Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Friern Barnet Library Court Case - my final thoughts

Today as I stood watching the Judge read her summing up of the reasons behind her judgement, I looked across at the various protagonists in the court. We had Mr Grundy, the council for Barnet, presumably a man who commands a few hundred pounds an hour for his services (assuming he's any good). We had Bill Murphy, the highly paid contractor who has come in on a wage perhaps equivalent to four or five librarians, to dismantle the library service. We have Suzanna Lewis, the lady who is the property specialist for Barnet. I've no idea what she gets paid. Possibly more than a librarian?

Then I looked at the other side. Keith Martin, a retired accountant who stuck his neck on the line financially to defend a library, a man who spends his life publishing books on topics of local interest. Pete Phoenix, a community activist working to assist people who are homeless find some sort of accomodation and in Friern Barnet to stop the council from closing a library, giving of his time for free. We had a stack of other people giving up a days work and pay. Why, to defend their community.

Yesterday I had a chat with Bill Murphy. He claimed that he isn't the bad guy. He claimed he's doing his best in a difficult circumstance. I genuinely believe that he thinks he is. The trouble is, who does he think he's doing his best for? The pensioners who use Friern Library? The children who are deprived of books? The students deprived of a place to study? Bill do you think you have served these people, at the bottom rung of society. Those who won't earn in ten years what you earn from the taxpayer this year?

Today I also had a nice little chat with Mr Grundy. Mr Grundy clearly has had a very good education. I wondered if he has ever struggled to study in a cramped flat, surrounded by siblings with the television blaring? Maybe he has? I wondered whether he ever took refuge in a public library when he was taking his law exams. When he was at whichever Inn he is a member of, scoffing the requisite number of dinners and drinking the requisite bottles of plonk, did he ever worry about how he'd get access to the books to pass his exams? Maybe he did, I have no idea. Mr Grundy is clearly a far clever chap than I am. He's far better spoken and I'm sure that as a trained advocate, he can earn far more money than I can. I'm sure that being highly intelligent and not dyslexic, he could write a far better, funnier and more informative blog than I can, if he chose to. Perhaps he has a social conscience and is a far better person than I am as well. Maybe, but he has done a terrible thing. He has facilitated a judgement which could lead to the closure of a community resource, depriving hundreds of people of a valued space, which may allow them to improve the quality of their education, their employment prospects and their childrens well being. Mr Grundy has climbed a ladder and achieved a job with stability, good prospects, a good salary and a nice pension. He is happy to take that ladder away from a whole community of other people. He sits atop the apple tree, eating the ripe apples and tossing down the ones with worms in, to the paupers below saying "I have succeeded, but you do not deserve your library, you do not deserve the chance to better yourself, you do not deserve an opportunity to improve your prospects" because this is the effect of the judgement on all those people who need the facilities and the space to study. To Mr Grundy it is simply a job well done. I congratulate Mr Grundy on doing such a fine job. On Thursday morning, I will be down at the homeless charity where I volunteer, making toast for the homeless of London. For all Mr Grundys wit, wealth and charm, I'd rather be there than spend another second in his company. An unkind comment was left on a picture of the gig my band did at Friern Barnet Library concerning the smell of homeless people. I would rather breath that than share my oxygen with people who rake in huge amounts of money from destroying the quality of life of their fellow man and pulling up the ladder so the hard working, intelligent young people from poor backgrounds in Friern Barnet suffer social exclusion.

As for Ms Lewis. Presumably if she does a really good job, she'll sell the site to a property developer who will make a few million quid from it. A community will have lost its heart and someone with perhaps no association at all with Barnet will rake in a huge profit.  I hope she's well paid. I hope that she is completely heartless and doesn't care at all about this, because if she does have a heart, sooner or later she is going to feel very bad about what she's done. I wouldn't wish such a pained soul on anyone.

What all of us forget sometimes is that one day, we may well be old and infirm. Money comes and money goes. The friends we have when we are doing well, disappear when times get rough. Ill health robs the strongest of us of our dignity and our authority. They say that only the good die young. Maybe the real curse for those who rape our public services is that they will have to grow old and lonely in the world they created. I remember seeing my mother on a geriatric ward in Barnet following a stroke. The forlorn stares of the pateints staring out of the window was quite the saddest thing I've ever seen. For those of us who have tried to do our bit to preserve and improve our community, we will at least have consolation that we tried to make a difference, tried to do the right thing. I shudder to think what those of us who have spent our lives ripping apart communities think about when they find themselves in that position?

As they say, only the good die young. Perhaps that is the curse that the rest of us must face. A life of impotence at the hands of an uncaring state, knowing that it is partially our fault for colluding with the system that created it.


Richard Logue said...

Any views as to the identity of the one person who regularly tick the 'Rubbish' box on your posts Rog? Are they from City Hall by any chance and do they whine about twitter abuse?

Lindsay said...

Well said, Roger. I think many people who are lucky enough to be well educated and well paid, have NO idea what it can be like for the many who are less fortunate but strive to do well. Many high profile people who started life in humble circumstances, cite libraries as their saving grace.