Wednesday, 28 March 2018

On the scrapheap - Barnet Tories fall apart: Mrs Angry's (pre) pre-election guide



So. Following on from the last post. Picture the scene, one night last week, at Hendon Town Hall.

A meeting of the General Functions Committee: the last one before the ... sshh. Election. The local election. 

Chair: Joan Scannell. 

Joan Scannell. One of the councillors who, after many years service, have been ruthlessly deselected as a candidate, by Hendon Tories - whose Chairman is Dan Thomas.

Tory committee members: Leader Richard Cornelius, and - oh - deputy leader Dan Thomas. And councillor Wendy Prentice, still hanging on, but only by the skin of her teeth. 

Why? Well, being an older woman, surplus to requirements, by Barnet Tory standards. (Her fellow ward councillor Bridget Perry, another older female member, will not be a candidate at the election, believed also to have been deselected). 

The meeting, then. What could possibly go wrong?

Quite a lot, as it turned out. 

You can watch it here, courtesy of Occupy News Network: see the beginning, and then at 45 minutes onwards.

           


         Business began with a comment from the Chair that it would be her last, as she had been deselected, and ... oh dear: thrown 'on the scrapheap', after a 45 year association with Barnet Council. 

Awkward. 

From the usually calm and mildly spoken Cllr Scannell, this was tantamount to an all out assault. Her male colleagues quaked in their shoes, sitting across the table, wondering how to deal with this unprecedented display of mutiny by a formerly loyal and impeccably behaved group member. Female Tory councillors, of course, are expected to be impeccably behaved, loyal, and know their place. 

Cornelius found himself engrossed in his papers, as a gratifyingly, and visibly, shaken Thomas gulped down some water, and attempted to maintain his demeanour.

But that was just a taste of what was to come. 

As the meeting drew to a close, it was time for the departing Chair to make a closing speech. She mentioned by name each person at the table, officers and members, and thanked them, even the Leader, who sat there, passively, clearly deeply embarrassed, as so he should.

The Chair thanked all the members present, except one person.



I will NOT be thanking Dan Thomas, she stated.

Because he is Chair of the Hendon Tories, which had deselected her for no reason whatsoever - she wasn't even interviewed, she said. 

Then she launched into the most astonishing accusation, thrown across the table, like a grenade: 


"Anti-Christian, anti-family - and misogyny is rife in Hendon Conservative Association under him ..."

As Thomas froze in silent fury, and the Tory leader stared hard at his papers, the ever polite Cllr Scannell finished with a dutiful, but somewhat unnecessary Thank you.


A typically hard nosed Thomas immediately demanded a right of reply: did you just mention that you failed to turn up to the interview, Chairman?*


*According to a long and distinguished tradition of Tory Barnet misogyny, female Chairs are not Chairs, or Chairwomen, but Chairmen, of course. The title of Chairman was reclaimed, a few years back, under the pretext of rejecting a pointless example of political correctness, but really in order to underline the point that authority can ultimately only be vested in a male tradition.

It should be noted, of course, that Cllr Scannell herself approved the re-adoption of this term. Wonder if she regrets that now?


But back to the committee table.

I think I said, continued a newly liberated and determinedly defiant Joan Scannell: 'anti-Christian, and anti-family' - it happened to be a Sunday, and it happened to be ... Mothers' Day. Thomas looked on. Mothers normally spend it with their families. I've thought about it long and hard, and I sent through a video ...


Here a visibly wrong footed Thomas rudely interrupted her and attempted to exert control of the meeting, suggesting the meeting was over. He had no right to do this, of course, and it is a mark of his arrogance that he yet again tried to speak over the female Chair of the committee of which he is merely a member. The female Chair-man, that is.

'She persisted', as they say - and ended the meeting. Thomas turned now to the silent Cornelius, who had offered brief thanks to her as Chair, but has uttered not one word of public criticism of her treatment, even though he must be aware of the distress it has caused - and the reaction of loyal Tory voters in the deselected councillors' wards.

The two Tory men whispered to each other, knowing they were being filmed, and clearly hoping no one could lip read. 

Cornelius's body language spoke of discomfort, whereas Thomas was visibly shocked, and trying to brazen it out.

Councillor Scannell's failure to attend an interview on the day alloted by Cllr Thomas might seem to be a tactical error - but the reasons given were genuine. She is know to be a devoutly religious woman, and church goer, and Mothering Sunday for her really was a day for family commitments, as well as church attendance.

Hendon Tories, depleted and weakened though they are in terms of numbers, stand accused by more than one of their own councillors as being marked by a peculiar sort of male dominated, unsympathetic tradition that is indeed misogynist, and ageist, in regard to women. See fellow blogger Roger Tichborne's recent post on this subject.

This is, in fact, a symptom of a more general sickness that is rooted deep within one faction of the borough's Tory party, but more evident in the increasingly disaffected Hendon constituency.

