Ed Balls arrived, surrounded by a Thick of It style posse of anxious assistants, went to a couple of local shops & came back to Cafe Buzz, where he had coffee, (yes, he paid his bill himself) happily posed outside with Helen, and Mrs Angry - and library staff facing the loss of their jobs as a result of the Barnet Tory plan to destroy our library service - and went to meet Helen Michael, handing her a bunch of flowers in admiration, he said, of all the work she does for the community: and well deserved.
The truth is that Helen Michaels, as well as serving us so well as the nemesis of Brian Coleman, really is a generous, public spirited woman, who has worked very hard not only to object to the ludicrous parking system which is devastating our high streets, but to represent local traders, and help to regenerate North Finchley.
Ah yes: Brian Coleman.
Two years ago, the former Tory GLA member for Barnet and Camden, one time deputy leader of the Tory group on the Assembly,former Chair of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority, councillor and cabinet member in Barnet, etcetera, etcetera, pleaded guilty - at the last moment - to the common assault by beating of Helen Michael, in the street in North Finchley, attacking her, grabbing her arm and breast: as found by the judge at his trial:
'Ms Michael sustained a number of injuries, including scratches to her hands and wrist, soreness to the wrist, her shoulder and in the region of her chest'.
Why did he attack her - in front of, although he did not know it, a cctv camera, and an off duty police officer?
Because this woman was the cafe owner who had led the campaign against his catastrophic parking regime,dared to hold him to account for it - and had caught him flouting his own rules, parking without payment, in a loading bay, while he was using a cash machine in the high street.
She was alerted to this by someone who had seen him park illegally, had gone outside, and stood at some distance, taking a photo with her phone, which he then tried, by force, to take from her, and then drive off, despite her trying to stop him.
This vicious assault by the thick set Coleman, on a slightly built woman, who was acting in the public interest and rightly holding him to account, was utterly unacceptable, and the act of a thug. And Coleman repeatedly lied about the incident - as was exposed by the cctv film - until the day of the hearing. The police did not believe him, and banged him up in a cell overnight in the course of questioning him further.
One might not be entirely surprised that such a man would behave in this bullying and abusive way: but one might have hoped that his fellow Tory councillors, and local Tory MPs, would disassociate themselves from his vile behaviour. But they did not. Far from it. They repeated his version of events, and tried to discredit Helen Michael. This was, of course, before the trial, and the viewing of the film which proved he was lying.
Despite her vindication, and the criminal conviction handed down to their colleague, not one local Tory, councillor or MP, has ever publicly condemned Brian Coleman for what he did, nor apologised to her for supporting him.
It was only after a sustained public outcry and intervention from the highest level at the Central Conservative party that Coleman was, eventually expelled from the party.
Or so we were led to believe.
And it was only when he then did the thing they feared the most, and exposed some of his former fellow Tory councillors private lives, outing one or two who happen to be gay - as if anyone cared - and revealing another one who had been found guilty of a drink driving offence, that they began to show any hostility to him at all.
Despite his behaviour, some local Tory councillors have continued to be perfectly friendly to him. At his 'Mayormaking' ceremony, Hugh Rayner went out of his way to welcome him, and say how nice it was to see him.
Not only did Tory council leader Richard Cornelius refuse to condemn Coleman's behaviour in assaulting Helen Michael - I know and like Brian, he told a Labour councillor, and I can't believe he would do that ... Coleman's great friend and former colleague, Finchley & Golders Green MP, and now PPC, Mike Freer has never disowned him.
Freer, of course, owes a debt of gratitude to his friend for engineering the coup which made him Leader of the council, before becoming MP for Finchley & Golders Green - and they were both highly influential in directing the course of the last few years of the Barnet Tories' quaintly retro, neo Thatcherite agenda.
And now, in return, Coleman, by his own stupidity, has reminded everyone of the toxic nature of his association with the Tory party, just days before the general election, when Freer, to his great surprise, finds himself in a marginal constituency, and likely to lose to a formidable Labour candidate, Sarah Sackman.
How has this come about? By the usual way of things with Coleman - not knowing when to keep quiet, and an insatiable need for attention. In other words, through the medium of twitter, which was invented specifically to ruin the careers of fools like him.
