply puzzling number of issues regarding government mobile phone contracts, electronic payment systems etc - see:

Matthew's interests are more wide ranging, although certain themes occur throughout. Asylum seekers, benefits, yes, yes, usual stuff ... and of course other issues of deep concern to the residents of Hendon -the threat to polar bears, elderly cod, and turtles, for example.

Another worry for the Hendon MP is the poor, literally maligned albatross, lurking about the Falkland Islands, luring sailors to their doom.

Lax biosecurity legislation in the Pitcairn Islands, that's another concern. 

Ah, the Pitcain Islands, refuge of the Bounty mutineers, of course. Mrs Angry used to have a couple of woven bags from there, brought home by her seafaring grandfather, whose ship used to pass by sometimes, you know. Not sure about just the biosecurity, whole place is a bit lax, to be honest, now, and it might be more appropriate to worry about the human inhabitants, the descendants of Fletcher Christian, and the other mutineers - but then humans are of course are more expendable and less interesting, to many Tory politicians, than far away eco systems and sustainable waste theories. 

Offord, whose constituency has a large Jewish community, has, in the course of the last few years, been on several paid trips to Israel and the West Bank, and quite rightly condemned the kidnapping, earlier this year, of the the three boys who were, tragically, later found dead, allegedly by the hands of terrorists. 

As far as Mrs Angry can see, however, he has made no comment on the loss of so many innocent Palestinian children, massacred in the pitiless slaughter of civilians in the Israeli bombardment of Gaza. 

He did ask in February about creating jobs in Gaza - so as to end the need for aid from us.

Looks like that question is redundant now. 

Wildlife at risk, though that's the thing: yes, polar bears, elderly cod, Pitcairn, albatrosses, oh, and the Hendon MP has also asked about endangered species in the area around the island of St Helena, the last home of Napoleon: can you see a doom laden theme forming? 

Perhaps, being one of the Tory MPs identified by Michael Ashcroft as part of the party's own endangered species, he feels a natural affinity with these creatures, ecosystems, and historical backwaters. Captain Bligh, Napoleon: men whose destiny, like Dr Offord, will inevitably lead them into exile, defied and disarmed. Tragic.

Turtles are the latest thing, though, with Matthew. He is awfully worried about them. Do you worry about turtles, readers, and yes, you, Andrew Dismore, late at night, when you can't sleep? No? Then don't stand for parliament, as a candidate for Hendon.

Only on the 21st of July, Offord asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the degree to which the Cayman Turtle Farm is a humane breeding facility. He asked another question on the same line the next day.

Now you might think that the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs might have slightly more important issues of war and peace and diplomacy to worry about, but then, Dr Offord is awfully interested in humane breeding, and procreation, as we know from the rigid position he adopted in response to debate about equal marriage. 

Marriage between gay people, he thinks, is wrong, because it is not conducive to the getting of children. One can only hope that those boy and girl turtles in the Cayman Islands are married, and keen to, well, get on with that sort of thing, and not getting ideas about getting it on with same sex turtle partners, which would be against God's plan for the environment, and the future of biodiversity.

Dr Offord is a member of a parliamentary Environmental Audit committee, of course, which has helped inform his expertise on these subjects. Indeed he has, on behalf of the committee, been nominated, with another MP, Joanne Walley, as a 'Rapporteur' * and sent to - guess where - the Caymans on a ... what was it ... a fact finding tour, from the 17th to the 21st of April, 2013, to erm ... to 'examine how sustainable development is practised in the Cayman Islands'.

*Rapporteur = an elected politician who has a natural affinity, or rapport, with five star holiday destinations in the Caribbean or surrounding coastal region, and requires regular stays in this area, on fact finding tours, thus enabling him or her to maintain a long lasting, glowing tan, and a quiet air of satisfaction while the rest of you, especially you, Mrs Angry, are stuck at home, making jam, and sulking ...

NB: Despite the apparent embargo on any journey by Mrs Angry beyond the boundaries of Broken Barnet, she is of course in demand for her expertise as an world renowned auditor, of things environmental and/or financial, and is immediately available, if anyone wishes her to undertake an examination of sustainable development in the Cayman Islands, or any other tax haven, or exotic destination. 

Not much expertise re turtles, but she did once look after a friend's tortoise while she was away in Newquay.

