Saturday, 5 May 2012

Brian Coleman ex AM : A message that the Barnet Conservative Party cannot ignore

I didn't celebrate the demise of Brian Coleman's career as a member of the London Assembly. There was nothing to celebrate. Do you celebrate when you pull a painful splinter out of your finger? I am extremely proud of all of the groups and people in Barnet who worked together to get the message across, but all I felt was a sense of relief that Brian Coleman was no longer my assembly member. Let me share a little story with you about his replacement, Andrew Dismore. My former business partner died in 2001 of cancer. His wife was left with four children, one of whom is disabled. She was living in council provided accomodation. Barnet Council tried to evict her and get her to move to Norfolk. She contacted Andrew Dismore when he was MP for Hendon. He worked tirelessly to sort the problem out and she is still there today. A move would have uprooted her from her family and friends, ripped her children away from friends at school, whilst suffering a bereavement. In short Andrew Dismore did his job. I was reminded of this when a single mother, Sharada Osman contacted her London Assembly member, Brian Coleman,  for help with housing problems. Coleman dismissed her with an abrupt invitation to "live in the real world". It was typical of the man. Brian Coleman arrogantly believed that his bumptious, pomposity would carry him through. He believed that being a Conservative and being a loudmouth was enough in Barnet to guarantee another £53,000 a year term. He was wrong.

The main thing about the demise of Coleman is the message it sends to the Barnet Conservatives. They have been pursuing a hard right agenda since 2006, when Mike Freer organised a palace coup against the more sensible and measured leadership of Brian Salinger. Brian Coleman was the power behind the throne. Freer immediately embarked on what has become known as the One Barnet program. Freer was "engaged" by BT on a program called "Vital Vison" which is a tool BT use to indoctrinate dim councillors and other decision makers into thinking outsourcing (usually to BT) is the way of the future for Councils. The central plank of the One Barnet ideology is that Barnet Council is a business and lots of cash can be made out of it. In effect, we have paid to set up a system where our cash bankrolls the profits of huge companies and rather than providing services, the council has become a huge machine generating cash for multinational companies. The worst example of this are the changes to the parking regime. All of these have been geared to making the system as profitable as possible for the private contractors who now run Barnet. Pay and display was abolished because handling cash is not that profitable for private companies. Free parking bays in CPZ areas were abolished because there is no profit in these for the contractors. Charges were hiked so that there was plenty of fat and profit in the contract. Brian Coleman was the man who introduced these and he has paid for it with his GLA job.

The question is whether the rest of the Barnet Tories will get the message. The One Barnet program and it's many consequences have destroyed the local Conservative machine. We made a film "A Tale of Two Barnets" about the effects. We packed the Phoenix Cinema, the House of Commons and a few local venues. At the end of every screening, people would come up and say "I didn't realise it was this bad". In actual fact it is worse. Unless the local Conservatives start to listen, they will be slung out en masse in 2014. They have created a massive, grassroots campaign against their policies. A couple  sticking plaster policies will not fix the mess. The Brian Coleman vote was in effect a referendum on One Barnet. People were given a choice between it's architect, Brian Coleman or Andrew Dismore, a man who believes in listening to people, providing services for people not to fleece people. The result could not be more resounding.

I happen to believe that Richard Cornelius, Leader of Barnet Council is a decent man. He now has the option to sack Brian Coleman from the cabinet, bring in some fresh blood, call a halt to the One Barnet program, introduce sensible parking arrangements for the High Street and start listening to the people who voted him in. He needs to call Council CEO Nick Walkley into his office on Monday morning and say "Nick, you have failed the people of Barnet and they have spoken. You have transformed Barnet Council into a joke. You're fired!". 

In late 2009 I was asked to stand as a Council candidate in Mill Hill. In May 2010, I lost. Whilst many people would give up, I analysed the results. I talked to local people to try and work out how I could have got the message I wanted to tell over. I realised that the biggest mistake was to not allow enough time, not engage enough people and not make sure that everyone who voted knew what I stood for and what the other guys stood for. The next election was yesterdays GLA election. I worked tirelessly, via this blog, via the film and through networking with various local groups, to ensure that we made sure as many  people as possible knew what the issues were.

The next election is the May 2014 council election. The work to change the way things are done starts today. Richard Cornelius has a small window to change, an opportunity afforded by the demise of Brian Coleman. If he announces a reshuffle and a change of tack, then he may be the saviour of the Barnet Conservatives. If he decides that it's business as usual, he'll have two years of sensationally bad press headlines. He'll have more films and better films like "A Tale of Two Barnets". He will see protest marches, rallys, political stunts. He will then find that in May 2014, there will be no Conservative Councillors in Barnet. You may think that such a statement is ridiculous. Well Brian Coleman thought he was uuntouchable. He got trounced. The message could not be starker for Richard.


Ron said...

Dismore record as MP:
# Voted very strongly for the Iraq war.
# Voted very strongly against an investigation into the Iraq war.
# Has never voted on replacing Trident.
# Voted very strongly for introducing ID cards.
# Voted strongly for Labour's anti-terrorism laws.
# Voted strongly for university tuition fees.
#Voted a mixture of for and against laws to stop climate change.
and i'm getting bored of it...

Don't Call Me Dave said...

I don’t accept that this council is pursuing a hard right agenda (by which I assume you mean right wing Conservative). Genuine Conservatives do not believe, for example, that you try to save money by cutting the amount spent on wardens in sheltered housing. Real Conservatives believe that older people should be respected and nurtured for their wisdom. Real Conservatives argue that you cut out waste and bureaucracy before you cut front line services.

Real Conservatives argue that you get a grip on the way you run the organisation. The amount this council spends on consultants proves how much waste there is still to be cut. The number of non-compliant contracts proves that, in the words of the Sweet song Blockbuster, they just haven’t got a clue what to do.

The next election comes sooner than 2014. There will soon be a by-election in Brunswick Park, considered a safe Conservative seat. If the Conservatives lose that, it will probably send a stronger message than yesterday’s defeat for Coleman.

Morris Hickey said...

Small matter of detail Rog - Monday is a Bank Holiday courtesy of Harold Wilson in 1978.

Moaneybat said...

My Compliment to Ron for putting Dismore's record the way it is

....and when it came to Defending Council housing, Dismore shifted his posterior more times along the fence locally and nationally according to the Government policy. Just ask how many EDMs he did sign on the issue as a sitting MP in Light Blue Labour years and that as result of gentle persuasion of a handful of people in Hendon --- now he's back in the money, back in the money having gone Pink Labour with Middlebrand and Balls.

My thanks lso to Camden's in helping rid Barnet of the worst kind of pimple.

button55 said...

Rog,did you enjoy your sherbets last night sir ....

button55 said...

@ Ron,indeed sir.!!

B.Coleman said...

Looking at the comments....I had thought the original post was a warning to Barnet Conservatives and its RIGHT WING AGENDA!!!. It was not based on Andrew Dismores record in parliament, if the GLA election does not send its message....well they deserve what they get (some might say they do already). It caused me some interest to see that two day's before the Election Mr Dismore's position on the etz chaim school application come into the open, it does appear that the fence collapsed under him with him landing more on the opponants side. I had spoken to him in Mill Hill broadway and he was totally non committal. I do though think that the rather thinly veiled threatening leaflet sent out by (I imagine) the proponants might have changed his mind. I would also remind your readers that the transferal fee for this schools lease ....a sum of £300,000. plus, Monies that could have been used on the general community was waived by council . Nothing would make me vote for these local politicians ever again.