Sunday 30 September 2012

Nobody Cares in a One Barnet World

I had a rather sad conversation last night. I was at an "International Evening" at our local Church. They had asked me to supply a sounds system and compare the evening. I was chatting to a friend who has a parent suffering from dementia. The situation has significantly worsened recently.

My friend is a retired policewoman. She was explaining that the years of serving in the force had prepared her for dealing with an uncaring bureaucracy. In short she knows how the system works, so she can ensure that her parent gets the care she is entitled to.

She then made a rather scary and thought provoking comment. She said there are lots of people there with no one to fight there corner. As no one cares, some are left in the most degrading and horrible situations. If you have no children or children that don't want to know, in many cases you will be left to rot. Who cares for those who's situation means they cant look after themselves and they have no one to even check?

Recently we've heard of cases of abuse of elderly people where children have noticed bruises and managed to get investigations launched. What happens to those people who have no one to check? Luckily for me, our lives haven't been too badly touched by dementia. Although my mother was difficult and hard to understand following a stroke, she still knew what was going on when she passed away. I cannot imagine how horrible it must be when you have completely lost someone who is still alive.

I can even less imagine how awful it must be to be a person who doesn't really know what is happening and who is being abused. The question which has troubled me is this. What happens to the people who nobody cares about? The sad answer is "Whatever the people who run the care facility wants to happen to them".

One day that person could be you or me. That is why we should ensure that such services are properly run and properly funded. That is why I am highly suspicious of private companies who run such facilities, funded by the taxpayer. What checks are in place to ensure they are delivering a caring and compassionate service?

Some will be good and some will be bad. Someone asked me a question I couldn't answer. In a "One Barnet World" where the private sector regulates the private sector, who will really care that the needs of the people are put above the needs to of the shareholders of the private companies to generate cash for their shareholders? If One Barnet has been properly thought out, I am sure someone from Barnet Council will read this and tell me. I will share their answer with you

Saturday 29 September 2012

Are the Barnet Tories a bunch of misogynists?

In a blog yesterday, Mrs Angry makes the accusation that the Barnet Tories are a bunch of misogynists. It is quite clear that they have a few people who are misogynists, but is Mrs Angry being fair? Lets look at the evidence. She has also regularly made the point that the few Tory councillors who are female are knocking on a bit.

It is clear that the Tories would benefit from a bit of new blood, but this is true of all three parties. To be fair to Richard Cornelius, he has only really had one opportunity under his leadership to select a candidate in a winnable ward and he selected a young muslim woman, who got soundly trounced. Perhaps even more alarming was the clear evidence of  a backlash against the selection from a large core of traditional Tory voters.

Another interesting point to consider is the fact that if the previous Leader, Lynne Hillan hadn't died of cancer, then Barnet Council would actually have a female leader still. I wondered how Ms Hillan would have reacted to Brian Coleman's hag jibe?

If we look at the key roles in Barnet there are 3 Tory MP's. One of these is a female -Theresa Villiers. Of the other two, Mike Freer is gay and in a civil partnership, so we can hardly tar Mike Freer with the "old school" label. In fact for all the criticism I have levelled at Mike Freer, the one thing I would never accuse him of is being insensetive to inclusivity.

The other post is the MEP, who is Marina Yannakoudis. She is a rather bright and bubbly personality and I don't think anyone would describe her as a misogynist.

The other post of note in Barnet is the Mayoralty. Last year it was Councillor Lisa Rutter, who is anything but a dull old fellow. This year the deputy Mayor is Councillor Kate Salinger. This position was clearly awarded by Richard Cornelius in an attempt to make amends for her appalling treatment over the expenses hike. It has been alleged that her treatment then was perhaps the premier example of misogynist Barnet, but given that Lynne Hillan was leader and in charge of the monstering, this seems a bit of a tenuous call.

In actual fact, I don't agree with Mrs Angry's analysis. I think the problem is a completely different one. I think that the Barnet Tories have lost the ability to attract talent. If you were a bright, young ambitious Tory, would you want to nail your banner to the Barnet Council mast? Not a week goes by without a scandal. At a recent GLA visit to North Finchley, I was talking to one of their press officers. I mentioned this blog and he said "Oh yes, I used to read it all the time". I was quite flattered. He then explained that this was because Brian Coleman was always featured. He gave me the distinct impression that his job was far easier now with Mr Dismore in the job.

Strangely enough, it wasn't awlays like this. The Barnet Tories used to be a hothouse for young talent. The Battersea MP, Jane Ellison was one example of a career launched in Barnet. Another example was Caroline Clapper, who defected to Hertsmere Council.

It is quite clear to me that the local Tory party are in deep doo doo. There is a distinct lack of activists who are coming through the ranks. As a result, they are getting a very low caliber of candidate. Even more worrying is the fact that the most talented councillors, such as Mark Shooter are pushed to the fringes, whilst intellectual lightweights such as Dan Thomas and Tom Davey rule the roost.

As to the current cabinet, there are also female members. Helena Hart is probably the most capable member of the cabinet. Sadly the other, Joanna Tambourides is completely hopeless and every time she speaks, shows just how out of her  depth she is.

So in total we have

MP's - 3 in total - 1 female (33%)
MEP's  -  1 -1 female (100%)
Council Cabinet 9 - 2 female (Less than 25%)
Tory Councillors - 37 - 9 female (less than 25%)
Mayor & Deputy 2 - 1 female (50%)

In my opinion, the root cause of this terrible underrepresentation is down to the fact that the proposition of being a Barnet Tory is not appealing. What sane and intelligent woman would want to have to set next to Brian Coleman as he foams at the mouth and calls people hags? What sane young woman would want to be the only one in the club under 50? I think that anyone wanting to make a name in politics (such as Jane Ellison did in the 1980's & 90's) would give Barnet a very wide berth.

And I think that it is time that the Leader, Richard Cornelius woke up to the fact that whilst he probably is horrified to be called misogynist by Mrs Angry, when he tolerates Brian Colemans behaviour and presides over a party with such massive under represenation of women, who make up 50% of the electorate, he really only has himself to blame for the charge.

Mill Hill Preservation Society newsletter attacks One Barnet

To illustrate just how dangerous and divisive the One Barnet program is becoming, the highly respected and influential Mill Hill Preservation Society have an article full of scathing criticism of the process on the front of their latest newsletter. They correctly identify the fact that this could spell the wholesale destruction of Barnet.
The Preservation society have correctly identified that there is no evidence or logic which suggests One Barnet is anything but bad for the people who live in the London Borough of Barnet. You can find out more about the Mill Hill Preservation Society here - - as they correctly state, this is not a political issue, it is one of common sense.

The Saturday List - #17 The waterways of the London Borough of Barnet

I have always had a fascination with water, be it the sea, lakes, ponds, ditches. People don't really associate the London Borough of Barnet with water, but we have some quite interesting spots. Here's a list of some of the waterways I know and why they fascinate me.

Here's the list

1. The Welsh Harp
2. Totteridge Ponds
3. The Silk Stream in Deansbrook
4. St Josephs College pond
5. Darlands Lake
6. The River Brent at Brent Cross
7. Simmonds Meade
8. Stonegrove Park pond
9. Angel Pond
10. Sheepwash pond

And here's why

1. The Welsh Harp. This is the largest bit of water in the Borough. It is home to various sailing clubs and is also a nature reserve. It is a great place to go for a walk on a sunny autumn afternoon.

2. Totteridge Ponds. These always fascinated me. When I was at Finchley Catholic High School, I'd pass them on the 251 bus on the way to and from school. Whatever the weather, there were always people fishing on them. They are well stocked with carp and other course fish. As I passed them on the way to school, I'd always fantasise about getting off the bus and spending the day fishing there. I never did

3. The Silk Stream in Deansbrook.  You pass this on the 302 bus from Mill Hill to Burnt Oak It generally looks little more than a ditch. It passes under the road and through the allotments, on to Cressingham park. When I was at Orange Hill Senior High School, I'd often spend hours sitting on the edge of it, staring into the water. It was a place of serenity for me. It also has a reputation for flash flooding and in the 1980's several local children drowned in it. It is actually the most dangerous stretch of water in the Borough.

4. St Josephs College pond. When I was growing up, my parents were deeply involved in the local church. We used to raise money for St Josephs College, which trained Roman Catholic Priests. It had beautiful grounds and a working farm. It also had a beautiful pond, well stocked with carp and goldfish. It had an island in the middle where ducks lived and a little wooden bridge. It was a magical place. Sadly, the college closed and the church sold the land. The pond is now nearly silted up. It breaks my heart. The site is currently being used to film "Call the Midwife".

5. Darlands Lake. When I was at St Vincents school on the Ridgeway, we would occasionally do "nature surveys" at Darlands Lake. This is a large lake between Mill Hill and Totteridge. It is beautiful. It used to have a boating hut and pier, but this is long gone. Sadly few in Mill Hill even know of its existence. It is well worth a trip

6. The River Brent at Brent Cross. The River Brent passes through Brent Cross Shopping Centre. To me it always looks more like an open sewer than a river. I've always thought it sums up everything that is wrong with Brent Cross. To me a waterways should be nurtured and made beautiful. The River Brent is a real wasted opportunity, it is sad and disgusting.

