Friday, 1 June 2012

Times up for the Barnet Tories

Unbelieveable. The Barnet Tories have lost the previously rock solid seat of Brunswick Park in a By Election. Labours Andreas Ioannidis has taken the seat with a massive double digit swing. In the 2010 council elections, Lynne Hillan polled 3,307 votes. Yesterday Shaheen Mahmood polled a mere 1,598 votes. The Tories have shed nearly 50% of their vote in two years. The collapse of the Lib Dem vote has been even more spectacular. Mary Umbo polled 1,207 votes in 2010. I was quite upset to see that Yahaya Kiingi polled only 97 votes. I know Yahiya well, he's a lovely guy and I believe the vote was not a reflection on his abilities as a candidate. I suspect that it merely reflects the fact that there is a genuine desire to see the back of the Tories in Barnet and people will do whatever they have to to replace them.

It cannot go without comment that the Tories ran a truly awful campaign. The Barnet Eye was aware of much infighting, back biting and squabbling amongst the ranks. After the Brian Coleman GLA result, they should have palled out all of the stops to ensure that they were not humiliated. Sadly for the Tories, none of them had the guts to be associated with Ms Mahmood when it became apparent that her candidacy was in trouble. Her selection was what is lovingly known as a Mike Freer masterstroke. It is well known that Freer runs the show in Barnet and he had insisted Ms Mahmood, a close ally, be selected. Even his close colleagues such as Andreas Tambourides were not overly keen, but Freer overruled everyone. His logic was that Brunswick Park was a super safe seat and he needed a like minded soul to help preserve his legacy in the Barnet Tories.

Mike Freer knows that his One Barnet project is in disarray. He has single handedly created a well organised and well motivated group of anti Barnet activists, who are prepared to pound the streets of the Borough, to put an end to the madness. This blog has been writing about the One Barnet project, in it's various guises for three years. At first no one seemed to care, bar a few die hard union activists. As we see the first effects, such as the private parking wardens, stalking motorists, issueing tickets for fun, people have suddenly realised that such policies do affect them. The thought of our parents and loved ones final resting places being sold off horrifies people.

If the Tories want to avoid a wipe out in 2014, they have to have a complete rethink. Failed cabinet members such as Robert Rams must be replaced. There is talent in the Tory ranks, but it is pushed to the very margins. Despit twice nearly becoming leader and having support of nearly half the group, Mark Shooter has never held a cabinet position. Shooter is perhaps the one person who actually has the brains to sort the One Barnet mess out. He should be given the brief of overhauling the council.

It appears that Dean Cohen has gotten to grips with parking. If Shooter was put in charge of council efficiency, then it is clear that the only other hot potato is libraries. Rams must be sacked and Kate salinger given the brief. If Kate can't do it for whatever reason, bring in her husband Brian. A cabinet with Saliner, Shooter and Cohen would be far more in touch and sensible. Shooter should replace Dan Thomas, who is clearly out of his depth. The Salingers command respect in the wider community and within the Council workforce.

This blog has been accused of being anti Tory and Anti Barnet Council. This is complete nonsense. If the Tories had listened to us, dumped Brian Coleman, not abolished Pay and Display, not hiked CPZ fees and not shut Friern Barnet library, then they would not have lost the GLA seat or Brunswick Park. If they take our advice, they may yet save themselves. Clearly I am not a Conservative, but I have to live in Barnet. If we don't see an improvement, then we will be faced with a complete train wreck. I for one cannot stand idly by and sleepwalk to that fate.


Don't Call Me Dave said...

With such a poor turnout, the swing figures are almost meaningless. The LibDems clearly voted tactically and the Tory vote collapsed, but the Labour vote also dropped slightly (based on the average from 2010), despite all the negative publicity the Conservatives have received this year. On this showing, Labour will not win the full elections in 2014. This was a classic protest vote scenario.

The real winner of the election was apathy. 7 out of 10 voters thought that none of the parties/candidates were worth voting for. It is in just such an environment that support for extremist fringe parties starts to grow.

