Monday, 26 May 2014

The 2014 Council Elections - the final word

Tomorrow a new council will be sworn in, there will be 18 new faces and 18 councillors who we won't be seeing again. The new council will be a big departure from the previous setup. One of the reasons that this blog has tempered much of its criticism of Richard Cornelius is due to his support of a change back to the old "committee system". The cabinet has been dispensed with and individual councillors will have far more say in decisions. This also means that they have to take responsibility for those decisions now. They can't say "The Cabinet passed it, we were not party to the decision".

With a much reduced majority, it now only needs one Conservative Councillor to say "No!" to any decision and the decision falls. Wheras there was the sanction of dismissal to the oblivion of opposition, now any councillor dismissed from the Tory group will hold the balance of power. This means that any Conservative with an axe to grind becomes a very dangerous individual for the administration.

It is interesting to note that two of the outgoing cabinet lost their seats. East Barnet Councillors Rams and Mrs Tambourides have created  a space at the top table. In the brave new world this means committee chair positions. There is also the rather juicy plum role of chair of the licensing committee, vacated by outgoing Andreas Tambourides. So that means three lots of hefty allowances to be had.

If Richard Cornelius only has three members who want juicy cheques every month, all should be well. If however a few more want noses in troughs, then he will find himself in a sticky situation. There have been persistent rumours that Richard Cornelius would face a leadership challenge after the election, whatever the result. Given the tight margin at the top and the demise of some of the more accomplished weilders of the knife weilders, we think it unlikely. Any round of blood letting could have all sorts of unfortunate side effects. In short the majority of one has changed the game.

One rather interesting appointment will be the chair of the Audit committee. By convention this goes to an opposition member. Lord Palmer was the previous incumbent. In some ways Jack Cohen would make and ideal choice as he is one councillor who officers will not give the run around to. Jack finds himself in a strange situation. He's been "shot by both sides". Despite years of cordial relations between Barnet Labour and Barnet Lib Dems, Labour went tooth and nail to unseat Jack and hos fellow Childs Hill Lib Dems. The net result was the Tories took two seats in the ward. Labours teenage scribblers see this as some odd sort of victory, but for the rest of the progressive part of Barnet, it is a complete catastrophe. We can only speculate what the fallout from that particular own goal will be.

Which brings us to Labour. The election has given Labour a platform to possibly take all three London Borough of Barnet seats at the General Election. The big shock was the collapse of the Tory vote in Chipping Barnet, traditionally "Toryville". There is a theory doing the rounds amongst the Barnet Tories that the Labour party "threw" Hale Ward deliberately. The logic goes that whoever takes over the Council will have some awfully difficult decisions to make and Andrew Dismore did not want an unpopular Council to shaft his general election campaign next year. They believe that the campaigning decisions, such as the Childs Hill push were more about getting the message out for Labour 2015 than anything to do with running the Council.This is perhaps the only sensible explanation that I've heard for the failure to take Hale. The conspiracy theory also says that Labour HQ spiked the stories that were being leaked to the press about certain Hale ward Councillors.

I suppose we'll be able to see whether there is any truth in this when the Labour Group have their meeting on Tuesday. I suppose that if the current leadership remains, we can assume that the view is that whatever job was supposed to have been done, has been done. If there is a big shake up, then we know that they've recognised that there was a massive campaign failure. I guess that we'll have the full story after the meeting on Tuesday.

And on to the "minor" parties. Today we publish a rebuttal of the election coverage of the Greens in the Barnet Eye, by A.M. Poppy, who was local green candidate in High Barnet. As ever, when the emotions are high, we say silly things. Poppy states
"Don't let that personal animus warp your accuracy. You've stood for the Lib Dems. Does it pain you that we Greens are now firmly established as the third party in Barnet, displacing the LibDems in all the 2012 ballots in Barnet and in all but two of Barnet's wards declared last week? I could more credibly argue that those who get in the way of the Greens are scuppering the progressive cause."
Casual readers of this blog, who may not know the full context, will perhaps think that I am some sort of "Lib Dem fifth Columnist", writing blogs to warp the electoral process to benefit the Lib Dems. I suppose I should set the record straight. I had been a member of the Labour party for 22 years until September 2009, when I quit in disgust at the treatment of refugees. At the time the Lib Dems were the only parlaimentary party not engilfed in Xenophobic bile. I also supported their stance on tuition fees. As they had councillors in Mill Hill ward and there was a chance of keeping the Tories out, I joined. I never anticipated the coalition.

Initially when the Lib Dems joined the coalition, I was undecided as to what to do. The country was in a mess and needed stable government. The referendum on the voting system was also something I supported. Then every single one of the Lib Dem MP's broke their pledge to not raise tuiton fees. I resigned as a Lib Dem in disgust. I was considering rejoining Labour, when I got a completely unexpected letter stating that I had been expelled for five years from the Party because I stood as a Lib Dem whilst being a Labour member. This was factually incorrect. I had copies of the email resigning and a response from Andrew Dismore. I sent this back, but was told it didn't matter and that I wasn't welcome. I realised that I didn't really want to be a member of a party and being an independent voice suited me and the blog better. I consider myself to be a "progressive" and I will support any candidate that I consider to be "the best for the people of Barnet".