7. Simmonds Meade. This is the little stream which runs through what is now designated as Mill Hill Village Green. It is on a triangle of land by Mill Hill Circus Roundabout, bounded by the A41, Lawrence St and Uphill Road. It is a serene and beautiful spot, in the most unlikely of places. It has pretty little bridges and a lovely weeping willow tree. I especially like it because it was where I had my first snog.

8. Stonegrove Park pond. This is yet another wasted opportunity. When I was young, there was a boating lake. The school even did canoeing there. Sadly Barnet Council long ago shut the boating and it is slowly decaying. It is still a lovely spot.

9. Angel Pond. This is the most picturesque pond in Barnet, it is located at the top of Milespit Hill, with an old brick church as its backdrop. As a child, I'd walk past it on the way to and from St Vincents school. I was always fascinated by the tadpoles, sticklebacks and goldfish that lived there.

10. Sheepwash pond. This pond is on the Ridgeway. It is a beautiful pond, which several years ago became overrun with terrapins, which people had dumped in it. It backs on to Belmont childrens farm. Generations of youngsters have gone there to feed the ducks, although this has had a rather detrimental effect on the health of the pond.

Friday 28 September 2012

Dyslexia and old friends

Last night I met up witha group of old friends from Orange Hill Senior High School. We met at a very plush London club and drank far too much alcohol (as one does). Some of them I've seen recently and some not since school. One I'd never seen before. She was expelled from Orange Hill before I was expelled from FCHS and went to Orange Hill, so our paths never crossed. That rather explained why we couldn't remember each other.

What was rather interesting was to find out she, like myself was dyslexic. she is an artist, quite well respected. She has an occasional strip in Private Eye, which is pretty damn cool if you ask me. Another friend has a son who is dyslexic. She became so frustrated with his schooling, that she jacked in a career in media and retrained as a teacher. It is quite nice to be able to discuss dyslexia with people who "get it" for a change.

What is even more interesting is to hear how dyslexia seems to warp intelligent people into intelligent people who have spent a rather long time being frustrated by life. It was interesting to hear my dyslexic friend describe how she felt about school and why she got expelled. It was rather like listening to myself. It was also interesting to hear my other friend, who has a dyslexic son, talk about the struggles she's had to make sure he gets the education he deserves.

To me, it is beyond doubt that dyslexic has warped my personality. I am far more angry, tenacious and anti authoritarian than I suspect I would have been had my brian functioned properly. I pay far more attention to peoples body language than anyone else I know. I switch off when people waffle and I find it impossible to concentrate when people talk rubbish or are unstimulating. When I was a kid, one of the priests at the Sacred Heart Church in Mill Hill described me as "The worst ever alter server". During mass, I would completely switch off and forget to do the job at the key moments. This usually involved ringing bells and bringing the preit water and wine. I would be in a complete dream world and suddenly realise that everything had stopped and everyone was looking at me.

Perhaps even more embarrassing was when I was asked to read a lesson. I was about nine and my reading skills were, shall we say, questionable. I was terrified and tried to get out of it. I was told it was a huge honour. At the appointed moment, I stood up and went over to the book. Although I was terrified, I did the job. As I read I was aware that everyone was looking at me. I thought I was doing OK. At the end of mass the Priest gave me a sound bollocking "Were you trying to be funny?" I had missed whole sentences out, mispronounced words, read sentences out backwards and generally made a complete hash of the whole thing. I hadn't even realised. Thankfully I wasn't asked again.

As I've got older and Icope better I found a way to deal with public speaking. Wheras David Cameron gets a speech writer and memorises it, I just make a list of words to remind myself. Other than that it is all busking. What amazes me is that no one twigged that there was a problem. They put down the incidents such as the church reading to stupidity, laziness or piss taking. It is all very well, but if you are brought up to believe in a God and you screw up in mass, you end up thinking you are intrinsically evil. As I'd done my very best and still infuriated everyone and brought ridiculr on my folks, without really knowing why, I formed some very wrong conclusions about my personality.

I decided that as I was a really bad person, I should act like a bad person. The only real problem, is I don't like being a bad person. I actually like trying to be a good person. I try to always stand up for my friends. I try to always tell the truth and don't feel comfortable lying. I hate seeing people being bullied and I look out for my friends. I wasn't cut out to be the bad guy (although I have done my share of bad things).

One day, when Iw as at the height of my athiest phase, I had a very interesting conversation. I was talking to aother avowed athiest, who had also been raised a Roman Catholic. He said something which radically changed my attitude to religion and faith, but not  in the way you'd expect.

He stated that if he was forced to choose a religion, he'd go back to Catholicism, as so much of it is plainly bonkers. He said that it was a 2,000 year old organisation, where all the rules for the last thousand years had been set out by supposedly celibate old men. His next commentwas "what could possibly go wrong with that". He then said "You know if you read the new testament, apart from Jesus all of the truly decent and heroic people in it were women". He pointed out that itw as the women who stuck aeround when all the men legged it, as Jesus got crucified. His theory was that the chauvanism of the Catholic church, was really male guilt for letting the side down.

Which brings us back to dyslexia. I have come to realise that many of my early problems with dyslexia were really guilt for things I had no need to feel guilty about. I didn't ome bottom in spelling tests because I didn't try. I could never have done them. I didn't screw up the reading inc hruch or forget to ring the bell becuase I was evil, I just have a differently wired brain. When my parents would get berated for my bad behaviour at parents evenings, had the teachers ever stopped to consider the cause of all of this.

As I considered the things my friends told me yesterday, in the cold light of day, I realised that my dyslexia has given me an insight which I'd never have got had I had a functional brain. You look at anything which is going wrong in the world and there is always some bastard trying to make some other poor sod feel guilty for something they have no need for any guilt. This probably won't chime too  well with the more robustly right wing of you, but until we start trying to see the other side of the story. we are well and truly fucked.

Dyslexia has made me realise that there are too many clever people who are treated as if they are stupid, because they are different. There are too many good people, who are made to feel bad because they aare different. And there are too many institutions on this planet, where people use far and guilt to secure power, influence and money. I can't change any of this, but I feel a damn sight better about myself now than I ever have. I am not perfect. I feel guilty for the things I've done which have hurt other people, but I am not picking up anyone else's guilt for anything anymore.

Have a great Friday Evening. I will.

Statement from Leader of the Council regarding Brian Coleman

Yesterday I wrote to the Leader of the Council regarding his intentions regarding Brian Coleman.  I had heard various things from members of his team and other people within Barnet. I suggested that rather than listening to rumours, it would be better if he gave a short statement. I also said that if he didn't want it attributed to say so. I always respect requests for confidentiality. Richard replies last night with the following message.

I trust that this clears up the status of Mr Colemans current role withing the Barnet Conservative Party and Barnet Council. Many thanks to Richard for his response.

Dear Roger,

I can`t really comment on any of this until the police decide if they are going to prosecute and the courts have decided  what actually happened.  Brian Coleman is innocent until proven guilty. The standards board cases are still alive.

Yours sincerely


The Friday Joke - 28/9/2012

In this week of Jewish holidays, we thought we'd have a nice religious theme to the Friday Joke.

A Roman Catholic priest and a rabbi find themselves sitting next to each other on a transatlantic flight. After many hours of theological discussion about the relative merits of the two traditions, the priest turned to the rabbi and asked, 'Is it still a requirement of your faith that you should not eat pork?'
The rabbi responded, 'Yes, that is still one of our laws.'
The priest then asked, 'Have you ever eaten pork?'
To which the rabbi replied, 'Yes, on one occasion I did succumb to temptation and tasted a ham sandwich.'
The priest nodded in understanding and went on with his reading.
A while later, the rabbi spoke up and asked the priest, 'Father, is it still a requirement of your church that you remain celibate?'
The priest replied, 'Yes, that is still very much a part of our faith.'
The rabbi then asked him, 'Father, have you ever fallen to the temptations of the flesh?'
The priest replied, 'Yes, rabbi, on one occasion I was weak and broke with my faith.'
The rabbi nodded understandingly and remained silent, thinking, for about five minutes.
Finally, the rabbi said, 'Beats the hell out of a ham sandwich, doesn't it?

Thursday 27 September 2012

Helen Michael assualt latest

Having spoken to Helen Michael regarding the injury she received last Thursday, Helen informed me that on Monday, the hospital reviewed the X-Rays and have amended their diagnosis form a Broken wrist to a torn tendon at the base of her thumb. She is still suffering a lot of pain with the injury. Typically a significant amount of force would be required to cause such an injury.

She was unable to get an appointment for the Xray until Monday afternoon, hence the delay between the initial diagnosis at the walk in clinic and the full diagnosis. This information has been passed to the relevant authorities.

Helen says thanks for all of the cards, flowers etc.

Brian Coleman and Mike Freer MP - The deadly duo

Ever wondered how Barnet Council became a pariah and a laughing stock. With Brian Coleman being hauled before his "Leader" - Councillor Richard Cornelius today, what better time to tell the sad story of where it all went wrong and why. 

