In a blog yesterday, Mrs Angry makes the accusation that the Barnet Tories are a bunch of misogynists. It is quite clear that they have a few people who are misogynists, but is Mrs Angry being fair? Lets look at the evidence. She has also regularly made the point that the few Tory councillors who are female are knocking on a bit.
It is clear that the Tories would benefit from a bit of new blood, but this is true of all three parties. To be fair to Richard Cornelius, he has only really had one opportunity under his leadership to select a candidate in a winnable ward and he selected a young muslim woman, who got soundly trounced. Perhaps even more alarming was the clear evidence of a backlash against the selection from a large core of traditional Tory voters.
Another interesting point to consider is the fact that if the previous Leader, Lynne Hillan hadn't died of cancer, then Barnet Council would actually have a female leader still. I wondered how Ms Hillan would have reacted to Brian Coleman's hag jibe?
If we look at the key roles in Barnet there are 3 Tory MP's. One of these is a female -Theresa Villiers. Of the other two, Mike Freer is gay and in a civil partnership, so we can hardly tar Mike Freer with the "old school" label. In fact for all the criticism I have levelled at Mike Freer, the one thing I would never accuse him of is being insensetive to inclusivity.
The other post is the MEP, who is Marina Yannakoudis. She is a rather bright and bubbly personality and I don't think anyone would describe her as a misogynist.
The other post of note in Barnet is the Mayoralty. Last year it was Councillor Lisa Rutter, who is anything but a dull old fellow. This year the deputy Mayor is Councillor Kate Salinger. This position was clearly awarded by Richard Cornelius in an attempt to make amends for her appalling treatment over the expenses hike. It has been alleged that her treatment then was perhaps the premier example of misogynist Barnet, but given that Lynne Hillan was leader and in charge of the monstering, this seems a bit of a tenuous call.
In actual fact, I don't agree with Mrs Angry's analysis. I think the problem is a completely different one. I think that the Barnet Tories have lost the ability to attract talent. If you were a bright, young ambitious Tory, would you want to nail your banner to the Barnet Council mast? Not a week goes by without a scandal. At a recent GLA visit to North Finchley, I was talking to one of their press officers. I mentioned this blog and he said "Oh yes, I used to read it all the time". I was quite flattered. He then explained that this was because Brian Coleman was always featured. He gave me the distinct impression that his job was far easier now with Mr Dismore in the job.
Strangely enough, it wasn't awlays like this. The Barnet Tories used to be a hothouse for young talent. The Battersea MP, Jane Ellison was one example of a career launched in Barnet. Another example was Caroline Clapper, who defected to Hertsmere Council.
It is quite clear to me that the local Tory party are in deep doo doo. There is a distinct lack of activists who are coming through the ranks. As a result, they are getting a very low caliber of candidate. Even more worrying is the fact that the most talented councillors, such as Mark Shooter are pushed to the fringes, whilst intellectual lightweights such as Dan Thomas and Tom Davey rule the roost.
As to the current cabinet, there are also female members. Helena Hart is probably the most capable member of the cabinet. Sadly the other, Joanna Tambourides is completely hopeless and every time she speaks, shows just how out of her depth she is.
So in total we have
MP's - 3 in total - 1 female (33%)
MEP's - 1 -1 female (100%)
Council Cabinet 9 - 2 female (Less than 25%)
Tory Councillors - 37 - 9 female (less than 25%)
Mayor & Deputy 2 - 1 female (50%)
In my opinion, the root cause of this terrible underrepresentation is down to the fact that the proposition of being a Barnet Tory is not appealing. What sane and intelligent woman would want to have to set next to Brian Coleman as he foams at the mouth and calls people hags? What sane young woman would want to be the only one in the club under 50? I think that anyone wanting to make a name in politics (such as Jane Ellison did in the 1980's & 90's) would give Barnet a very wide berth.
And I think that it is time that the Leader, Richard Cornelius woke up to the fact that whilst he probably is horrified to be called misogynist by Mrs Angry, when he tolerates Brian Colemans behaviour and presides over a party with such massive under represenation of women, who make up 50% of the electorate, he really only has himself to blame for the charge.