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Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Sad example of Tory infighting that will lose them a seat

Today should have been a day of triumph for local Conservative MP Matthew Offord. Mayor of London Boris Johnson visted Mill Hill to sprinkle some stardust on Matthew. A whole army of tame tweeters, bussed in for the occasion, went to work. But sadly, local Tory activists were excluded from the party - Despite our little tiffs with the Barnet Bugel. we do recognise Dan Hope as the only hard working Tory activist in Barnet. That he was deliberately excluded from a major Tory event defies belief. What more can we say.

UKIP take shock lead in Hendon Constituency opinion poll

The Barnet Eye was awoken early this morning by a frenzied call from a polling company we've been working for as a consultant, regarding the general election in North West London. Bucking the general trend in London and to the complete surprise of the technical analyists at the company, UKIP have opened up a narrow 1% lead over Labour in the Hendon Constituency seat. Based on this poll, Hendon is currently the only seat in London where UKIP are polling at anything like levels which would see them return an MP. The company were desperate to understand the reasons on the ground for this sudden surge to UKIP.

According to their recent polling figures, of those who have said they will vote, the polling figures in Hendon are as follows:-

34% -  UKIP
33% -  Labour
19% - Conservative
9% -  Green
5% -  Lib Dem

As you can see this is a huge turnaround from the 2010 result, where UKIP scored a mere 2.1%

2010 Result:

Conservative: 19635 (42.3%)
Labour: 19529 (42.1%)
Lib Dem: 5734 (12.4%)
Green: 518 (1.1%)
UKIP: 958 (2.1%)
MAJORITY: 106 (0.2%)

As ever with such sudden swings in a specific locality, the pollsters are keen to know what factors could have caused such a massive swing. It is clear that there are two major news issues in the constituency that have massively damaged the Conservative core vote.

 The first of these is the decision by the local Tory Council to force Belmont Childrens Farm to shut, due to planning law violations. The owner of the farm, Mr Andrew Reid has launched a massive campaign to force the councils hand and produced a video stating that he had joined UKIP as a direct result of the threatened closure. This campaign has spectacularly mushroomed, following the story being shown on TV news. Whilst I personally had not anticipated such an effect, Mr Reid has built up a huge army of local supporters for his zoo in the charitable and business sectors.These are working tirelessly to keep the farm open and they see the election of a UKIP MP as their trump card.

Perhaps an even more bizarre story seems to have hit a major chord locally with the local UKIP candidate Jeremy Zeid calling for Israel to abduct Barack Obama. It seems that this call has gone down extremely well in Hendon, where there are large numbers of people from all sides of the community who have a strong interest in the middle east. Many blame Obama and his regime for the mess. Oddly,whilst many of these factions are diametrically opposed, they are united by a dislike of Mr Obama and his policies, furthermore they seem to have appreciated the plain speaking of Mr Zeid. As you can see from this infographic, the populace of Hendon has changed massively over the last few years

Current Hendon Demographics
 These factors combined with a general view that the Conservative candidate Matthew Offord is very second rate, has opened up a huge opportunity for UKIP.

Rather unfortunately for UKIP, the ensuing scandal around Mr Zeid's comments have resulted in him having to quit as candidate, which one presumes may undermine all of his hard work over the last few weeks. The poll was taken after the story of Mr Zeids comments were made public, but before his resignation was announces.

With their candidate gone, to be replaced by Raymond Samash, one can only speculate on how long this bounce will last. One suspects that changing your candidate more regularly than your underpants is not a winning strategy, and the bounce  is unlikely to last much beyond lunchtime today.

The other thing which is likely to disturb Labours Andrew Dismore is how the Greens seem to have hoovered up all of the LibDem vote and gobbled a sizeable chunk of Dismores support as well. What is clear from the poll is that a vote for the Greens is a vote to keep Matthew Offord in power. How the UKIP vote will carve up now they don't have a local candidate (the new bloke lives in Northampton) and their campaign is in meltdown is not clear, but what is clear is that Hendon will be a very interesting place to be on polling night. It all goes to show that there is nowt so strange as folks!

Monday, 30 March 2015

UKIP Hendon in turmoil as candidate quits

It seems that UKIP in Hendon constituency are in a state of complete chaos. They are now on their third PPC as Jeremy Zeid has resigned following the "Abduct Obama" scandal.

The new candidate is Raymond Samash - full details are available on the UKIP website. Mr Samash has served as a medic in the Israeli army during the Yom Kippur war. He says

Hendon has benefited from immigration, which is evidenced by the many Irish pubs, Bagel bakeries and Indian restaurants providing food and drink from many parts of the world; but we believe that the sheer scale and pace of immigration is tearing at our social fabric and swamping our unique British way of life.. Whilst immigration provides benefits the time has come to introduce sensible controls to reduce the impact on so many of our basic services.

