Friday, 4 January 2019

Councillor Alex Prager - Barnet's most sensible Tory?

Generally people associate this blog with criticism of Barnet Council and the Tory Councillors which run it. Whilst we have criticised many of the policies of the Barnet Tories, especially on the subject of outsourcing, we try and keep cordial relationships with the councillors on a personal level. Furthermore, we have worked with quite a few over the years to deliver positive outcomes, support charities and do good things locally. Former Edgware Tory Joan Scannell with the Mill Hill Music Festival, former Mayor and Councillor Brian Salinger on various charity and inter faith initiatives, Councillor Lisa Rutter on youth projects, even Mill Hill Councillor Val Duschinsky on opposition to Pentavia Retail park development, to name a few. Once elections have been fought, you simply have to work with what you have, not bury your head in the sand and wish for a different world.

This is recognised and perhaps the best endorsement any Barnet Conservative can get is the endorsement of The Barnet Eye blog. Those who have locked horns with us over the years, such as Brian Coleman and Robert Rams have found, to their cost, that the electorate has no time for fakes and phonies. Those who have had our endorsement have prospered, such as Richard Cornelius, who we supported in his bid for leadership of the Conservative group six years ago. It may surprise readers that we have offered our support and endorsement to Tory councillors, but in a grown up world, you have to deal with realities. The Barnet Tories have a huge majority in the council chamber in Barnet and nothing good will happen unless there is a sensible dialog with sensible, grown up people. We endorsed Richard Cornelius as we believed he was the best choice on offer at the time. He had come to the council chamber as a result of a campaign to save Totteridge Library and had spoken of the need for Libraries on many occasion. Although we believe that the reorganisation of libraries has been a disaster, Richard proudly boasts that Barnet is one of very few councils not to actually shut libraries. He has also been a champion of the West London Orbital Railway, which is a project this blog totally supports. Richard has never hid from the public and even appeared at a Q&A session hosted by The Barnet Alliance for Public services and appeared in two documentary films produced by independent director Charles Honderick, which were highly critical of council policies. This is not to say that we don't have many fundamental disagreements with Richard, but if you had to choose a Barnet Tory as leader in 2012, he was clearly the best choice.

For many years, this blog awarded the title of "Barnet's most sensible Tory" to David Miller AKA Don't Call Me Dave. David wrote the influential "Not The Barnet Times" blog. David was an implacable opponent of the Mike Freer/Lynn Hillan/Brian Coleman axis, that caused so much damage to Barnet politics. David was a former chair of Chipping Barnet Conservatives. When Richard Cornelius rose to power and ousted the Freerites from control (his main opponent Mark Shooter was backed by Brian Coleman), David largely stopped blogging and moved to Essex.

Cllr Alex Prager - Barnet's most sensible Tory
This has meant that the title of "Barnet's most sensible Tory" has been up for grabs. It is not an award that I have been actively looking to make, it is one of those which sort of awards itself.  To receive the title, you must be a Conservative, must have shown yourself to be an independent thinker (not just a cannon fodder arms raiser at votes), you must support sensible local causes and you must not hide from the public. I find it bizarre that so many Barnet Tories view social media as "beneath them". They should see it as a great way to interact with the public. Sure you will get brickbats thrown, but for every loudmouth out to pick a fight, there are hundreds of ordinary souls who simply want to engage with their councillors and get problems sorted out. Asa result of the campaign to Save The Midland Hotel, I've become aware of the new West Hendon Councillor Alex Prager.  With his colleage Helene Richman, he has been spearheading the campaign and working hard with local people to ensure that this community asset is preserved. Whilst this is both sensible and commendable and certainly gave me a soft spot for these council newbie's, it isn't really enough to win the title. However Cllr Prager voted against the party line at The Audit Committee to make a very sensible decision last year, much to the amazement of many local anti-outsourcing campaigners, in an important debate about the future of the Capita contract. This is a rare occurrence and meant that councillors were granted access to privileged information prior to a vote, ensuring common sense could prevail.

This certainly flagged up Cllr Prager as sensible. We also follow his twitter posts, it is here that we get a proper insight into what he is all about. Unlike many of his colleagues, he embraces the medium and is keen to engage with residents to sort out issues. This tweet was almost unique from a Barnet Tory.

He has also shown a great fondness for libraries (sorry couldn't resist this)

His sensibleness has to some degree been recognised with his appointment as small business champion for Barnet

He has used Twitter to demonstrate that he doesn't see people with a different viewpoint who attend council meetings as the enemy

He is also onside with us, using his maiden council speech to talk about air quality, a subject we've been quite vocal about in our regular "environment Monday" blogs

Perhaps the thing that finally tipped me to choose Cllr Prager as the new holder of the title "Barnets most sensible Tory" was a tweet this morning having a dig at me. I like people who stick up for their mates. I thought it was a very good comeback. I enjoy a bit of banter on Twitter and so I look forward to a few jousts. But the point is a serious one. Cllr Prager has the wherewithal to give a decent comeback, without being rude, offensive or obnoxious.