In the Barnet Conservative Party, there really are only two people that matter, one is never out of the news - Councillor Brian Coleman. The other however, is the real power behind the throne. That man is Finchley MP Mike Freer. Back in 2006, these two cooked up a plan. At the time the leader of Barnet Council was the highly respected and very capable Brian Salinger. Salinger was an efficient leader with years of public service experience. He ran a tight ship and was getting to grips with many of the issues facing the council.

Freer and Coleman despised Salinger. They felt he was not hard right enough and was too old school Tory in his approach. They felt he wasn't a Thatcherite and was too interested in running the council efficiently to be interested in hard right dogma. Salinger had a good relationship with everyone at Barnet, including trades unions and believed in a harmonious atmosphere at the Council. Freer and Coleman derided this "beer and sandwiches" approach. Freer and Coleman had an opportunity. A Council election was coming. Coleman was on good terms with many people in the local party at the time. He engineered the deselection of candidates who were in the Salinger camp (including Barnet Bugle blogger Dan Hope, in Brunswick Park). As Salinger had done a good job running the council, he achieved an increased majority at the 2006 Council elections. Sadly for him, his backstabbing cabinet colleagues had a plan. A day after the victory, Coleman proposed a vote of no confidence in Salinger. With his new found friends installed, Salinger was dumped (in a move reminiscent of the hard left Militant Tendency takeover of Liverpool Council in the 1980's).

Coleman then proposed a new Leader, his hard right mate, Mr Mike Freer. Freer was duly installed. Freer was determined to change things. Out went consensus and in came One Barnet. His political ideology believed that public was bad and private was good in all cases. He enrolled on a BT sponsored program called "Vital Vision". This promotes outsourcing in local authorities. Delegates get courses paid for by BT. Mike Freer got an honoury MBA after a week long course from Harvard. BT also lent Barnet Council one of their executives, Max Wide, to soften Barnet up for privatisation. In return for Brian Colemans help in becoming leader, Mike Freer made him Mayor in 2009. Immediately things started to go wrong. Coleman was found guilty by the Standards committee of breaching its code of conduct in September 2009. He is the only standing Mayor of Barnet to suffer this indignity. As for the outsourcing. It was initially labelled "Future Shape". Freer attracted derision by comparing it to Easyjet and calling it Easycouncil. As people associate Easyjet with all manner of things which annoy them, this was a disaster.

The PR fallout was so bad that the whole project was renamed One Barnet. Hoardes of consultants on megabucks were brought in to sort it out. The project was meant to be up and running by the end of 2010, but whilst the consultants have siphoned millions of pounds of taxpayers money, no savings have been delivered. Freer's real goal was to become and MP. Realising that Barnet Council may go badly wrong, he stepped down as leader in December 2009 to concentrate on becoming an MP in Finchley. He has, however maintained an iron grip on the party machine. Brian Coleman has been his enforcer in the Council chamber.

As the One Barnet shambles has become ever more embarrassing, Freer has sought to disassociate himself from his baby. He has, however, given Coleman unswerving support, to ensure control of the Barnet Conservative party machine. In 2012, when Coleman lost the GLA election, Freer realised that Coleman was no longer an asset for the party. His parking charges had blown up and lost the GLA, also knocking out a safe seat in Brunswick Park (ironically a seat held in the ward where Dan Hope was deselected). Freer knew Coleman needed to be "parked" but he couldn't afford to alienate him completely. In a compromise, Coleman lost his cabinet role, but was given the powerful Budget OSC committee chair. A post that attracts a rather healthy allowance.

In April of 2012, the first One Barnet outsourcing went live. Parking control was taken from the inhouse team and given to NSL. Barnet Council  used a new One Barnet Contract, the sort which will be used for all future outsourcings, to implement this scheme. The scheme allowed NSL and Barnet to "share profits" from parking in the Borough. The council now gets 50% of the profits, where previously they got 100%. Traffic wardens are given stringent targets for ticketing and this generates cash. That is the theory. The truth is that it has all gone wrong and the council has a million pounds less in its coffers than forecast. We also lost dozens of jobs, which moved to Croyden.

At the same time as NSL took on the parking contract, they closed Friern Barnet library. This was supposed to bring in a one off receipt of £430,000. This is less than half of the sum lost so far by the outsourced parking contract (which was Brian Colemans baby and the first fruit of Freers future shape/One Barnet project). The total bill for One Barnet Consultants to draw up this mess is around £10 million (for paper reports). That would buy more than 20 Friern Barnet libraries.

What is even more alarming is the fact that Barnet plan to outsource the rest of the council services to multi national companies like Capita and BT this year. These will be on 10 year contracts with guarantees for revenue for the suppliers. They will cost us all a minimum of £1 billion. These guarantees are made with your money. If it all goes well, we pay for it and if it all goes wrong, we'll pay even more. The bidders for one contract (known as DRS) have designated it as "too risky" for them to take on and have asked for a joint venture to be set up between the council and the supplier. This means that the council will take a stake in the company, get a small percentage of the profits (if there are any) and take all the risk. As I understand it, the supplier will simply make a costs + charge for running the service and then cream off most of the profits.

At a recent meeting the Leader of the Council, Richard Cornelius denied that the joint venture would be set up. This is despite Pam Wharfe, a council officer, emailing staff twice to say this was the preferred option. Was Ms Wharfe disciplined for this? Of course not.We have a situation where no one knows who runs the council. We have Councillors defying the standards committee, refusing to apolgise for bad behaviour. We have consultants bills mounting, whilst projects go wrong. We have outsourced contracts failing, with no escape for the taxpayer. And we have the architect of it all, Mike Freer MP sitting in Westminster saying "Nothing to do with me mate", whilst his mate and mentor Brian Coleman creates mayhem wherever he goes.

Will Brian Coleman be disciplined today by Richard Cornelius? We can only wait and see. If he isn't we know why.

Wednesday 26 September 2012

Brian Coleman in the soup for refusing to apolgise for Nazi slur

Brian Coleman cannot keep out of the news. Last week he gets himself arrested, this week he's drawn the ire of the Leader of Barnet Council, Richard Cornelius. Whilst Mr Cornelius is happy to turn a blind eye to Mr Colemans arrest (unlike the swift action of the Barnet Tories sack John Hart from the Hendon and District residents forum after allegations of racisist comments and to sack Kate Salinger for not voting herself a big pay rise), he has finally decided to "havea chat with Coleman" following his refusal to accept the sanction of the Barnet Council Standards committee, who ordered him to apologise for making derogatory comments to members of the public, including calling one a "blackshirt" and calling a Jewish chap a "disloyal Israeli" for refusing to agree with Coleman on Israeli policy towards the settlements onthe West Bank.

Mr Coleman appealed the decision and lost. Sadly he can't bring himself to cross his fingers and say "sorry I've been a naughty boy". As a result Cornelius is left with a huge problem.

The Hendon Times has reported the problems here -

The story has also made the Evening Standard -

Every day that goes by, Coleman becomes more of a liability. In these days when the Tories have been exposed for thinking of us all as plebs, he is a luxury Barnet cannot afford. What is rather odd is the fact that none of the Tory Councillors I've spoken to recently seem to realise that he is ruining their reputation. They think the public do no associate his behaviour with them individually. Sadly, as they say nothing and do nothing to stop him, even applauding him when he throws sexist slurs at members of the public, they are held just as responsible as he is by the general public.

Unless they want political oblivion at the next council election (they have already lost the GLA election and the safe Brunswick Park byelection), they  better wake up and smell the coffee.

Friern Barnet Library meeting - NLBP 25/9/2012

Firstly a note - So people can better understand this article who are Tories, I have helpfully added Barnet Speak (BS) translations of key phrases, to help our plutocratic lords and masters understand what the plebs are on about in langauge they understand.

If I was the type of person who was easily riled or prone to anger, I suspect yesterday I would have blown a fuse. Happily, years of a rock and roll (BS - noisy music more usually heard in the London Borough of Camden)  lifestyle have induced a Zen (BS "a form of meditation practised by stinky hippies") like calm, where I can sit through anything and smile.

Yesterday, I attended North London Business Park for a 3pm meeting with Bill Murphy and another official known as Barnet Mick to the Save Friern Barnet group, officials of the London Borough of Barnets Librarys department. Also present were a smattering of various groups associated with the various campaigns to keep the library open. You may ask, what would have riled me if I wasn't such an easy going chap. As ever a whole list of things.

First, our friends at the London Borough of Barnet had rescheduled the meeting from 3.30pm to 3pm at short notice. For those of us who run businesses and have a busy schedule, this completely screwed up my schedule. I had a very important new customer (BS "People to be fleeced") at the studios I run and I had to cut short an introduction.

Second. I arrived at NLBP and was kept waiting at reception for 15 minutes, as no one had a clue what I was on about regarding the meeting. So having already mucked about a customer, I now was not even able to join the meeting.

And that was all before the meeting started. On joining the meeting, it immediately became clear that our elected representatives had not even bothered to show up. Bill from Barnet explained that councillors only liked to attend meetings once everything was sorted out. If I was easily riled, by now steam would have been coming out of my ears. Surely, as our representatives, they should be driving the process. It seems that they simply want to be passengers, driven from location to location by the Council officers. I now understand why One Barnet is going so badly wrong. I cordially requested that Bill from Barnet  ask Councillor Robert Rams, library supremo to attend in future. I explained that we would all be very nice to him, if he turned up and that it would be good for him.