Most of the longer serving and more prominent members and activists here are of course ... men, men of a somewhat reactionary tendency, and some of whom may indeed be accused of failing to understand the needs of an active family life.

In turn this minimises their own experience of the wider challenges that ordinary residents meet in their daily lives, and creates a deficit in compassion, and sense of community. 

This lack of emotional intelligence, furthermore, inevitably carries with it the certain failure of their own ambitions: in this case, failing to foresee the extent of upset caused to loyal colleagues over their brutal deselection, and failing to understand the sense of distaste felt by others at the way in which it was done.

Older female members were tolerated amongst Barnet Tories, as long as they conformed to the expectations of the men: if Cllr Scannell, as she had expected, been automatically reselected, she would no doubt have carried on as before, relegated to this passive role. Having been considered surplus to requirements, and refusing to go quietly, however, she may actually have achieved as much for Conservative women in Hendon, and Barnet, as anything else she has done in all her years with the council. 

As Joan Scannell's fellow councillor Wendy Prentice commented at the GF meeting, in thanking her for her service as Chair, and within the Tory group in Barnet, in a remark aimed at those who had brought about the deselection of loyal members: 'What goes around, comes around'. 

All actions have consequences, even in Broken Barnet.

It was clear from the hushed conversation between leader and deputy leader at the end of this meeting that they were horrified by the public exposure of division within their own party: and particularly so, no doubt, at this point, so close to the election.

Brexit is one faultline that runs between this group, and divides it, under the surface: but gender politics represent a new line of battle, in this true blue context. 

Whatever next?

Next, after shock, comes denial: private and public. 

A press release was rushed out, with a rather more wholesome spin put on the whole backstabbing debacle and published on the Barnet Tories website. 

Apparently, according to Dan Thomas, it had been not so much a deselection, as a process of thanking 'stalwart councillors' for their service. Whilst kicking them out of the back door: 

Stalwart councillors thanked for their service

Barnet’s Conservative Group has thanked three stalwart councillors for their service.

Councillors Maureen Braun, of Hendon ward, Sury Khatri, of Mill Hill ward, and Joan Scannell BEM, of Edgware ward were not reselected to stand in the May 3 elections by members of the Hendon Conservative Association.

Councillor Dan Thomas, chairman of the association and deputy leader of the Council, said: 


"As per Conservative Party rules, all councillors must be reselected by their constituency association to stand for re-election. As this process is conducted by secret ballot, it is neither possible nor appropriate to speculate why applicants are not successful.



Councillors Joan Scannell, Maureen Braun, and Sury Khatri have a combined length of service on Barnet Council of 52 years and both Joan and Maureen served with distinction as Mayor. We are extremely grateful for all they helped us to achieve as a Conservative Council and we wish them all the best for the future.”



Cllr Scannell was first elected to Edgware in 1994, the year the Conservative Group regained control of the Council, and had two decades’ prior experience as a Council officer. She served as chairman of the General Functions Committee for 16 years and Conservative Group Secretary for 21 years. She was awarded the British Empire Medal in the Queen’s 90th birthday honours for her long service to the Council and to the community.


Cllr Braun was first elected to Hendon ward in 1998. She served as chairman of the Hendon Area Planning Committee and holds the highest attendance record for daytime meetings. Cllr Khatri was first elected to Mill Hill in 2010. He is chairman of the Hendon Residents’ Forum, and helped establish the NW7 Hub and Mill Hill Partnership Library.



New candidates for the vacant positions will be selected by the association in due course".


Now here is a very curious thing.

On - or before - March 16th, Hendon Tory chair Dan Thomas was asked by the local Times group to comment on the story of deselection, which had caused so much controversy, and to react to accusations by local Labour group leader Barry Rawlings, and AM Andrew Dismore, that this development had been part of a deliberate strategy, aimed at creating a more right wing group, led by - oh? Hendon chair, Dan Thomas? According to Andrew Dismore:

"I believe this is a coup by the Conservative far-right Brexiteers to further the ambitions of Daniel Thomas, currently deputy leader of the council, who wants to lead the Conservative Group after the election.


"They have taken out three moderate councillors because they are more independent-minded and open to debate."



Thomas denied this was the case.

"The party’s decision not to re-select a small number of councillors is nothing to do with policy, an imagined ‘coup’ or a non-existent faction trying to take control. The selection process is such that no single person can control it and our new candidates are yet to be chosen."



Oh. Make a note of that ... our new candidates are yet to be chosen ...

That was March 16th.

Unfortunately for Dan Thomas, also on March 16th, one of the chosen new candidates announced on twitter that he was, indeed ... a chosen new candidate.

This was, predictably, another nice young Tory Boy in jacket, tie & cufflinks called Ben Brickley, who lives in Hendon, and ... oh, according to his linkedin profile, has been selected for Colindale, one of the wards in ... the Hendon constituency, by the association chaired by Dan Thomas.


