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. 


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. 


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:


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.

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