Bill from Barnet, who is a rather nice chap and does his best to be reasonable (maybe he's a secret Rock and Roller as well), explained his position. Rather amusingly, he managed to completely contradict himself. He said that he was an officer and all he did was implement policy agreed by his political masters. He then explained that the political masters wouldn't attend the meeting until the proposals had been "firmed up". I interpreted this as  "Our Tory lords and masters in Barnet don't like talking to plebs. They want to sit back, let us do all the work and then rubber stamp it". Of course that could be a complete misreading of the situation.

Tamar from SFBLG explained the type of activities now taking place at the reopened library. She gave a huge vote of thanks to the community librarians who have reopened the libraries (BS "dirty stinky squatters, occupying the library illegally").  She explained the real difference they had made. She outlined the various groups who also had expressed an interest in using the community library (BS - "asset to be sold"). These included local colleges and the dyslexia association. She also detailed lessons being given such as Chemistry. She added that 3,000 books have been donated, including a great stock of text books.

Fiona from community hub explained that if they retain the library, it will still be an asset in 50 years time, if it is sold it will be gone. She also explained how the local area will become run down if it shuts. She said local business was backing the hub.

The Barnet Eye stated that we have identified a party who may be interested in Friary House. We also detailed how Barnet had more media, journalists, TV producers, etc locally than any other area of the UK. We stated that by having a genuine partnership between Council and local people, Barnet could get some great publicity. We suggested that the £1.4 million that Barnet sought to save by cuts could be found in other ways. We suggested income earning, shared usage with other departments, such as Childrens services. At this point, I became aware that Mick from Barnet was getting rather agitated. How odd I thought? Mick is also a rock and roller in his spare time. We had a pleasant chat about they joys of being in a band on the way to the meeting. Mike generally for the rest of the meeting shifted uneasily in his chair and looked agitated.

When people start to irritate me, I have a defence mechanism I have learned, which helps me see the good in them. I imagine them in their spare time indulging in their favourite hobby. I sought to imagine Barnet Mick in a Caftan, spliff in mouth, strumming Helter Skelter by the Beatles (First verse -"When I get to the bottom I go back to the top of the slide, Where I stop and I turn and I go for a ride, Till I get to the bottom and I see you again." reminds me of how One Barnet Consultants write reports). Of course I am sure Mick has never really inhaled anything stronger than the smoke from a bacon butty on the hob, but the image cheered me up greatly and help me maintain my inner Zen. 

Some figures. The Barnet libraries budget is £5.7 million. Barnet Council wants to trim that to £4.2 million. They sought to save £110,000 per annum by shutting the library. They want a £430,000 sum from the capital sale of the library. They sound like big figures. When you consider that Barnet Council have spent £10 million on One Barnet Consultants, who have thus far delivered nothing, it becomes a bit harder to justify. Or if you consider that the income from Parking is over a million pounds in the red according to Mr Mustards blog, since a One Barnet outsourcing to NSL took place - - you see that the Library service is getting walloped, whilst projects which are simply Tory vanity projects are being drowned with cash.

Mr Murphy and Mr Fahey are not the culprits. They are simply the messengers. The men who sit at the top and make decisions, can't be bothered to attend. Mr Murphy said that he wanted to see progress, but the man who can make this happen, Councillor Robert Rams, refuses to attend.

Mr Murphy also told us that Barnets Lawyers had advised him that he can't meet local people at the local library, as this sanctions the Community Library. Sadly, this is an example of shutting the door after the horse has bolted. The two meetings at the library have already sanctioned the occupation. As the old saying goes "You can't unlose you virginity".

Barnet have a choice. They could reopen Friern Library, get a huge community asset and get great publicity for an innovative new model. Or they could shut it again and sell it off. This would inevitably result in even more bad press and bad feeling. Barnet are not simply trying to chuck out a few squatters, they are at war with their own community. That is not how it should be.

On the way out, Barnet Mick told me I had got my facts wrong about the cancellation of the Councillor surgery at Mill Hill on Saturday. I pointed out that I'd already printed Councillor Khatri's email to correct this. We then had a discussion about the banning of BAPS leaflets. Barnet Mick said "send them to me and I will decide if they breach the rules". It appears that they had been banned before anyone had read them.

I pointed out that it wasn't up to him to decide. It was simply up to him to apply the rules. The rules clearly state that the leaflets can be displayed. It seems to me that in Barnet, Council officials have taken on powers way beyond their brief. The sooner proper democratic oversight is restored the better.

Tuesday 25 September 2012

Congratulations to Richard Cornelius on allowing Brian Coleman to keep his job

Brian Coleman has been in the news quite a lot recently. Let me tell you about a most interesting incident last night.

I was having a quiet drink with my wife, when Brian Coleman noticed us. He came down and sat with us and started engaging me in friendly conversation. He took time to show me his new Italian shoes and then stated that it was necessary for him to remain in his job because none of the rest of the Tories were up to the job. I was just about to ask him how he could possibly justify the incident with Helen Michael, when the alarm clock went off and I woke up.

I have spoken to six Conservative councillors in the since Thursday. All of them are people who I am on friendly terms with. All bar one were appalled by what has happened. As to the general populace of Barnet, the reaction has been even stronger. I have had emails from people who support Mr Coleman, but those were few and far between.

The Leader of the Council, Richard Cornelius today announced that no action would be taken against Mr Coleman. The Hendon Times reports it here

Mr Cornelius has given the opposition a gift. It is clear that he does not care about the image of Barnet Council or the fact that the reputation of the Barnet Conservative party is being dragged through the mud. Mr Cornelius clearly doesn't understand what "Innocent until proven guilty" means. If a murder is committed or a teacher at a Barnet school was accused of a crime against a child, the accused party would be suspended until such time as the case came to court and the facts established. We should not presume guilt, but we should most certainly take action to ensure that until such time as the facts have been established, the person who has been accused is taken out of the spotlight.

It is in no way saying Mr Coleman is guilty, to ask him to stand aside for the duration of the investigation. If he is cleared, then he can hold his head high. There is a precedent in Barnet Council. Last year, Councillor John Hart was accused of making a racist comment at a Hendon and District Area forum. Mr Hart was immediately removed from post. The standards committee later exhonourated Mr Hart. It seems extremely odd to me that Mr Hart was removed, whilst Mr Coleman is left in place.

As someone who writes a blog and would like to see the Conservatives voted out in 2014, Mr Cornelius has done me a big favour. Thank you Richard. I do wonder whether his Conservative colleagues will be quite so keen on his lack of leadership in relation to his out of control friend.

Plebs of the world unite !

Class warfare. I thought it had gone away. I thought Tony Blair had abolished it forever when he had a zillion seat majority. When I was a kid, I was confused as to what class I was. I asked my Dad when I was about nine and he said this "Well, the Tichbornes are the fifth richest family in the United Kingdom and we can trace our ancestry back to 800AD, so that makes the family upper class". Easy enough then, until he added "However, in 1948 the Labour government nationalised the proceeds of all inheritence that had been held intestate for more than 75 years. Our side of the family lost our inheritence then as the cash had been held as a result of the Tichborne trial". He added "So now we live in a semi detached house and I own my own business, which makes us middle class". Oh I said, "So we are middle class". He then added "Well it's not quite that simple. I work with my hands (he mended cars) and come home covered in muck every day, so you could also make the case that we're working class". By this point I was slightly confused. Then he added "And I'm Australian, where there is no class system at all, you're just rich or poor".

At this, I asked him what I should consider myself. He replied "What I'm trying to say, is that you can be whatever you want". I thought long and hard about this. I decided then, that for the purpose of class definition, I would like to be Australian and duck out of the whole thing. A little later, I asked my mother. She came from an Irish background on her fathers side. The family were all staunch republicans. Her mothers side were what may be best described as "gentry fallen on hard times". She simply reiterated what my father said "You can be whatever you want to be, don't worry about it". My mother explained that she was pleased to take my fathers name as she hated the stigma of an Irish name. She said she was proud of her Irish roots, but hated the bullying and racism she'd received as a result in 1920's and 30's. She told me she aspired to be upper class in revenge on her tormentors. Of all the family, she was the one who most enjoyed visiting the ancestoral home of the Tichbornes in Hampshire.

My parents also had aspirations for their children. My eldest brothers were despatched to a non residential private school when they failed their eleven plus. My eldest sister was also despatched to a private school, my parents wanting her to grow up properly. My next sister was rather bright so she went to Grammar School. As she didn't get on too well, the third sister was sent to private school as well, assisted by a scholarship, because she is also rather clever. They have all done rather well. When I came along, it was a bit of a disappointment for my parents.  I was educationally subnormal. I didn't start speaking until I was four. I didn't learn to read properly until I was 11. I'm dyslexic and I still can't spell. It was 100% clear that I wouldn't get a scholarship, so they decided that it would be foolish to throw good money after bad and sent me off to a comprehensive School. For me, it was probably the best thing they could have done. As I learned to read and cope with my dyslexia, I was able to hold my own. In a class with people of all abilities, I was able to get on with being me. In the 1970's, bullying was par for the course. You just had to cope as best you could. There was no fairness in the treatment of pupils and what constituted discipline then is now designated as child abuse. Being a Catholic school, there was also a strong anti establishment ethos amongst the boys.

