Lack of sports facilities for young people in the Borough?
Neeeeeeeigh-bours ... ev'ry body needs good neeeeeeighbours ..
On the 27th July 2009, Don't Call Me Dave launched the "Not The Barnet Times" blog. That was the date when Barnet officially had a blogging scene. Prior to that, it was just me writing a blog on the local paper. Then the local Tories put pressure on the editor to pull a blog and hey presto, a local Tory, David Miller, took umbrage and started writing his own blog. Whilst I was commtted to what I was doing, having a bit of competition, especially from a Tory was fantastic. In my opinion, Miller was the best of all the Barnet bloggers. I don't mean this as a slur on the rest of us, but Davids writing is conscise, to the point, well informed and usually bang on. I used to describe him as Barnet's most sensible Tory. David saw through the mess that Mike Freer, then leader of the council was in the process of building. Wheras Freer could dismiss my criticisms as politically motivated, this didn'y work with Miller. Sadly, despite Miller winning every argument, none of his former Barnet Tory colleagues listened. That is why we have dire OFSTED reports, CHAOS at the audit committee, and failings services. That is why Mr Reasonable highlights overspend after overspend. So far the chickens haven't come home to roost with Council tax hikes, but that day is surel coming, probably after the next council elections in 2018, strangley 10 years after the blogging scene started.
The early days were quite heady. It had not occurred to me when I started blogging for the Barnet Times that anyone would be interested in my opinions. Even less that the leaders of Barnet Council and our GLA representative would care. When Phil Crowther, editor of The Times told me that Brian Colemans press officer, Robert Rams was phoning him on a neatly daily basis, ranting about my latest comments I was stunned. At the time I'd never heard of Rams. I suppose that it is the job of a press officer to do such things, but I found it strange. Even stranger, to me at least, was that Rams didn't ring up and try and establish a friendly line of communication. I'd done much Music promotion and the first thing I always advised bands to do if they got a bad review was to try and meet up with the reviewer, have a beer, and try and get something good. I also advised that all publicity was good publicity. I also advised that feuds were good for sales. They generated exposure. I assumed these maxims were universal, but Barnet politics was different. There would be no friendly back channels and no cost cups of coffee. I assumed the Tories had a well thought out agenda or good justification of their actions and policies and would only be too keen to use this new channel to put their case across. Instead Freer insulted myself and David Miller, calling us 'One Handed Bloggers' (i.e. wankers) in an official interview. He used his blog to attack. 'Armchair critics cosseted by family wealth' the week after my mother died, a clear implication that I was in for a few quid inheritance. I complained to Crowther about this. Freer had got blogs I wrote removed, so Surely such an insult should go. Freer told Crowther his comments were aimed at no one in particular. Freers comments remain on line.
At the time I'd regularly chat to David. We'd coordinate blogs and try and ensure a good perspective from right and left. Vicky Morris then joined in. She realised that people were taking notice of Barnet blogs. 2008 ended with Barnet blogs firmly on the map. It never occurred to me that nine years later I'd still be writing one. I was pleased in 2009 and 2010 when the other bloggers joined in. Sadly David and Vicky moved away. Although we've done much, I doubt that would have happened without them.
Next year will be the tenth anniversary. I am working on a book and a film about it. I think the Barnet blogs is a fascinating story. As I've been re-reading old blogs it is scary just how many warnings we made were proven spot on. Never forget. The truth is a wolf, it will hunt you down.