Gruelling schedule, mind you, for our Matthew, and his chum, what with trips to the Blue Iguana Recovery Programme (apparently they get wasted on the local rum) oh, and of course a visit to a booby nesting site. 

Mrs Angry has removed the joke previously inserted here, as smutty schoolgirl innuendo has no place in a serious blog. Or this one.

And it was such a memorable visit, it seems, that our Matthew, who is a keen scuba diver,  was eager to return to the Caymans, and their sustainable developments. Who could blame him?

He's there now, on vacation, apparently, and as you do, sometimes, when on your holiday - holding receptions for government officials and the movers and shakers in Cayman society, to, oh I don't know, tell them off for eating turtles. Mock turtle is a perfectly good substitute, after all, and Matthew should know, being an expert on soup, having once bragged about giving David Cameron advice on the subject, in the House of Commons dining room. Anyway, the press in the Cayman Islands are awfully excited by the visit by Offord - here is just one story covering his trip:

I'm not here to tell people what to eat, he said, while, well - telling people what to eat. 

Good of him to take time off from his own holiday, though, to take part in this event, wasn't it? But then he is quoted as saying he is happy to be  'Cayman’s “man in London” to advocate for the territory to get a larger slice of environmental funding'.


Wonder how his constituents feel about all this, though? Especially the residents of West Hendon, who might reasonable prefer that their elected member spent rather less time worrying about the plight of turtles and the ecology of Caribbean tax havens, and more about another endangered species, living rather closer to home: the shorthold tenants, soon to be dispossessed,  of social housing about to be demolished, in order to make way for a profitable luxury penthouse development by Barrett Homes, Hendon Waterside. 

Forget about 'poor doors': the only door available to a handful of current residents will be in a grudging token small building, on a former car park, with a view not of the beautiful Welsh Harp reservoir, but the back yards of run down kebab shops on the Edgware Road. 

The vast majority of current tenants, who have lived in this community for years, without secure tenancies, now face an uncertain future, with no idea of where they may be offered alternative accommodation, even whether or not it will be in the borough. They don't have any rights of protection, even, it seems, from their own MP. When some of them went to lobby him in April, at a constituency meeting in a local church hall, he refused even to speak to them, and hid inside until he could be evacuated, quaking in the back of a police van. (see end of post for pic).

The only photo opportunity availed by the plight of the West Hendon tenants was this one

here - possibly because it involved another form of wildlife, that is to say the rats which plague the homes and children's play areas of the estate:  as Mrs Angry can vouch from visiting the area regularly after his picture was taken, the rats continued to make residents lives a misery, and put their health at risk: and the wider problem of their future accommodation? No Tory politician wanted to know, then or now. What local MP was going to criticise the policies and actions of their Conservative council colleagues in Barnet? Why should they care about poor people, in Labour areas?

Ah, which brings us to perhaps the most gobsmacking posting on his website this year:

If you have followed the tale of Mrs Angry's investigations into the Highways expenditure scandal, in which the Tories changed the rules of budget allocation and then allowed Councillor Dean Cohen to award his own ward £1 million in the months running up to the election, while giving not one penny of funding to Labour held Colindale, you may recall the outrage expressed by Labour councillors like Gill Sergeant, who had fought unsuccessfully for much needed road improvements like the Aerodrome Road crossings. 

Constant excuses were given as to why the measures were not implemented, and objections submitted after the revelations of the underfunding: now we see Offord trying to take the credit for the crossings! 

Crossings in a road, incidentally, that is clearly dear to the heart of Matthew Offord, as this article from 2009 reminds us:

At such a time of crisis, with the world watching in horror at the unfolding tragedy in the Middle East, one might hope that our local politicians might be here to give support at least to those in the community affected by the events. In Offord's own constituency, an orthodox Jewish family has seen their home become the focus of a vile, and blatantly anti-semitic attack, with a swastika daubed on their home: what happens in Israel, and Gaza, is of direct relevance to many who live here, and relevant now, while our elected representatives absent themselves, and remain silent.

A similar situation ensued in the year of the London riots: while London burned, and parliament reconvened, our intrepid MP for Hendon was in Belize, apparently not on holiday, but fighting 'narco terrorism', and hurricanes, as part of an Armed Forces Parliamentary scheme outing.

Oh dear me. See here:

And here:

And here:

Belize, Cayman Islands, turtles, albatrosses, 'narco terrorism': all along way from West Hendon, and real people with real problems, isn't it? 

