Wednesday 30 September 2009

A question for James Cleverly GLA member and Boris Ambassador - Where is the common sense?

I despair of this country sometimes. It seems to me that that there is no such thing as common sense or common decency in the petty minded, bureaucrats we have to deal with. If you received an official letter from an arm of the government about one of your children, how would you react.

Putting aside the obnoxious and patronising tone for one second, you might think that my child had been up to some serious no good. Talk of courts and sentences. What henious crime do you think the offspring of Rog T have been getting up to.

Well one of my children went down to London for the day with some friends. On the way back, she decided to use the Thameslink Service from St Pancras to Mill Hill. She touched in at the Thameslink station and the barrier opened. She went and got on the train.At Mill Hill, she was stopped by a ticket inspector. "Where's your ticket" He asked. She produced her pay as you go Oyster card. He said "That's not valid at this station" My child replied "Oh, I'm sorry I didn't know, it let me get on the train and it's in zone 4 so I thought it was". The inspector replied "You should know that Thameslink isn't covered by Pay as you go". My child replied "There were no signs". The inspector was adamanant "You should have checked, I'm giving you a £20 penalty fare notice". My child has never been in trouble and was quite traumatised. As she'd touched in but not touched out, she'd actually been charged more than the cost of the journey, she'd been terrorised by a bully in a uniform and she'd been told she'd have to pay a fine.

My wife wrote a letter of appeal to the appeals service. She explained that my daughter, had made a genuine mistake. Shes not familiar with the ins and outs and arcane payment rules. She didn't realise that Thameslink is not in the scheme. There are even PAYG readers in the station. She explained that for young people, unfamiliar with all of this the system can be confusing. She explained that my daughter had used her Oyster PAYG at ST Pancras, so presumably had actually been charged for her journey. She assumed that as PAYG worked in St Pancras it would work in a Station in zone 4. The fact that Boris can't get the system to work at Mill Hill, despite having the readers installed for nearly a year, is not relevant. The fact that there are no big signs alerting kids. The fact that she'd never done it before. Nothing mattered to the cash hungry vultures. Here's what the reply said.  Click on the letter for a readable view.

Even more insulting to me was the letter from the "revenue collection" side. This is the bit of the organisation which wants your dosh. If this is how they treat youngsters who have made a genuine and understandable mistake, is there any wonder that we are losing respect for such institutions.

What justification can there possibly be for being so threatening and patronising to parents of a child who has made a genuine mistake. I can think of nothing worse than bullies in uniforms picking on children. Especially when they are backed by a cruel, heartless and aggressive bureaucracy. One other point I will make. Boris Johnson said when he took over that he'd sort out pay as you go Oyster cards on National Rail. There was a revenue protection hit squad at Mill Hill Broadway on Tuesday evening, giving penalty fares to people with PAYG Oyster cards. I asked one of these people when the PAYG Oyster, which they have readers for at Mill Hill would be available. His reply "I'm not here to answer questions". Boris's deputy mayor for Young People is a Conservative GLA member called James Cleverely. He's a good guy, by all accounts. He talks straight and seems honest. I have this question for you James. What message has all of this sent to my child? What opinion of authority will she have now? Have a word with your boss Boris and get him to sort these numskulls out. By all means fine kids if they lie, repeatedly get caught or try and evade fares. In this case a polite explanation and a warning not to do it again would have sufficed. It appalls me. Here is the full letter from the purple nasties.

Do you think Rupert Murdoch and the Sun have visited Barnet Recently

"The Sun" has come out in favour of the Conservative party. Let me remind you of what the Party Rupert Murdoch supports has done in Barnet, where it has power.
* Imposed a budget cut to abolish Sheltered Housing Wardens for the Borough's Elderly and Infirm
* Spent millions on consultants to write reports about reports about reports, none of which seem to lead anywhere
* Lost £27.4 million by borrowing money to invest in high interest accounts in Icelandic banks, which went bust
* Spent £15,000 on Tellies for senior Council officers
* Increased allowances for Councillors so that they now cost over £1 Million
* Overspent by £11 million on the £12 million Aerodrome Road Bridge project, leaving another huge hole in Council reserves
* Used depleted reserves to artificially keep Council Tax low, in the year before an election, despite describing the previous Lib/Lab administration as "criminally negligent" for doing the same
* Spent taxpayers money to put  video clips of people making neo-nazi statements on You Tube, proclaiming anti-semitic propaganda. (This was only removed following pressure from the Bloggers of Barnet)
* Spent Taxpayers money sending Council Leader Mike Freer and former CEO Leo Boland on jollies to America.
* Spent Taxpayers money sending Council officers on Jollies to the South of France to attend "property development conferences".
* Raised Council tax by levels many times higher than inflation
* Raised the cost of burying dead babies by many times the rate of inflation, hitting bereaved parents where it hurts at their most vulnerable time possible
* Used Taxpayers cash to launch a standards complaint against a solicitor representing the elderly and disabled of Barnet, purely for doing too good a job

What sort of people are running the Conservative Party in Barnet?

Council Leader Mike Freer - Describes his opponents as Nutters and claims they masturbate while criticising him, during a recorded interview (podcast) as Council leader

Mayor of Barnet, Brian Coleman -  The first Mayor of Barnet to be found guilty of a breach of the Standards Code whilst in office. What did he do about this to make amends? He went on a Champagne fuelled binge to celebrate

Hendon Parliamentary Candidate, Former Deputy Leader Matthew Offord. Boasted about arranging Contractors for Aerodrome Road on the Hendon Conservatives website. Those contractors were responsible for the £11 Million cost overrun. As Cabinet Member for community safety has allowed areas of the Borough to become no go zones.

Deputy Leader Lynn Hillan  - Claims that Barnet Council listens to residents. Ignored the 85% of residents who took part in the Sheltered Housing Warden consultation who said "Keep our wardens". According to Councillor Hillan "We know best"

And then there's the Tory Councillor who described the whole of the Labour group as freaks, there's the one who said "residents expect us to wipe their arses" (forgetting that many Council carers do just that for the disabled), and the one who said he didn't want to talk to elderly residents who are facing the loss of their wardens because "it was too upsetting".

I must confess I don't know any of the Tory Councillors too well. I can't tell you what they are really like, but the man they chose as Mayor, Brian Coleman said they are all completely self obsessed, whilst under oath, talking  to a standards investigator. And how does Mr Coleman view himself? I'll leave the last word to him. This is what he said about the Tories picking him as Mayor (this is bottom of page 8 in his witness statement).

Councillor Maureen Braun and the two faces of Barnet

There are two faces of Barnet. There is the beautiful green, leafy suburb, where we all would like to live (see the picture Top Left).

Then there are the high density estates where children don't have gardens to play in, they have skips round the back of shops (see picture bottom left). Where the wildlife they will see isn't beautiful horses grazing in fields, but rats running emerging through broken manhole covers.

Who, you may ask yourself, who in the Borough of Barnet is lucky enough to have a view such as the one pictured top left, as the scene they are greeted by every morning when they wake up and look out of the window? Well there's one person who you may have heard of. Councillor Maureen Braun, head of the Hendon & District planning committee. This view of St Josephs College fields in Mill Hill, is exactly what she see's every morning (No I haven't been in her bedroom taking pictures, a neighbour 2 doors down took this picture). Now I've fought tooth and nail to preserve the view for Councillor Braun. I've attended meetings, written letters and written blogs. I've even helped put a deal together to get those very horses grazing on the fields. Why? Because I passionately believe urban areas need green space.

