Sunday 24 January 2010

"Friends, Romans, Conservatives, lend me your votes"

When I started writing a blog, I didn't have any agenda. I didn't think to myself "if I do this, then in two years time I'll be doing that". For those of you who have followed the blog since the days of the Hendon Times blog, will know that what started as a bit of a rant about what I perceived to be mismanagement and Stalinist tendencies within the ruling Conservative elite in Barnet Council, has grown, like a large snowball being rolled down a hill. There were things that I probably could have predicted, if I'd thought about it. I'd probably have predicted that if I felt like this, then a few other people would. What I would never have predicted was just how many real Conservatives in Barnet agree with me. As the blog evolved and I started to research the things I write, two things became crystal clear. One was a deeply personal issue and one was a far wider issue, affecting the whole of Barnet.

On the personal level, it became clear to me that I couldn't, in good conscience, remain a member of the Labour party. I'd belonged to the party for many years, but how could I support a party that had launched an illegal war, based on lies, in Iraq? How could I rant, day after day, about the local Tories telling us porkies and mismanaging us, when Blair and Brown had done such a thing, leading to tens of thousands of deaths of innocent Iraqi civilians. When Bush and Blair abandoned the UN route, they had stuck two fingers up at international law. When it became clear that Parliament had been mislead, I realised that a line had been crossed. I examined my conscience and found myself and Labour had to go our seperate ways. I have huge respect for some of our local Labour Councillors, such as Julie Johnson. It is the top level of Mandelson, Brown, Johnson, Blair who have shown themselves to be unfit to run the Country. It's not just Iraq. The privatisation of the Post Office, the destruction of our pensions, the retention of the rail franchises such as First Capital Connect, the abolition of the 10p tax rate, the bailout of the big banks, with no safeguard against massive bonuses. I could go on. Nobne of these policies I can in any way agree with.

That was the private issue. Then there was the wider issue. I've lived in Mill Hill all of my life (give or take a year or two in my teens & early twenties). I love the area and I want to make sure that my three children and their children have an even better life than I have had in the area. I care passionately about the green space, preserved by green belt legislation.  I care about our schools. These are the biggest guarantee of our future. I care about our local small businesses. I run a small business, a music facilities company. My father started a local crash repair business in 1946 called Mac Metals in Bunns Lane Works. He ran it until he retired in 1984, selling it to his foreman. My brother runs a Welding Company and a storage business, which lets low cost space for small businesses. Another brother and sister are trustees of a trust which owns a small industrial estate in Mill Hill which provides local businesses with premises at relatively low rents.  Whilst many such sites have been sold and redeveloped for huge profits in residential housing, we believe in the small business ethic. We look for long term investment, rather than short term gain. When my Father died in 1987, my mother considered selling the site. We persuaded her to retain it and set up the trust. As a result, the asset is far greater now. Had she flogged it and invested the money in the Stock market, who knows how it would work out, but it provided an income and a far better investment. It's all about planning long term, rather than short term. Then there is the issue of family. I believe that families are the bedrock of society. I don't just mean Mum, Dad & two kids. I mean the wider family. We have lost the ethic of the wider family. At Christmas, I went to Sandhurst for a get together organised by my Cousins. It was great  to see cousins. old and young. What we need to do as a society, is realise teh huge debt we owe the older members of our families. That is why I passionately oppose Barnet Councils policy of abolishing Sheltered housing wardens. My own mum had a stroke when she was 75 years old and became dependent. For 8 years, myself and my brothers and sisters organised our lives around my mothers care. One sister spent 2 days a week with my mother, coming down from Northampton. Another delayed a move from Edgware to Essex for several years. In the course of this experience, we saw first hand the misery caused by the outsourcing of the meals on wheels to Sodexho. The stress caused by this cock up nearly killed her. This is why I think David Young is so admirable to fight Barnet Council through the courts. Does Council Leader Lynne Hillan care? No, she moved her own mother to a location where wardens were being retained, shortly before the policy was publicly announced.

So what has all of this got to do with the price of fish? Well, when I did a blog saying I'd resigned from the Labour party, local Lib Dem boss Jack Cohen rang me up and asked if I'd like to join the Lib Dems. I'd spoken to Jack a few times to get info about several council issues and found him to be a good guy. I laughed at the idea, until a couple of days later. I was having a beer with a friend, who is a staunch Tory. I mentioned the conversation with Jack Cohen and he said something which really shocked me. "Rog, you should join and stand for the Council. Did you know that Andrew Reid has become a local Conservative Officer?". He then went on to tell me that if I stood, many local Tories who have become totally disillusioned with Barnet Council, would vote for me. He explained "You understand business, you are a strong family man, you care about the green belt and you are honest" He went on to point out that I'd helped many local businesses with rates appeals, done much fund raising for local charities and organised all sorts of local events. I asked him if my political views would put people off locally. "Rog, you would never stand for policies which hurt local business, attacked families and pensioners and you're honest. You are more of a Tory than most of the lot in the local party". Whilst that's not a platform I'm standing on for the Lib Dems, this conversation was pivotal. If you've read this blog over the years, you'll know all about my views on everything. Local Politics, football, punk rock, wasabi almonds.... There isn't any politician in the country who you could find out more about their views. There's 853 blogs on this site. Have a look.

Barnet urgently needs change. When the Tories took over, residents paid far less in Council tax than neighbouring Brent and it was well below the national average. Now it is higher than Brent and higher than the National average. Given that the Tories have always said low council tax is their priority, they are failures. As if that wasn't bad enough, they collect more in parking fees than any other Council. You'd think with such high tax and parking fees, they'd be providing good services, but no. They are cutting services to the most vulnerable. Who benefits. Well check how the allowances for senior councillors has shot up. Check how senior Council officers have been kept in line with big pay rises. Some senior officers have even had tellies installed in their offices. Some officers have been sent to the South of France for property conferences.

This isn't all about me though. This can only be changed if, throughout the Borough, people reject the failed regime of Lynne Hillan.If you want lower taxes, better management, then the Lib Dems offer the only realistic chance of getting it in Barnet. This isn't an idle boast. There is a big difference between myself and Council Leader Lynne Hillan. We've both run small businesses. Hers went broke, mine has gone from strength to strength for over 30 years. All of the Lib Dem candidates I've talked to in Barnet have track records of success. They are people who want change for the better. If you are a Tory living in Barnet and you aren't happy with what Barnet Council are up to, lend us your votes at the next council election. Give us a chance to show what proper management can achieve. Let us show you that budget cuts don't have to hit those least able to cope.

If you are sceptical, read this blog. It tells you all you need to know as to why Barnet needs radicle reform. If you don't believe me, then read Don't Call Me Dave at Not The Barnet Times. He used to be a bigwig in the Chipping Barnet Tory party until he saw whats going on.

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