Ron said...

Don't call me completely missed the plot. considering by-elections, this was a massive turnout. have a look at the other by elections from yesterday.
in Redhill and Northbourne the tories won with 675 votes. In Fosseridge with 397, in Meads, 1783. The issue here is not the turnout but who didn't turn out. The tories voters avoided the ballot box to demonstrate their objection to the tory council policies. This is the issue, this is the politics.

Morris Hickey said...

I would suggest that some commentators are forgetting - or choosing to forget - that the 2010 council elections in London boroughs were on the same day as the general election. This factor alone would have seen something like twice as many people voting in the council elections than is normal. And byelections are traditionally lower turnout than normal.

Don't Call Me Dave said...


Do you genuinely think that a 29% turnout is “massive”? It is a pathetic turnout, notwithstanding that by-elections are never as high as full elections.

In 2010 Lynne Hillan polled 3,010 votes. Shaheen Mahmood polled only 1,598. That is a massive collapse, as I have already acknowledged above.

But this was supposed to be a high profile Labour campaign against an allegedly unpopular Tory Administration. The Barnet Alliance claim to have leafleted every house in the ward - quite an achievement. But despite everything that has been written about the Conservatives, Labour simply did not get their vote out.

In 2010, the 3 Labour candidates polled 1758, 1937 and 1994 votes - an average of 1,896. The Lib Dems polled 1066, 1217 and 1289 - an average of 1190 votes.

Tory voters stayed away en masse - that is quite clear. They were sending a protest message to their own party. But the results show clearly that Labour had to rely on the LibDems to prop up their vote. Given the amount of negative press coverage the Conservatives have received recently, you would have expected Labour to have at least got out their core vote and then added the LibDem sympathisers to win by a margin of at least 500 votes.

The GLA elections proved that, in Barnet, people will still vote Conservative. Boris beat Ken by a clear margin and the vote for the London List held up reasonably well given the national swing to Labour. Coleman lost by a big margin, but that was personal against him. This is a bad result for the Conservatives, of that there is no doubt, but to suggest that it is the beginning of the end for the Tories in Barnet is well wide of the mark.

baarnett said...

DCMD says "This was a classic protest vote scenario."

That's obviously true, but it's possible the same sentiment will still be in the public's mind in 2014.

And it is also possible that single, targeted protest candidates, as independent conservatives, might suceeed. Just one of them might do well in Totteridge ward, for instance.

Rog T said...

If the Barnet Conservatives don't have a massive rethink, they will be out on their ear in 2014. Whether you want to call what happened yesterday a protest or not is up to you, but it is crystal clear that Tory voters were inclined to stay at home and anti Tory voters were inclined to turn out.

If I was Richard Cornelius I would be very worried

Don't Call Me Dave said...


It is, of course, possible that Conservative voters will repeat their protest in 2014, but history shows that voters traditionally make a protest mid-term and then return to the fold at the next full election. When push comes to shove, voters will have the choice between an admittedly discredited Conservative council or Labour. For many Conservative voters, they will stick to the devil they know. For Labour to win, they need the LibDems to roll over as they did yesterday.


I agree that Tory voters stayed at home, but Labour voters did as well. It was the LibDems who won it for Labour. The turnout figures show that 70% of people do not think the council is as important as political activists do. Or, more likely, they simply don’t care who holds the seat because it makes no difference to anything.

The GLA elections proved that people could be motivated to vote if the reason was good enough - i.e. the removal of Brian Coleman. But they could not be persuaded to vote in massive numbers yesterday. It is for this reason that I think your suggestion that time is up for the Tories is premature. I still believe there will be a change of leadership before 2014, and that will be a game changer.

Don't Call Me Dave said...

It is perhaps also worth noting that the Conservatives arguably selected the wrong candidate for this ward, and unquestionably ran the most stupid election campaign in recent memory.

button55 said...

Roger,i said that the Barnet tories were out of touch in 2010, and also i`ve always backed my good friend Mark Shooter for leader of Barnet council if not standing against Offord for selection as a PPC ...