Cowards come in all shapes and sizes. Every atrocity committed by any government since the concept of government was invented thousands of years ago has happened for one reason. That reason is because cowards were too afraid to stand up and be counted. It is because ordinary people like you and me are not prepared to say "This is wrong, we will not stand for it". It is because cowardly people will always wait for someone else to take the risk. Sadly for all of us, often no one takes the responsibility. And the ordinary man in the street pays and pays again.
In just under one years time, there will be a general election. It is pretty clear that the Lib Dems are heading for a very tough time. I don't expect them to get wiped out and I don't expect them to lose most of their MP's. Where will their voters go? That is a good question. I suspect that the Tories will not campaign too hard in wards where it is a Lab/Lib Dem marginal. What is the point. Most of the voters there are clearly "Anyone but Labour" and I don't believe that the Tories have the lemming instinct of Barnet Labour in Childs Hill, where their own vanity cost them control of Barnet Council.
In Tory/Lib Dem marginals, one has to wonder what the Lib Dem voters (and former voters) will think. I suspect in those where Labour is a distant third, the Labour Party will conclude that there is not much to be gained letting the Tories in. If nothing else, the Coalition has shown that you can have a functional coalition government. Of course I believe that every proper three way marginal will turn into a very nasty fight indeed. Both the Tories and Labour will see the Lib Dem vote up for grabs and I suspect no dodgy tactic will be spared by anyone. I don't expect the poor little Lib Dems to survive in these shark pool wards.
Which brings us to Barnet. At the moment all three Barnet constituencies are Tory. Before 2010, Hendon and Finchley & Golders Green were Labour. Hendon MP Matthew Offord has a majority of 105 and nobody expects him to hang on, least of all his Tory allies on the ground. Several Tory councillors have told me that all of the effort will be put into saving Mike Freer, who has a decent enough majority.
It is clear to me that Freer has already realised that he is fighting for his life and used the Council elections to build a platform to hang on with. Barnet Labour made a schoolboy error in diverting resources from Hale Ward, where they should of won three seats, to Childs Hill, where they had little prospect of winning any seats. The Leadership in of Labour in the Council has shown itself to be completely incompetent. This blog has not made itself popular by screaming this fact from the rafters.
We do however believe that only by replacing Alison Moore as Leader, will Sarah Sackman have a chance of winning the Finchley and Golders Green seat. There is a lie being put around by certain serially dishonest Tory activists that organisations such as BAPS have few activists, that One Barnet had no popular opposition and that Labour have no popular grassroot support left in Barnet. This is a blatent lie. Last year, in the height of the coldest winter for decades, in a blizzard, hundreds of local people marched from Finchley Central Station to Friern Barnet Library. That was not a protest for the feint hearted. During the march, a rather disconsolate Barnet Unison leader, John Burgess told me he was gutted that the weather had deterred more people. I pointed out that he'd drawn the completely wrong conclusion. If hundreds would turn out to march in the snow, then that was concrete proof that people supported the cause.
Sadly the local Labour Council leadership didn't capitalise on this. No effort at all was made to engage with BAPS and the supporters who walked in the snow. A huge resource was virtually untapped. In just under a years time, we will have a general election and the two Barnet marginals are vital to ensure that we get a Labour government, implementing progressive policies. I believe the result could be so tight, that the Barnet seats may be the difference between a Tory or Labour lead government (I don't see an outright winner).
This is hugely important to me. Labour has many things wrong with it. It made terrible mistakes in the period 1997-2010 which made me quit the party. After a long period of soul searching, there is only one thing which has made me decide that I will be supporting Labour candidates in the next general election. That is the fact that if we get another Conservative government (especially a fully fledged Conservative government), then the NHS will be destroyed. When it comes down to it, the rich vested powers, which control the Tory party hate the NHS. For all her sins, leaders like Thatcher lived in a pre NHS period and recognised that the NHS was better than the alternative. The current rash of Osborne/Cameron/Johnson, have no such life experience. They come from privelidged backgrounds and their numerous holidays and trips to the USA, to consort with right wing ideologues, have convinced them that the NHS must be destroyed, as it is the only good thing people associate with the Labour government.