The glamour of the caribbean may pale into insignificance besides the grim reality of living in West Hendon, but it might behove our elected members to remember that they hold their positions in order to serve the local communities they have been given the privilege of representing, and not in order to indulge their own interests.

The three Conservative MPs in this borough are in a difficult position, of course, as we have noted before, in that they cannot adopt any local cause, or be seen to become involved in any major local issue, without having to challenge the monstrous regimen of Tory Barnet, their colleagues, and friends. And of course they cannot challenge any matter that arises out of the impact of their own government policy. 

So they occupy themselves in their own way: Theresa Villiers is clever enough to have pushed her career to Cabinet level, and confines her constituency duties to smiling winsomely at garden fetes and other innocuous events, and avoiding all controversy, or expressing any opinion, on any subject, at any time.

Freer has probably reached the highest level of his own career in parliament with a demotion to PPS for Nick Boles, having been delighting Eric Pickles with his assistance for nine months longer than anyone would have thought, in his nine month spell at DCLG. 

And Offord? LOL. Oh  dear. 

His time as MP for Hendon has been nothing more than a sequence of unfortunate events, relieved, from his point of view, by the opportunities afforded by his overseas trips, and dressing up as a soldier for the Armed Forces Parliamentary nonsense. He hasn't been mentioned in dispatches, as far as we know, although they are awfully keen on awarding themselves medals and honorary titles, these army cadet MPs.

Hendon Tories, to be frank, are in a pretty perilous state - the association is facing the impact of a huge drop in membership, factional fighting, and the prospect of long term activitist Hugh Rayner, now the Mayor of Barnet, forced to defend serious allegations in regard to his business activities and apparent failure to declare pecuniary interests in his role as councillor.

What a downfall, for this local Tory party, protectors of the temple of Thatcherism, Hendon Town Hall, and once the eager participants in one of the most influential political advertising campaigns this nation has seen: the billboard ad that helped to encourage voters to welcome a new Conservative government led by Margaret, at the beginning of her reign of terror, in 1979.

Yes, the notorious Saatchi ad, 'Labour isn't Working': 

This was later revealed to be not at all what it purported, a queue of unemployed people, but some twenty volunteers from Hendon Young Conservatives, ordered to turn up to a car park by the Welsh Harp - and here Mrs Angry feels obliged, by the rules of pyschogeographic bloggery, to refer you to the fate of the car park by the Welsh Harp mentioned above - and pose as instructed, pretending to be on the dole, and all because of Jim Callaghan and the evils of Socialism. They were expecting 100 volunteers, and were obliged to make do with what they had by repeating the sequence in the photo.

Dennis Healey denounced the ad in parliament,  accusing the Tories of trying to sell politics like 'soapflakes' - but it became the model for political campaign posters, and the symbolic proof of Tory hypocrisy, as we launched into the Thatcherite eighties - and record levels of unemployment. 

Ironic, then, that this lie was enacted in the very location, a sink estate over run by rats, but a community defiant in the face of neo Thatcherite councillors who really do still believe there is no such thing as society, here where we witness the logical end of Thatcher's right to buy scheme, and the triumph of profit over the ideals of social housing. 

Fitting too, that the ad then was a lie that was promulgated by the PM's own local activists, and fitting, now, that the local party that supplied the material for this con trick is now on its last legs, represented by a man who is about to lose them control of this once key seat.
The local elections made one thing clear: the Labour vote in Barnet is showing up now in places it never was expected to be - and a number of Tory councillors who did not imagine for one second that they would lose their seats are now ex councillors. 
Freer faces an almighty battle in Finchley from Sarah Sackman, and Theresa Villiers needs to address the inconvenient truth that she is no longer safe in Chipping Barnet, where changing demographics and collapse of the Libdem vote and other complex local factors have created an entirely new electoral reality.  

Over the last few years, our local Tory MPs have had the chance to do something brave, and bold, and worthy, for the people they represent. 

At every step they have chosen to look the other way, and avoid tackling the real problems faced by ordinary residents, by the majority of constituents, who do not worry about Freer's bogeyman mansion tax, or the fate of turtles in the Cayman Islands, but worry desperately about how they are going to pay the bedroom tax, or the long wait to see a consultant at the Royal Free, or if they are going to be driven from the community where they live by the Barnet Tory lie that passes under the name of 'regeneration'.

