As I'm up in Edinburgh on business, I missed the full council meeting of Barnet council last night. There were three important votes that will play a big part in shaping the future of the borough. I suppose the headline news is that the Barnet Tories lost a vote for the first time in full council. They voted against budget cuts to close a local nursery at Moss Hall School. It seems that a lone Tory rebel has saved them from themselves. By their nature, nurseries have strong local support groups and parents are easy to mobilise. Tory MP Mike Freer must secretly be chuffed that a very embarrassing decision in his backyard has been rejected. It would have done his election chances no good at all had this gone the other way. The Tories also rejected a vote of no confidence in their Leader, Richard Cornelius. Turkeys do not vote for Christmas and anyone who expected any other outcome was quite frankly deluded. I felt Labour really botched the way they handled the whole issue of the fallout from the report which revealed how the council literally fell apart earlier this year, due to a lack of legally qualified staff and botched outsourcing. The no confidence motion gave the Tories an ideal opportunity to close down the issue and put it to bed. A politically astute opposition would have demanded a full public enquiry to examine the cause of the crises to ensure the council learned the lessons. If the Tories had opposed this, they would have been exposed as being shifty and unprepared to embrace openness and transparency. Sadly they've shot this particular fox.
Sadly though, the Tories exposed themselves as a rather dim lot. They rejected a motion to save Barnets libraries. What this means is that the local Tory MPs will face election against a background of highly visible and unpopular cuts, which their colleagues at council fully support. The largest group of users of libraries are the older members of the community and these people tend to be more likely to vote. I suspect that this decision could cost Mike Freer and Matthew Offord dearly at the polls.
What is the saddest element of last nights library vote is the fact that the council leader, who survived the no confidence vote, originally got into politics as a result of a campaign to save a library. It seems ironic that the same meeting that voted to save his skin, voted to destroy the things which he originally got in to politics to save. Et tu Brutus?