Sadly, too many people in Barnet are more likely to see a view such as this skip if they look out of their bedroom window. This will be their childrens playground if they let them out of the house at all. Barnet Council are currently considering all sorts of regeneration plans, encompassing areas of high density flats. This week Councillor Maureen Braun, as leader of the Hendon and District Planning Committee, decided to defer the decision on the Cricklewood regeneration scheme for a month. This is to reportedly give the committee time to consider more thoroughly the plans.

What do we know about these plans? That there will be thousands of new residents living in Barnet if they go through. We know that there will be between 9,000 and 27,000 more cars on our roads. The flats are not designed to accomodate existing residents, but to encourage more people to move to the Borough. My biggest fear for the Cricklewood scheme is the lack of houses with gardens for children. Mrs Braun clearly likes a nice view and a bit of greenery out of her window. What sort of legacy does she want to pass on to her grandchildren? Every scheme like Cricklewood puts more pressure on area's like St Josephs College fields. More greedy developers sniff around and look for loopholes in the green belt legislation.I nearly resigned from the Labour party when John Prescott started talking about building on the green belt. Whilst the Cricklewood regeneration scheme is nowhere near the green belt, the pressure it will create on the rest of the Borough will be enormous. As the borough fills up with people, 60,000 more if all the scheme's go ahead, we'll reach a point where there will be no choice but to concrete over the fewer and fewer green spaces.

Now Councillor Braun clearly has a massive decision to make. I don't know about you, but I want whoever makes that decision to be someone who I trust. I want them to be someone who's record on issues of planning is exemplary. I want it to be someone who understands and has compassion for people with families, as many families will be affected by these decisions, when schools fill up and children can't get in. When gangs form on the alleys and street corners of these new sink estates, the legacy of these schemes will sink in. Most of all, I want someone who knows the rulebook inside out and has a proven track record of good judgement in all these things.

I thought I'd check Maureen Braun's record on such matters.  I went  to the Hendon Times and put the following key words into a search - "maureen braun" hendon planning - and I got the following three stories.

Does any of these three stories fill me with confidence in Councillor Maureen Braun's ability to protect families, uphold the planning law and do what's best for the ratepayers of Barnet? I'll leave it to you, dear reader to guess the answer, once you've read her form on such issues.

Tuesday 29 September 2009

Valhalla and the appreciation of art

Now I rather like going to museums with the kids & goofing about

I like it even more when "respectable adults" sneer at our behaviour

I like it most when we find a work of art that we can get a funny picture with

I've been told I'm a rotten parent !

Sunday 27 September 2009

What Brian Coleman told the Standards investigator in his interview

During the course of the Standards Complaint interview between Councillor Brian Coleman and Melanie Carter, the independent investigator, Brian Coleman said many things which require a bit closer scrutiny. Some because they are, shall we say "slightly at odds with things of public record", some because they are funny, and some because a few people might be rather surprised that Brian Coleman said them. These are taken from my scanned copy of his statement. This document was published on the Council's website among the background papers.

There are other things which I could have also included, but to quote Mayor Coleman, "life's too short".

In this extract, Brian Coleman states that I turn up at virtually every residents forum an I attack people. There are approx 18 of these a year in Barnet. I've been to 3 in my life. At the last one I went to, I asked a question about the state of the football pitches at Burnt Oak Leisure Centre, where my son plays football. This is a matter of public record.

I've never stood for Council (although having seen how rotten the Standards process is, I'm seriously thinking about it). This again is a matter of public record. I cannot believe that Brian Coleman would make such a claim without checking his facts. 

In this answer he specifically accuses me of making an anti semitic statement and being a homophobe. With regards to the Anti semitic statement, the phrase he refers to is one that a Barnet Council video featured on it's You Tube website. I stridently criticised the council for allowing this to be featured. You can read the blog here which details the incident.
Coleman and his legal team must have known this. My blog is all on public record. There is no homophobia and no anti semitism. If there was, Coleman's £10,000 lawyer would have been over it like a rash. One other point regarding the Watling festival. I was actually organising a 5-a-side tournament for 8-10 year olds when Coleman turned up. Anyone who has ever organised an event for 50 children will know you are too busy to behave in the way Coleman alleges. Ho hum.

Now this is the Barnet Eye, we like to look at the funnier side of things as well. We've well documented Brian Coleman's speech impediment "Call me Bwian" - Anyway, here's a video of Mayor Coleman. Does he preonounce "R"s as "W"'s as I said (comparing him to Monty Pythons Pontius Pilate in the Life of Brian) or not.  As ever, you be the judge.

Another highlight. This is something which I totally believe Brian Coleman when he says it. He tells us what his Tory Colleagues think of the Barnet Eye and what they are really like. Sound like a lovely bunch, don't they. I wonder if Freer, Hillan, Offord, Tambourides, Hart, etc recognise themselves from Brian Colemans description

Last but by no means least. A little quote that quite a few people may enjoy.

I'm having a couple of days off blogging. I'll be back nice and sharp at 11am on Wednesday, so until then, adios amigo's.I've got a song to write for a great singer and I need to cleans my soul of Brian Coleman. To all my Jewish friends and readers I wish you a fullfilling fast and to everyone else enjoy what's left of the weekend and I hope like me you've enjoyed the weather.I'm off to have a glass of wine and pick up my guitar.

Hank Marvin, The False Dots and Candid camera

When I got in last night, my good lady was watching a documentary on Cliff Richards. Piers Morgan was doing an interview. Cliff will be going on tour soon with the Shadows, featuring legendary guitarist Hank B. Marvin. What many of the readers of the Barnet Eye are probably unaware of is that in the early days of my band, "The False Dots", Hank's son Paul was our drummer. One of the reasons for asking Paul to join was his promise that we could "rehearse in his dad's studio".

Hank had a nice big mansion in Radlett and one of the rooms was a purpose built studio with a fantastic array of guitars, amplifiers and other instruments. I doubt that the studio ever saw such a bunch of heathens in it's midst as the False Dots. At the time, we'd only been playing for a few months and were, for want of a better word, rubbish. We'd just written what I consider to be our first decent tune "Not All She Seems" and as we were facing the prospect of a trip to Hank's studio, I wrote a suitably Shadowsy lead lick for it (hoping to impress Hank).

I didn't really know much about Hank's homelife at the time. I expected it to resemble "The Osbournes" as I thought that's how rock and roll stars lived. As we were on the train to Radlett, where Hank would meet us, Paul started to explain the house rules. "Dad's a Jehovah's Witness. Please don't smoke cigarettes or swear in the house or he might get upset". Pete Conway, our vocalist, asked "What about beer". Paul said "best not ask for that either". Paul Hircombe, then our new rythme guitarist chimed in "I suppose skinning up is also out of the question". Paul Marvin was clearly worried. He said "Look guys, it's a great studio, please just try and keep him happy".

Anyway, we arrived at the station and Hank picked us up. I'd expected a Rolls Royce and Chauffer, but he turned up in a rather nice Citroen. He laughed "I bet you guys were expecting a Rolls". I said "Yes, I was actually". He replied "Oh we're quite down to earth".  Anyway, we were ushered in. Hank's wife asked what we'd like to drink. I responded "Please can I have a cup of tea". She asked "Earl Grey, Darjeeling, Assam". I replied "Any chance of PG Tip's". She replied "Sorry, I've not got that". I said "Ok, Assam will do fine". We were ushered into Hank's private lair. He said "You can use any of the amps, but if you want to borrow a guitar, please ask". We'd brought our instruments. I had a Hofner Galaxy that I'd painted. Hank examined it with interest "I used one of these before I got a Strat. Get yourself a strat, it's much better". He then left us to it. I had the pleasure of using his Fender Twin reverb. It was a fantastic amp. In Hank's studio we felt like a proper band, probably for the first time. Hank walked in after about an hour. He said "play me a tune". We did a quick rendition of "Not all she seems". Hank then said "Mind if I join in for a jam?", we said "that's fine". It was a surreal moment. Hank B. Marvin twanging away as Pete Conway blasted out our finest song, all about the perils of being a transvestite prostitute.