Since his downfall, Mrs Angry has had no interest in Coleman, perceiving him merely as a problem solved, and irrelevant to the political scene, here in Broken Barnet. Bumping into him a week or so ago, while he was at some event organised by the Rotary club he belongs to, it even occurred to her to hope that in some way having to engage in charitable work might perform the function of a form of rehabilitation.
In a twitter spat with Barnet Eye blogger Roger Tichborne recently, the following exchange occurred:
Yes: after all this time, Coleman has learned nothing, and is still clearly totally unrepentant about his assault of Helen Michael: worse still, thinks it is amusing to joke about the subject of violence against women. He is not alone, in thinking so.
Coleman's contempt for women is well established of course - you may recall the council meeting in which he referred to women in the public gallery as 'sad, mad, and a couple of old hags' - only one example of his offensive behaviour, as lovingly catalogued here, by a Barnet resident and tweeter, Mr John Baldy: http://101reasonstosackbriancoleman.tumblr.com/
Coleman was never reprimanded for his confrontational, and often insulting approach to residents: in fact outbursts like these were always met with mirth by his fellow Tory councillors, whose misogyny is deeply embedded in the culture and traditions of their antediluvian view of the world.
And this is not a question of an older generation: consider the case of one of the younger Barnet Tory members, Tom Davey, who - God help us - has responsibility for housing, and has been promoting a policy change that would oblige women living with an abusive partner to declare themselves homeless before being considered for re-housing.
Cllr Davey thought it amusing, once upon a time, to make jokes about 'smacking my bitch up'. http://politicalscrapbook.net/2014/04/vile-facebook-messages-of-social-cleansing-tory-councillor/
Sarah Sackman, standing against Mike Freer, here in Finchley and Golders Green is outspoken in her support for social justice, and the rights of women at risk from violence, speaking out in criticism of the Barnet Tory housing proposals, starting a petition, and commenting:
This is a cruel step backwards for victims of domestic violence in our community. Under this Tory council, victims will be forced to choose between their personal safety and their home. By proposing that victims of domestic violence declare themselves homeless and by stripping them of tenancy or occupation rights, the council is rewarding their abusers.
For women struggling to escape abusive relationships, and unable to access justice due to the savage Tory cuts in legal aid, a Labour government at least offers some hope:
Back in Broken Barnet, however, where women are still second class citizens, and the subject of ridicule and contempt - it has now emerged that the slap happy Coleman has yet again damaged the party he claims to revere, by dropping an almighty clanger, only days before the election, and further weakening the campaign of his long time friend, Mike Freer.
After making further disparaging remarks about Helen Michael, following the visit from Ed Balls, Roger Tichborne made a fairly casual comment to Coleman, which provoked a very interesting response:
Was he joking?
Finchley Tories categorically, and repeatedly, denied it was true. The following exchange, however, suggested that they were wrong:
OK, I can confirm that Brian Coleman has not been re-admitted to any local Conservative party. AFAIK he hasn't asked; if he did we'd refuse.
Gabriel Rozenberg, of course, is a new councillor, and not one of the old timers who have run the offices of the Finchley Tory party at Margaret Thatcher House since - well, since the era of Margaret Thatcher. He is an honourable young man. He is also rather naive, and inclined to believe whatever he is told by his older Tory colleagues.
Mr Tichborne and Mrs Angry devised a strategy, and suggested to Brian that if he was telling the truth, he ought to prove it: that is to say, prove that he really had been admitted to the party.
He played along, predictably, and within a short while had tweeted a picture of his membership card.
This set the Finchley Tories in a state of panic, as you might imagine. And they used Cllr Rozenberg to take on the responsibility of covering up what had happened.
Next up was a tweeted picture of this letter, dated the day the story was outed, and pics of the letter being posted through Brian Coleman's letter box:
We were asked to believe that no one knew Brian Coleman, expelled from the party for his criminal conviction of assault, had continued to pay subs to the party, and had received at least one membership card, posted to him by the Finchley Tories, without any member of the Finchley Tory party being aware of it.
And now having denied this, until outed on twitter, Finchley Tories, in the midst of trying to persuade us to vote for Coleman's friend Mike Freer, then wrote him a cheque for £25 and asked him to stop being a member.
Still. £25. Not to be sniffed at, in the circumstances. Might buy Brian, for example, around 38 copies of his beloved Hendon and Finchley Times, especially those impertinent articles by Anna Slater, who has committed the dreadful crime of being a journalist, and reporting the truth - and being female ...
Where is the truth, in this sorry tale?