It will be interesting to see how this affects UKIP in Hendon. It is clearly not good for a campaign to lose its candidate ins uch embarrassing circumstances, but I guess better now than the week before the poll. Tory incumbent Matthew Offord is likely to be the biggest beneficiary of this spectacular own goal. It will be interesting to see how Mr Samash shapes up. Given Mr Zeids rather "interesting" views, we can only assume that he'll be an improvement. 

One interesting thing I have noticed is that UKIP Hendon does not have its own website piggybacking on the Barnet website. This to me makes the whole operation look rather amateur. If you click the people page, it seems they cannot even afford a decent picture of their branch executives.

The future for the Brent Cross Light Rail Scheme?

The Barnet Eye was fascinated to receive a call discussing the potential for a brand new light rail system for the London Borough of Barnet. One of the biggest criticisms of the Brent Cross scheme is the fact that it will bring traffic chaos to the whole of North West London. The scheme envisages 27,000 new jobs at Brent Cross, even without the millions of new customers the scheme would deliver.

The sad thing about this is that it would be relatively cheap and easy to address these issues, but there is no political will to do so. In the Borough there is a whole stack of abandoned and lightly used rail lines, that could easily be brought into use.

Our preferred version of this scheme, links Finchley Central to the Midland Mainline at Pentavia retail Park. The line will have a spur north to Mill Hill Broadway and a spur south toward Hendon. This would require reopening the disused line between Mill Hill East and Saracens, then building a new spur to Pentavia Park and over the M1.

The norther spur to Mill Hill also gives the future option of reopening the disused line to Edgware, linking the North East and North West of the Borough. Southbound it would provide a station at the RAF museum for the new Beaufort Park development. The route would continue on the freight only tracks to Hendon and Brent Cross Thameslink, before joining a new spur to the Shops and the existing Northern Line Tube station.

The Scheme would address several major transport congestion issues.

1. Massively improve match day transport links for Saracens, linking the stadium to the Northern Line and The Thameslink line.

2. Improve public transport connections to schools in the Page St area, reducing congestion from the School run. There are several schools in the Allianz Park Area.

3. Open up the new development at Pentavia Park for public transport and provide better public transport links to Barnet College, St James School etc in Grahame Park.

4. Provide a quick route from Mill Hill Broadway to Finchley Central and join Mill Hill to the East of the Borough.

5. Provide proper public transport for the RAF museum and the enormous Beaufort Park Development and Peel Centre development.

6. Improve public transport services at the run down and neglected Hendon Thameslink Station.

7. Improve interchange at Brent Cross Thameslink station, integrating it into the rest of the North London public transport network.

8. Give a direct link to the Shopping centre, without a massive walk with heavy shopping bags. Also give an easy and credible route for shopping centre staff to get to work.

9. Provide a link between the Brent Cross Tube station and the Thameslink Station, massively improving interchange.

New Hydrogen cell powered tram
The scheme would go a long way towards addressing the many unanswered questions about the transport chaos caused by the huge redevelopment. The costs of the scheme could also be massively reduced by using new hydrogen cell technology in trams, reducing the requirement for expensive electronic transmission systems. These trams only emission is water, which would also reduce pollution massively.

Whilst costs are always quoted as the reason not to persue such schemes, the headline figure must be balanced against the fact that spending on infrastructure is repaid with huge dividends over many years. For example the existing Thameslink rolling stock has been running for 30 years. When you divide the costs of such schemes over such long periods, the finances suddenly become far more attractive.

Planning any new transport scheme requires a sound business case. Given the large scale developments at Mill Hill East, Pentavia Park, Grahame Park, Beaaufort Park, West Hendon and Brent Cross, it is clear to me that we need an ambitious scheme, which involves a bit more than a few extra buses. Of course there are issues with any such scheme, but given the traffic gridlock which all of the new developments are likely to bring, we need to start planning now to address them. This scheme is potentially the cheapest and most environmentally friendly of all schemes mooted so far.

Belmont Zoo launches slick promo video to make case UKIP

The Barnet Eye was intrigued to see a very slick marketiong video have been produced by the Mill Hill Belmont Zoo. The most interesting feature of this slick video was the fact that it is clearly a promotion tool for UKIP. The Zoo owner Mr Andrew Reid uses the opportunity to use a planning dispute with Barnet Council, to explain why he quit the local Tory party and jumped ship to UKIP. Mr Reid was formerly a senior executive officer in the Hendon Conservative association. It appears from the video that the dispute with Barnet Council concerning enforcement of Green Belt legislation in regards to Mr Reids zoo has caused him to quit the Tories (who run the local council) and jump ship to UKIP.