Colindale Tory candidate Ben Brickley, endorsed by Liam Fox

Reading through Mr Brickley's twitter timeline (first rule of being a Tory candidate in Broken Barnet, son: cover your traces ...) is most informative. Let's see. 

Ah: active within the world of UGLE (sic) freemasonry, so he'll be very much at home, if elected, with the other masons in the Tory group, if there are any left - a group which at one time boasted so many trouser roller uppers, they used to hold lodge meetings in one of the Committee rooms. (Witnessed by Mrs Angry's brother, who used to work in governance, and accidentally tried to enter the room one night, while a meeting was in progress, and found access impeded by members leaning against the doors ...) 

Men only clubs awfully popular, with Barnet Tories, of course. Keeps the women at a safe distance, for one thing. Before you deselect them.

These days, however, most Tory members are of a type that would struggle to get themselves accepted by a local stamp collecting group, or Rotary club (an association favoured by Brian Coleman, of course), let alone a masonic lodge, so conspiracy theorists should not get too carried away by this line of thought. 

The new candidate also appears in a pic taken in the summer of a group of Young Tories in Hendon - sorry, the group of Young Tories, all of them (about half a dozen) - ah, a photo taken by, or at least tagging ... Dan Thomas ... 

Sadly, there is little chance of Mr Brickley being elected anyway, as Colindale has proved to be something of a failure in the attempted plantation of the mutinous, Labour held western side of the borough with Tory voters, via mass 'regeneration'. 

They thought this clever wheeze would grow them lots of property owning Tories, in place of 'decanted' social housing tenants and - well: poor people - but as properties in these areas have largely gone to overseas investors and buy to let speculators, they are lived in by renting younger people who are, as canvassers found out at the last GE, ho ho: Labour voters. 

Oops.

But what does this admission tell us about the truth behind the Hendon deselections, and the rumours of an attempt by Cllr Thomas to grab the leadership from Richard Cornelius? Claiming that candidates had not been chosen, when clearly at least one Hendon decision had been made?

Some of the other Tory candidate selections for Barnet can be found here: some curious omissions, in fact. Are they shy about announcing the full slate, for some reason? Or are they faffing about, desperately trying to fill slots? Let's take a look at the wards in Hendon.

Colindale, funnily enough, is not listed at all. Mrs Angry hopes that Mr Brickley is not being a little premature in celebrating his nomination.

Mill Hill: now that veteran ward councillor, and older woman, Maureen Braun has been unceremoniously dumped - no, 'thanked for her service' - and then dumped: oh dear. There is a vacancy, To Be Announced. 


Good news: being eighty five is no barrier for a council candidate, if he is a man: that silver fox and expert linguist John Hart is standing again. As well as Thomas's ally, Val Duschinsky.

Oh look: Edgware has a vacancy now, of course, in the place of deselected councillor Joan Scannell. 



Candidate to be announced. 

Hmm. Wonder who that will be?

Well, let's move on to the neighbouring ward of Hale, which has three new candidates ... Lachhya Gurung, an active member of the Burnt Oak Nepalese community, Elliot Simberg, who stood  - and lost - last time, and Laithe Jajeh, who started his campaign tweeting pictures of himself looking very tetchy, and picking up litter in the ward, until Mrs Angry and the rest of twitter pointed out that it was his own Tory council that had cut the street litter service ...


Oh, but: hang on ... 

Where is Hendon Conservative Association's big cheese, former Chair, Hugh Rayner? He is a member for Hale. 

Nope. Not listed.

But then ... it has been alleged that Cllr Rayner wants to stand in Edgware, which is of course a safer position than in marginal Hale. 

Hale was fiercely fought over, during the last local elections, and very nearly turned red: with better strategy by Labour, it would have been won. This time looks even more likely. 

Could he be the mysterious TBA candidate? Mrs Angry asked him, via the medium of twitter, as he has been more than usually chatty there over the last few days. For some reason, Hugh will not clarify this point. Draw your own conclusions. Oh: except - oh no, surely not? Has another stalwart councillor been deselected? 

There is a rumour flying about that after the furore kicked up about alleged misogny within the Hendon Tory association, more female candidates are now being appointed, and Cllr Rayner himself may be surplus to requirements, even in Edgware.

Oh, Hugh. Let us hope this is Fake News, promulgated by wicked Socialists, and that we may expect that he will graciously accept a safe(r) nomination in Edgware, and delight us all with another four years of his presence in the council chamber.

Although our Tory friends seem awfully shy about announcing their full slate of candidates - unless of course that is the full slate, on their website, there are some you would do well to avoid, for example if you are like fellow blogger Mr Mustard, and irritated by a. awful grammar and b. the inability to proof read your election leaflets: here is one delivered by Tories in East Barnet: 


Dear me. As Mr M remarked:



But ... interesting claim, isn't it, that £800K has been spent on East Barnet ward in the past year. In a ward which was won by Labour, from the Tories, last time round. Where is the evidence for that claim, one wonders? Especially as FOI requests for this information are currently being obstructed (once again) - this time by Capita, rather than the response being dealt with by FOI staff. 

