Tuesday 18 November 2008

Can we trust Mike Freer?

If a man is dishonest in small things, would you trust him with large things? If a man cannot be trusted, would we want him representing us? Would we want him to control a publicly funded information service?

Council Leader has a blog funded by the Barnet Taxpayer called LEADERLISTENS.COM

This is part of his Leader Listens initiative, to get him out and about in the community and to meet the people who elect him. His latest blog, entitled "Local Housing Allowance pays for £1m house, not the Council" (Click HERE for link)makes a rather disturbing claim.

Mike said :-

So why am I blogging about this? Well, if you scratch the surface of 90% of the e-mails I have received what you find is ignorance, namely the flawed Local Housing Allowance banding that can see in excess of £60,000 a year being paid to a landlord to house a family. A system that the Department for Work and Pensions won’t review or cap until April of next year at the earliest.

More worrying in my view is that most e-mails had racist tones and in some cases were just downright racist. They did not object to the tenant living in the property or the level of benefit being paid, they were more concerned about the colour of her skin and ethnic origin than the amounts being claimed.

Mike's previous jobs include being a bookie (working in retail gaming according to his profile) and a banker. As such, we've got to assume he's pretty numerate. Accuracy with figures is essential for both jobs. His statement about the contents of 90% of emails, means that Mike received a minimum of 10 emails on the subject. He claims that "Most Emails had racist tones". From his statement, this means that a minimum of 6 emails were potentially racist (it could possibly have been 60 or 600?). Now one of the BNP's favoured tactics is to claim that there is a huge, suppressed groundswell of support at grassroots level. They claim that "real people" support them. Fortunately this is not borne out by election results or any other method of measuring the views of "real people". In many areas the BNP consider getting 5% of the vote a big success (so much for the groundswell). The mere fact that Mike Freer made the claim about his postbag has given a propaganda victory to the BNP. They can quite honestly claim that the Leader of Barnet Council stated that most of his postbag on the case was from racists.

As if that isn't bad enough, he then added the following comment in response to a question as to whether he intended reporting the racist emails to the police (sending of such emails is illegal).

He said :-

In reference to comments with racist overtones, the email was a from a member of the BNP - a racist organisation - but sadly a legal one and of course whilst an individual on a video clip can be identified, many people hide behind false names and email addresses.

Now all of a sudden the postbag has changed from being most of the emails (of which there was a minimum of 10) to just being a lone BNP fanatic. Which statement is true Mike? they can't both be, can they? Mike has put himself in a position where the BNP can make use him both as a propaganda tool and an example of a mainstream politician lying.

Now I'm going to give Mike Freer the benefit of the doubt on this one. Let me tell you what I think happened. He got a few emails from various sources all telling him a few things he didn't like. In amongst that was a BNP supporter having a rant. Mike was upset by this and wrote his blog. He probably hoped that his blog would nip in the bud any attempt to hijack the story by the BNP. He later realised what he'd done and set out to ensure that he limited the damage caused by the earlier blog which could be construed as useful to the BNP.

Whether my take on it is correct or not, Mike really needs to clarify what he's said. I think the blog has shown poor judgement on his part. He really has to learn to engage his brain and think things through before making statements in the public domain. In answer to my headline - Can we trust Mike Freer? - I guess that I may be able to answer that when we see what he does next.


Anonymous said...

Maybe I'm too much of a cynic, I don't like to say 'I told you so'!

It's very sad as it totally undermines trust in politics and politicians. There's really no point in Brian Coleman blaming Citizen Journalists for doing that when people close to him seemingly do much worse.

Also this isn't the first time the mysterious mailbox has been cited to close down debate. Mike Freer suggested that his mailbox was full of people begging him to concrete over the borough to build pokey flats (about as likely as half the borough being racist). When I put in FOI request to ask to see these letters, with personal info removed, I was told the information 'wasn't recorded'!

Rog T said...


Mike Freer needs to do something to re-establish our trust in him following this. It will be very interesting to see what.

Anonymous said...

Hey Rog,

Would be nice to think that he feels that need. I don't think he cares what we think. In fact I suspect that the more he doesn't do what we think / say the more right he thinks he is!


Rog T said...


I just think he has his fingers crossed right now. I did a google search on the leaders of a few other London councils this evening. I sort of expected lots of similar blogs & comments across London, but there really isn't. I don't know what it is with the Barnet Tory administration but it's a bit of a one off.

Maybe we're just ahead of the game, but I think we've got a unique situation. It seems to me that the main opposition (Labour) is demoralised. The Lib Dems position is too weak to do anything and the Tories are so scared of their own shadows (or is that the council officers) that they are behaving like a bad Labour Council.

I don't think I've written a blog criticising a single thing Barnet Council have done which I've disagreed with because it is a Right wing Tory policy. It's all just because they've done things which are either stupid, wasteful or incomptetant.

And before the Friends of Freer start saying about the New Shape of the Council stuff, they've not actually done any of that (I don't consider road hump removal to be a right wing policy).

That's why it is easy for me to agree with yourself and David Miller. It is just bad administration and none of us want that.

Unknown said...

Former Councillor Hope with a personal

I don't think he personally cares what you think!

Rog T said...

Do call me Dave

Were you smoking Crack when you typed this. It really doesn't make much sense?

Anonymous said...

docallmedave / crackhead...

thanks for confirming what we all already knew!