Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Barnet leadership battle - A few interesting observations

Lynne Hillan has pronounced herself happy with her 1 vote victory over newly elected Councillor Mark Shooter. It's good that someone in the London Borough of Barnet is. There are a few points that her and her supporters might wish to ponder. When the Shooter camp launched their bid, they would have been ecstatic with 18 votes. It is widely accepted that the initial motivation for the bid was to try and smoke out disaffected councillors. Every one of the 18 who voted for Shooter had massive pressure applied. At least two who voted for Hillan had pledged support to Shooter and seem to have recanted at the last minute ( I have this on good authority).

Those within the Shooter camp had hoped that his candidacy would cause a bit of reflection in the cabinet and a few conversations with a view to reconcile the disaffected wing. What happened was quite the opposite. A completely botched campaign with councillors who had intended to stay loyal, turning to Shooter in disgust at the bullying and intimidation. At the start of the campaign, Shooter probably only had eleven definites and three possibles. Fourteen votes would be seen as a good show and a shot across the bows. As it was there were 18 votes and two who crumbled at the last.

Rather worryingly for Hillan, the challenge was just the first part of a strategy to force a change of tack of leadership. If she thinks that the disaffected mob will simply crawl back under a stone, she's lost the plot. Worryingly for Hillan, the challenge has smoked out a few people for the Shooter faction, who are keen to solve "The Barnet Problem". Lynne Hillan has tried to brand the Shooter camp disloyal. Sadly as her no 1 backer is Brian Coleman, who undermined both Victor Lyons and Brian Salinger, she has ended up looking like a bleating hypocrite.

So who are the big winners? The Barnet Labour party are over the moon at Hillans victory. There was a fear that Shooter would scrap future shape, warden cuts etc and actually run the council properly. As it is Hillan is there, with the prospect of Harper taking over shortly. Harper is closely associated with Brian Coleman, who even Boris can't stand. Coleman has made a whole new raft of enemies with his behaviour. Word on the street is that he's out for revenge. With such a close margin of victory, one would assume that he'd be trying to build a few bridges, but that isn't his style.

One of the biggest shocks was the division in the Cohen household. Dad Melvin is a Hillanite. His son Dean seems to be leaning more towards Big Uncle Jack's proposition. Shooter was heard saying that Cohen junior was probably his most surprising convert. I suspect that this years New Year shindig at the Cohens may be a rather chilly affair.

So how does the future look for the Barnet Tories and their bonkers ideology - They have a Leader who half the group can't stand. They have a cabinet stuffed with idiots like Robert Rams who thinks that if people want to use a library they should go to Starbucks. They have a project to sell off all the Councils assets to companies like Connaught PLC (a long term partner of Barnet Council who just ent bust). They have a faction lead by intelligent and wealthy men, such as Mark Shooter and Brian Schama who are prepared to stick their heads above the parapet and tell the truth about how awful the leadership really are.

I spoke to a Tory Councillor this morning, who gave me a full run down of proceedings (one you'd never guess as he voted for Hillan). He knew I'd be writing this blog and he wanted to make sure that there was "a degree of balance". The terms were strict anonymity (as ever). His verdict "Yes, it's fair to say we've not handled the whole issue very well. In hindsight, the allowances were a mistake, although I believe the policy was the correct one. We underestimated the strength of feeling and we overreacted to the Leadership challenge. I think we've learned that we can't take backbenchers for granted and we won't make that mistake again". Not an analysis I'd subscribe to - but hey ho, it gives us a little insight.

Interestingly, whilst we were chatting, Brian Coleman was plotting to haul Mark Shooter over the coals for "talking to the press". As ever in Barnet politics, you really couldn't make it up if you tried. What really amazes me is the fact that all of the Barnet Tory councillors read this blog, I suspect that for many of them, it's the only way they ever find out what is really going on.

Let me make a few predictions. Having "seen off the challenger", Lynne Hillan will resign sometime during the next couple of months. Between now and then, Councillor Andrew Harper will launch a massive charm offensive (Good Cop) whilst Brian Coleman monsters a few hapless backsliders (bad cop). Mark Shooter and Brian Schama will not be the main recipients of this as they have backbone and bullies don't like people who fight back.

Mike Freer and Matthew Offord have used up massive political capital preserving Hillan in her role. They both now have a massive problem as she is a road crash in progress. Sadly neither man is intelligent enough to know what to do next.