Well, Mrs Angry has asked one of the candidates, once more via the medium of Twitter, and will wait for a response. 


It must be said there have been some wonderful photo opportunities provided by our Tory councillors in the last few days.  




Seven bright orange glutton machines. Hmm. 

How many can you spot, readers? 

And how quickly did the PR person who tweeted that find himself directed towards the nearest Job Centre, do you think?

Tory 'leader' (interim) Richard Cornelius appears somewhat ill at ease in the cunning disguise of a working man. 

Mind you, Mrs Angry finds herself struck with awe by Councillor Dean Cohen's adept deployment of the new equipment. Who'd have thought it?

Any other interesting candidates, from other parties, Mrs Angry?

Well: we are all looking forward to the prospect of candidates in Barnet from the new Polish Pride party, which is the creation of one Prince John Zylinski, who apparently once challenged Nigel Farage to a duel (well, who hasn't wanted to do that?) and hopes his admirably pro European party will - well ... stimulate a more interesting political debate:

I think I’m the ideal candidate to use my Polish army to protect and support all the minorities, and in fact all the communities,” he told the Standard. “We’ve touched a nerve here… we’ve found the G-spot of the Polish people.”




Might pick up votes in Barnet, with our large Polish community, old and new.

Who else. Libdems. Hmm. Well: fellow blogger Roger Tichborne is standing in Mill Hill: may do well, but may simply split the non Tory vote. Mrs Angry is praying fervently for a Labour win, of course, but he would make a good local councillor.

Greens? Can't find any info on their website. 

Moving on. 

Ukip? Again, no news on their website. Handy guide for those thinking of standing in 2018, though:  quick! Delete those tweets! Close your facebook account! 

Standing for Council 2018

Please do a thorough check of your social media accounts. The biggest reason for vetting delays is facebook. Liking or sharing anything from a proscribed group or organisation is a breach of party rules and is likely to result in a failed vetting decision. The UKIP proscribed groups and organisations are:


​BNP


National Front


British Freedom Party


British People’s Party


English Defence League (EDL)


Britain First


UK First Party




So anyway. Back to the Tories, and their little spat. 

Thank goodness all that has been sorted. No one noticed, much, did they? 

Well, except for a bit of press coverage, here and there. 

Like the front page of the local Times. Which was under a rather dreary wraparound advertisement cover.

You probably didn't notice this grubby blue ad, but if you did, and cast an eye over it, you would have been somewhat puzzled.



Here we find a desperate list of pledges, making all sorts of promises, nicked from - erm - the Labour party. 

Yes: in a contortion worthy of Houdini, in an attempt to escape from the self appointed imprisonment of their own record in office, your Conservative councillors have decided to form an opposition to fight their own policies, if returned to office. 

As fellow blogger Mr Roger Tichborne put it: 




Barnet Tories are asking you to vote for them on the basis of a promise to ... stop over development? Er, what? And invest FURTHER in in our roads, and pavements? Is that in all wards, then, or just Tory ones?


Shame if you missed this advert. But your attention may just have been diverted by what was splashed on the front page, thus undoing any questionable benefit gained by splurging election funds on the wraparound. 


Splashed all over, in glaring headlines, and with a posed photo of three sulking Tory councillors: 


'Anti-family and misogyny is rife' ...

Uh oh.

Oh dear me. 

Not going quietly, the deselected councillors. It is rumoured that at least one of them is taking action to appeal against the process, although what sort of outcome is possible is unclear. 

It has been a very long while since any local political story has made the front page of the local paper (now boasting a local democracy reporter, albeit one shared with two other boroughs). And the timing could not possibly have been worse for Barnet Tories. Everything is coming together, now, at the most awkward time.

This morning we learned that a week before the local elections, Capita will publish an announcement of their full year results and update on the 'transformation programme' that will have to be put in place, if the company is to survive. If it survives. This can only have very serious implications for the future of many outsourced services - and the way we run things here in Barnet. It is the best possible reminder of the risk posed by returning another Tory council here, which so recklessly committed us to the investment of Barnet residents' money in the two massive contracts we are now tied to, with no back up plan, and demonstrably no evidence of the delivery of promises of huge savings, or better standards of service.

As Barnet Tories tear themselves apart, and their own policies become too toxic to acknowledge, they are driven to more and more desperate tactics in order to try to retain any chance of retaining the council. Trying to copy Labour's pledges is only one of these ploys. 

Better to try the real thing, Mrs Angry would suggest: vote Labour, and try to undo the damage of 16 years of Tory misrule. 

Certainly if you object to the shameless Tory representation of their destruction of our library system as 'investment', or the claim that they have kept all libraries 'open', when what is left in those buildings is so far short of any definition of a public library, you should note that Labour pledges to address this directly: 

"restoring access to libraries for school children, guaranteeing Saturday opening, and four hours opening after school on at least four days a week".