The final part in this toxic jigsaw of my psyche was the advent of Punk rock in 1976. Many of our class saw the Sex Pistols swearing on the Bill Grundy show. Perhaps the strangest thing for me was that I thought it was great. In 1977, I saw my first punk rock gig and I now had a scene I fully fitted in with. I associated with the "outsider". I formed my own band and started writing songs. I look at the songs we wrote and am still amazed at the maturity of the work my collaborations with Peter Conway at the time produced. We chose subjects which seemed so extreme at the time that we hid the lyrics from parents.

Like many people from the punk era, I took on board much of the ethos. I became extremely cynical towards the powers that be. I realised that divide and rule was the favoured weapon of the establishment. This was most starkly shown during the 1984 miners strike. Policemen were bused around the country, because they found that they wouldn't necessarily follow orders when brutalising their own communities. I have spoken to many police officers who served during the miners strike and most are not proud of their role. The Police have a job to do. When we have riots and murders, we recognise their value. I have come to realise that the British Police are an outstanding institution. They get many things wrong and there are many incidents where we can show fault, but given the huge scale of the job they have, we have a force to be proud of. The police force has changed beyond all recognition from the 1984 miners strike. They still have a job to do. During the riots of last summer, we saw the necessity of a police force.

The recent double murder of policewomen in Manchester shows that the job is still inherently risky. Criminal gangs are now far more armed and organised than ever. Mobile phone technology gives criminals a communication system as sophisticated as the police. The police are never 100% sure what will greet them in any situation.

Which brings us to Andrew Mitchell and his "plebs" and "morons" outburst. I have, on occasion, met some extremely obnoxious policemen. The last one was in 2008, when I got a ticket for performing an illegal turn in Central London. I was taking my mother in law for dinner, following the death of my father in law. We were trying to cheer her up, it was her birthday. As ever, I started being polite. The officer explained that I'd performed an illegal turn. I explained that I'd not noticed the sign. I then said "I guess that is a common mistake, given that you were hiding behind a tree waiting to nick someone". His response, to what was not intended as a dig was to say "I can keep you here all night". I responded by saying "That's my mother in law in the car, her husband recently died and it's her birthday. I've no problem with you issueing a ticket, but I'd appreciate it if you let us get on our way". He responded by saying "I don't care if you have the fucking pope in the car, you will stay here as long as I tell you". I was taken aback by this outburst. I said "excuse me officer, you have no right to swear at me. What would you do if I swore at you". He responded "I'd fucking well nick you". At this I then said "Officer, you have just sworn twice at me, my wife, my mother in law and my three children heard that. I have no problem with you issuing me a ticket, but unless you apologise, I will make a formal complaint for your behaviour and swearing. I have five witnesses in the car". At this, the officer glowered at me and said "I apologise for misuse of the English language". He then said "You are lucky, I could nick you for three separate offences, I'm only issueing a ticket for one". I sarcastically responded by saying "Well I do appreciate your kindness".

As we made our way, my then 75 year old mother in law said she was shocked and outraged by the officers behaviour. She asked if I was going to make a complaint. I replied "No, I said I would if he didn't apologise and he did". In truth, I was seething all night. I understand Andrew Mitchell's frustration, but I would never take the bad behaviour of one officer as an excuse to besmirch the whole force. As to describing the police as plebs, that shows to me a man who has a problem. That shows a man who has no respect for his fellow citizens. If Mr Mitchell felt the officer was unreasonable, he could have complained. A word from him would most certainly have seen the officer get a telling off at the very least.

As it was he chose to insult the officer and the rest of the Police force. Mr Mitchell should go and it is a disgrace that David Cameron cannot see this. It seems that there is an echelon of the Conservative Party that believes the law doesn't apply to them. They feel a class apart from the rest of us. My guess is that the general public will not take kindly to the fact that Mr Mitchell has been excused by the government for his behaviour.

Vince Cable yesterday joked that he was a pleb. I think that the vast majority of the nation would rather be a pleb than be associated with people like Mr Mitchell. I happen to think that this is one example where the phrase "Divide and rule" may not be the case.

Monday 24 September 2012

The sound of the penny dropping


What is that sound I heard? Was it thunder? was it a crash on the M1? Nope, I think it was the sound of the penny dropping. Over the last two weeks, I've been immersed in work making the follow up for A Tale of Two Barnets. We've had many local people into the studios for interviews as well as driving around the Borough interviewing people and shooting footage of local areas and other stock footage.

One Saturday, I had a day off, so I did a stint on the Barnet Alliance for Public Services stall in Mill Hill. It was a beautiful sunny day, so it was most pleasant to stand outside and chat to people. One guy I vaguely know who is a Conservative, but also drinks at the same watering holes as myself said "You've got two minutes to persuade me to sign that petition, if you can I'll sign".

I responded "The One Barnet program is an outsourcing program. The Council plans to do to it's services, what the Olympics did with its security and G4S. The only problem is that they are gambling with taxpayers money. If it all goes wrong, we don't have the army to bale us out. The last contract they outsourced was parking in April and its already gone wrong. They are losing money and locals are getting shafted". At this he responded that he's had three tickets since April and signed.

The new parking warden service is a One Barnet project. It was brought in by Brian Coleman before he lost the GLA election and got the sack. At the recent Budget OSC, he criticised his own project. As usual he blamed everyone except himself (Quelle Surprise).

If One Barnet screws up, the Army can't bale us out. The Barnet Taxpayer will have to. As the project is worth £1 billion, even a small cock up in the drafting of the contract will cost taxpayers millions. Once the contracts are signed, then they last for ten years. The expertise will be lost and jobs will also be lost.

Councillor Alan Schneiderman asked a question about what happened at South West One at the Budget OSC, where a similar mass outsourcing screwed up. As you can probably guess, he didn't get a sensible answer. Here is Brian Coleman in what is possibly his swansong meeting, not answering a perfectly sensible question :-

The issue with One Barnet for most Barnet residents is risk. The local Conservatives have spun the line "Local people would want us to save money". What they haven't told the taxpayer is that the savings have no guarantees. In fact one in four local authority outsourcing projects go wrong and cost the taxpayer more money. If you asked taxpayers "Would you like us to change the way services are provided and we guarantee it will save you money", many would say yes. If you asked the real question which is "Would you like us to change the way services are provided and if it all goes wrong your taxes will go up" then most people would give a completely different answer.

The sad thing is that Outsourcing projects go wrong. The G4S contract at the Olympics went wrong. Many railway franchises have gone wrong. When the railways were privatised we were promised faster, cheaper and better trains. What we got was failed franchises, where companies hand back the contracts when they can't make any money. In Barnet, the council got sued for £10 million by a company called Catalyst, who weren't making the promised profits from an outsourcing contract. The taxpayer bore this expense. The council have had numerous contracts with suppliers, which bloggers have identified as defective. One has to ask, if they get it wrong with a £1.4 million supplier such as Metpro, what chance have they got with a £1 Billion project.  The One Barnet Zealots of the right say "Ah, but the new contracts are more robust". If that is the case, what has happened with parking?

None of the One Barnet bidders are in this out of the goodness of their hearts. They are in it for big profits. Their solutions take jobs away from Barnet and remove democratic control.

The message is slowly getting through to the voters. Councillor Brian Coleman did us a service when he made sure that Parking was the first One Barnet contract. He allowed us to see the future of all of the other council services. If there was a robust business case for One Barnet, surely the council would have shown it to us by now? The fact they haven't is the clearest possible sign that despite spending millions of pounds on One Barnet, they can't even convince themselves that it will deliver the savings they've promised. Many of the savings in the documents we've seen are designated as "Aspirational". This means they'd "like to achieve them". I'd like to win the lottery jackpot, but I'm not basing my household budget on that premise. Sadly Barnet Council are with One Barnet. The difference is that the National Lottery has a jackpot of a few million. The One Barnet Lottery jackpot is twenty times that and it is multi national companies which stand to win it. In this lottery, you buy the ticket and they win the prize.

Kerchinggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggg !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Clarification from Councillor Khatri regarding cancellation of Councillor Surgery

As this blog has mentioned on many occasions, most Conservative Councillors are decent and polite people, who don't wander the Borough looking to break peoples bones and insult them. Most don't send rude emails. In fact, most of them are quite nice if you bump into them in waitrose Car Park, Cafe Buzz or on Mill Hill Broadway. Most of them will be perfectly civil, if you send them an email, and most will send you a polite email if you get a fact wrong or need a clarification.

So itw as was that we have just received a clarification from Councillor Sury Khatri, regarding the cancellation of the Councillors surgery in Mill Hill on Saturday. The Barnet Eye stated that the surgery was cancelled due to the BAPS delegation attending. Councillor Khatri, who is a decent chap, emailed me to correct this. It was due to a clash of appointments for both himself and Councillor John Hart.