Hank then showed us all his guitars "I used to have 300, but I sold most of them for charity, I'm down to about 50 now". My favourite was the Burns-Marvin, which they'd made specially for him "Look, it's serial number is BM-1". It was a beautiful guitar. On the way back to the station, I asked Hank a question which had been troubling me. "Mr Marvin, you are a Jehovah's Witness?" Hank replied "Yes, that's right". I said "I hope you don't mind me asking you a question". Hank replied "No, we're always pleased when people are interested in the religion". I said "Ok, do they let you off knocking on doors on a Sunday because you are so famous". Hank suddenly started to look a little embarrassed.He replied "Well I used to do that, it is part of the commitment you make as a member, everyone has to". He then went on "The trouble was that whenever I knocked on anyone's door, they thought it was Candid Camera playing a practical joke on them and no one would take it seriously. I'd stand there for half an hour trying to explain that there wasn't a camera crew over the road." He went on and explained that it was deemed best all round if he did other work for the church instead.

Hank then dropped us at Radlett Station and we got back to Mill Hill, went to the pub and got plastered. Paul Marvin plays a bit of guitar on the albums in the picture.

Saturday 26 September 2009

One for the road - Some great clips for Saturday night

As regular readers will know, I like to post a few of my favourate clips for a Saturday night. I usually like to have a theme and tonight's theme is ........ Feel good West Coast American rock. I chose these clips because something in all of them made me snigger.

First up, the sublime Boz Scaggs. I love his music, but in this clip I rather think he looks like Tony Blair - Sorry Boz - still a great song though

Next up, the Beach Boys. This is from the USA Live Aid 1985. Awesome song, awesome band, but Al Jardine's shirt is just like one I bought for a bad taste party.

Next on the list, one of my fave songs - Not so Sweet Martha Lorraine by Country Joe and the Fish at Monterey Pop. A very strange and dark song. Only trouble is Joe looks rather like one of my nephews did after my sister got drunk and offered to paint his face when he was just a wee nipper

Next up, another fave. This is Quicksilver Messenger Service from the same gig. Check out the guy at the front in the Tank Top (stop it at 11 seconds).  He looks happy doesn't he. I know how he feels.

Anyway, whereever you are and whatever you're up to have a great evening.

Rog T's response to points raised in the "Brian Coleman open Letter"

Having digested the comments in the "Brian Coleman Open Letter", where someone who may or may not be Brian Coleman, Mayor of Barnet raised a few points regarding this blog, I thought it only fair to give my considered response.  My reponse is in italics

This blog has undertaken a politically motivated campaign of character
assassination against me. Let me spell out some facts for the  readers,
who may be under the misapprehension that Tichborne, who writes it, is an
innocent abroad.

The blog is not "politically motivated". I don't target people because they belong to a specific party, I criticise people when I feel that they have done a bad job. I've criticised Labour and Lib Dem members here, sometimes in terms as strident if not moreso than those used against Mr Coleman. The reason Mr Coleman is covered so frequently here and in such strident terms is because he is the most high profile politician in Barnet and he says far more things which I fundamentally deal with than anyone else. 

Tichborne is an active member of the Labour party

So what? I have never discussed the content of a blog with anyone from any party before writing it. The statements are my honest and genuinely held views. I've never hid the fact and have mentioned the fact many times in the blog, so that people realised that I may have a political bias. I have criticised both Andrew Dismore and Rudi Vis, the two local Labour MP's in most strident terms when I've disagreed with them.

Tichborne would not write a word about me if I was a Labour Councillor
Not true. If a local Labour Party member behaved in the way Brian Coleman does, I would be on their case in a flash. I'm not aware of any "bad behaviour" by local Labour councillors.

Tichborne highlights my allowances and describes these as excessive. These
are set by independent panels. Anyone doing these jobs
would receive exactly the same figure as I do

The independent review panel criticised Coleman's stacking up of allowances  - read this article on the Hendon Times -

Tichborne criticises my expenses. These are incurred through hard work.
They cover the costs I run up doing my job. They are not
a perk
Brian Coleman has run up cab bills of thousands of pounds, far more than any other member, nearly as much as the rest of them put together. He once left a cab outside with a meter running for 5 hours, running up a bill of £396 at the taxpayers expense. I stand by my criticism

Tichborne criticises the fact that I attend many functions in my work. I
don't ask to be invited to these events. I am invited because people
recognise that I do a good job
To me, accepting free tickets for charity events (whilst earning a large amount of money) is a horrible concept. The scale and sheer number of entries on the hospitality register, far more than any other member is something which I think is a fair subject for public scrutiny. I believe we should know who is entertaining our elected members. It may help us understand some decisions they make.

Tichborne draws attention to the fact that my mother is my consort as
Mayor. This is not a benign action, even though he was not abusive of her.
He is trying to use my mother as a means to get at me in a most underhand

Coleman's mother has the same name as my mother (Gladys). My mother hated the name and used to prefer being called Celia. I happened to mention this in passing in a blog about family and names, on the day when Coleman was announced as Mayor and his mum as consort. It just gave a degree of topicality to a blog I was writing. Judge for yourself -

Tichborne gives the impression that I am on the take.
I think that Coleman's allowances, which have been criticised by the relevant review panel are a fair topic of discussion. I'm sure he doesn't like this. Too bad.

He does this in a sly, poisonous and underhand manner.
All I can say is judge for yourself whether my criticisms are sly, underhand and poisonous.I'd describe them as fair comment.
He is a member of the Labour Party. I stand by everything I said
 Nuff said

The Barnet Eye Welcomes it's first guest columnist - Brian Coleman (I think)

I received this email last Sunday. It was from a very spammy looking email address and ended up in my spam bucket. I nearly missed it, hence the delay. It was sent to my work account. I've absolutely no idea whether this is a wind up or genuine. I publish it with a very heavy health warning, but if it is genuine, I think it is quite an interesting communication. If it's a wind up, it's a rather good one and as such deserves a wider audience. I doubt whether he will, but I would be very grateful if Mr Coleman or someone at the GLA could confirm or deny whether this is genuine and whether it represents Mr Colemans views. I publish this completely unedited and without  comment. Enjoy

Open Letter to the Barnet Eye readership

This blog has undertaken a politically motivated campaign of character
assassination against me. Let me spell out some facts for the  readers,
who may be under the misapprehension that Tichborne, who writes it, is an
innocent abroad.
Tichborne is an active member of the Labour party
Tichborne would not write a word about me if I was a Labour Councillor
Tichborne highlights my allowances and describes these as excessive. These
are set by independent panels. Anyone doing these jobs
would receive exactly the same figure as I do
Tichborne criticises my expenses. These are incurred through hard work.
They cover the costs I run up doing my job. They are not
a perk
Tichborne criticises the fact that I attend many functions in my work. I
don't ask to be invited to these events. I am invited because people
recognise that I do a good job
Tichborne draws attention to the fact that my mother is my consort as
Mayor. This is not a benign action, even though he was not abusive of her.
He is trying to use my mother as a means to get at me in a most underhand

Tichborne gives the impression that I am on the take. He does this in a
sly, poisonous and underhand manner. He is a member of the Labour Party. I
stand by everything I said

Brian Coleman

Friday 25 September 2009

The Grapes of Wrath & a row of cars 16 miles long

What a beautiful day. Just been out in the garden picking the last of our grapes. Completely delicious, they are too. Is there any greater and simpler pleasure in life than going into your garden, walking up to a vine and picking a lovely, ripe, juicy grape. My children know what a grape tastes like picked fresh off a vine.They know that a south west facing fence in a sheltered spot is the best location. They know that the frogspawn in our pond turns into tadpoles and that tadpoles turn into frogs, toads and newts. Due to the M1 motorway chopping a hunk of land off some old railway sidings, I've got a rather large garden for a London dwelling. I've indulged myself in it with grapes a pond, Strawberrys, raspeberry, blackberrys, a cherry tree as well as apples and pears. I'm the worlds laziest gardener and I only grow stuff that is easy. One day when I get off my butt, I'll get some loganberries and a greengage tree and maybe some plums.   Why on earth am I rambling on about all of this? What's it all got to do with the price of fish? Well this week Barnet Council was meant to make a decision on the Brent Cross development. As I said, my kids get all the things we grow and thoroughly enjoy them. Deluded fool that I am, I believe that this makes them happy. How many children raised in the thousands of Rabbit hutch homes, will get the same simple pleasure? They'll get to watch the TV, play computer games and if they are lucky a visit to a farm with the school, where they are told not to touch the animals because they'll die if they do. They'll think that Grapes come from Lidl's and that apples comes from Asda.