Think about the library cuts: the perfect and most easily understood example of how Barnet Tories f*ck everything up, even their own cock eyed schemes - throwing our money at policies meant to save money, simply from an ideological mistrust - no, an entrenched hatred, fear and loathing - of the very principle of public sector services. 

May 3rd then: you know what to do. 

Don't let us down. 

There is too much at stake.



Friday, 16 March 2018

The Ides of March, 2018: Barnet Tories lose control of the council


Backstabbing in Broken Barnet, a local Tory tradition, perfectly re-enacted this week

Due to 'events', dear boy, 'events', Broken Barnet - the blog, dear boy, the blog - has remained in something of a state of suspended animation, frozen in time,  since January. 

In the meanwhile, however, Broken Barnet itself has, with commendable determination, continued on its course to total self destruction. Yes, all in pieces now. Most gratifying. Only taken them eight years, but now here it is, all over the place.

How could anything else be expected? The laws of the universe command nothing less than the inevitable decline and fall of any establishment, no matter how rotten, or self regarding, in the end. And here in Tory Barnet, that end, The End, is Nigh. 

Oh, hang on: Update: since beginning this post, The End is Here. 

Events, as you will see, have indeed overtaken us all.

And yes, it all happened, fittingly, as noted here by local Labour AM Andrew Dismore, on the Ides of March ...


Yes. Now hold on, because this next bit will require a certain amount of suspension of disbelief. On an epic scale. Imagine say, War and Peace, re-imagined by Baz Luhrmann., if not Carry On Councillor.

So.

Seven weeks before the local elections, Barnet Tories have lost control of their own council. 

Well, not so much lost, as given it away.

This is how it happened.

In act of breathtaking stupidity, as we learned earlier this week, the hapless Hendon Tory constituency party decided to deselect three of its most long standing councillors: Joan (where's my coat) Scannell, Maureen (Two Sheds) Braun, and Sury (Didn't approve of the Capita contracts but signed up anyway and then moaned about it) Khatri.



Hendon councillor Maureen Braun

In other words, the deeply misogynist Barnet Tories have rejected two older women, despite their long record of service in their communities - please note the 85 year old Mill Hill councillor John Hart has been re-selected - and Hendon's only BAME councillor, Sury Khatri, despite his own exemplary record as a ward councillor, over two terms. Why?

The Hendon constituency has always been problematic, even by the bottom of the barrel scraping standards of Broken Barnet - and increasingly so. Dwindling membership and factionalism within the depleted ranks has not helped at all, but the selection process overseen by a residue of hard line Tories, determined to shore up their own support, has led to the most calamitous of outcomes for the council administration.



Edgware councillor Joan Scannell, right

The ruthless deselection of well respected members was an astonishingly stupid move, but also breathtaking in its mercilessness: all three are experienced councillors, popular in their wards - and were pretty sure to retain a section of the Tory vote that is otherwise at risk of ... ok, maybe not joining Momentum, but ... sshh ... maybe ... not voting Tory. The way in which they were despatched, however, beats all. Perhaps not so much back stabbing, as stabbing right there, in the front, with nothing more than a belated thanks for their long contribution of service by - oh, deputy leader Dan Thomas who is -aha - also Chair of Hendon Tories:

“As per Conservative Party rules, all councillors must be reselected by their constituency association to stand for re-election. As this process is conducted by secret ballot, it is neither possible nor appropriate to speculate why applicants are not successful.


“Councillors Joan Scannell, Maureen Braun, and Sury Khatri have a combined length of service on Barnet Council of 52 years and both Joan and Maureen served with distinction as Mayor. We are extremely grateful for all they helped us to achieve as a Conservative Council and we wish them all the best for the future."

Anyone seen the Barnet Tory leader, Richard Cornelius, by the way? Or has the coup already taken place?

Well, then. An outright Labour victory, in areas like Mill Hill and Edgware, is more or less unprecedented, but after such an overt act of politicking, and the removal of well known councillors, due to seismic political and demographic changes in this part of the borough: well, it just might happen. And if it does, it will, of course, help to deliver a Labour run council. Hoorah.

Except: no, hang on. 

The Tories have pretty much done that anyway, and seven weeks early. 

As of yesterday.

Tssk. Timing is all, Tory chums: but no, whoops, there you go, far too soon, all over the place, and nothing to show for it, except a deep sense of shame.

Dear me. 

But back to the deselection.



Sury Khatri and his deselected colleagues issued a press release, published here on the Barnet Eye blog: Mrs Angry understands it was written, this howl of rage, in frantic UPPER CASE, by Cllr Khatri.

PRESS RELEASE - MOMENTUM ARRIVES IN HENDON CONSTITUENCY , NOT LABOUR, BUT TORY COUNCILLORS NOT TO BE RESELECTED !