Whilst it is quite clear that Mr Reids zoo has brought many benefits to the local community (as highlighted in his expensive promo video), it is also clear that Barnet Council and Mr Reid have a "different" interpretation of planning law.( Mr Reid's day job, when not running the Zoo, is a lawyer). The Barnet Eye is intrigued as to how a man with his knowledge and his connections in the local Conservatives can have found himself in the position he is in. Is Mr Reid the victim of infighting in the local Tories, resulting in a "flawed planning enforcement action" or is there more to this than meets the eye?

As the Belmont Zoo is clearly loved by a sizeable selection of the Mill Hill Community, we think the issue needs to be explored more vigorously. We suggest that maybe Mr Reid would like to discuss the matter with the Barnet Eye for one of our videos, giving the people of Barnet the opportunity to make their minds up. We would like to hold a public Q&A with Mr Reid and get a member from the Mill Hill Preservation Society and Residents Association involved, to ensure that all issues are properly explored.

Here is Mr Reids video.

Barnet Council close a beloved Community Hub from Belmont Farm on Vimeo.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Barnet Eye Exclusive - Boris announces his Leadership Campaign manager

Yes, it's unofficially official! As David Cameron has announced his plans to step down as Prime Minister at some point in the next Parliament, Boris Johnson has been working tirelessly to put his "Boris4Britain" team in place.

As ever with our leaky Tory friends, one has managed to secure a picture of Boris and his new campaign manager in action, and given it to the Barnet Eye in exchange for a Bombay Bad Boy pot noodle (these Tories just love a Bombay Bad Boy, they'll do anything for one!). Unfortunetly, not being part of the Boris inner circle, we are not quite sure of who this chap is. Initially we thought it was his GLA office manager Robert Rams, but on closer inspection realised the chaps is a bit too good looking. So if you have any idea who this Svengali figure is, please let us know.

The Barnet Eye would love to see Boris find a place in his team for the soon to be former Hendon MP Matthew Offord. Since Matthew was elected in 2010 he has shown all of the qualities that the Barnet Eye are essential for being a member of "TeamBoris" and we believe that with a dynamic player such as Matthew in his team. Boris will get the result that Britain needs!

Mayor of Barnet opens new football scheme at Grahame Park

I've known local football coach Paul Fitzgerald for some time. He used to run a training scheme for young footballers which my son attended. He was also a key figure in the Mill Hill Village Youth football training setup.

I was invited down to Grahame Park to see Pauls latest venture, the Academy of Football Specific Training. Like many people at the grassroots level in the community, Paul is not really one for the limelight, preferring just to get on with his job. So although he was keen for the Barnet Eye to get the word out about his scheme, he was too camera shy to give me an interview! We had a cup of tea and a chat about local football.

Paul has taken on the management of the Grahame Park community football pitch and is using it as his training hub. Until recently the pitch and the training rooms were semi derelict and vandalised.  During my visit I was pleased to bump into the Mayor of Barnet Hugh Rayner, who was down to see how the operation was getting off the ground. It turns out that Hugh knows Paul and is a big fan of his work. Hugh has helped Paul negotiate some of the hurdles and (after a bit of cajoling) gave me a short interview talking about the scheme.

Now we can all be a tad cynical at times, but I think this is an example of the Mayor doing a good job. People within the community such as Paul need all the help that they can get to negotiate the hurdles of dealing with the council, and it is clear that Hugh has been supportive. I've been critical in the past of the council for its poor record of protecting football pitches and other community facilities from developers. That Hugh has recognised the vital role such pitches and figures like Paul play is a very positive development and I sincerely hope that this signals a more general move towards protecting community assets.

So if you know of any young people in the area looking for football training, the full details can be found here -

Saturday, 28 March 2015

The Tweets of the Week in the London Borough of Barnet - 28/3/2015

It's been a good week for tweeters in our little corner of London, sometimes I have to struggle to make ten, sometimes I struggle with what to leave out. This is definately a good week. Must be something to do with coming of Spring!

1. The tweet of the week has to be this. It looks like a very interesting afternoon tomorrow at the Phoenix Theatre

Trailer for the documentary Tony Benn: Last Will and Testament this Sunday 2pm

2.  The Save Barnets Libraries campaign are keen for you to join their March today at 11am from Edgware to Mill Hill library

  1. So who is coming on the march tomorrow? Meeting at Edgware library at 11am, then on to Burnt Oak and Mill Hill!

3. We are sad to see the departure of Martin Buhagiar from the Hendon Times. It seems not everyone in Barnet felt the same. We felt that Martins riposte to disgraced criminal Brian Coleman, who's shenanigans Martin did much to expose, was worthy of a first. This is the first Twitter exchange we've listed in this feature. We think it is a classico and definitely 1-0 to Martin.

