In less than a week, the Conservative Councillors will vote to chose whether they wish to retain Lynne Hillan as Leader or select Mark Shooter to replace her. It appears to be an extremely tight race, so tight that Councillor Richard Cornelius has been forced by Brian Coleman to cancel his holiday and attend the vote, losing thousands of pounds. Those of us who follow Barnet politics closely are not surprised that the Hillan leadership has been such an unmitigated disaster. For many of us, the only surprise is that she's lasted this long. Why you may ask?
Well the reason is quite simply that the Hendon Times has been sitting on a scandal involving Lynne Hillan for over a year. In the early summer of 2009, they were passed paperwork on a scandal surrounding Lynne Hillan. They contacted the then Leader of Barnet Council, Mike Freer for confirmation. Freer asked for a little time to consider the matter, to which the Times agreed. Mike Freer then called the Times back and dropped a bombshell. He told them that Lynne Hillan was under treatment for a life threatening illness and that if the scandal came to light, the stress would most likely kill her. He then asked the editior, as a personal favour, to bury the story. This blog was also contacted by a friendly Tory and asked to "go easy on Lynne" for these reasons. At the time, I was given the impression that Hillan was not long of this world.
Happily, Lynne Hillan made a remarkable recovery. She took over as leader in December 2009 and has been bravely soldiering on ever since. At the time of the December 2009 leadership election, I asked the Times to publish the story. They refused on the grounds that it was "old news" despite the story never reaching the light of day. I rather suspect that there is a different reason for their reluctance.
It is clear that Lynne Hillan is a hugely damaging leader for the people of Barnet. She's managed to dodge the bullet twice now, but is it fair on the Conservative Councillors who make the decision to not give them the full details? I believe that it is negligent journalism. If Lynne Hillan is too ill to stand the pressure of the story coming to light, she can resign and I'd never breath another word on the issue. If she can stand for the Leadership, if she's up to receiving the allowances, then the story must be published.
You may wonder why I haven't published the details of all of this. Quite simply because I don't have the paperwork which the Times has, I've only been told the details verbally. Given the nature of the story, it would be unfair and stupid to detail it in such a fashion. As to the call to the editor from Mike Freer. I have heard this from three different people at the Times all of whom I trust implicitly. There has never been a suggestion that the story was buried because it was wrong.
If it has subsequently emerged that the story was found to be factually incorrect in any way, shape or form, I urge the Times to contact me as a matter of urgency to set the record straight. This blog will happily allow anyone who can refute the allegations a guest blog to do so, without comment or editing by myself. It may be that all of Lynne Hillans supporters know of the matter and have decided that they don't care. If it was so unimportant, why did Mike Freer go to such lengths to kill the story?
This election is a watershed in Barnet Politics. If the Times withholds the information, then it has in effect colluded with the Hillan campaign. If the Hillan campaign can withstand the truth then fine. If it can't then she should bow out gracefully.