It would be the easiest thing in the world to pretend that all of the members of political parties other than your own are monsters, stupid, misguided etc. I believe that most people who join parties and serve as candidates and councillors are decent people and if they belong to another party, simply have different views. I don't believe they seek to do harm. We badly need sensible Tories, Labour and dare I say it Lib Dems in Barnet to work for local people. I write this blog for the same reason I believe that Councillor Prager is a councillor. It is because I love the area. He seems to have his heart set on doing the right thing for the people that elected him, to be open, honest and accessible. I wrote this blog, because I think it is important that people recognise these qualities. As someone who runs a business, one question I ask myself when I look at councillors (this is something I'd urge all residents to do at elections, rather than voting tribally) "would I employ this person in my company". Sadly there are only nine councillors out of 63 who pass this test (although to be fair, some of the new intake I am not acquainted with fully). My criteria are intelligent, honest, hard working, savvy with social media ( a prerequisite in this day and age), prepared to challenge decisions, good with people and someone you would feel happy to represent you in public. Sadly Councillors who tweet frantically the week before elections then disappear completely till the next election need not apply.


Disillusioned said...

Prager did not reply to residents who emailed him about issues, notably the Midland application and several others.Not everyone has time to attend surgeries but I heard he is usually not there or late. Fair dos for the audit vote..that was commendable.

Val Duchinsky is a poor planning committee substitute member - she never asks any questions and just follows the party line in deciding planning applications. I doubt she reads anything that has been submitted especially the objections.

I'm not having a go at Tory councillors. There are others in other parties that are useless as well.

Barnet is poorly run with a lousy council and a lousy opposition.

I can't say I can, or want to, do a better job but it is disgusting that paid councillors are not doing their jobs which is to help their local community.

Gerrard Roots said...

Alex Prager is one of the new Barnet Tory intake- one of those who gained their council seats bcause of an election campaign notable for vile and, largely unfounded, accusations of anti-Semitism against the Labour Party nationally, consolidated, locally, by obfuscation and lies from Barnet's Conservative Council about its financial position and its plans for the future.I'm not surprised that Prager now wants to put 'clear blue water' between himself and the sinking ship of fools that is Barnet's Tory Council. 'Barnet's most sensible Tory'? Rather, I suspect, with a majority of about 150 votes. Prager is: 'Barnet's Tory most sensible of the fact that his political life is on borrowed time'.

Unknown said...

Gerard, are you suggesting that there is a correlation between the size of the majority and the amount of stupidity that Tory Councillors display? I think that is something the number crunchers at The Barnet Eye will have to investigate further. I suspect it may be more complex because ex councillor Rams was not very sensible, but his seat was so marginal that he lost it in 2014. We need a proper equation such as Tory Councillor Sensibleness = Size of majority * X/Y - can we have any suggestions as to what X or Y may be?

A Midland pub regular said...

Alex Prager "has been spearheading the campaign and working hard with local people to ensure that this community asset is preserved"?!!

Wherever/whoever did that idea come from?

I haven't seen hide or hair of Prager at pub ever. I go there often and know the pub landlord who knows EVERY person who has reached out to him to help fight for the pub and his livelihood.

If Prager is in anyway involved, we would know. I get tory leaflets through my letterbox when I am home but no one ever rings the bell to talk to me about what is important to Residents in West Hendon. It's easier not to have a doorstep debate.

Has Prager actually done anything tangible for the pub?

FOI requests have only shown one councillor who submitted an objection to the pub demolition and it was not Alex Prager. The pub licensee and local commubity would very much welcome real input from Alex Prager; the long drawn battle to save the pub is just beginning.

It would help if he starts to reply to emails from ward residents.Not everyone has Twitter, especially the older residents!

I want my moneyback said...

You would only consider 6 out of 63 councillors to be employable for your business? Even a generous 12 out of 63 is quite damning.

Well, with the bin fiasco(our bins not collected yesterday!!), the £2 million fraud last year,rampant overdevelopment, potholes etc.. I don't think there IS any sense (or cents) left in the council!

Pity we cannot return or exchange councillors after Christmas.

Gerrard Roots said...

Dear Unknown,

I agree that it's complicated, as your example of Robert Rams shows. But Rams, formerly Cabinet Member for Libraries, Arts, Culture and the Destruction Thereof, had allied himself too closely with publicly- disgraced Barnet Councillor Brian Coleman (was,in effect, Coleman's Mini-Me) and so even Barnet's Tories couldn't allow him to survive his mentor's political demise. Barnet's Tory Group are herd- animals: they leave the weak and dying to the predators and run off. So 'sensible' (pace Rog T) is the wrong word: perhaps 'sentient' is better, as in: every four years (barely) sentient Tories stand for election in Barnet Borough and every four years they are elected and take power. Not an equation, but a deep and abiding mystery.