In short, the Tories believe that if the NHS can be destroyed, Labour will be flushed down the loo with it. It is nothing to do with how best to look after the population of the UK or how to provide a first class health service. The Tories policy is one of political vandalism. They know that if they smash up the NHS into a million pieces, then Labour can't put it back together. If Labour can't put it back together, then a good proportion of the electorate won't see any point voting for them. If you want to see the model for this, look at the railways. British Rail was split into dozens of different companies. Ones to operate the trains, ones to mend them, ones to build them, ones to own them, ones to operate the tracks, ones to maintain the tracks. In the words of the nursery rhyme "all the kings horses and all the kings men, couldn't put humpty together again". That is the future for the NHS.
Then there is the other big Tory lie. The one which I simply cannot fathom how Labour have let the Tories get away with it. This lie is that "Labour bankrupted the country and the Tories are putting it right". This is so demonstrably dishonest that it is unbelievable. You see the financial crash of 2008 was not caused by Labour spunking the money, as one Tory so eloquently put it. There was a global financial meltdown, caused by a far too lax regulation regime for banks. This was a policy which started in the US under very right wing governments and got completely out of hand under George Bush. New Labour was complicit, but had we had a Tory government, the regime would have been even more lax and the financial services market in the UK even more at risk. The money was spent bailing banks out. Now some on the right claim that they should have been left to collapse. This is a very right wing ideology of rampant capitalism. No Tory I've ever spoken to has claimed Gordon Brown reacted correctly to the financial meltdown. They have however offered no credible alternative. They clearly would not have been more interventionist than Labour, so they would have either persued the same policies or let our banks collapse. If they had let the banks collapse, then the UK would have been in a state of meltdown. The Thatcher government destroyed our manufacturing base. If a Tory government had destroyed our banking industry, then London would not be the financial capital of the world anymore.
As to the recovery under the Coalition, which we are seeing at the moment. The Tories are taking the credit for this, but it is business which is leading us out of recession. Small business has created most of the new jobs. Who is the business secretary? It is not a Tory, but Vince Cable a Lib Dem. I don't believe that this is an accident. Whatever you think about Mr Cable and the Lib Dems, he is a trained economist and unlike most of his Tory peers, he had a real job for many years.
Which brings us back to Barnet. As I said the next election will be tight. Barring a miracle (for him) Matthew Offord is dead in the water (doen't mean we can be complacent). Which means that the real fighting ground will be Finchley and Golders Green. Sarah Sackman is an excellent candidate. Much as I have no time for the leader of the Labour Group on the Council, I urge everyone who does not want to see the NHS abolished and a bunch of Tory ideologues, who would throw our last few successful industries to the dogs, to get out and spend the next year campaigning for Sarah (and Andrew Dismore in Hendon).
In Childs Hill ward, Lib Dem Jack Cohen withstood the Tory onslaught by nine votes. Nine people in Childs Hill made the difference. Had those nine not bothered, then Barnet would have lost possibly its most respected opposition figure in Council. If ever you wanted to see a reason to vote, consider Jack. The Tories have a wafer thin one seat majority. If any of their councillors go awol for any reason and there is a by election, then the running of the Council could change. That is why we all have to be ready for an election at any time and if one comes, we have to work ur butts off.
I believe with all my heart that a new regime in the local Labour Party will make a victory in Finchley and Golders Green ten times more likely. Whatever happens though, I will not be sitting on my hands waiting for someone else to do all the work. If after the 2015 election, the Tories have a parliamentary majority of one and that one is Mike Freer and like Jack Cohen he won by nine votes, I don't want to be the person who says "I let someone else do all the work and they didn't bother, so the carnage that ensued is not my fault".
So my message to everyone out there is this. If you agree with me that the local Labour Leadership at the council is not fit for purpose, tell them. Do not however let that stop you from busting a gut to get Mike Freer and Matthew Offord slung out on his ear in the 2015 general election. We have four years to make the Barnet group on the Council see sense. We have less than one to make the voters of Barnet see sense at the general election. Personally, I think that the NHS and the prosperity of the nation is worth protecting from right wing ideological madness. Do you?