My concern is the way it will change the Borough of Barnet. Barnet is undoubtedly a pleasant place to live for the majority of it's residents. Generally the less desirable places to live are the ones where there is a high density of people and a complete lack of greenery. If we were undergoing a  baby boom, then I'd understand the desire to build dwellings for 60,000 new people, but we're not. There is not a skills shortage in Barnet and we have a rising unemployment rate. It is all very well claiming that the new developments will create jobs, but this is negated if they bring more people to the area. The figures I've seen indicate that far more people will be imported than the number of jobs created. This cannot be good for the existing residents

Another issue is the traffic. There is a dispute between the developers and the protestors. The developers say a mere 9,000 cars a day will be added to the streets of Cricklewood. The protestors say that it's 27,000. Do you know how long a line of 9,000 cars is (assuming it's single file). It's 16 miles long. What about 27,000 cars - that's 47 miles long. Does this sound to you as if this will be negligible.

Last of all, what sort of Barnet do we want our children to grow up in. I believe that there are already too many who don't have a garden. I think we owe it to the next generation to hand over a better Barnet, not a worse one.

Pictures  - Grapes in my Garden

Making a complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman

Many people have contacted me over the last few months about issues with Barnet Council.

My advice to anyone who feels they have been badly treated is to COMPLAIN.This is the only way that services are improved and officials held to account. Bad services is tolerated because we moan and groan and we do nothing about it. The whole process of how to complain is explained on the website of the local government ombudsman.

Here's a useful link to help you understand the process.

Just remember this. Top officials who are paid by the Council, such as CEO Nick Walkley and legal boss Jeff Lustig are public servants. We all hope that they do a good job. The more we tell them what's wrong with the Council, the better a job they can do rectifying it. If no one tells them it's broken, we can't expect them to mend it, can we? Now if you complain to them about a problem and they don't deal with it, that is where the Local Government Ombudsman comes in. Whilst you may not always get the result you want from the Ombudsman, it does focus the minds of Council Officials on doing the job properly and that can only be a good thing, can't it? You can also send emails to your councillors about problems. Just follow this link, click on there name. They have to respond to you in a polite and civil manner, even when they disagree with you.

I'd much rather that Barnet Council did everything perfectly. Then this blog would be about music and football. Till that day arrives, this blog and a few other notable Barnet blogs will do everything we can to help the Council Tax Payer of Barnet receive the service they deserve from the people we pay huge amounts of tax to. Just remember, you are the boss. You elect their Political Masters and you pay their wages. These processes are there for that reason.

Would you prefer to suffer from wind or stage 4 bowel cancer

If you read my previous blog, you'd realise that I have come to the conclusion that the standards complaint process in Barnet is a complete charade designed purely to protect councillors. There is no element of natural justice involved and I believe the sub committee went far beyond their brief in their (I believe) unfounded criticism of this blog.

However having said all that, no one died, no one got injured and we'll all live to fight another day.

Far more worrying is the report on the Tory Troll website.

This details how BNP GLA member Richard Barnbrook has received the following punishment for lying about claims of murders.

Greater London Authority

1. Formal Censure
2. Requirement to apologise on the GLA website and on his personal blog
3. submit to training on ethics and standards in public life

Barking and Dagenham Council

1. Suspension for one calendar month without pay
2. Requirement to apologise
3. Failure to apologise leading to indefinite suspension

Compared to what Barnbrook did, Coleman's offences were trivial. Whatever I think of Coleman, Barnbrook has shown himself to be in a totally different league. However toothless Barnet may seem, however biased I may think the process was, pales into insignificance compared to how lame the censure of Barnbrook is. The process prevented the panel in Barnet from hearing my side of the story, so I couldn't put my case. I'll forgive them on the basis that I believe they were mislead. It was clear as day that Barnbrook had behaved atrociously and willfully mislead people in matters likely to cause public affray.

Whatever I think of Brian Coleman and however much I may dislike aspects of his behaviour, his actions result in little more than the furring up of his arteries and me possibly paying a penny a year more tax. If Barnbrook's mob were in the position Coleman's lot are, lord help us all. In my humble opinion in terms of their character, their policies and their standards hearings it is like comparing a mild case of wind with stage 4 bowel cancer.

Sometimes it helps to get things in perspective and see the bigger picture.

Thursday 24 September 2009

Brian Coleman Verdict : The full report

So here it is, the full verdict of Barnet's standards sub committee. It may surprise you to learn that Barnet Council didn't let me see this before they published it. I had emailed the Borough's chief legal representative to raise several points regarding comments Mr Coleman and his legal representative made during the hearing which I was unable to challenge, shortly after the hearing. I felt these may have had a bearing on the decision to impose no further sanction. Having read the report, it is crystal clear to me that my fears were justified.

Mr Coleman and his legal representative repeatedly stated that a) I'd abused Mr Coleman's mother in this blog and b) That I'd made anti semitic comments in this blog. It is a matter of public record that I've never said anything derogatory about Mrs Coleman. Vanessa Feltz accepted this once she read my comments, following her rather hostile conversation on her phone in. She later admitted, several times, that my comments were quite the opposite. Mr Coleman made that charge to the whole of London 35 minutes before appearing before the panel. Vanessa Feltz showed it to be untrue, but it was not challenged in the hearing.

This is the blog which Coleman refers to regarding his mother. Read it - it in no way says anything about Mrs Coleman other than mentioning she had the same name as my own dear mum. I posted this the day it was announced that Coleman would become mayor and his mother would be his consort.

I was not allowed to speak or make my case. As to me being an anti semite. This is the blog Coleman refers to. It is the second blog I posted on Blogspot. As anyone will see, it is quite the opposite. I berate Barnet Council for their incompetence in allowing such sentiments to appear on their website.

Just consider for a second the make up of the panel. One of the three members was Rabbi Dr Jeremy Collick. How would he view comments made by an anti semite who abused the elderly mother of the Mayor. I'd expect him to find the "reprehensible and provocative". I'd expect him to have every sympathy with Councillor Coleman. The mere fact that Councillor Coleman mislead the committee by saying these things cannot be disputed. Here is what the committee had to say in there report.

2. Whilst the Sub-Committee did not accept that Councillor Coleman’s actions were justified, it recognised that he had been subjected to a sustained level of reprehensible and provocative personal attacks and abuse by Mr Tichborne in his blogs over a period of several months and that, whilst higher standards are expected of Members in their dealings with the public, the Sub-Committee also recognised, but did not condone, that Councillor Coleman’s e-mail to Mr Tichborne was a response in kind to what had been said about him in the blogs.