Here is the email, apologies to Cllr's Hart and Khatri for posting incorrect information. I hope this clears the matter up

Dear Roger
Just catching up with events
I noted that there was to be a BAPS delegation to see us at our Councillor Surgery last Saturday and you reported that because of this we had cancelled it.
My reason for writing to you is that this is incorrect and wish to clear up any misunderstanding.
My sincere apologies as if we had known prior I would have informed that we would not be there.
As both Cllr John Hart and I had previous commitments for Saturday 22nd and neither one could be present I informed the Library of this on the previous Saturday 15th (after I finished my Councillor Surgery) and to put a note to this effect that we would not be holding a Councillor Surgery on Saturday 22nd - for your information message sent on Tuesday 18th to Mill Hill Librarian below


Kind Regards
Cllr Sury N Khatri
Mill Hill Ward

A message for the friends of Brian Coleman

In the last couple of days, I've spoken to and exchanged emails with a few people who consider themselves to be friends of Brian Coleman. A common thread seems to be that there is another side to the story. Of course there is, there always is. I will however say this. I have heard eye witness accounts and there is CCTV footage of the incident. Whatever the final outcome of the sorry story is, these will be the deciding factor.

I would strongly suggest that rather posting ill informed comments on various papers and using twitter to slag off Helen Michaels business, you offer Brian Coleman your personal support to help him through what is clearly a difficult time for him. I suspect he needs friendship rather silly comments right now

Sunday 23 September 2012

Winter is here and it's going on two years

This morning I stood in the rain for nearly two hours in Cressingham Park, Burnt Oak watching Watling FC beat Ruislip Rangers 6-3. It was miserable and freezing, the experience lightened only by the great football being played. Myself and another dad huddled under an umbrella shivering, looking forward to a nice cup of tea in our comfy centrally heated homes. It felt like winter had come early.

As I shivered, my thoughts turned briefly to Friern Barnet library. During talks with council officials two weeks ago, I asked them if they were aware that for many elderly people, who struggle with electricity and gas bills, a library is a place to stay warm during the winter. They seemed to be slightly put out by the idea that people were not using libraries for their primary purpose. One of the officials said something along the lines "It is not the job of the library service to keep pensioners warm", before realizing how crass this sounded.

There are hundreds of elderly people in Barnet who will struggle this winter. As a community, I believe we should do what we can to support our neighbours. There are many ways that we can do this. Get to know elderly neighbours and make sure they have your telephone number. Tell them that if they are unwell and need shopping or other errands to get in touch. If there is snow or ice, see if they need any help shopping. Let them know it's Ok to ask if they need some help.

Many people worry that they will end up becoming "lumbered" with helping elderly neighbours. Just giving them a bit of support is usually appreciated and most are too proud to ask. If someone becomes too dependent, have a word with Age UK or another charity which deals with the elderly. They have backup services that can help. If you can't help someone or they are becoming too demanding, work with local charities and the local authority to get the help for the person. If they are asking it is because they have a need.

I think we need to act as good neighbours. We may well be there one day ourselves.

Here is the website for Age UK Barnet - If for any reason you can't help, consider giving a few quid so someone else can -

Saturday 22 September 2012

The Saturday List #16 - The ten most bonkers things I've seen in Barnet

Given the general bonkersness of Barent right now, I thought it was only appropriate to make a list of the ten most bonkers things I've ever seen in the London Borough of Barnet.

1. A double bed being driven down Mill Hill Broadway (for a film sequence).

2. A man fishing under the M1 flyover in Mill Hill Broadway (after a flash flood)

3. A naked man beating another fully clothed man with a baseball bat outside my house

4. Cows grazing on Mill Hill Circus Roundabout (they had escaped from St Josephs College farm).

5. An 8 ft high etheral ghost in a long coat walking down St Josephs College footpath in the mist at 2am.

6. Edgware High St under 9 ft of water

7. Armed hunters in search of hamsters in allotments in Burnt Oak

8. A zombie cucumber plant growing in Bunns Lane, Mill Hill

9. A man having sex with a goat in a field next to Mill Hill Broadway Station

10. A deranged vicar removing chairs from a Cafe in Finchley without the owners permission


Please feel free to add your own most bonkers things in the comments

Welcome to the wonderful world of Bonkers Barnet

Are you sitting comfortably? Let us begin. This morning Mr Mustard arrived at a stall erected by BAPS to campaign against the One Barnet process in Mill Hill Broadway. He suggested that the Barnet bloggers should don their mystic meg hats and see if we could predict what would happen in Barnet in the next year. I responded that I can't even manage to guess what will happen in the course of the next week.

I said that this time last week, I was up in York, having a few beers with my old mate Bob Richardson, a fine chef who has worked in many michelin starred restaurants. Bob follows my blog with detacthed amusement. Ironically, Bob had asked me what was happening in Baarnet at the moment and I said "Apart from Friern Library occupation, I'm a bit too wrapped up making the new film to be paying close attention to the day to day stuff". I then predicted a quietish sort of week.

Anyway, here is my week in Barnet Politics. What I thought would happen and what did happen.

Monday. I attended the Friern Barnet library meeting with Barnet Council. I expected that this would be an interesting event. It was. I asked the council why they were seeking to evict the occupiers, when they were here in dialog. I suggested a stay of execution on legal proceedings, until the dialog had become exhausted (which it clearly wasn't). The council officials agreed to put this proposal to the powers that be and then get back to us. Sadly they didn't. In the afternoon, we did some filming.

Tuesday. 10am at Finchley Court. I don't really know what I expected. I had guessed that a sharp suited and well briefed lawyer from Barnet Council would serve eviction papers on the occupiers of Friern Library (persons unknown as designated) and then the occupiers would lodge an appeal. On Monday, Phoenix, one of the occupiers explained that this was the likely outcome. In actual fact a rather bumbling Barnet Lawyer made a complete hash of his lines and the case was adjourned for three weeks. He even managed to loose his briefcase with all of the paperwork in it. In the afternoon, we did some more filming. Some on location at the house of a family in Barnet, who have four children, one of whom is severely handicapped and have been in temporary accomodation for eleven years. It really is shocking.

Wednesday. A quiet day for me. I decidd to bunk off the the Budget OSC committee. Itw as to be Brian Colemans first meeting as chair. I assumed that Brian would be on best behaviour following his bonkers outburst the previous week. Many Tory councillors have told me that Brian is "good at committee", which I assumed meant the meeting would be well run and boring. I decided to go and see "Judge Dredd 3D" instead. I turned my phone to silent and thoroughy enjoyed two hours of mindless violence on the big screen. When we emergedm, I couldn't believe it. I had about 20 texts and six or seven missed calls. As we walked to the car, the phone rang again. It was one of our local Conservative Councillors, who breathlessly enquired why I had missed the meeting and had I heard what had happened. It may surprise long term readers of the blog to know that I get on well with just about every Conservative councillor except Coleman, Thomas and Rams. I am not claiming we go for beers or dine together, but they all will have a chat and share a joke.  You may wonder why they tell me things off the record. The reason is quite simple, most recognise that this blog is well informed and it is useful for them if I get my facts right. If they present their side of the story, albiet off record, then a far fairer picture is painted. Most of them also know that the blog is well read, so are keen that damage limitation is done, especially in the face of possible bad press.

The issue with the meeting was the way the Conservative group seemed to the public gallery to be semi imploding, with Brian Coleman lighting the touchpaper. Dean Cohen adn Dan Thomas were treated in a rather humiliating fashion by Coleman, who clearly scares the living daylight out of the rest of them. I wrote a brief blog detailing Dan Thomas humiliation, then decided to wait for the Barnet Bugle to post his video footage, to see what really happened. The Barnet Bugle is run by Ex Tory Councillor Dan Hope. I get on very well with Dan, apart from on twitter, where I seem able to wind him up mercilessly without even trying. He has even blocked me from his twitter account because he can't stand the stress of my having a laugh at his expense. He is however a useful part of the Barnet blogosphere and his video footage is most useful. I have added him to my blogroll this week, even though he still blocks me (always good to play the adult!).

Thursday. After the excitement of Wednesday night, I anticipated a day of forensically poring over the Bugle footage and writing a detailed analysis. There were two problems. Firstly, there was a GLA expidition to North Finchley, starting at Cafe Buzz at 10am and also my work computer had died, so I couldn't even start till I got home. The GLA expidition was an interesting, if dull from a blogging perspective journey. I went with my small businessman hat on rather than my bloggers hat. I spent much of the morning chatting to Conservative Councillor David Longstaffe, who is a decent sort of chap. I suspect that in a non dysfunctional administration David would be an excellent councillor and an excellent cabinet member. Sadly he is a Barnet Councillor and seems paralysed by the knowledge that he is tarred with the same brush as the rest of them, by the actions of Brian Coleman. At the scrutiny committee the previous night, Hugh Rayner had joked about the Tories being pleased if Brian Coleman met an early demise. Whilst I'm sure none of them want him to physically come to any harm, I suspect that a few would be rather chuffed if he decided to start a new life in Australia. (David did not suggest this). We chatted mainly about the Arts Depot. It may surprise you to know I tend to agree with his views. Sadly David is one of the less gossipy Tories about his colleagues, so there were no amusing anecdotes (believe me I've heard a few that I couldn't possibly blog).

