Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Richard, this morning you look very shabby indeed

If you were the leader of a local authority which had just been through a court case, where the judge decided that your authority had not discharged its legal duty, but due to a technicality, could take no action, what would you say? If that legal duty was to the disabled, elderly and vulnerable, how would you explain your actions to those whos legal right you had breached?

Well if you were Richard Cornelius, Leader of Barnet Council, you would say that the Council had won "a complete victory". You would claim that the councils position had been vindicated.

The question is this. How would the people of Barnet view this response? Are the British and the people of Barnet a nation that looks kindly on those who rely on legal loopholes to get out of their legal duties, especially to groups such as the disabled? Do we take kindly to the Peter Mandelson school of spin, where the end always justifies the means? Do we want our politicians to consider that anything is OK so long as they get their way.

When Richard Cornelius made his speech declaring "complete victory" after the One Barnet legal challenge, he made a conscious decision to kill his own integrity and honour. He took a decision to look shabby and devious. It is clear to me what happened. The Barnet Council PR department wrote two speeches. One if the Council won and another if they lost. It didn't occur to the numbskulls in the PR department that the judge would deliver such a scathing dismissal of the councils behaviour.

Presumably Richard Cornelius actually read both speeches and the judgement before his statement. As such, he has to take full responsibility for delivering such an innapropriate response. Maybe he feels that "getting away with it" constitutes total victory. I doubt that the fair minded and honest people of Barnet will concur.


Morris Hickey said...

Even King Canute was not quite that oblivious to reality.

I have asked myself what in such circumstances I might have done. My answer is clear.

As the former Deputy Leader of a London authority (and, for two short periods Acting Leader) I would have gone back quietly to my Town Hall, without public comment, and discussed with my Chief Executive and Legal Advisers the adjustments that ought to be made. I would have considered carefully any advice given to me and then set about making any changes required.

For the most part the public respects organisations that can own up to their errors. That same public despises those portraying a somewhat unseasonal pantomime buffoon.

paper tiger said...

So if a council does not "discharge its legal duty", and no-one brings a judicial review or they are too late, as in this case, the council just gets away with it? The council answers to no greater body?

Morris Hickey said...

Yes it does, paper tiger. In London boroughs it answers to the electorate through the ballot box next year.