Saturday, 16 March 2013

Opposition for the sake of it?

Disgraced Barnet Councillor, Brian Coleman sent a riposte to the joint blog published on this blog and all of the other Barnet blogs yesterday.His email was sent to all of the Barnet Councillors included in the mail out

From: Coleman, Cllr Brian Independent []Sent: Friday, March 15, 2013 6:03 PMTo: Derek Dishman; Brodkin, Cllr Alex Labour; Campbell, Cllr Anita Labour; Cornelius, Cllr Alison Conservative; Mittra, Cllr Arjun Labour; Strongolou, Cllr Andrew Conservative; Tambourides, Cllr Andreas Conservative; Evangeli, Cllr Barry Conservative; Gordon, Cllr Brian Conservative; Salinger, Cllr Brian Conservative; Schama, Cllr Brian Conservative; OMacauley, Cllr Charlie Labour; Rogers, Cllr Colin Labour; Salinger, Cllr Catherine Conservative; Cohen, Dean Cllr Conservative; Seal, Cllr Daniel Conservative; Yawitch, Cllr Darrel Conservative; Greenspan, Cllr Eva Conservative; Cooke, Cllr Geoffrey Labour; Johnson, Cllr Geoffrey Labour; Old, Cllr Graham Conservative; Sargeant, Cllr Gill Labour; Rayner, Cllr Hugh Conservative; Hart, Cllr John Conservative; Johnson, Cllr Julie Labour; Tambourides, Cllr Joanna Conservative; Tierney, Cllr Jim Labour; McGuirk, Cllr Kathy Labour; Rutter, Cllr Lisa Conservative; Braun, Cllr Maureen Conservative; Shooter, Cllr Mark Conservative; Houston, Ross Cllr Labour

Subject: Re: 2e2 - a joint blogger communication

My attention is drawn to the decision in the High Court today in the case of the Chief Executive of Carmarthanshire council and a blogger a Ms Jacqui Thompson .
No doubt the so called "Barnet Bloggers" will be taking due notice of this case.............

As ever, it seems Mr Coleman is playing to the gallery. The implication in Councillor Colemans email is that the communication regarding 2E2, sent by Barnet bloggers is in some way libellous. You can read what was said to elicit such a response here

Given that there is nothing in the communication which in any way shape or form could be construed as libellous, one can only speculate as to why he drew such a parallel. Given that the local government secretary and leading Conservative Eric Pickles has praised the "so called Barnet bloggers" at the Tory conference, could his criticisms be tinged with a tad of emerald in his eyes, especially given his own rather turgid attempts at blogging.

I get on well on a personal level with quite a few of the local Conservative councillors. They understand that we disagree, but recognise that this is born out of a deep affection for the Borough and a desire to see the best for the residents of the Borough. There are probably three or four who deeply dislike me personally, but generally most are friendly. Most will tell me things "off record" and most have also told me that they have no problems with the activities of the Barnet bloggers. Often they are grateful for pointing out things they have missed. One has told me that whatever happens with the One Barnet program, the inquisition which bloggers have subjected it to will most likely make the contract one of the most robust Capita have signed. He also assurred me that Capita are well aware of the trouble Barnet bloggers will cause if the project screws up. He is of the opinion that their shareholders would hang the board out to dry if they let it go wrong, knowing about the storm which will be unleashed.  Whilst I don't agree with that assessment and believe Capita are motivated solely by a desire to make a profit, it is interesting to note that they are at least acknowledging the role.

One of the local Conservative Councillors told me that he originally viewed the local blogs as just a bunch of local "malcontents" who indulged in opposition for the sake of it and to get a bit of local notoriety. I found this quite amusing because when I started writing this blog, it never occurred to me that more than a couple of dozen people would read it or be interested in the subjects I covered. I didn't even check the stats for the first few months, worried it would demoralise me if no one at all looked at it. People express amazement that over 1,500 people a day look at the blog and that we've had nearly 900,000 hits. There was also a mistaken belief that I write the blog because I want a career in local politics. I don't. I stood at the last election because Jack Cohen asked me to and felt it may help overturn the Conservative majority in Barnet. I won't be putting my name into the frame this time.

As to the threat of libel action as per the case in Wales. I never knowingly publish anything which isn't true. If I get my facts wrong, I publish a retraction. Libel laws in the UK mean that you can only get sued if you publish which can be proven to be untrue, unfair and injurous to the party who is offended. That is why I don't think that Barnet bloggers will be losing too much sleep. It is also fair to say that the administration of Richard Cornelius seems to take a fairly laid back attitude to criticism. Most natural Conservative politicians believe in freedom of speech and expression. So long as we stick to fair criticism of them and their staff, which is not of a personal nature, then there should be no problem.

It is also fair to say that some of our local politicians, such as Brian Coleman, have received unprecedented amounts of coverage in blogs, on occasions which has been rather unpleasant. Given the tone of Mr Colemans public utterances over the years, this has to be deemed "fair comment". Mr Coleman has twice been hauled before the Standards Committee of Barnet Council for insulting members of the public. He has lost twice. It is also a matter of public record that Mr Coleman went on air, on the day of his standards case against me in 2009 and said things which are demonstratably untrue about me. When I called the BBC and went on air to correct the falsehoods, I received a rather hard time from Vanessa Feltz. It was only when Vanessa bothered to read the blogs Mr Coleman referred to, that she recognised she'd been mislead.

It was suggested that as Mr Coleman had besmirched me on air, I had a bona fide case against him. I took the view that the fact that Vanessa repeatedly made the point of saying that Coleman had mislead her, any damage done had been undone.

Mr Coleman has been put in the dustbin of local politics by his behaviour. Occasionally he opens the lid and tries to climb out. I recently had a discussion with one of his senior former Tory colleagues, who told me things were far more cordial in the group without him around. If I were Brian Coleman, I'd seek to be building a few bridges, rather than sending out such ridiculous emails. Will he ever learn?

1 comment:

Mrs Angry said...

so called Barnet bloggers, Brian? Erm ... we live in Barnet, and we are bloggers. Fact. Oh, mind you, so is Brian, now, I suppose. Hmmm.

And as Mr Mustard pointed out to the old boy, Brian is standing in a glasshouse. And throwing stones is not really a very good idea, is it, in the circumstances?