I ask you this, what would they have said, had I been able to tell them that Mr Coleman had mislead them. The blog is there for all to see. He never even mentioned the imaginary insults to his mother in his witness statement. As to the accusation of anti semitism, this was made, but I refuted this by referring the investigator to the statement Mr Coleman made and how he had misrepresented completely what I said in the blog listed above.

I raised a complaint against a leading Barnet Councillor. The system has allowed me no opportunity to defend myself. I've had no opportunity to correct things which are demonstrably untrue. I was given no sight of the report, before any one else.

My blog has been described as containing "reprehensible and provocative personal attacks". They are all here. Judge for yourself. I consider telling porkies to the committee about me being an anti semite and abusing Mrs Coleman to be a "reprehensible and provocative personal attack". I emailed the Council to say this shortly after the case finished. They said "We can't comment until the report has been issued".

I've emailed the Council to tell them all this. I asked them to withdraw the report until the borough's legal department had been able to discuss this with me. They emailed me at 16:50, presumably so I'd have no opportunity to get back to them before knocking off time.

That is why I've posted this. I don't give a stuff about Barnet Council's process. It is unfair and biased towards those with power. It offends natural justice to deny the complainant the right to make their case. It allows people who break the rules to get off scott free whilst besmirching those who have the nerve to try and hold them to account.

I find the whole thing shameful. I've posted this so that anyone who is interested can get a bit of balance. I'm not perfect, I've said nasty things about Brian Coleman, I admit it. They are all related to his performance as a Councillor or as a response to his public utterings (and those of the people he put in power such as Mike Freer). None of it is personal. I've never criticised his private life or what he says or does outside of his public office. I won't, even though people have sent me stacks of stuff.

I had never considered getting involved with politics, beyond writing this blog, which is meant to be a satirical commentary for people interested in Barnet. I'm afraid to say that having seen how rotten the whole system is has made me reconsider this. They can reap the whirlwind.

P.S Sorry the links aren't working. Blogger is doing something rather strange today.

Wednesday 23 September 2009

Brian Coleman : The next Mayor of London?

A good friend of mine, who is fairly high up in a South London Conservative Association told me that our good friend, the Mayor of Barnet, Brian Coleman had said a very interesting thing. It seems that Mayor Coleman mentioned that he has one unfulfilled political ambition and that is to be the Mayor of London. Rather disbelievingly, I asked "Does that mean he's after Boris's job?" - I got a snigger and an "I couldn't possibly comment", then the subject was changed to the football.

Now my friend & I normally steer very clear of political debates, purely because we find football, music & Uma Thurman more interesting. I was a bit surprised by the revelation, so I decided to make a few enquirys. Lets just say that Mayor Coleman and myself are not on best of terms right now, so a simple phonecall seemed out of the question. If it was true, what would be the first thing he'd do? Registering a web domain would seem like a good move.

I typed in and it seems that someone had bought the domain name. I then tried t hat was also reserved. I did some digging. The email address associated with the site is Brian Coleman's GLA address. The telephone number looks remarkably like his phonenumber. I assume that he's used an anonymous hosting company, but it is indisputably his site.

The domain name was originally reserved on 11 Sep 2002. It was last updated on 15 July 2008 and expires on 11 Sep 2010. As I understand it, web registrations last for 3 years. Boris was confirmed as Tory candidate on 27th September 2007 and Coleman wasn't in the race. It was crystal clear that Boris was a shoe in, by the 11th September. This means that on 11th September when he renewed the registration, he was planning ahead for next time.

Rather interestingly, Brian has been rather critical of Boris in the GLA, going as far as to suggest that he's out of kilter with mainstream Conservatism. It has been suggested to me that he's quite happy with all the press and TV coverage concerning our little spat, why else would he have been out on the tiles celebrating after? Why would he be so keen for his profile to be raised in such an undignified way, given that he has a safe council seat in Totteridge & the Tories think they will romp home next time?

As I can find no evidence that Brian Coleman, one of London's most high profile Tories ever made a shortlist for Mayor (and most surely he would have been near the top if he had tried, wouldn't he?), it has to be fair to asssume that he's been playing a long game.

Which leads me to the question - Did Boris give Brian Coleman the LEFPA job as part of the Tories succession plan. Does he plan to give Brian Coleman a shoe in in 2012, when he heads back to Parliament? Does he know about Brian Coleman's contempt for our nations sportsmen and women, does Boris really want to lumber us with Coleman as Mayor for the Olympics after so many gaffe's?

The second option is that Boris doesn't have a clue about Coleman's plans. Given that he really doesn't seem to know too much about what any of his "trusted" deputies are up to, this wouldn't surprise me. He doesn't realise that he's unwittingly helping Coleman to build up a platform to knife him.

Of course there's the third option that Brian Coleman absentmindedly registered the two sites, paid the renewals with no intention of ever standing.

Oh and before anyone suggests that it's related to his Mayoral role in Barnet, why are they both still holding pages if this was the case. If I was Boris and it wasn't part of my plan to become king with a crony as Mayor, I'd certainly start watching my back.

Chas and Dave - What a nightmare

Gercha - I bet you thought this would be eulogy to Britian's Greatest beardies. Nope, it's a bout the duo who could theoretically be running the Country this time next year. Firstly Chas. Now his mum Liz is someone who even republicans such as me admit does a great job. She's admired across the world and the likes of Nelson Mandela look up to her. Sadly her son is a different bucket of halibut. Lets face it, he doesn't look like a king does he. He's known for deeply reactionary views and potty habits. His idea of talking dirty is "I want to be your tampon". Lord help us. Maybe he'll shape up and grow into the job, but I suspect he'll make us realise just how out of date the monarchy is.

Then there's Dave. He's the Tory who wants to be a Lib Dem. I suspect he'll win, but having had 10 years of Tony, do we really want another Chamaleon running the country? I actually think he's a decent bloke on a personal level, but nothing he's said or done has convinced me he's anything other than lucky that his opponent will be Gordon Brown.

Personally, i'd rather have the Cocknety crooners anyday.

Tuesday 22 September 2009

Matthew Offord - Barnet's very own Rodney Trotter

Conservative Councillor Matthew Offord is well know for his witty ripostes and fantastic comedic timing. I've long suspected that he has an encyclopedic knowledge of classic British comedy series. I also rather suspect that the inspiration for his politcal career is none other than Rodney Trotter. The Edgware Press is full of stories this week of NO GO areas in the Borough. There's this story of how Pizza delivery services and mini cabs are blacklisting some areas. Then there's this story about how a councillor describes the dangers of certain areas, comparing it unfavourably with lawless tribal areas of Pakistan.

Councillor Matthew Offord is the Borough safety Officer (full title Cabinet Member responsible for Community Safety and Community Engagement). He's the bloke who gets paid a massive allowance of Thousands of Pounds to ensure that we all can walk the streets safely at night, order a Pizza in peace or call a cab and have one turn up. Now to give Matthew his due, he has been busy ensuring that we are protected from harm. He's set up a whole new scheme to ensure the safety of Barnet residents.

You can either read all about it by CLICKING HERE or you can let me tell you all about it. You see Matthew Offord is leading the fight against Tanning Salons. Whilst residents of the borough are effectively excluded from services the rest of us (especially Matthews mates in gated homes in leafy Totteridge) take for granted, Matthew thinks the most dangerous thing in Barnet is a bunch of Sunbeds. To quote Matthews press release :-

The change in policy was made by Councillor Matthew Offord through a delegated powers report this week and means that all premises with sunbeds will have to pay a higher licence fee and will be inspected twice a year instead of once.
I read this with disbelief. Will you be sleeping more soundly knowing that a bloke from the Council will be visiting your local tanning parlour twice a year, rather than once? It's just a shame that all of the pensioners in the areas blacklisted by the cab firms can't actually get down to the tanning parlour.

