Set your mind forward to 9th May 2014.
The Conservatives in Barnet have been kicked out and
a new Labour administration is about to take office.
Alison Moore triumphantly leads her army into the town hall for
ameeting of the Labour group to carve up the cabinet jobs.
As she sits down, one of her colleagues stands up and announces
Friends, Barnet residents, countrymen, lend me your ears; I come to bury Cornelius, not to praise him. The evil that men do lives after them; The good is oft interred with their bones; So let it be with Cornelius. The noble Alison Moore Hath told you Cornelius was ambitious: If it were so, it was a grievous fault, And grievously hath Cornelius answer'd it. Here, under leave of Alison Moore and the rest - For Alison Moore is an honourable woman; So are they all, all honourable men (and women) - Come I to speak in Cornelius's funeral. He was my friend, faithful and just to me: But Alison Moore says he was ambitious; And Alison Moore is an honourable woman. He hath brought many activists home to Barnet Whose ransoms did the general coffers fill: Did this in Cornelius seem ambitious? When that the poor have cried, Cornelius hath wept: Ambition should be made of sterner stuff: Yet Alison Moore says he was ambitious; And Alison Moore is an honourable woman. You all did see that on the Lupercal I thrice presented her a Queenly crown, Which she did thrice refuse: was this ambition? Yet Alison Moore says she was ambitious; And, sure, she is an honourable woman. I speak not to disprove what Alison Moore spoke, But here I am to speak what I do know. You all did love her once, not without cause: What cause withholds you then, to mourn for her? O judgment! thou art fled to brutish beasts, And men have lost their reason. Bear with me; My heart is in the coffin there with Cornelius, And I must pause till it come back to me.
A vote is taken and hey presto, we have a new Leader !!!! Not the one the people of Barnet elected. It is an odd fact that since Labour lost office in Barnet in 2002, every Conservative Leader who lead the party into an election victory has lost the job before the end of the term. The current Leader, Richard Cornelius took office following the sad and untimely death from lung cancer of Lynne Hillan. Since taking power, Richard has presented a radically different face of the Conservative party from his two immediate predecessors. Wheras Mike Freer was thin skinned and prickly and refuses to engage with anyone who disagrees with him, Richard is quite happy to step into the lions den. He appeared at a public question time organised by the Barnet Alliance for Public Services. Emails get answered politely. One suspects that Napoleon would approve of Richards leadership. The French leader famously said "Give me a lucky General". Richard is undoubtedly a very lucky leader. The biggest problem for every Tory leader since 2002 has been Councillor Brian Coleman. He has been a constant thorn in the side of all of them, causing offence and mayhem wherever he went. Following his arrest for assault in North Finchley and his suspension from the Conservative Party, Richard has been able to get on with the job, without Coleman constantly undermining him.
He has also been extremely lucky in Friern Barnet. When Occupy took over the Friern Barnet Library, it looked as if a PR disaster had erupted (courtesy of Councillor Robert Rams). As it turns out, what has transpired has allowed the Library to reopen at reduced cost to the taxpayer (if you believe the Councils figures). Whilst the Council has had a battering in the press, Cornelius can go into the election claiming that unlike the Labour administration in Brent, Barnet has not closed any libraries and they have worked with the community to keep open ones under threat. This would be an incredible piece of Chutzpah, but that is what politicians do.
Then there is One Barnet. All of the indications I have from the legal team representing Maria Nash indicate that her challenge will be successful. Whilst the Tories will squeal like little piggies when this happens, it could well be the biggest blessing of all. A hugely unpopular and risky policy could be dumped with minimal political fallout. By the time of the election, it will be a distant memory for much of Barnets population.
One suspects that none of this will save the Conservatives in Barnet. The national party is so unpopular and their policies are so disasterous that we are likely to see an electoral wipeout in many wards. Whoever wins in 2014 is likely to have a huge mess to clean up. Under the Tories, Council debt has increased from £38 million in 2002 to over £600 million according to the latest set of accounts. The mismanagement of the successive Tory leaders is colossal. We all are liable to pay this cash back, yet the Tories are planning another Council Tax Freeze. Nothing could be more irresponsible.
The most alarming thing is that no one in Barnet seems to even be aware of this problem. As the country has found out to its cost, debt cannot be allowed to pile up forever. A responsible opposition would have been battering the adminstration about the issue, but we hear nothing. A complete wall of silence. As Mark Anthony observed in his speech " My heart is in the coffin there with Cornelius" Sadly for Barnet residents it will not be our hearts in the coffin with the political career of Richard Cornelius. It will be our hard earned cash, when we have to pay off the debts that this administration has piled up through its ineptitude.