The Ashcroft poll has predicted Hendon will fall to Labour, and it will. 

Matthew Offord really is in the soup, and if he doesn't know it, he is even more of a fool than we take him for. 


Anonymous said...

Very Good Mrs A. And it Fits in very well with what I'm Going to say !! The Tories have a hidden agenda !! That Being if they get Back in !! They Have these things on there Agenda 1/ to privatise the NHS . 2/ to privatise the BBC 3/ To roll out the one Barnet system to as many councils as possible !!! & I Heard this from one of our Local Torie MPs !!! Who is stupid Enough to think I Agree with Them !!! Ps. Ian Duncan smith !! Made a very swift & very Hush Hush visit to Barnet House today !!! What A Great !!!!!!!!!!!! Oh that's it Tory He Is !! Sorry there were other words for him ! But I will finish with this !! A Joke is a very Serious thing ! & IDS is very much that , for all those that have to live with his jokes !!

Anonymous said...

Today we Mark 100 yrs since the outbreak of the First World War ! I wonder if all those that fought would have Been proud of the Heritage so Hard won with the Blood of Millions ! In the Name of justice ! Freedom ! & what we call Fair play !! What would they think of that Here in Broken Barnet ! Would they say is this what we Died so Needlessly for !!!! I wonder & what would they say to us !! RIP those Heroes ! & RIP Democracy Here in Barnet ! Welcome to the Machine !!! Capita

Mrs Angry said...

I hope, Anon, that they would have been proud of being remembered, a hundred years later, and honoured for their sacrifice. I also think they might look at the wars being fought a hundred years later, and note that it is still the case, as it was for them, that the politicians who send young men to war do so safe in the knowledge that they will never have to put their own lives at risk.

Red Sonia said...

Oh, Mrs A, you must blog on this one!

Mrs Angry said...

Mmmm. Had a look at that and I quote:
Cllr Richard Cornelius, Barnet’s Leader, said: “The significant amount of fraud being detected illustrates just how important it is for the council to work as hard as possible to protect the public purse.

“Nowadays it is more important than ever that money goes into providing services and not to those intent on cheating the system. I am sure this sends out a very clear message to anyone committing or contemplating fraud, that you will be caught.”

Anyone committing fraud,the need to protect the public purse: phrases that drop from Richard Cornelius' mouth so easily. Of course he wasn't around as leader when the MetPro scandal was uncovered, when no fraud investigation was launched, as I recall.

But in regard to the risk of fraud, and the risk of misuse of the public purse, we look forward to the same stringent standards of probity being applied to our elected representatives, don't we?

Anonymous said...

Through the 50s 60s 70s 80s & into the 90s we Bore witness to Apartheid ! Which was keenly supported By Margaret Thatcher ! Who said Nelson Mandala should be hung as a terrorist ! History has made comment on who was Right ! But the Legacy that He Nelson has Left is as Relevant As Ever ! That is that the Little People can change Things !! ? Are the Torys trying to create a form of Apartheid is this Our Borough ! Where sick , Disabled , poor & Homless are to Be Dealt with in whatever punishment can Be Dealt out ! While they Gorge themselves as Slum Landlords packing in East Europeans into craped Rooms & Any other poor unfortunates from Abroad that may Have Thought there is Fair play Here in in the Good ol Crapita !!!

Fanofootball said...

Have just come to this Blog while investigating some Tory goings on here in Watford. Watfordians have suffered from the imposition of a Tory MP on them in 2010 and David Cameron seems to pass through here with monotonous regularity. In addition the ghastly Gove was picketed by some of us when he lunched at Sopwell House last year - flogging off more Herts schools no doubt.
BTW BorisWatch might be interested to know that there is some talk of Boris taking over from Mr Clappison in Hertsmere.
So sorry to go on but love your work and am heartened that we are not alone in opposing this ConDem Cabal over here in Watford.

Mrs Angry said...

Fanofootball: welcome. I apologise for the lack of football stories on this blog. During the world cup, I had an interlude of about five minutes when I understood the offside rule, and almost showed some interest in the game, but the moment passed.

I had a look at your MP. Does he never shave, or is he growing a beard? The lower part of his face makes him look like Desperate Dan.

David Cameron probably goes down well in Watford - no offence. He did come here a week ago, and was just down the road from me,with Nick Clegg, so I missed a golden opportunity to go and shout rude things at them, which was a shame.