Monday 16 February 2015

Out of touch Tory Special - A Tale of Two Barnets in two illuminating tweets

Three years ago, I dedicated nearly a year of my life to producing a film called "A Tale of Two Barnets".  The premise of the film is that there are two Barnets. A rich, affluent Barnet where the residents are rich, live fullfilling lives and are having a wonderful time. This Barnet is extremely well served by the local Conservative Council, who cut their taxes, let them open free schools on public land owned by the council, and have virtually stopped enforcing planning rules, so the rich and wealthy can more or less build what they like, where they like. Then there is the other side of Barnet, the poor underclass. Those who rely on council services, which are being mercilessly cut. Those who are disabled bearing the burden of cuts. Small traders who struggle to make ends meet. The film starts with the Leader of Barnet council talking about what a great place Barnet is, the local chief of police detailing the demographics and the former CEO of Barnet Council, hinting that there is more to Barnet than a leafy Borough.

When we premiered the film at the Phoenix Cinema, 600 locals showed up at the Phoenix cinema and we had to hold two screenings to accomodate everyone. The film was featured on both the BBC and ITV local news and its fair to say it caused a bit of a stir. I'd filed the film away in the "been there, done that and moved on" file. Events last night forced me to reopen the file. So this morning I dug out the clip and watched it again. Here it is if you haven't seen it.

What caused me to revisit the film? Well Gabriel Rosenberg, a local Tory Councillor posted the following two tweets yesterday.

. err totes serious. You think Barnet’s ‘broken’. I think Barnet’s terrific. If it’s so awful why is it set to be #1 in London?

Once again: if it’s such a hellhole of a borough, why is it so popular? You keep changing the subject.

The good councillor was trying to wind up Mrs Angry (who tweets as BrokenBarnet), who is a local blogger. His premis seems to be that if Barnet is broken as Mrs Angry states, why are so many people moving here?

Well the answer is quite simple Gabriel. If you judge a Borough purely on its ability to drive out poorer people and replace them with rich people in new luxury dwellings, Barnet is hugely successful. If your measure of terrificness is how many swanky restaurants there are, rather than how well public services for the poor and disabled are run, then yes Barnet is terrific.

I would suggest Mr Rozenburg wathc the film.  This features all manner of local people, many of whom were supporters of the local Conservatives, local Business people, people who run charities (and have MBE's). Are they saying Barnet is terrific?

As I write this, marginalised people in Sweets Way are being forcefully evicted from their homes, to make way for another luxury development. I made "A Tale of Two Barnets" with director Charles Honderick in 2012 to commemorate the anniversary of Charles Dickens. The workhouse from Oliver Twist was based on the one in Barnet. The title is a play on Dickens novel "A Tale of Two Cities", which studies a similar subject.

Mr Rozenberg is the son of rich, successful parents. he has had a priveliged education and has never had to worry about where he will sleep, how he will pay for his next meal. If Mr Rozenburg really wants to be a successful councillor, he has to represent everyone, not just his well off mates. That means getting out and about and ensuring he understands the problems of everyone in the Borough, not just those who want to open a free school around the corner, because Hartley and Gemima may have to be educated with the plebs otherwise.

What struck me about the film, when I wathed it, was that all of the issues that largely affect the middle class, have had a degree of remidiation. David Attfield won his court case against illegal CPZ charges (hardly terrific). Helen Michael got parking machines reintroduced in the High Street. Sadly the disabled and the disenfranchised have not had anything done for them.

Maybe it is time for another film? It seems that the message didn't get through last time. 

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