A Tale of Two Barnets at St Marys Church Hall in Finchley. This was the fifth local screening I've been to. You might think that I'd be getting sick of it. Well last night had the best discussion of any of the meetings I've been to. Strangely enough most of it was nothing to do with subjects mentioned in the film. At the end of the evening I had a great conversation with a lady who was a Conservative who'd just come down to see the film. I asked her what she thought. Her reply was considered "It has made me think". She'd watched the interviews with Richard Cornelius and Nick Walkley on the website. She explained that she would not vote for Andrew Dismore in the GLA elections, but was none to keen on Colemans attitude. She told me she knows and likes Richard Cornelius and felt his colleagues were letting him down. I think she was rather surprised when I said "yes, I think he's a really nice person. I think he'd like the opportunity to actually run an adminstration without people who relish being rude to members of the public". I explained my proposition that the best thing that could happen to the local Conservatives would be for Coleman to lose his GLA powerbase. I suggested that when Michael Portillo lost his seat and his leadership ambitions in 1997, he became a lot nicer person. Maybe it would do Brian Coleman some good on a personal level. She said that I was probably right about that. I explained that Charles Honderick hadn't set out to make an anti council film and that it is no such thing. It is merely an attempt to draw attention to the areas where they are doing badly, in the hope that people listen. She said that she would agree with that assessment. She said that she hoped people would listen. She felt particularly incensed about the parking charges.
The main subject we discussed was open spaces. Mike Gee, AKA Mr Greenspace gave us a lengthy talk on local greenspaces. I learned something and was fascinated to hear some of the background to how we got our parks and open spaces. It had never occurred to me why we have parks. Apparently in the Victorian era it was recognised that working people need quiet spaces where they could reflect. The greenspaces were set up to give nature a foothold in Urban areas and to give the working people respite from the grimness of daily life. He then explained about the Conservative regime and how they want to charge people to rent parks. He made a compelling case that this was totally alien to the founding concept of open spaces. He fears that it is part of an agenda to destroy forever these refuges, for private profit and gain. He explained several cases which pointed strongly to corruption within Barnet Council in regard to planning applications. Again he made a compelling case. Mrs Angry who was also present suggested that as most council employees are decent people, he should be more circumspect in his comments. He replied that he couldn't quantify the level of corruption, but the evidence pointed to the fact it existed.
We also had former Residents Association candidate Roger Enskatt giving us his views that people were too tribal in their political preferences to ever act sensibly in relation to bad candidates such as Brian Coleman. I disagreed. I felt his comments betrayed the naivity of the Residents Association campaign. They didn't allow long enough to get their campaign going and they didn't have the legwork or resources to make a difference. If rather than running in lots of wards, they'd concentrated all of their resources into one ward, maybe they could have made a difference.
One interesting comment was a speaker who said they didn't understand what the Tories stood for. They'd asked a local Tory and got the answer "We stand to end the something for nothing culture". Sadly they stand for no such thing. if they did, Brian Coleman wouldn't receive £120,000 + for a series of part time non jobs in local government. Councillor Robert Rams would not have a job at the GLA on a hefty salary counting paperclips for Brian Coleman. If they did, the first thing they did when they were re-elected in 2010 wouldn't have been to vote themselves a whacking great pay rise. If it was, they wouldn't have given themselves parking permits, which allow the to park for free in Barnet, whilst the rest of us have to pay a fortune.
In the minds of certain Tories "Ending the something for nothing culture" means attacking the rights of the disabled, slashing benefits for people laid low by illness, charging children of the impoverished for school meals, taking away wardens from elderly and vulnerable people living in sheltered accomodation. I volunteer for a homeless charity and spend my Thursday mornings giving many homeless people in London a free (or cheap) breakfast. Yes, I believe in something for nothing for people who are impoverished. Both myself and Brian Coleman are members of the Christian religion. For me, it compels me to give my time to help the poor and hungry, expecting nothing in return. I don't do it because I want anyone to think I'm marvellous, I'm not. I simply do it because there are people out there who need breakfast. If it wasn't for volunteers (most who work far harder than me), people would probably die. I generally don't mention this much in the blog, but when I hear that people are denigrating people as scroungers I think it needs to be mentioned. What does Brian Colemans form of Christianity represent? Well he earns £120,000+ a year for a series of non jobs. He also lives in a subsidised flat provided by the Methodist Church, designed for impoverished families who need accommodation. Nothing sickens me more than people who use religion and charity for their own ends. I believe that charity giving should always be private. I believe that we should all do what we can for those less well off (whatever our religious beliefs). I believe that it is immoral to take more from the bowl than you deserve. I'm not out to convert anyone or say my way is better than your way. All I will say is that I believe in society and I believe in helping other people. I don't think you have to be religious to help other people, but I believe that if you claim to be religious, yet you take more out of the bowl than you deserve, depriving other people of their fair share, you are a disgusting hypocrite.
There are some aspects of the something for nothing culture I too would like to see ended. Sponging by rich men like Brian Coleman is one of them. We can put an end to his shenanigans at the GLA by not re-electing him on May 3rd.
Apologies for the sanctimonious lecture, but the every time I see people queueing for their free slice of toast, having spent a night sleeping rough on the streets of London, often through bad luck and impossible circumstances, and I think of Brian Coleman tucked up snugly in his charity flat, being ferried to free dinners all over the place in publicly funded cabs, I feel physically sick.