Thursday, 15 March 2018

Barnet Conservative Councillor purge - Are the Barnet Tories the new Stalinists?

Yesterday we published a press release from three long standing Conservative Councillors who have been deselected by the local Hendon Conservative Association. Today the Barnet Tories have responded with a press release of their own. The Deputy Leader of the Barnet Conservatives made a rather chilling statement in the press release. To quote the press release

Councillor Dan Thomas, chairman of the association and deputy leader of the Council, said: “As per Conservative Party rules, all councillors must be reselected by their constituency association to stand for re-election. As this process is conducted by secret ballot, it is neither possible nor appropriate to speculate why applicants are not successful".
This is almost unprecedented in the recent history of the Barnet Tories. I had been informed early last week that Mill Hill Conservative Councillor Sury Khatri was not standing this time around. This was long before the meeting. I contacted Sury and he informed me that this was the "first he'd heard of it" and stated that there was a meeting on Sunday where he was hoping to be reconfirmed as a candidate in Mill Hill.

Reading Councillor Thomas press release, I am mystified. Why on earth does he think it is "not possible nor appropriate to speculate why applicants are not successful".  The Barnet twitter feeds are full of such speculation, despite Councillor Thomas stating that such speculation is not possible. What he means is that such speculation is rather embarrassing for him and his association.

There are two usual reasons why councillors are deselected. These are that the councillor does not do any work or that their behaviour is embarrassing to the group. The Barnet Tories make it 100% clear that no such reasons apply. in their press release

It seems that even Tory Stalwarts such as Brian Coleman are shocked and disgusted

It rather looks like the local Tories are using the dark arts of dodgy social media to try and justify their decision. Someone who is clearly close to the local Tory group left a rather unpleasant comment on the Hendon Times website
"Seems like a sensible move to me. Cant imagine these lot pulling their weight at election time or in between elections, and thats whats needed these days. Bet the members who got rid of them barely saw them on the streets or at events. Probably brought it on themselves, takes some doing to make risk averse people want change. Turning up at meetings and sitting around tables is bare minimum requirement. Got to get your face out to the masses not just cliques in certain circles. Probably good in their day but cant keep resting on what you did 10-15 years ago. Im over the border and similar thing happened here, freshened things up and the new people do 200% more. The shires and districts desperately need this."
It seems strange that someone who claims they are not in the local party know so much about the shenanigans. Whatever you may or may not think of Cllr's Scannell, Khatri and Braun, is it really a decent way to behave to stick the knife into them in this way.

A former local Tory activist told me of Sury in 2014

"Sury was the only one that any one ever openly spoke about being removed and even in 2014 I know he was spoken to dozens of times about his lack of campaigning and the ill will that was felt to him, it’s surprising that he’s shocked. 
Maureen also didn’t pull her wait last time around and I think we assumed she was running for the last time and she’d step down gracefully so planning for her replacements was already there three years ago. "
We have learned that Councillor Bridget Perry in High Barnet has also been booted out (via a tweet from our old friend Brian Coleman)

So why were these councillors put to the sword? There is a bit of a pattern. They are all of a certain age, three are female and one is Asian. In short they are not faces that really fit in with the Boys club elite chomping at the bit to run the local Tories. They are all in what the Tories perceive as safe seats. Whilst Barnet seems odds on to dump the Tories at the Council elections in May, some see this as a great opportunity to purge the party of the old guard and move things into the glorious new world. It will be interesting to see who is brought in to replace them. There are suggestions that this is the first step in a planned coup to remove Richard Cornelius as Tory group leader. The local Tories have form. A similar thing happened in 2006, when a string of deselections lead to Mike Freer replacing Brian Salinger as Tory group leader and Council leader immediately after the election.

I suspect that if the Tories loose the council, Cornelius will not be that interested in hanging around. I suspect that whoever takes over will be picking up a poison chalice. The likes of Dan Thomas have no experience of opposition politics. I'd personally have thought Joan Scannels experience of this would have been very useful if, as expected they lose.

Given that there is a battle royal being waged by Labour and The Lib Dems to eject the Tories, it seems a bit strange that they've started a civil war. Dan Thomas is a bit naive to think that there won't be speculation about the shenanigans. It may have escaped his attention but we are not (yet) living in a Stalinist republic in the Borough of Barnet. If you are going to shaft loyal colleagues to forward your own small clique (as so elequently put by ex Tory bigwig and convicted woman beater Brian Coleman) on Twitter, then you are likely to reap a whirlwind of speculation. The "nothing going on here, move along please" strategy simply won't wash.

Dan Thomas may not think sacking Sury Khatri for having a face that doesn't fit is something that will be of little concern. From what people have casually said to me in Mill Hill whilst walking the dog recently, I suspect that he's sadly mistaken. Many people like Sury and are actively talking about dumping the Tories. The question everyone asks me is "Why?".  As the Barnet Tories do not want to provide a sensible explanation, it is only right that people form their own, rather unflattering conclusions. Click here and have a look at the current crop of councillors.  The Tories have deselected one third of their female candidates. Of the ones remaining, one is the Leaders wife, who we assume has a pretty safe seat. Helena Hart is standing down. As I said, draw your own conclusions. Last month we wrote an article about misogyny in the local Tory group. What has happened has done nothing to dispel the concerns raised.

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