Last night, veteran Conservative Councillor Joan Scannell chaired her last ever meeting of the General Functions Committee of Barnet Council. Of all the committee's of Barnet Council, this is usually the most boring. Amongst items for discussion last night was "health and safety policy review". However last nights meeting was perhaps the most explosive of any in the recent history of Barnet Council. As regular readers of this blog will know, Joan was one of four well known veteran councillors deselected by the local Conservative party. Of the four dumped, three were "Ladies of a certain age" (the fourth was Hendon Conservatives sole Asian councillor).
Joan is a friend of mine. We've worked together for many years on the Mill Hill Music Festival. She is a hard worker and takes her responsibilities very seriously. Joan has been absolutely devastated by her deselection. The circumstances of which are quite appalling. Last night, she told Councillor Daniel Thomas, boss of the Hendon Constiteuncy organisation, responsible for deselecting her, exactly what she thought of him. Watch this video and then I will give some context.
As you can hear, Joan says that shes the victim of a "misogynist, anti christian, anti family" organisation. You may wonder why on earth Joan would make such a charge. When you know the facts, it all becomes rather clear. The facts of the charge are clear. The Barnet Tories have known for four years what the date of the council elections in May would be. It is a fixed date. From my own involvement in planning all manner of events, many less important than a Council Election campaign, I know the first thing you do when sorting out the calendar of events is to get the diary and ensure that you avoid key events on dates that may be inconvenient for key players. If people are required to attend, then you make sure that the date is as convenient as possible for everyone.
Anyone who knows Joan, knows that there are two things more important to her than the local Conservative Party. The first of these are her children. She thinks the world of them. The second is her Christian religion. Joan and her family are very active within the Salvation Army. Joan is responsible for organising the regular concerts that the Salvation Army play for the Mill Hill Music Festival. It may be a bit old fashioned. but Joan takes the issue of her religion and the Sabbath seriously. No one would expect a Jewish Councillor to break Sabbath and any selection meetings would be arranged to accommodate them. However the Hendon Conservatives decided that of all the dates they could have arranged to interview and reselect candidates for the forthcoming election in Six weeks, they chose Mothers day. For Joan, as with many mothers, this is a special day. She wanted to spend it with her sons. It was also a Sunday and Joan has religious duties that she considers sacred.
When Joan was informed of the date of the meeting she was horrified. There was no way that she wanted to upset her family. She felt that it was a highly inconsiderate imposition. When she was informed that the meeting could not be moved, she offered to supply a video presentation. Dan Thomas, as head of the reselection committee refused. Joan did not expect any issues with the committee. She has a spotless attendance record and a lifetime of service to the constituency organisation and the party. Whilst she was upset at the timings, she had no reason to suspect that there was any reason to be concerned. She was not informed that there was any reason to expect anything other than a rubber stamping of her candidacy. As such, whilst she was annoyed at the timing, she saw no reason to worry.
When she was informed of the result, she felt that she'd been completely stitched up. She feels that she's been mislead and that the constituency party had deliberately timed the meeting in such a way that she could be pushed out and not given the chance to defend herself. Joan feels that her faith, her family and her sex have been weaponised against her. Joan feels that a party than claims to support family values should not be discriminating against Mum's on their special day.
I have heard that some of the young Tory males have found her reaction quite funny. They seem to think that if you can't miss the odd mothers day celebration with your family, then you are in the wrong job. They feel that her outburst at the meeting has vindicated their stance and that Joan is simply a dinosaur who had to be removed. They want a young, dynamic team, who don't use "dinner with the kids" as an excuse. I suspect that is why we've seen such cock ups in the Barnet Tories as the attempt to close down after school respite care for handicapped children at Mapledown School. This gives parents of handicapped children time to do family activities with other children. The "boys" saw this as an unnecessary expense. It fell to another deselected Tory female of a certain age, Maureen Braun to scupper this heartless policy. Braun said "What are we here for if it is not to protect the parents of disabled children". It seems that compassion and family values are not things that are valued in the Hendon Conservative party. Maybe you want heartless, cold politicians that don't give a stuff for their kids feelings on Mothers day. For the rest of us, I am sure we find the treatment of Joan Scannell and the other deselected Tory ladies quite abhorrent. You would think that as the misogyny in the local Conservatives has already been widely criticised, they'd be a bit more sensitive. Clearly not.