So am I letting "personal animus" getting in the way with support for Greens. I find it rather strange that Poppy makes this claim. I believe that we are the only blog in Barnet to actually go out of our way and record an interview with her. I stated that she'd make and excellent councillor and that I hoped she'd do well in High Barnet. Does that sound like personal animus? The truth is that despite Poppies rant, the Lib Dems have one councillor and the Greens never got anywhere near gettimg elected anywhere. I believe this election was their best ever chance, especially in High Barnet and yet they didn't even poll 1,000 votes.

I am not upset at the Lib Dems poor showing. The party deserves a kicking for the coalition. I do however believe in the long run, they offer the best chance of a third party taking seats. These seats will be in Childs Hill, Mill Hill and High Barnet. This will not happen until after the end of the coalition. The best hope for the Greens is to get a by-election win in a ward where there is a major Green issue. I'd like to see a carve up. Wards like East Barnet, Hale and Brunswick Park giving Labour a free run. In Mill Hill, Childs Hill and High Barnet, give the  Lib Dems a run.

I'd then say the Greens could have the free run of any other ward that comes up. If they find the right local issues and the right candidate and they focus their resources on one or two wards, I believe that long term they will do far better. I am amazed that in rural wards like Totteridge, they haven't done better. Green belt and overdevelopment is a big issue in such places. Poppy also berates me
"I think I find my answer in the post of 18 May where you say: “I don't support the Green manifesto or agenda.” I suspect you never read them, but no matter you're entitled to feel hostile."
I find this comment a little insulting. As a blogger I've read all of the local and national agendas. As I thought Poppy would do a good job on the council and is a very decent person, I chose not to forensically dissect just how stupid some of their proposals are. Let me give you just a couple of examples. Checkout this leaflet  - One area that the Greens surely would have high public confidence is protecting the green belt and stopping overdevelopment, yet not a word. They seem obsessed with showing they can come third ahead of the Lib Dems. The leaflet says "The Lib Dems have sold out. No one votes for them now". This is the most silly statement I've ever seen on a leaflet. High Barnet has many voters who quite like the Lib Dems. The job of the Greens was surely to persuade them to "lend a vote". Were the 859 people who voted for Duncan MacDonald in High Barnet nobodies? They also say that Labour know it's not worth wasing their energys in High Barnet. Well actually they finished second. One final word on this leaflet. I was a bit perturbed by the UKIP esque reference to"the 100 or so Polish pickers" in the article about recycling. What has the nationality of the workforce got to do with the efficiency of recylcing? A very poor leaflet indeed. It put my back up when I first read it and it hasn't improved with age. I suspect that what happened at the Mill Hill Residents Association Hustings summed up the sheer ineptitude of the Greens. All of the parties had a local candidate on the panel, discussing local issues. That is, except for the Greens. Therefore the meeting knew they weren't serious.

And that brings us on nicely to UKIP. I don't really know what to say about UKIP in Barnet apart from to comment on the complete cock up of a campaign that they ran. I have spoken to their candidates and they admitted as much.

I suspect that only the Lib Dems really get what being a third party is about at local elections. They have always done well when they've identified hyper local issues and made these into the campaign. Mill Hill was awash with local issues, yet none of the parties bothered to talk to these. I suspect that the Lib Dems lost their focus due to the departure of Wayne Casey who was an excellent local politician. UKIP perhaps could have filled this void, but were simply too shambolic.

We must say a  quick word about the smattering of independent candidates. It seems to me that Barnet is not really ready for independent candidates and the independent candidates are certainly not ready for Barnet. To win a seat in Barnet  you need to attract somewhere between 1,800 and 3,000 votes. So if you are going to seriously engage, you have to work out how you change the minds of this number of people, many of whom are set in their ways. It seems that the independents think "having a few good ideas" will suffice. The laws of mathematics and probability say otherwise. So if you are planning to stand, you'll probably have to start knocking on doors a year before the election and get around every house 2 or 3 times.

Unless anymore guest blogs show up, this will be it for local election 2014 coverage. Unlike a few other bloggers, I've no interest in writing anything about any of the candidates consigned to room 101 (unless they have a pop). All scores have now been settled.


Anonymous said...

It is surely the case that developing the so-called green belt in Barnet, obviously part of an existing urban city, and accidentally not built on because of the Second World War, would be considerably greener than planning low-density 'new towns' in the proper countryside.

Rog T said...

What you advocate is an ever growing expansion if London.

That will destroy the character of Barnet and other outer London Boroughs. As someone who loves my neighbourhood and sees the wisdom of preserving green space I could not disagree more