Updated - I received emails from two Conservative Councillors stating that they did not receive the email referenced below. I have now resent to all Councillors. I am pleased to report that I have received many read receipts from Conservative Councillors. Whatever the glitch was, it seems to have been cured.
We live in strange times. The world has become a dangerous place and it seems that nothing which we held to be true yesterday is necessarily true today. I have a friend who worked for NATO in Brussels at a high level when Labour were elected to government in 1997. In 1999 we went to visit them. After a few beers, I asked a question which had intrigued me "What has been the European response to the change of government?". The answer somewhat surprised me "They see no difference at all between Conservatives and Labour, to them we are British and the party in power doesn't matter". As the Labour years unfolded, it became clear that they were right. The British didn't join the single currency and were as semi detached as they ever had been.
I sought to try and make sense of this. Look at my life. I was born in 1962 and these are the changes of Government
1962 - Conservative - 2 yrs
1964 - Labour - 6 yrs
1970 - Conservative - 4 yrs
1974 - Labour - 5 yrs
1979 - Conservative - 17 yrs
1997 - Labour - 13 yrs
2010 - Conservative / Lib Dem - 2yrs
So I've clocked up 25 years of Conservative rule, 23 years of Labour rule and two years of Conservative/Lib Dem.
What has stayed the same in that period
We still have and NHS
We are still members of NATO
We still have a Green Belt around London
We still have Queen Elizabeth II as head of state
We still trade in Pounds.
What has changed and who changed it
The Post office no longer provides our telephones - Conservatives
We joined the EU and signed the single European treaty - Conservatives
We largely abolished Grammer Schools - Conservatives
We now travel on trains owned by private companies - Conservatives
I struggled to think of a fundamental change to the things which affect my life which has been introduced by the Labour party in my life. I have always thought of Labour as the party of change and the Tories as the party of status quo. Clearly this is a most naive viewpoint.
All of the major changes which have ceded power to Brussels have come under Tory administrations. The grammer school network was destroyed under the Tories and Comprehensive education brought in. BT was split off from the Post Office and privatised. Has this all been a disaster? Well I had a Comprehensive education, which seems to have done the job. I manage to make phone calls and I can take a train to St Pancras pretty much as I did when it was British Rail.
I am under "active survelliance" for Prosate Cancer and cannot criticise the treatment from the NHS. At every election I always dreaded disaster if the Tories won. For some, such as miners this was true, but for the citizens of London, middle class and property owning, it was all pretty much business as usual. The reason? Because, contrary to what many on the left believe, most Tories are not driven by ideology. They are a fairly pragmatic bunch, who simply look after the vested interests that support them a bit more than everyone else.
When Margaret Thatcher ascended to power, many saw her as the stooge of Sir Keith Joseph, a man of the ideological right, who believed in much nonsense. Despite the best efforts of him and his fellow travellers, Thatcher and her government were always far more liberal than the right wanted and far more pragmatic than the left acknowledged. The likes of Kenneth Baker were responsible for many quite sensible reforms such as INSET days for training at schools. Michael Heseltine responded to riots in Liverpool with massive state aid to alleviate the social causes of the problems which sparked riots.
Perhaps the greatest favour Thatcher did to the world at large was to kick the Argentinians out of the Falklands. This destroyed the credibility of a nasty bunch or fascist generals and brought about the end of the era of generals in South America. Of course that wasn't Thatchers goal, but like all true British Conservatives, she was a pragmatist.
Now as regular readers of this blog will know, we don't lavish praise on the Conservative party terribly often. We do however acknowledge the truth. Some of the time the Conservatives get it right. Some of the time they have brought in sensible reforms. Even the things they've got horribly wrong such as rail privatisation has not lead to the wholesale destruction of the rail network, which now carries far more passengers than under BR.
We are writing this because it is important to remind Conservatives in the London Borough of Barnet that their party does best when it is being pragmatic. The Conservative Party in Barnet is about to undertake a massive program of outsourcing, giving 70% of the councils work to private contractors. The contracts will last for ten years. The contract is reportedly 8,000 pages long. The council is allowing councillors a period of around a week to read this, satisfy themselves completely that there are no risks, before forcing them to rubber stamp it. I make no bones about the fact that I disagree with the parcelling together of such large and diverse areas and selling them off as job lots to the highest bidder. What worries me most about this process is that many Conservative Councillors clearly have no idea what this is all about. They are being asked to vote for a process that will have a massive effect on the Borough, but they have actively been discouraged from engaging with the process of understanding it.
Yesterday I emailed every Barnet Councillor and asked for them to comment on whether they thought due time had been given to allow proper scrutiny. As of last night, not a single Conservative Councillor had responded. I had not even received a read receipt. Today a strange thing happened. Several Barnet Tories emailed me using private accounts. All asked for complete confidentiality, which I respect. What they have said disturbs me. It appears as if the local party are putting intense pressure on Conservative Councillors to bury their heads in the sand. The emails all have a common theme. This is
a) They agree that the time is woefully inadequate
b) They have been discouraged from finding information out about the project
c) They have been assurred that everything will be alright
d) No evidence to back this claim up has been given and requests for such assurances have been slapped down.
Another common theme is that these councillors understand exactly how this will end. As far as they are concerned (given that they deplore both One Barnet and the Labour Party). It will end with both One Barnet contractors and the Labour Party running Barnet. When they lost the Branswick Park by-election they realised that they may have a problem. The recent press coverage of One Barnet has made them realise that their time may well be numbered, save a miracle. Every failure, every problem a Barnet resident has once One Barnet has been implemented will be a bad news story and lost votes for the Conservatives in 2014.
The worst thing for them of all is that Labour will be able to spend the next ten years saying "It ain't our fault gov, the Tories signed ten year contracts" and it will all be true. This means that it will be the 2026 elections, before the electorate can really pass a verdict on Labour. As has been stated many times in this blog, ten years is an awfully long time to sign contracts for. It is also an awfully long time for the Tories to disqualify themselves from power for. It all seems curiously unconservative to me.