COUNCILLOR JOAN SCANNELL RECEIVED THE BRITISH EMPIRE MEDAL FROM THE QUEEN IN HER 90TH BIRTHDAY HONOUR’S LIST FOR HER SERVICE AS AN EDGWARE COUNCILLOR TO THE COMMUNITY IN THE LONDON BOROUGH OF BARNET. JOAN HAS OVER 44 YEARS SERVICE WITH THE COUNCIL AND HAS THE CORPORATE MEMORY WHICH CANNOT BE REPLACED. CHAIRMAN OF GENERAL FUNCTIONS COMMITTEE FOR 16 YEARS, THE CONSERVATIVE GROUP SECRETARY UNOPPOSED FOR 21 YEARS AND WITH AN EXEMPLARY RECORD OF ATTENDANCE. JOAN IS ONE OF THE UNFORTUNATE CASUALTIES.

COUNCILLOR MAUREEN BRAUN THE LONG SERVING AND HUGELY EXPERIENCED CHAIRMAN OF HENDON AREA PLANNING COMMITT EE, AND THE LICENSING SUB-COMMITTEE , HAS THE HIGHEST RECORD OF ATTENDANCE FOR DAYTIME MEETINGS. UNFORTUNATELY MAUREEN IS THE SECOND CASUALTY.

COUNCILLOR SURY KHATRI, THE POPULAR CHAIRMAN OF HENDON RESIDENTS FORUM, ALSO HAS AN EXCELLENT RECORD FOR ATTENDANCE OF MEETINGS. SURY, ONE OF THE TRUSTEES HAS SPENT OVER 4 YEARS SETTING UP THE NW7HUB (& THE MILL HILL PARTNESHIP LIBRARY). SURY IS UNFORTUNATELY THE THIRD CASUALTY.

ALL 3 COUNCILLORS ARE DEVASTATED BY THIS. WE ARE HOWEVER TRULY HONOURED TO HAVE BEEN GIVEN THE OPPORTUNITY TO SERVE THE COMMUNITY ALL THESE YEARS AND WOULD LIKE TO THANK THE RESIDENTS WHO HAVE PLACED THEIR TRUST IN US AND SUPPORTED US THROUGHOUT THE YEARS

Love the Momentum reference. Barnet Tories (current and former) have recently resorted, after realising their powers of persuasion are strictly limited, to trying to frighten voters into voting for them by claiming on twitter that to do otherwise will bring about the Apoclaypse, and/or a Labour administration run by, ha ha: Momentum.

This cheered Mrs Angry up no end, when she read it. At last: the comrades are taking over Barnet Labour group. Revolution is just around the corner. Massed hordes will be running up the stairway of Hendon Town Hall, the day after polling day, to tear down the revered portrait of Brian Coleman from his place above the council chamber door, and replace it with a picture of Lenin. Labour leader Barry Rawlings, in line with orders from the Politburo, will formally announce the dictatorship of the proletariat is now in place, in the former council chamber of the London Borough of Capita. Happy Days.

As for the axed Tory councillors, well: Mrs Angry's sympathies are somewhat limited, as it happens. All three Tories may be decent people, and moderate in their views, and in marked contrast to the swivel eyed right wingers in the Tory group, but: they have given loyal support to their group's illiberal policies, over the years. 

Sadly, 'third casualty' Sury Khatri chose to endorse the Capita contracts, and then criticise them, and the process which they had been agreed, after the event, when it was too late. And then complain to Mrs Angry, more than once, that she always reminds everyone about this. Here we go again, Sury. Oh, and setting up a pretend library in Mill Hill, as part of a - excuse me - "business hub" has done nothing to endear him to her. 

But now look: Cllr Khatri may just have redeemed himself, ever so slightly, in the eyes of Mrs Angry, by throwing a strop - and throwing the most almighty spanner in the works. He has resigned the Tory whip, and thrown the council into turmoil, only weeks before the election, as now there is no over all control. 

Yes, you read that right: there is no longer a Tory led council, in Broken Barnet.

The sense of 'fin de si├Ęcle', and the last days of a doomed and decadent empire, have hung over the last few months of the Tory administration, like a bad smell. And like the last days of any disintegrating power, the desperate attempts to cling on to power tell their own story. Let Mrs Angry be the Edward Gibbon de nos jours, and lovingly chronicle the final moments, the decline and fall, of Tory Barnet. 

Here is an illustration, to set the mood, from last weekend:

Behold, in place of loyal footsoldiers once so thick on the ground, in the Tory fortress of Chipping Barnet, a band of mercenaries from Gaul sent in - bussed in - to try to placate the natives, and convince them not to rise up against the army of occupation: 



Visiting Tory activists, lured to Chipping Barnet with the promise of a free lunch: (and taking over the disabled parking area of the tube station ...)