Brian Coleman, the Schrodinger's Cat of the Finchley Tory party: a member, and yet not a member. Not a member, until Barnet bloggers, empirically proved that ... he is a member. He still thinks he is a member. He has a card to prove it.
Did someone tell him, after his conviction, that after a couple of years in the wilderness, if he keeps his head down, he can come back to the party? Seems likely.
Why has Mike Freer, the Tory candidate, former MP, former leader of Barnet Council, remained silent on this subject? Why has he never condemned the behaviour of his old friend, nor spoken out about the farcical re-admission into the party, even if it took place without his knowledge?
Here is a photo from the GLA count of 2012, which saw Coleman lose his place, and marked the beginning of the end of his career, with a shocked Mike Freer - and Helen Michael, in hte foreground -come to give his support to his old friend, realise, perhaps for the first time, that the hold the Tory party had on the borough was losing its strength, and his own political future was no longer secure.
Despite this clear warning, however, the party continued to take the electorate's support for granted, with the result that what they had imagined would be a straightforward election in Finchley and Golders Green, at least, has become a battle in a marginal constituency.
Brian Coleman was, and is, the dark animus of the Barnet Tory psyche, the manifestation of a strain of Conservatism that belongs in the blue wheelie bin of history, but lingers on, in Broken Barnet, in attitude, in principle, and in policy: the true face of Tory politics, here and now. Until he and the old guard who still protect him move on, Conservatism in this borough will never regain its dominance, or credibility.
I've been writing about the political life of this borough for five years now. It begins and ends at the same point: with a hardline, male dominated, bullying Conservative administration, and their partners, a trio of uxorious parliamentary representatives, who see their role not as advocates for the broad spectrum of people who live here, but for a privileged few.
Their silence over Coleman's behaviour, and his re-admission to the fold, however it occurred, speaks more eloquently than anything of the decadent values they represent.
Theirs is a world where equality, and respect for women, for families, for those in need, in poverty, at risk, the old, the young, those with disabilities, are of no interest; surplus to the requirements of a relentless, remorseless ideology, where material worth is the only value that counts, and the consideration of human frailty is seen as a weakness, rather than the very definition of humanity, and community.
You have a chance, tomorrow, in the three constituencies in this borough, to vote for Sarah Sackman, Amy Trevethan, and Andrew Dismore, and to rid yourself of the culture of cynical, abusive Tory values that has governed this country for the last few years.
It's time to replace our three Conservative MPs with people who will better represent those residents who face the daily struggle not of worrying about mansion tax, or their offshore savings accounts, but the ordinary problems of keeping a roof, any roof, over their heads; worrying about the NHS, being plundered by private sector investors; about the surrender of their local public services to predatory, profit hungry private companies; about the impact on those least able to bear them of the punitive, humiliating welfare cuts, and target driven job seeker sanctions.
Please use your vote wisely, even if you are not usually a Labour supporter: you may be by nature a Libdem, or a Green party supporter, but the harsh reality is that those principles, however faithfully held, cannot elect a representative, but will, if used at the ballot box in any of the three Barnet constituencies, help to re-elect a Tory MP.
There is a 13% swing in London towards Labour, and all three constituencies are capable of returning a Labour MP, if the opposition voters unite, for the common good, on behalf of those who simply cannot sustain another five years of Tory policies.
When you stand in the polling booth, if you have any doubt, you might like to think of the people of West Hendon, watching their homes destroyed, in order to accommodate a luxury development on the land where their homes stand, sold to developers for £3.
Or think of the children of Sweets Way, thrown on to the streets, and sent to live in yet another 'regeneration' estate, or miles out of the borough.
Or the families in Strawberry Vale, dependent on a foodbank, run by the local churches.
The children of Mapledown, whose families lost their respite care to pay for a Tory election tax cut 'gesture'.
The care workers of Your Choice Barnet, made to pay the cost of the Tory's failed plan to make profit out of care, with a 9.5% cut in their already low wages.
Don't vote for the status quo, for MPs with a sense of entitlement, who expect to be returned to Westminster simply because ... they want to be. Do something brave, and stand up for what is right, and wave goodbye to Broken Barnet, the scrapyard littered with the remains of Mike Freer's easycouncil; a land where the last Thatcherites came to die, and are holding us hostage while they go down.
This was Broken Barnet: where and what we can become, after tomorrow, is up to you now.