I then returned to the studios to attend to paperwork and was just about to go home, when Helen  Michael called. She had just been assaulted and was clearly in a state of shock. She said she'd called the police. I immediately made my way to Cafe Buzz and when I'd ascertained the seriousness of the situation, put out a tweet. Within 20 minutes, my phone was red hot. Helen called me at 16:36. I arrived ten minutes later. By the time I left at 8pm, there was a large crowd including councillors, journalists, friends and well wishers. Helen had got her head together. When I arrived, she was shaking and close to tears. In the time I've been writing a blog, I've never been more outraged by anything. The blogged analysis of the Barnet Bugle footage never happened. I suspect that the meeting may well be the sole appearance of Brian Coleman as chair.

Friday. I was extremely concerned at how Helen may have reacted to the incident. A tweet from Helen stated that she hadn't slept and was in pain. As I had to drop my son to school in Finchley, I joined her for Breakfast. She seemed ok, although in pain. I decided that I would return at 5pm to insist she went to the doctors. Later I bumped into another Barnet Tory Councillor, the esteemed Mill Hill Councillor John Hart. When I say bumped into, I don't litterally mean bumped into, I actually noticed him about two seconds before I reversed into him in my car. He was walking past my house as I was reversing. John was just about to give me a volley of abuse when he recognised me. We ended up having a good old chat. He was off out for the day. I always enjoy my chats with John. I could never publish any of it here, but he is certainly good value. John asked whether I was a member of the Labour Party. He was mildley surprised when I told him I was banned.from membership. He suggested I join the Tory party. I jokingly said "If they agree to sack Brian Coleman, drop One Barnet and reopen Friern Library, I'd consider it". John replied "Well get in touch with the leader, I'm sure he'd be only too keen to". I assume John was joking.

I arrived back at Buzz at 5pm, only to witness the bizarre incident of  Brian Colemans friend, Rev Adrian Benjamin rearranging Helens chairs and moving them to the dustbin. I still have not a clue what he was up to. Helen emailed me later to say she had a fractured wrist. Most upsetting

Saturday. A day of normal activity thus far. We had a lobby of the library at Mill Hill, where Tory councillors were meant to be holding a surgery for constituents. It appears that having heard about the BAPS lobby, they cancelled. I suspect that they don't really understand what BAPS are all about. A sad shame. Even sadder was the fact that the library refused to display BAPS leaflets. They claimed these contravened the rules. They clearly don't. I would have made a fuss, but it is not fair to argue with librarians who are clearly following orders. I will be taking this up with Robert Rams on Monday. We moved the Lobby to Mill Hill Broadway, where we had a greater footfall. Whilst lobbying, I met one of the Mill Hill Councillors, enjoying the sunshine. We had a pleasant chat. I then made my way to the Flower Lane Day Centre, where there was an open day taking place. This was a fantastic event. They had a fire engine, an ambulance and some delicious food cooked by volunteers. There was also entertainment.

In attendance was the Deputy Mayor of Barnet, Kate Salinger and her consort and husband Brian. The Salingers are nice people. Kate is universally respected and deserves recognition for her services to Barnet. We ended up having a good chat. I am pleased to be able to report that Councillor Salinger is thoroughly enjoying being deputy Mayor. In some ways she is lucky, because the Mayor is Brian Schama who observes the Jewish Sabbath. This means Kate gets to go to all the best parties in his place. I sincerely hope she get the Mayoralty next year. She deserves it.

So there you go. My predictions of a quiet week were way off the mark.

Helen Michael assault latest

Helen Michael with fractured wrist
As readers who have been following this blog will know, I've spent a fair bit of time recently at Cafe Buzz with Helen Michael, who was victim of an alleged assault on Thursday afternoon. Helen has been badly shaken up by the incident and is highly appreciative of all the support from the community, including the flowers and cards.

Yesterday evening as she was closing the cafe (after a truly bizarre incident with a rather confused vicar), she sat down and had a coffee with myself and Paul Shea, who owns another business in the locality. Both Paul and I were extremely concerned that Helen had not had a medical checkup since the incident. She claimed that she hadn't had the opportunity, because she had been too stressed on Thursday evening and then had to open the Cafe at 6.30 am. She had been working all day. She informed us she was in excruciating pain where her wrist had been grabbed.

We suggested that she attend A&E and get it checked out. To my horror, I was later contacted by Helen who informed me that she has a broken bone in her wrist. As she is a chef in her cafe, this is a massive problem for her (on top of the pain). Helen is a tiny woman of slight build. I cannot see any possible excuse for this injury being caused. I trust that the person responsible for this injury is reflecting on what happened and will in the course of time come to regret his behaviour.

We understand that Mr Coleman has been instructed to not contact Ms Michael in any way, either personally or via a third party.

Friday 21 September 2012

Fr Adrian Benjamin caught removing chairs from Cafe Buzz

Today I experienced the most surreal and bizarre sight in all of my years of blogging about The London Borough of Bonkers Barnet. The bloggers of Barnet have committed to support Helen Michael in every way we can. Given the horrible experience she experienced yesterday and Helens worries about what might transpire as a result, we have been keeping a close eye on Helen and her cafe today. Whilst none of us believe that this is because she faced a direct threat, we felt that the reassurance would be most welcome.

That was why I found myself at Cafe Buzz at 5pm having a cup of tea with Helen and local publisher Keith Martin (as well as a highly esteemed member of the legal profession who would rather remain nameless). We sat chatting and drinking teas, discussing what may transpire, when a truly bizarre incident happened. Fr Adrian Benjamin, a Church of England Vicar and long time friend of Brian Coleman turned up and started hanging around outside. He is known to all of us for various reasons. Helen Micaels children attended his establishment. Rather bizarrely he seemed to be hanging around rather furtively.

We then noticed that he was removing Helens out door chairs and placing them by some rubbish bins up the road. Immediately Helen and myself challenged him as to what he was doing. He replied "They look better over there". He refused to give any other answer and seemed rather confused. He then wondered in and started a conversation with Keith Martin, before shuffling off into the night.

Helen Michael was completely bemused by the incident, not least because she knows Rev Benjamin. We all speculated as to what he was doing. Helen said she cannot remember him visiting Cafe Buzz before, although she has always got on well with her. Given his appalling lack of respect for other peoples property displayed when disposing of the BAPS banner at a festival last year, I was perhaps less surprised.

I guess that unless Rev Benjamin explains his actions, it will remain a mystery. I subscribe to the view that maybe he is losing his marbles.

Brian Coleman arrest - Update

It appears that Councillor Brian Coleman has been granted bail by the police until next month.

The Evening Standard is reporting that "Friends of Brian Coleman" are saying that Mr Coleman suffered scratches and bleeding following the incident. The Barnet Eye understands that the Police have reviewed the CCTV footage and are sure this will cast light on who's version of events is most likely to be correct.

It appears that their may also be issues with an alleged traffic offence at the time of the incident, although the specifics of this are unclear. Again the CCTV footage will cast more light on this.

The Barnet Eye also understands that there were several extremely reliable witnesses in the vicinity who have given full accounts of what happened.

The Barnet Eye understands that Brian Coleman spent a considerable amount of time with the police discussing his account.  Whether the contents of the CCTV footage have been discussed with Mr Coleman is unclear. We trust Mr Coleman, as a long standing public servant, gave a completely accurate and honest account of what happened.

We have been informed that he presented himself to Barnet Police shortly after the incident and appeared keen to assist their enquiries, which must be commended.

The Barnet Alliance for Public Services have arranged a lobby of Conservative Councillors at Mill Hill Library tomorrow (Saturday 22nd September) between 10am and noon. The Barnet Eye will be presenting a letter calling on the Conservative Group at Barnet Council to adopt measures to improve the standards of councillor beahviour, in light of recent scandals. It is clear that there is an issue and we expect our representetives to behave impeccably. Please join us at Mill Hill Library, Hartley Avenue for the lobby tomorrow. BAPS will also be raising the issue of the lack of transparancy surrounding the One Barnet Program.

One final bit of news relating to Mr Coleman. The Barnet Eye saw one of our local Mill Hill Councillors this morning and briefly discussed Mr Colemans plight. It appears that our venerable councillor was lead to believe that Mr Coleman was set up and that lots of bloggers filmed the incident. The Barnet Eye pointed out that no one apart from Mr Coleman knew his plans for Thursday, so the chance of this happening is nigh on impossible. As far as the Barnet Eye is aware, the only footage of the events is from Barnet Council owned CCTV cameras and possibly local businesses. The Barnet Eye suggested that the "friends" who are putting these rumours around run the risk of making people repeating them look rather silly.

The Friday Joke - 20/9/2012

Q: What do you give a man who assaults a woman for breakfast?

A: Nothing, unless you are the custody seargeant


Brian Coleman arrest latest

09:35 - I have just returned from breakfast with Helen Michael at Cafe Buzz in Finchley. Helen is putting a brave face on things. She had difficulty sleeping and is still rather shaken. As a business owner, she commented that she had to open for business but has a headache and is feeling very stressed.