Yes: so they are so short of members, activists and supporters now, in what was always the heartland of Barnet Tory votes, a plea has had to be launched to rally the troops elsewhere, to come and beg Barnet voters to return another Tory administration: the sort of troops that might be desperate for a free sandwich and a wave at Priti Patel, that is ...



We really are in desperate days, aren't we? Gone is the golden age of Barnet Conservatism, when local Tories, blinded by the reflected light of Gloriana herself, the Blessed Margaret, ruled the borough as her divinely appointed representatives on earth. 

A sense of entitlement, and the feudal system of administration of this borough by successive Conservative councils, used to come wrapped in a sort of slightly mildewed covering of paternalism, along with a cohort of gentlemanly members, and a handful of Tory matrons allowed to join in, as long as they kept their heads down, and did as their menfolk told them.

In more latter years, the calibre of candidates for the Barnet Tory group has sharply declined. The era of members like Leslie Sussman, who saw his role as an expression of civic pride, and served the community for decades, but refused to take a penny in any allowance, has long vanished. 

The rot set in the days of the administration led by Mike Freer, now Tory MP for Finchley and Golders Green, clinging on by his fingertips in a newly marginal seat -  Freer's former deputy leader, Matthew Offord, now MP for Hendon, also faces electoral annihilation, as well as Chipping's Theresa Villiers - but it was a pattern reflecting the change in Tory values generally, and nationally. No longer solely the party of the upper classes, and an ethos of noblesse oblige: here came a new generation of working class Tories, ruthless, ambitious - but in many cases, in the context of Barnet, trusted with duties that are far beyond the limits of their own capabilities. 

The oikishness of Barnet's post Thatcherite, upstart Tories is still perfectly represented in the council chamber of the London Borough of Broken Barnet, a group largely comprised, as it is, of failed smalltime businessmen, lower level managers, bank clerks - and the wives or sons of councillors, wedged into safe seats. 

Completely out of their depth when charged with tackling the management of a billion pound budget, they were easy prey for the machiavellian plotting of outsourcing consultants and senior officers intent on facilitating a mass privatisation of council services. 

Tory members, only too pleased to let someone else tell them what to do, rather than be expected to use their own judgement, obediently allowed themselves to be persuaded of the wonderful benefits of the two massive Capita contracts. 

Indolent by nature, and alarmingly dim, Barnet's Tory councillors happily sat back and left senior officers and consultant legal advisers to oversee the entire process of outsourcing on their behalf, blithely accepting their assurances as to the benefits of what even Brian Coleman later referred to as an 'officer driven juggernaut', the Capita deal - now hurtling towards them, totally out of control, faster than we can reach the elections in May.

There would be mass savings. And better services. That was the mantra. Well, here we are, five years later and guess what? No mass savings, in fact we are handing over millions and millions of pounds each month to Capita, as we pay agency staff and consultants to do the work council staff used to do - at maybe three times the cost - and the many variations hidden in the contract the members did not read allows the company to screw more and more fees from such lucrative sources as gainshare payments, that is to say extra rewards payable to them on those 'savings' which are - as fellow blogger Mr Reasonable has demonstrated - somewhat hard to identify.

Better services? No. No, no, no. 



Tory leader Richard Cornelius and Cllr Dean Cohen, awfully proud of their new, state of the art pot hole filler in. Better services, for less money? Erm: no.

Not that they will acknowledge this, or even maintain an effective level of scrutiny of performance, or hold Capita to account when there are serious failures in service. Instead of any such process, they leave Cllr Antony 'Mickey' Finn to oversee the rubber stamping committee, an absolute Pollyanna who thinks scrutiny should not be critical, or indeed negative, and waits, in a state of blissful innocence, for a time when everything will be 'hunky dory'.

Now of course we know, from the council's own external auditors, that the authority is running out of money, having been driven to ransack its reserves to try to balance the books. The books - the accounts - that are, like everything else, written up by the council's contractors. Yes, the same contractors whose service delivery is written up in ... the accounts, whose pages were found by the auditors to be full of errors. 

The multiplicity of roles that Capita plays now, in this borough, defies belief. Within the services it runs, such as planning, this is a real concern. Here it acts as fee based advisers to developers, oversees the planning application process, and advises on the recommendation, or otherwise, of individual proposals. It is also a developer. None of this broad range of activities within the same area offers any reason to our Tory councillors to worry about potential conflicts of interest, of course.

But beyond the limits of the London Borough of Capita, Capita Plc itself is in deep trouble. 

Only a matter of time before it a. collapses or b. has to radically reshape its structure and delivery of services. Either way, Barnet is in line for difficulties on an unprecedented scale. 

Who knew? 

We did. 

And we told you so, Tory councillors, didn't we? 

We even took you to the High Court for a Judicial Review, and would have won, if not out of time. Oh, and when we asked what contingency plans you have, should the Capita deal go tits up, you laughed, didn't you, and said that wouldn't happen? 

Who's laughing now?

Not Mrs Angry. Well: no, she is laughing, but only at your expense, not ours. Because of course it will be the tax payers of Broken Barnet who pay for your gross incompetence, should Capita sink.