When I read the report, and realised what's important to Matthew, I could only think of how Del Boy would have addressed Rodney - "You Plonker"

Brian Coleman is at it again !

Today Brian Coleman is reported in the Haringey Independent as saying the following, regarding a visit to the Borough by Kriss Akabusi

“Haringey should be worrying about getting its children’s services sorted in light of the Baby P debacle, not paying ex-Record Breakers presenters to make them feel good about themselves.”
The paper comments on Mr Coleman's statement.

The attack on “profligate councils”, who he says are wasting hard earned taxpayers' money, is surprising coming from Mr Coleman, who has himself been embroiled in several scandals surrounding his expenses claims.

He was roundly condemned last year for claiming more than £4,000 in taxi fares for a nine month period, and came under further fire this year after racking up a £396 bill for one taxi ride because he kept the cab waiting outside for five hours.

I couldn't have put it better myself.

Monday 21 September 2009

Would you drink Coke with Gherkins in it?

The one thing this blog most certainly doesn't do is give financial advice. I've made a lot of money in my working life, but none of it has been through investments, just plain hard work. I've got a stack of shares I bought a few years ago, mostly in banks, because someone persuaded me that they were a safe bet. I'm currently sitting on a £10,000 loss. Clever old me.

I've heard all of the investment strategies known to man. I've read all of the arguments for investing in certain sectors. The conclusion I've come to? That picking shares is like picking horses. There are professional gamblers who make money, but for the rest of us it's pure luck.

So why has the Barnet Eye decided to talk about investments today? Well unlike me, there is a bloke who has made pots of money out of investing. His name - Warren Buffett. I heard him explain his strategy a few years ago. He said he picked solid companies which are leaders in their field. As an example he mentioned Coca Cola. He said that they do what they do and do it very well. If the market changes, they bring new products but concentrate on their core customers first. That is why they still make a pot of money out of Coke Original. When they realised the market had changed and there was a market for Diet Coke, they didn't stop making Coke Original they just expanded their range. That way they had 2 market leading products. Now I've no idea if Coca Cola is a good company to invest in or not. As I said this blog doesn't do financial advice, but this blog does cover Barnet Council.

As everyone knows, Barnet Council spent millions on a team of highly paid consultants, some on well over £1,000 a day wages. They scoured the world looking for a company to model Barnet Council on. They chose Easyjet and Ryanair. They said they were examples of how we must constantly change to evolve. Mike Freer made national press with is examples of how his Easycouncil will work. "Get a smaller bin and we give you £100".

I've been mulling this over. Then the sad truth struck me. Easyjet and Ryanair haven't evolved from big lumbering airlines. They are relatively knew players that have emerged due to market opportunities. Mike Freer says "Doing things the way we've always done them is not an option".

Well my proposition is this. Warren Buffett says invest in companies like Coca Cola because they know when it's sensible to change and when it's sensible to keep things as they are. Mike Freer says we must destroy the Sheltered Housing Warden Service because "We have to change". Does Coca Cola say "We must put Gherkins in Coke Original because we must change". Of course they don't. They know that the people who like the product are happy. If they felt there was a demand for Coke with Gherkins in, they'd launch a new product, but they'd make damn sure that people knew it was a new product and make sure it was kept well away from their core business.

You may think Coke with Gherkins in sounds revolting. You may think "no one would want that". If Coke did a product evaluation and 85% of the people who tried it said "Thats horrible", they'd shelve the idea. Barnet Council asked the residents of Sheltered accomodation whether they wanted to lose their wardens. Over 85% said "No". Did Barnet Council react like a well run company such as Coca Cola did? No, they said "Ah but we know best". Sadly for the residents of Sheltered Housing, they can't do what the customers of Coca Cola would do if they found that there were bits of Gherkin in their tin of Coke. They have to drink from Freer's poison chalice, or so Mike Freer thought.

Fortunately a resident of the Barnet's sheltered housing, Mr David Young a sprightly and feisty 78 year old said "I'm not having that" He contacted Solicitor Yvonne Hossacks, who specialises in these cases and sought a judicial review. You see Mr Young had signed a contract with Barnet and felt that for Barnet to unilaterally change the deal was illegal.

The High Court agreed last week and Barnet was told to shelve it's plans pending a full review. I advised all of the officers in Barnet who were implementing this policy to look for another job. It is a big black mark on the CV to have lost a case such as this. It's not too late though, the case hasn't come to court. Surely it's clear that this terrible policy benefits no one.

I've no idea how the full review will turn out, but I do know that whatever industry you are involved in, be it local government or selling fizzy drinks, if you neglect the people who you are meant to be looking after, you shouldn't be in the job.

The Rog T Express takes shape !!!!!

I've had unprecedented interest in my scheme to take over the editorship of the Daily Express. Some of the idea's have gone down well, some haven't. Everyone likes the idea of freshening up the image, getting away from the same old, same old stories, and getting some new faces in.

As I had 5 minutes free, I thought I'd knock up my first test issue. Of course, I've not secured any advertising yet, so it's free of that and I don't have the fancy design team to make it look proper (or even the patience to spell check it, but that never harmed the Guardian in the good old days). This is just a hint as to how the front page might look and a taster to let you see what sort of stories you could expect. One big change. I've got rid of the Crusader as my logo. This has too many negative connotations for many of my target readers, being a symbol of imperialism. I've replaced it with a cucumber. This is because Cucumbers are cool. Sadly I haven't really secured the services of Beth Ditto or got three legged dogs on Page 3 either.

My good friend Derek, suggested that I should adopt the strategy employed in the film "The producers" and employ the worst team possible, to achieve an extraordinary success. Here's the team he suggested. Maybe he didn't realise just how serious I am in my offer to the Express to revive their fortunes.

Derek's "T" Team.

Environmental Editor - Jeremy Clarkson
Home Design - Pete Docherty
Cookery - Bear Grylls
Architecture - Bob The Builder
Womens Editor - Peter Stringfellow
City Editor - Sir Fred Goodwin
Football Editor - Sarah Ferguson
Racing Tips - Robert Runcie
Religious Editorial team - Ant and Dec
Boxing - Julian Clary
Celebrity Editor - Gordon Brown
Pub reviews - Harriet Harman

What do you think - A winning team?

If you are a Cameron Conservative vote Lib Dem in Barnet

There was a fascinating article by David Cameron in The Observer on Sunday. Cameron talks about various policy initiatives which he's introduced (and I suspect that many of his party would rather die than actually implement).

As I read the article, I wondered whether any of our local Tory councillors have ever listened to a single word their Leader actually says.

He speaks about how both parties oppose the third runway at Heathrow. As we all know the Lib Dems have been against this for many a year, the Tories? Lets just say, I doubt Maggie Thatcher would have jumped on this bandwagon. Cameron talks about the Tories and the Lib Dems commitment to the environment and alternative clean energy. Again this is something that David Cameron has come rather late in the day to. Old Millhillians such as me will remember that for many years, if you wanted to recycle your newspapers you left them at a house in Flower Lane. They used to collect them and sell the paper for recycling. The cash raised was used to fund the local Liberal party. Cameron talks about the shared commitment to civil liberties. I well remember the Tories implementing section 28 legislation.

The most striking thing Cameron says is this :-
For many years now, we've both been arguing for a radical power shift in our country away from big government and to individuals and communities. That's why we worked closely together on the Sustainable Communities Act to devolve power and introduce greater transparency over government spending.
Which rather nicely brings us to my point.