I expect a massive outbreak of ill health in the Tory group for the Confidence vote. Sicknotes galore. Tories are naturally a pretty tribal mob, so won't knife Hillan, but I wouldn't be at all surprised if at least ten failed to show up. I believe that it is possible that we'll get two byelections in the next few months as I know of two councillors who find the whole thing a massive embarrassment and wish they'd never stood. My advice to them is to stay and try and fight for sanity in Barnet, but they are completely sick of the sight of Coleman and Hillan.

Lastly, I have a big prediction. Boris Johnson won the mayoralty in the outer suburbs. In Barnet and Camden, the GLA representative is none other than Brian Coleman. Boris wants him deselected. I can confidently predict that Boris feels that it is time that the Camden part of the constituency had their say in chosing the candidate. Boris cannot afford the luxury of Brian Coleman scaring off any more voters.

Well that's it from the Barnet Eye on this whole mucky leadership business. It will be back to business as usual tomorrow. Finally an apology to Mrs Angry. She wants me to make it clear that she in no way endorsed Mr Shooter as I had suggested, she just felt Hillan was worse - I guess I should have known from my boyhood experiences with St Michaels Girls, that when I asked her if she thought Hillan and Shooter were equally useless and she said "no" that she really meant "Yes" - He He He.


Jaybird said...

That dirty old man cackle makes me feel a little uncomfortable Mr T!

baarnett said...

To paraphrase Dean Acheson (who's he?) the problem with Mike Freer is that he has

"Lost an Empire, and has not yet found a role."

Instead of the Government Coalition immediately seeing his strengths (in local authority banking investments, or railway civil engineering, for instance) he has been ignored, and seems a sorry sight scuttling around his constituency in a clapped-out passion-wagon, seeking problems to be solved.

One can imagine the rusty bumper half hanging off, the syncromesh grinding, and a blown exhaust disturbing sleeping babies.

I cannot understand why he - and Matthew Offord - staked so much on Lynne. I can only assume they both thought she would reach the winning post more easily, without the photo-finish that we actually saw.

Instead of it being the end of the matter for four years, it could now all end in tears (please!) for Lynne in six days time.

We now have the Connaught collapse to cope with, and my now-automated Barnet Blog-o-Matic shows me that Messrs. Sue, Grabbit and Runn will probably try and see Barnet in court (judicial review?) over Brent Cross Cricklewood, as the icing on the cake.

With Government budget cuts certain, and the self-imposed 'futureCouncil-easyShape' changes, it is all turning into a perfect storm.

baarnett said...

I forgot:

Perhaps someone can clarify if all the committee chairmen are still getting their 50% pay rise from the generous (and co-incidentally, victorious) Lynne Hillan.

(See the Barnet Bugle for details.)

Don't Call Me Dave said...


It is true to say that Labour are delighted at the result but once the dust settles, people will realise that they have a leader every bit as useless as the Tories and they will fail to capitalise on the situation.

The real winners last night were the Chief Officers who will continue to piss taxpayers money up the wall on their crackpot schemes safe in the knowledge that there isn’t anyone in the cabinet who will dare to challenge them.

Moaneybat said...


Cannot disagree with you. It's not just the Labour leader who is useless but almost the lot of them.

Mrs Angry said...

Mr Tichborne: I am sure that I can as ever rely on our terms of strict anonymity if I whisper in your naughty ex Finchley schoolboy ear that, call it a ladies' prerogative (we don't really know any better, after all)... but I might be changing my mind slightly, since the grim reality of Hillan's dubious win has sunk in ... I wouldn't endorse Mr Shooter, on the grounds of me not being a Tory, (have you noticed?), and opposing almost everything the party does on principle, but actually I think they are completely brain dead for not voting for Shooter to replace Hillan. Re-reading his last pitch statement yesterday for my own blog, I even caught myself beginning to hope he doesn't give up his campaign, in fact. I don't know how sincere he is about the things he said pre vote, or of he has the political balls to do it, but I still know that he would be less damaging to the borough than the scary bunch of idiots currently running the shop.
Thanks for the warning about Andrew Harper launching a charm offensive. I may have to leave the country.
As for your 'Deep Throat' Tory councillor (not Mr Harper, I am sure) the phrase 'the allowances were a mistake, although I believe the policy was the correct one' tells you all you need to know about the cabinet mind set, ie unrepentant, arrogant, and wildly out of touch. They only regret Allowancegate because they didn't get away with it, not because it was fundamentally wrong.
(When I was at St M's btw, we ignored the FCH boys because they were all spotty oiks.)