    1. Good riddance to a nasty piece of work who has driven Hendon Times into the ground (although the rot set in before him)
  1. Haha thanks my redundancy payout was nearly as much as one of your weekly taxi claims. Oh, and I gave my laptop back...
4. Nicole Bursten finds Edgware to be a town of contradictions. I believe "ware" is the old English word for town and so I guess it's a pretty Edgy place!

weirdly, Edgware has a Middlesex Address, a Harrow post code, and is in the London Borough of Barnet.

5. Top marks for Deputy Leader of Barnet Council Dan Thomas, for spotting this! Didn't realise he was a Lidl man. Good to know the deputy leader of the Council is keen on counting pennies

Is advert filmed at local helping them compete with Harrod's food hall? Just saw Bentley parked at its Edgware store.

6. Want a night out tonight for a great cause. Drew Clode would love you to join him at The Old White Lion!

Some of the best songs. Old White Lion E Finchley next the tube. Saturday 28th. 6.30pm

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7. Clare Newsome mourns the passing of an Iconic Colindale landmark (as I am sure many of us do)

So farewell, then British Library newspaper archive Colindale. Demolished to make way for 'Edition' apartment block

8. Eugene Eyo has been taking some interesting pictures of the locality in Hendon, especially if you like subways (and I don't mean those bland gungy things purporting to be food)!

Subways Pt.1. in

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9. Love this slightly blurry picture from Huw Price.

Venus dancing with the moon over Barnet Odeon. 

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10. Seems like Mill Hill is the place to be if you want to make some noise!

Keep America calm! Rehearse in London instead and Rock till you drop!

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I hope you agree that there have been some crackers! I hope something in this weeks collection brought a wee smile to your face!

Friday, 27 March 2015

The Friday Joke 27/3/2015 - Matthew Offord MP tells a cracker

I've never seen a bigger joke than this pariamentary question from Matthew Offord MP

Photo of Matthew Offord Matthew Offord Conservative, Hendon 25th March 2015

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, with reference to his Department's announcement, Government delivers on parking promises to help local shops, published on 6 March 2015, if he will take further steps to ensure that local authority parking schemes are more advantageous to motorists.

After five years in office, Offord emerges from his slumbers ask what the government is doing about dodgy parking regimes. Where has Offord been over the last five years? In Barnet, his chums on Barnet Council have done the following (and remember that Offord was the Deputy Leader of the Council before he became an MP in 2010).

* Hiked the cost of parking in the High Street
* Scrapped coin operated pay and display machines, forcing drivers to use a phone based system that takes up to 20 minutes to register (when you migh just want to pop in to a shop for a pint of milk)
* Used parking charges as a cash cow (millions of council in the special parking account)
* Employed a firm of private parking contractors to ruthlessly enforce the parking regime, with no regard to peoples circumstances, born out by the near 100% success rate of my fellow blogger Mr Mustard in helping people appeal them
* Illegally imposed a massive hike in CPZ parking costs, which was only struck out by the High Court, when residents had to sue the council to reverse it.

 On Tuesday I attended the FSB North London business hustings and North Finchley Traders representative Helen Michael had this to say to the various candidates . She explained that she'd represented traders of North Finchley. In 5 years they'd collected 20000 sigs, attended meetings but all actions had been ignored. Arrogance & ignorance of councillors was unbelievable. In short, the Barnet Conservatives, of which Matthew Offord is a top dog, have no interest at all in parking.

It is all very well for MP's to start asking questions in the commons a couple of months before the election. Offord has no credibility as he didn't say a dickiebord for the last five years when his action could have made a huge difference, saved hundreds of small businesses and saved residents a fortune in car parking costs and hassle.

Of course the elephant in the room that Offord doesn't mention is just how much money the Tories recieve from the large retailers, who run shops at Brent Cross shopping centre, where of course parking is completely free.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Why I feel sorry for Hendon Conservative activists

I bumped into my old friend, Councillor Hugh Rayner today (more of that later this week), who was attending the launch of a local community scheme. As ever I had a good chat with Hugh and he handed me one of the local Conservative leaflets promoting Matthew Offord. The cover said "Discover my 6 point plan for improving our local area". I rather excitedly opened the document up to see what exciting plans Matthew had concocted in the five years he's been our local MP.

Excitedly I turned the pages,trying to find out what Matthews plan was.