All up for grabs now, anyway. Through their own idiocy, Barnet Tories have, at the very least, delivered the best possible PR coup to  Barnet Labour, teetering as we all are on the verge of purdah, in the run up to the May elections: losing control of their own administration, and exposing the bitter divisions within the group, which run far deeper, and in more directions than the Brexit issue.

Throughout the span of eight years in which this blog has been running, some stories have continued to exert a powerful pull on the memory. 

Reporting the Tories' destruction of our library service, here in Barnet, has become something more than a local issue, and part of a wider campaign and struggle to ensure the survival of libraries in the UK as a whole. But nowhere perhaps better exemplifies the danger facing the service than right here, in our own back yard, where culture, heritage, education and learning are valued only in terms of the properties in which they are installed, and the opportunities for profit such buildings extend, now we live in the age of Capita. Our libraries stand as witness to the larger depredations wrought on this borough by so many years of botched governance: a suitable metaphor, standing in full view of every former resident who once enjoyed a previously magnificent, award winning, and value for money service.



The former Golders Green children's library

My own experience of libraries here in Broken Barnet has been as a child, an adult, a parent, and a library worker, and as someone who witnessed the closure, occupation and re-opening of Friern Barnet library, in a spectacular act of defiance by residents and protestors. The fight to preserve our libraries continues, largely thanks to the work of Save Barnet Libraries, who have made a formal complaint to the government about the impact of Tory cuts.

But the library issue is more than the story of one library - or the story of one service: it is all of this and more: of the fight for the heart and soul of this borough. 

(Perhaps that is why, yesterday, in a move clearly aimed to distract attention from the impending catastrophe in the council chamber, Barnet Tories decided to publish a frankly barking tweet, accusing Mrs Angry, library campaigner, of advocating ... erm ... the closure of 'half Barnet's libraries'? Yes. Really.)

Libraries have been relegated to the committee now overseen by the ineffable Reuben Thompstone, a portly young Tory who is awfully pleased with himself, and his little curly moustache, adopted, one assumes, as he aspires to an air of gravitas that is, alas, eternally slipping out of reach. 



Cllr Reuben Thompstone

The CELS committee has born witness to some of the worst acts committed by Barnet Tories in their reign of error.

The evisceration of our libraries - at a cost of £14 million, to save £2 million - was one of them. 

But nothing can compare to the truly shameful treatment given to the families of some of the most vulnerable children in our borough, four years ago, when Barnet Tories had the brilliant idea of cutting council tax by a few pennies a week, deciding the pre-election 'gesture' could be covered by measures such as slashing the respite care for families of children with multiple and complex disabilities, who attend Mapledown School. 

The absolute cynicism and barbarity of such a move, and the abject misery and distress caused to those families almost defies description: but you can read how Reuben Thompstone dealt with this awful episode, and the meeting attended by some of the children affected, here: 

http://wwwbrokenbarnet.blogspot.co.uk/2014/06/a-heartbreak-too-difficult-to-describe.html

(Among the children whose lives were affected by the proposed slashing of respite care was a beautiful young girl named Sophie, who suffers from a range of profound disabilities, and whose grandmother Rose, who cares for her, and cared for her late brother, spoke at the meeting presided over by Thompstone, and whose dignity and eloquence left a lasting impression on all who heard her. 


Sophie's lovely face can be seen now on a large billboard that you pass if you drive out of Broken Barnet, on the North Circular, in an appeal that is part of fundraising efforts for the much needed Noah's Ark Children's Hospice. You can donate to this admirable cause here). 

Another triumph of Thompstone's term as Chair of CELS came in the shape of last year's damning OFSTED report into Barnet's children's services, identifying a shocking level of  failure in the care of vulnerable children, leaving them at risk of 'serious harm'.

How fitting then, that as their parting shot, at the last full council meeting, marred by slurs thrown at Labour members, and following previous full council meetings in which Labour members such as Arjun Mittra and Devra Kay were also subject to abuse by Tory councillors, that the choice of Mayor for the next year - should they be re-elected - was none other than ... Reuben Thompstone. Who could be a more suitable choice, to represent their group?

I prefer to think this borough is better represented not by strutting Tory councillors taking their turns to dress up in moth eaten fox furs, and chains of office, appointing themselves to an outdated post which gratifies their overweening egos, but by courageous citizens like Rose, and Sophie, and all those who quietly and tirelessly support our most vulnerable residents, when they need it most, not turn the other way.


Well: let Barnet Tories in Easycouncil melt, and the wide range of the One Barnet empire fall. Here, readers, is our space. 

A space of five weeks in which to enjoy their self generated folly, and prepare for an election in which, at last, we have a real chance of wresting control of our lives out of their hands, and the hands of Capita, and back in the care of a democratic system of governance. 

Please make sure you are registered to vote, and make sure your vote counts.