Nationally, Cameron Conservatives talk up "Green Transport" and better railways, instead of air travel. Locally Mayor Brian Coleman insults the campaigners for the very green Brent Cross Light Rail scheme, which would link the Borough of Barnet with Heathrow, mainly using disused and freight only rail tracks.

Nationally Cameron talks about the environment and sustainable development, locally Council Leader Mike Freer wants to concrete over half the borough and put up rabbit hutch flats, causing pollution and traffic gridlock (have a look at the Cricklewood redevelopment plans).

Nationally Cameron talks about recycling, locally an incinerator forms part of the Cricklewood redevelopment plan, championed by Mike Freer. I'm not an expert but there is strong evidence that waste incinerators and large populations don't mix. You get all sorts of nasty diseases popping up.

As to greater transparency and devolution of powers. Ask yourself this. When Barnet asked the tenants of sheltered warden accomodation if they wanted to lose their wardens over 80% said no. Did Barnet Council listen.

Now if you like the Mike Freer brand of Conservatism, where the 11 man Tory cabinet in Barnet make all of the important decisions, usually behind closed doors, then Mike Freer and his band of Tories are just the party for you. I'd suggest that if you are a Tory who's impressed by David Cameron and feel that the direction he's taking the Conservative party is the right one and you live in Barnet, I'd seriously consider voting Lib Dem at the next Council election, if I were you. Remember a vote for the current Tories on the Council is to support the man who lost £27.4 million of your money in Iceland, then blamed everyone else. David Cameron is clearly closer to Lib Dem values and ideas than he is to Mike Freer's. Freer made the national newspapers with his Easycouncil scheme. Was David Cameron impressed? Did he see this as a policy to be adopted by the National Tories? No, he ran a mile. In his own words, he's more impressed with all the stuff the LibDems have been promoting in Barnet for years.

One interesting footnote on Freer's Easycouncil scheme. If you check his website, he makes some bizarre comments about the press interest in the scheme. He says that he's surprised anyone was interested in what he had to say, implying they only picked it up because nothing else was happening. Barnet Council has spent millions on consultants to concoct this scheme. Freer claimed at a Council meeting I attended that everyone had their eyes on Barnet to see what happened. The reason it made the news was because the papers recognised straight away that it was a suitably crackpot scheme for the silly season (as the Newspapers call the summer months).

So there you have it. If you want a bunch of nationally recognised purveyors of crackpot schemes, suitable only for the Guardian in the silly season vote for Mike Freer's Conservatives at the Council elections. If you like David Cameron's policies and the direction he wants to go, Vote Lib Dem. I'd suggest that a big swing to the Lib Dems from the Tories in the local elections is probably the only thing that would make the sensible local Tories do something to regain their credibility.

In the Observer article mentioned above, Cameron sends this message to progressive and forward thinking Lib Dems who are serious about improving Great Britain
if you want rid of Gordon Brown and the big brother state, and if you care about our schools, our quality of life and our liberties, then join us in one national movement that can bring real change.
If I were David Cameron, I'd tell this to Barnet's Tory Councillors as a matter of urgency, because anyone who lives in Barnet who agrees with him, and knows anything about the local party, can only vote Lib Dem given the what Barnet Council are trying to do with their current policies.

Sunday 20 September 2009

I learned something today

We went to a friends birthday party last night in Chippenham. We booked a nice hotel for the night and managed to arrange sleepovers for our three children at various friends. We thought that we could take advantage of some of the facilities and have a pleasant and chilled out time. I can't remember the last time we went away as a childless couple. We arrived in Chippenham at around 4 pm, had a cup of tea, a bite to eat and then went around to our friends for a drink at 6pm as a prelude to the main party at Chippenham Sports Club at 7.30.

At around 8.30pm, after we'd had a few drinks each (too many to drive), the phone went. It was our friend who was looking after one of our daughters for the night. They'd been at a roller skating party and our daughter had fallen and broken her wrist. Not only that but she needed an operation to fix it. Now if we'd been local we could have given our consent and it would have been done there and then. As it was they wouldn't take consent by phone. They needed a signature. We were stuck, over the drink driving limit, 100 miles away. As a result my daughter was patched up and given pain killers. We agreed that we'd drive back first thing.

On arrival at the hospital, we were told that the theatre was in use, treating people with life threatening conditions. The earliest they could treat her was 7pm, assuming no one else came in with a more urgent need. So for want of a piece of paper with my name on, my daughter has now had to wait 24 hours to be fixed up. What would have happened if she'd been the person with the "life threatening condition"? Would they still have withheld treatment. What sort of parent would refuse consent? I am completely bemused by the situation.

The friends who were looking after her, have a daughter who we took to Barcelona earlier this year. What would have happened if she'd broken her wrist in Spain. I asked how this could this situation be avoided? I was told that if we'd signed a piece of paper making our friends the official Guardians for our daughter for the night, they could have authorised the operation.

It was explained to me that this bureaucracy is to protect my daughter. From what? She's had 24 hours of pain as a result of this "child protection" procedure. I must be insane, because I cannot for the life of me see any benefit in this for her. Just suppose the doctor advised me that she needed the operation and I'd said no. In my opinion, that would make me unfit to have responsibility for a child. It would be grounds to take my children into care, as I was clearly negligent in my role. I asked the doctor to assess the risk of the procedure. He said that it was one of the more straightforward procedures they could do. The risks he outlined were neglegible (various minor complications no greater than 4%).

I believe that this is an example of a madness which has taken over our society. The Cambridge Online Dictionary describes Madness as "stupid or dangerous behaviour". Is it stupid? Well it's consigned a 12 year old girl to needless pain and stress for 24 hours. That seems stupid to me. Is it dangerous? I'm not a doctor, but I was under the impression that the quicker injuries are treated, the greater the prospects of success. As such it strikes me as dangerous. If you need treatment and they can treat you, they should do it there and then.

Of course, we all know the real reason for this form. It's not child protection at all. It's to protect the Hospital trust, in case they cock up. You see the form is also a disclaimer. It makes it harder for me to sue them. That is the society we live in, one where children are denied treatment to protect organisations. I happen to believe that my daughters medical needs should be the paramount consideration in this whole business. I don't believe they were. I will be writing to the chief of Barnet General Hospital to explain to me how her medical needs were served by this sorry episode. I have no issue at all with the clinical staff or her treatment. I thank God every day for making me lucky enough to be born in Great Britain and live with the NHS. That doesn't mean that I don't think we should challenge bad bureaucracy when we find it.

If anyone can persuade me that what has happened benefitted my daughter, I will most certainly post it on this blog so you can all rest sound. Oh, you may ask what I learned today. That if a hospital trust has the choice between treating a little girl who is in a lot of pain or covering it's arse, I learned what their choice is.

Where do referees buy their watches from?

So you get to the 90th minute of a Football match at Old Trafford. The physio hasn't been on the field once in the match. United are playing better, but City have just scored to come back to 3-3. The 4th official holds up a board to indicate that there will be 4 mins of injury time.

Five and a half minutes later, Michael Owen scores the winner for United. There were 2 substitions, but no injuries. I've no issue with Owens goal, it was well taken, but why hold up a board if you are going to play one and a half minutes extra. Sure I'm a City fan, sure I'm bitter as hell, but that isn't the point. The point is that there were no injuries. There were no incidents where the physio came on and there was no blatant timewasting. I've seen games where the physio has been on a few times, there's been blatent timewasting and there's been less than five and a half minutes. What is the point having that board? How do they add the time? These days the officials are well paid. Is it too much to ask them to do the job properly? I think that the sign which says how much injury time is a complete waste of space. In the premiership, I'd like to see a proper timekeeper and a countdown display saying how long to go. The refs are wired up and he could tell the timekeeper to add time for timewasting etc. That way it would be fair and transparent.

