Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Barnet Council General meeting : Dancers at the end of time?

What a strange spectacle we have in the Barnet Council Town Hall. I gave American film director Charles Honderick a lift back to the station (via the pub and kebab house) after the Council meeting tonight. He had been filming some footage for a follow up he's making to "A Tale of Two Barnets". Charles thinks that an addendum of possibly a full follow up is justified given the changes that have happened in Barnet since January when he finished filming. Brian Coleman lost the GLA, Friern Library shut, the Tories have backed off on parking charges. 

Charles attended his first full council meeting tonight. His verdict "Nothing like that could possibly happen in the USA". Charles added "I felt like I'd watched a fight". He also gave his verdict on some of the councillors. 

Tom Davey, who stated that the council wouldn't help people who wouldn't help themselves "Doesn't he realise how that sounds in the gallery, some people can't".

John Hart, Who took great delight in quoting an expletive from Tony Crossland during a debate on education "What was that all about, did he just say that to shock everyone".

Dean Cohen, who floundered badly when answering questions about parking "They mentioned his Dad was a councillor, was he appointed because of nepotism?"

Robert Rams "He completely lost the plot at one point (during the debate on One Barnet), he didn't seem to know what he was saying and turned bright purple". 

Jack Cohen "When he started speaking I thought he was a bumbling fool, but by the end, the hall was silent and no one could argue with his conclusions". 

The Mayor, Brian Schama and the ceremony when he entered the room and had his rabbi say a prayer "In the USA, that would be illegal. Why do they dress up like that for a simple council meeting to discuss mending the roads".

Brian Coleman "He picked his nose, scratched his head and generally looked bored the whole night, apart from when he was looking grumpy".

And then there was the special guest star, Barnet Traders Spokesperson Helen Michael "When Helen walked in, it was like the star arrived. She was funny and to the point. She should be leader of the Council".

Charles was particularly shocked by the fact thatb (Tory) councillors seemed to hold the public in contempt. In the USA there is the perception that the voter is king. In Barnet the public gallery was talked down to and ignored. 

And what did the public gallery do? 

Rather strangely, the public gallery of Barnet Council was like a Glasgow music hall audience. They gave the councillors who spoke well respect. For instance, not a single peep was uttered when Lib Dem Jack Cohen spoke, even though most of the audience probably despise the Lib Dems for joining with the Tories. They recognise that Jack is a class act. I doubt there is anyone in Barnet who would like to see Jack go, despite their misgivings about the coalition. Councillors Davey, Cohen and Rams were given short shrift. Davey causing uproar for his callousness and lack of compassion. Rams causing uproar for his inability to string more than three words together coherently. He started waffling about referendums and even Brian Coleman visibly rolled his eyes.

Perhaps the most interesting thing was what happened outside the council chamber. I went out for a comfort break, to see Unison Leader John Burgess, Rabbi Newman and Brian Coleman deep in sensible conversation about the failings of One Barnet. Several other conversations were witnessed, which makes me think that despite the public utterings of the administration, they want a way to get out with their dignity intact. I wonder if Coleman sees principled opposition to One Barnet as his redemption with the Barnet voters? Whatever his sins, Coleman is no fool and must realise the damage One Barnet is causing. If it was canned tomorrow, that would give Barnet Council £10 million to play with.  What sane politician would look that gift horse in the mouth? 

After the meeting, we all adjourned to the Greyhound pub. Given that nothing had actually been achieved, the mood amongst Barnet activists and Barnet Labour councillors was bizzarely triumphal. We detect a change in the air. 

Watch this space for the video footage.

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