Monday 27 April 2015

Five years is an eternity in Barnet Politics

Five years ago, we were approaching a general election. We were also approaching a council election. I thought I'd read my blog from this day five years ago and see what I was concerned about , as we again appoach a general election. As we approach the election, my experience of the two elections could not be more different. At the last election I was a candidate for the Council. In this election, I am not even a member of a party. Last election I was working 18 hours a day on the campaign trail. This time I have not knocked on a single door. I am not convinced that any party has made a coherent case for getting themselves elected. The campaign has left me completely cold. Neither the Tories or Labour have given a single positive reason to vote for them. If I was Ed Miliband or David Cameron, my campaign would be based on the premise that if you elected me, I would make Great Britain the best country to live in for all its citizens. I was speaking to a friend in the street as we dished out leaflets for the Mill Hill Music Festival on Saturday. They said that if they could, they'd have elect Labour to run the NHS, the Tories to run the economy, the Greens to run the cycle lanes and railways and the Lib Dems to make us all a nice cup of tea and stop the others squabbling.

In truth, my friend is closer to the mark than many politicians realise. The coalition government has surprised everyone by being so stable. Who would have thought that Lib Dems and Tories could get anything done. Whatever you think of the coalition, Cameron and Clegg deserve a degree of praise for giving us a degree of stability at a time when much of the world is in crisis. For those new to the blog I was standing for the Lib Dems in 2010 in Mill Hill ward. My mission was simple, try and stop the Conservatives from winning in Mill Hill, so a Labour/Lib Dem coalition could take control of the council and reverse many of the destructive policies that they seemed bent on implementing. I was astounded when the Lib Dems and Tories formed a government and I resigned from the party when the Lib Dems dumped their pledges on student loans.  For me, trust is a huge issue and this action was a huge betrayal. As it has transpired at local level, the Conservatives won and have outsourced the council to Capita. We have seen all manner of cock ups since, so I feel vindicated in my efforts to prevent this calamity. Whatever, I am glad I had the experience of running as a candidate and meeting so many people in Mill Hill. When I reread the following passage, I really felt quite emotional. The meeting people and sometimes catching up with long lost friends (or their parents) was by far the best bit. Here's what I had to say

Another thing which I haven't anticipated is the number of people I've told on the doorstep to read my blog if they wanted to find out about my views. Quite a few came up to me on Saturday morning and congratulated me. That is nice. They asked why the local press didn't cover local issues in such depth. They were amazed at how many issues they'd never heard of. There was one piece of news which absolutely gutted me. I bumped into an old footballing friend, who played in several teams I've played in over the years. He told me he had Kidney cancer and it had spread. He was on an experimental drug and was hoping it would stop the cancer in it's tracks. My friend is not a shrinking violet, he's one of the most full of life people I've ever known. As we chatted, he announced to everyone who passed "Vote for this guy, he's the man". I pondered the fact that he'd make a great politician, a man of great charm, personality and charisma. Barnet Council needs dynamic people who are not stuffed shirts. I've long been of the opinion that it's too full of pomp and ceremony and that puts the man on the street off. If I get in on May 6th, I am going to dedicate the next 4 years to trying to get local people involved and local people making a difference. One of my Lib Dem colleagues joked that following my run in with the Mayor last year, if the Lib Dems win, I'd make a great Mayor. Should that happen the first thing I'd do is sell they Mayoral Limo and the second thing I'd do is sell the Mayoral chain. I'd give the money raised to local sports clubs, to help get young people into healthy lifestyles. I asked why the Mayor needs a limo "So when he attends a function, he can have a drink and get taken home". If I decide to get pissed at the public expense, then it isn't work, it's pleasure and I'll pay my own busfare home. We need to make the council work for the people of Barnet and get rid of all of the indulging of public servants.
You can read the whole blog here.  It made me feel a bit nostalgic for those heady days. I think the experience of the coalition has made me far too cynical to stand again. In truth, I also realised that if I'd got my way and won and the Tories had been pushed out by a slender margin, the situation would have been completely crazy. I wonder if it would actually have been possible for the Lib Dems to have an alliance with the Tories nationally and with Labour locally. As I'd never even considered the possibility of a Cameron/Clegg coalition, I most certainly hadn't considered a Tory/Lib Dem alliance in the council. I personally wouldn't have propped up a Tory administration, especially one that was hell bent on privatising the council. What the local electorate would have made of a party in bed with two different parties locally and nationally, we can only ponder.

I almost feel that I dodged a bullet in losing. Whilst it would have been great to have stopped One Barnet in its tracks and to have had a council focussed on serving local people rather than local ego's, I am really not sure that it wouldn't all have ended in tears. Whatever happened, I would have put the ordinary people of Mill Hill first and done all I could for them. I was struck by just how little we see of our councillors. Sure they do a monthly surgery where you can go and see them if you want, but I'd really like to see a bit more of them. Running a public facing business in Mill Hill, I speak to local people all the time. There are many things which councillors should have done a better job with over the last few years. Perhaps the biggest and most contentious in Mill Hill is the Saracens CPZ parking zone. To stop people parking during a two hour period, they have enacted a 5 hour ban.

The council should have had a period of 30 mins where people couldn't park in the middle of games. They should have insisted Saracens pay for the scheme as part of their planning conditions. Instead hundreds of local residents have got tickets. Most of these have no clue about Rugby and it is simply just a hassle. What upset me is that none of the councillors had the balls to stand up to officers and tell them to come back with a better scheme. Councillors forget that they are the bosses.

I would love to see Barnet get some independent, non aligned councillors, holding the balance of power. I think that after the election, this may be my next project.  I think three years should be long enough for a few of us to make the case.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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