As to the Old Trafford fiasco - the fact Fergie was laughing and joking with the linesman said it all. He knew that the officials had done him a favour.

Saturday 19 September 2009

I want to be the editor of the Daily Express

I'm deadly serious and I have a plan to make it the best selling paper in the UK and make Richard Desmond even richer. Let me explain, but first let me give you a little history. If you don't want the history of this bonkers idea and just want to know my business plan to reinvigorate it, skip the next paragraph.

Being dyslexic and getting kicked out of English literature for achieving a score of 0% in my mock O level for English (I did the wrong paper & our teacher Miss Walsh hated me so saw it as a great opportunity to get rid of a class troublemaker). I've always enjoyed playing with words, writing song lyrics etc, but I never thought about journalism as a career. I would never have thought of blogging if Emma Hutchins at the Hendon Times hadn't asked me to do a blog. It never occurred to me that anyone actually read it. When I parted company with the Times and started this blog last October, I thought maybe 20-30 people would look at it. I didn't bother to put counter stats on it until February. This was because, being an egomaniac, I couldn't stand the thought that no one might be reading it. Then one day I saw a blog by Iain Dale, who is probably our top blogger, saying he got 350,000 hits a year. I was intrigued. I put the stats counter on and I was truly amazed by the number of hits I get per day. One of my little ideosyncricies is that I love the Daily Express. This is purely because my Dad read it and it reminds me of him. It covers football pretty well and as it's a pretty right wing paper it gives me a broad perspective, balancing my leftie views. Every month I read the circulation figures. Every month it seems to sink a bit further. When my Dad got off the troopship in 1942 and first bought it, it had 4 million readers. In the Guardian media on Monday it had sunk to around 3/4 of a million. If I were Richard Desmond, I'd do something pretty radical. If he gives me £250,000 a year (a large sum, but he's a rich geezer and I'll make him a pot of money), I'll transform it for him. Here's how.

Why is the Express failing? Because it sits in a shrinking marketplace and is worse at it's job than it's main competitor, the Daily Mail. Both are chasing the white, middle England,middle aged, Middle class reader. As such they both are right of centre and England-centric. Wheras the Daily Mail knows what it is and knows what it wants to be, the Daily Express doesn't. I think the Daily Mail lite strategy is a hopeless and doomed plan. I believe that my plan would keep the existing readers and add millions of extremely loyal new ones. It would be a hard road, but it would save Richard Desmond money and reinvigorate the brand. There is one thing which most people have forgotten about the Express. When it was launched it was "The paper for the Empire". Thankfully the Empire is long gone. There is something much better in it's place. The Commonwealth. This is a club of all creeds and colours. The point? Things change. Great Britain is a hugely diverse society. That is the secret of our success.

What would the Express be like if I edited it? Well, you've seen the Barnet Eye which is Uber Local. I campaign for justice, value for money for the taxpayer and honesty and transparancy. I'd get rid of the "broad brush" Labour bashing and start getting specific scoops on specific issues where huge amounts of money are being wasted. I'd like to think that any government department that was not performing would dread waking up to see the next Daily Express headline. I'd champion Mp's who are campaigning for sensible policies and give those who, shall we say, could do better a hard time.

I would transform the staff of the paper. I'd keep those people who are doing a good job, but I'd make the staff younger, more ethnically diverse and more streetwise. I'd give people fresh from college, with radical ideas a break. I'd get "guest editors" at the weekend - I'd ask people such as Lynton Kwesi Johnson, Johnny Rotten, Beth Ditto, Amir Khan and Shappi Khorsandi the seat.

Young readers. I think all of the papers fail much younger readers. Every weekend, I'd have a "Young Express" section and I'd give it over entirely to a different school to edit. It would promote interest in the paper, it would give youngsters a chance to experience journalism and would create massive viral interest. I'd ask schools to submit their proposals and I'd give them 2 pages. I'd pay the schools at the going rate, so they'd get a good kickback. I think that this would also breed great brand loyalty.

I'd also have a Daily "readers picture special". People love taking photographs and I'd co-brand it with retailers, so if you won you'd get a £10 voucher from Boots or another interested company. Everyone loves great pictures. In the digital age it's easy.

Sports coverage. I think the Express generally does this well, but I think it should be expanded by 2 pages, to cover world sports better. There are millions of immigrants and people with associations with other countries. For instance, every Irish pub in London will be packed to the rafters this weekend, to watch the GAA final, but there will be virtually no coverage. This is such a missed opportunity to widen and broaden the readership.

Scoops and stories. The world of news has changed. Many stories are broken by bloggers. I'd have a "local news" section and I'd source this entirely from blogs, obviously paying the blogger for the story. It would promote the blog and widen the appeal of the paper.

Money section. I'd be far more tabloid. We get all of these comparison tables etc, but this means nothing to most people. I'd write the stories along these lines "If you have a mortgage of £100,00 per year and you are being paid more than £XXX.XX a month you should could save this much and spend it down the pub by changing to these products". Apart from sex and football, money is the thing people are most interested in, but the press coverage is completely unreadably dull. I'd make it sexy. Much as I despise the woman, I'd make Jordan my "Money Editor", because she understands cash.

Music. Richard Desmond gets music, but his paper doesn't. I'd have a full 2 page music section every day. Page 1 of this would be edited by an 18-25 year old and would be street. Page 2 would be edited by a 40 something and deal with established acts. If you've ever noticed that when papers give away CD's there's always 6 rubbish tracks on them. I'd put 6 good tracks by unknown bands and promote the fact like mad. Papers do this to reduce the cost as the licensing is far cheaper, but many new bands would give their songs for a token payment just for a massive publicity boost.

Gaming. This is really badly covered. Featuring this properly would bring young readers to the paper.

My team. This will shock you. As my deputy I'd poach Brian Coleman from Barnet Council. I think he'd be a great deputy-editor. I'd make him do restaurant reviews. If someone needed shouting at or being horrible to, he's just the man. It would save the taxpayer a fortune. I'd love to be his boss. He'd give a right wing balance to my leftiness. I'm sure having him promoting the Tories at a National paper would help them no end. I'd make Steve Claridge my football editor. He's played at every level (and every club!) so he'd be great. I've already said I'd have Jordan as my money editor. I'd make Johnny Marr (Smiths/Cribbs) my music editor and I'd make Jonathon Ross my celebrity editor (if I could get him for sensible money). I'd put Linton Kwesi Johnson(see picture) in charge of hiring and firing staff. He's a man I'd trust to get me people who have something to say. I wouldn't change it overnight, I'd gradually do it over six months, a section at a time, so as to not alienate the loyal readers who have stuck by the paper.

I asked a couple of mates for some other suggestions. I don't know if I'd employ any of them, but it made me chuckle :-

Andrew Gilligan - Farming Correspondant (ideally qualified)
Mike Freer - The Horoscope (He's Barnets answer to Mystic Meg with his record on predictions)
Arsene Wenger - Spot the Bad Tackle competition
Boris Johnson - He could redisign thecover (like he let TFL get rid of the River Thames from the tube map)
Anne Widdecombe - Agony Aunt
Ken Livingstone - Pub reviewer (He knows all about Newts)
Richard Barnbrooke - Style and Fashion guru (nuff said)
Amy Winehouse - Healthy living editor
Sir Fred Goodwin - Pension planning
I don't know about you, but I'd love a mid market paper that campaigns for a better country, is honest, decent and in touch. I believe successfull brands are built from the ground up. Sure this is a pipedream, I've no experience, no history and I'm an opinionated arrogant sod with an over inflated ego,my phone won't ring and I won't get a £250,000 job. I can live with that. Having said that, just think about it for a minute though? Does it sound like a paper you'd buy or am I a complete nutter?