Page 2 - Tackling crime in Hendon, Edgware, Burnt Oak, Mill Hill and Colindale. He says "I will fight for the Police to be given support to tackle issues like gangs, anti Semitism, and violence againts vulnerable people and I will continue to work with residents to ensure our area is a safe place to live." Fine words indeed, but surely that could apply to just about any area in North West London. Does it constitute a plan? No it is a cut and paste job from the "how to be a good Tory candidate handbook". A plan is to say something like "In Burnt Oak, I've been out at night with the Police to see anti social behaviour for myself first hand. As a result of this, I've sat down with the Borough commander and we've identified the following priorities". That is what an MP who was doing his job would say. An MP with cut and paste platitudes is to my mind insulting our intelligence.

Page 3. Continuing to improve our childrens schools.
Matthew says "I will make certain that the government again provides funding for vital school security which was refused by the last Labour government". Again another cut and paste job. Our locality actually has rather good schools. If Matthew wasn't so lazy, he'd mention a few of them and say how he'd personally got involved to make a difference and highlight his plans going forward. Why hasn't he?

Safeguarding the Environment.
Matthew says "I will build on my work to clean and protect local waterways such as the Silkstream and will continue to work with local residents in Edgware, Mill Hill, Burnt Oak, Colindale and Hendon to improve local environments." Matthew is referring to a recent litter pick in the Silk Stream in Burnt Oak. Now whilst this is a good thing and is an example of what I was saying above, it is so marginal to the threats to our environment locally as to be laughable. In Mill Hill we have green belt, which is under massive threat. Where has Matthew been in local campaigns to protect it? Mill Hill Broadway bus station has some of the most polluted air in Europe, as busses rev engines with poor localised air circulation and fumes from the M1 spill down. In five years Matthew has done nothing to address this. Even more alarming, the station is usually full of children waiting for buses breathing toxic fumes and diesel particles. Surely this is the type of local environmental challenge Matthew should be addressing. Where are the low emission and hybrid buses that the Tory Mayor could insist we had? Sadly the hundreds of School children who breath this polluted atmosphere don't vote.

Page 4. Getting a better deal for train users.
Matthew mentions the £6.5billion Thameslink project. Sadly he says nothing about any tangible benefits from this scheme for Mill Hill, Hendon or Cricklewood stations. We have recently found out that both Hendon and Cricklewood station are at risk of closure due to the new station at Brent Cross and Mill Hill may lose 2 rush hour trains an hour to accomodate fast services from Brent Cross. Matthew doesn't mention this. He talks about Step Free access at Mill Hill East. He's been in office for five years and all he's done for Mill Hill East is seen direct services cut to the bone.

Promoting more support for local businesses.
He says he "I will continue to argue for local initiatives on parking to help traders and shoppers". This is absolute hypocrisy. The local Tory council have hiked parking charges, removed cash pay and display machines from the Borough, imposed "exclusion zones" all over Mill Hill for Saracens and ignored a petition with 20,000 signatures about parking. Did Matthew Offord accompany traders to support them? He didn't want to know.

Page 5, Helping local people who work and save.
Matthew says "I will argue for the cap in welfare benefits to remain to help remove abuse of the welfare system and ensure that being in work pays". This is very twisted logic. If you work and you save, then you get a chronic illness, you are denied benefits if you have a decent pot of savings. You can only claim benefits when you've spent all your money. I work and I save, but this government has done nothing to help me. This is Matthews local plan. Where is the talk of local credit unions or schemes to get people into work. Where is the help in his constituency to get people who are trapped in benefit dependency into local jobs, apprenticeships and schemes. Matthew doesn't mention any. What conclusion can we draw?

As I said, I feel sorry for his Tory chums. The public judge politicians on their record and their actions. After five years and effective local MP should have a whole list of successes and acheivements in their locality to list in their leaflets. Offords Tory predecessor in Hendon was John Gorst, who even Labour supporters grudgingly accepted was a good constituency MP. Not even Tory activists claim that about Offord in private. Offords leaflet sums his record and his actions up. It is all rather sad.  His idea of a "local leaflet" is a cut and paste jobbie from the Tory Candidate handbook. It has no decent examples of local action. We can only conclude that this is because there are none.

One final rather hilarious note. At the back there is a "signed statement" from David Cameron. In it he says "I know how hard Matthew Offord MP works for this area because I have seen it in Westminster and in Hendon with Matthew working day in, day out. Now far be it from me to cast aspersions on the veracity of the Prime Minister, but when was the last time you saw him in Hendon monitoring Matthew Offords work rate? You know what they say about people who can't be trusted with small things......