She reported that Police had interviewed her again at 11pm last night. They also took the video image of a car in a loading bay which was on Helens phone. Also joining us was a local Conservative Councillor, who came to offer Helen his support. He asked me not to report his comments, which of course I shall respect.

The Hendon Times is reporting that Mr Coleman has been released on bail.

The Evening Standard has also reported on the case

I actually visited Helen Michael at Cafe Buzz twice yesterday. The first time was to attend a visit by the GLA to Finchley High Road. The delegation was lead by Barnet GLA rep Andrew Dismore and Enfield rep Joanne McCartney. Labour councillors Arjun Mittra, Pauline Coakley-Webb and Tory David Lonstaffe also attended. The group had a short meeting in Cafe Buzz with Helen Michael, then went for a walkaround North Finchley. The purpose is to feed into a report on High Street regeneration.

Rather ironically I was just about to write up a blog of this meeting, when Helen Michael called me at 16:36 to tell me she'd been assaulted. I of course immediately drove to Cafe Buzz, to find Helen being interviewed by Police. Other witnesses were also being interviewed. Helen showed me several bruises.

She was visibly shaking at the time and looked close to tears. I consider Helen to be a good friend and I felt quite upset and enraged by what had happened. I will not report the specifics of the incident (on legal advice). I tweeted the incident and shortly after the phone started ringing. By 6pm, a small gathering of friends and local labour councillors had arrived to offer support.

The police then called to inform Helen that the suspect had been arrested.

Helen is a strong character and has tried very hard to put on a brave face. I am worried about the effect this may have on her. I have advised her to see the doctor ASAP. As she has new staff in the cafe, she is rather stressed about leaving them to run the show.

It is clear to me that this is not an issue about politics. Whatever our perspective, there are things we shouldn't do. Last night, I saw Helen, who is maybe 5'4" and of slight build, shaking and near to tears, trying to hold it together. I cannot possibly describe how disturbing I found this sight. There are days when I feel physically sickened by the behaviour of my fellow men. This is one of those days.

If you care about common decency, please do whatever you can to let your local councillors know that assaulting women (or men for that manner) is never acceptable.

Thursday 20 September 2012

Man arrested after alleged assault in North Finchley High Road

A man has been arrested by Barnet Police after an alleged assault on the owner of Cafe Buzz, Helen Michael, in North Finchley this afternoon. There were several witnesses being interviewed at Cafe Buzz this evening. Helen Michael showed the Barnet Eye bruising to her arm following the incident.

It appears that the incident occurred after Helen Michael, owner of Cafe Buzz attempted to photograph a car which may have been parked illegally. The picture below was taken as the police were interviewing witnesses.

One Barnet latest - Brian Coleman destroys Dan Thomas credibility

Last night at the Barnet Council budget committee, a truly amazing thing happened. The chair of the committee, Brian Coleman oversaw the complete humiliation of the Deputy leader of his Tory group Dan Thomas. Thomas has previously defended Pam Wharfe's decision to email all staff stating that a joint venture was the way forward for One Barnet. She sent two emails to staff explaining the decision. Coleman claimed that he'd not seen the emails (despite the Barnet bloggers emailing him and all the other councillors with the details). He then proceeded to treat Thomas like a very naughty boy.

The Barnet Eye was not at the meeting, but received a rather breathless phone call from one of our Tory friends saying "You won't believe this". Keep tuned to the Barnet Eye for a video link and full commentary later.

Wednesday 19 September 2012

A motivational message for every Barnet Campaigner !

Believe. Believe in what we can achieve working together. Barnet, for all it's faults, has turned into an absolute model of community cohesion. What other Borough would you see squatters, library campaigners, members of occupy and local business people standing shoulder to shoulder to improve the community?

Some of us are from faith communities, some of us are not. Some of us were born in Barnet, some of us were not. Some of us have jobs, some of us don't. Some of us are able bodied, some of us aren't.

We all treat each other with respect and we all want to see Barnet be a great place to live, a great place to bring up children and a great place to grow old. Some of us may have slightly different visions of what this will be, but I hope we all agree that libraries, good public services, fair treatment of business owners by the local council and openness and transparancy in government are the way forward.

For me personally, there are certain fundamental rights I think every citizen should expect

* Enough food and drink to thrive
* A roof over our head and warmth
* An education, where we learn to read, write and appreciate our beautiful planet
* The opportunity to believe in what faith what we like (or not) and practice that faith, unless the practicing of that faith in some way harms another human being or interferes with their personal freedom
* The right to be able to go where we want to go , unless the exercising of that right in some way harms another human being or interferes with their personal freedom, employment or fundamental happiness
* The right to democratically decide how we are governed

I hope you agree. If you don't, please leave a comment and tell me why?

Brian Coleman, Anti Semitism, hypocrisy and lies

A Jewish friend of mine said to me only the other week that if you scratch the surface of some of the polite middle classes living in Barnet you find the anti-semitism just below the surface, sometime they try and dress it up as anti-Zionism which they do not consider the same as anti-semitism but you cannot dispute the fact that those who want the State of Israel to disappear inevitable want the Jewish people to disappear as well.
 This is a quote from a blog by Brian Coleman on Monday. Many people withing the Jewish community in Barnet believe that Mr Coleman is an unwavering supporter of their interests and an unflagging and determined enemy of anti semitism. Mr Jonathan Hoffman of the Zionist league was a stalwart supporter of Mr Coleman throughout his battle with the Barnet Standards committee. Mr Coleman also mentioned this in his blog. He said
Veolia which is involved with excellent new light transit system in Jerusalem which is transforming public transport in that city whilst preserving the historic environment has been a particular target for attack but it is not the only business doing legitimate trade with Israel that has been targeted.The attempts to intimidate me over the North London Waste Authority procurement contract, which have included a series of politically motivated complaints to the Standards Board and an attempt to have me arrested at Camden town hall have just made me more determined to resist this new form of anti-semitism.
Mr Coleman failed to mention that the standards complaint was raised by Mr Rony Cohen, who is both Jewish and Israeli and who's wife had both holocaust survivors and victims in her family. Brian Coleman knows this only too well, as does anyone who has read the details of the standards complaint. In short Mr Coleman is alleging that Israeli Jews are not entitled to an opinion over the way their own country conducts his business, whilst he, who is neither Israeli or Jewish can say what he likes. In my book, by declaring that Mr Cohen is not allowed to have an opinion on the matter, Mr Coleman is clearly behaving in a most anti democratic and anti semitic way. If I were to say a black person is not allowed to hold a view, due to the colour of their skin, no one would deny this is racist, so why has no one challenged Coleman for his revolting and totalitarian view.

For the record, I personally do not support the issue of a boycott of Veolia. I actually agree with Mr Coleman on this issue, but I fully respect Mr Cohen and his genuinely held views. Whilst the issue is complex, on balance I do not think a boycott of Veolia is justified. There are many companies that deal with all manner of regimes, which are not subject to boycotts, especially the banks and oil companies. I think that building a transport system is not, by any stretch of the imagination on a par with some of the activities of other companies.

Mr Coleman is the worst type of politician. He is a hypocrite who gives large on certain issues when it suits him, but turns a blind eye or even worse, colludes when the mood suits him. I know this because that is how this blog came into existence. For those of you who are unfamiliar, I used to write a blog for the Hendon Times, but I got sacked from that. What for? I wrote a blog criticising Barnet Council for posting a video on You Tube which featured a Nazi sympathiser promoting, in crude terms, anti semitism in Barnet.

You may think that a so called champion of the Jewish Community such as Brian Coleman would have been the first person to back my campaign to have the video removed? Sadly, not only did Coleman say nothing at all about the video and take no action at all, he even put pressure on the Hendon Times to silence me. The then editor of the Hendon Times, Phil Crowther confirmed to me that this was the reason for closing down my blog. In his words "I can't afford for the paper to have a PCC complaint, because you've upset Brian Coleman". He explained that this would take two weeks of his time and he considered my blog to not be worth the hassle.

At the time, Brian Coleman was the cabinet member for community safety and community engagement. As such the presence of the video on the Barnet Council website was directly under his jurisdiction.  The video was only removed, when his boss, Mike Freer intervened.

I asked Jonathan Hoffman of his views on Coleman not supporting my campaign. His sole comment was "I was not aware of this issue". It seems that the whole of the Coleman clique develops miopia on the issue of the video. Brian Coleman tried to allege that his criticism of me in the standards case in 2009 was based on the fact I was an anti semite. He made this allegation on the Vanessa Feltz Show on BBC London 94.9. I immediately phoned Vanessa and drew her attention to the relevant blogs. The BBC then went to great lengths to distance themselves from Colemans libellous comments.

To this day, I cannot understand how Brian Coleman allowed himself to put his personal dislike for me above his professed dislike of anti semitism, especially if it is as genuine as he claims. I would never consider compromising my personal principles in such a manner. Until the day that Brian Coleman issues a personal apology to the Jewish community of Barnet for not addressing the issue at the time, I will be deeply skeptical of whether his anti semitism is anything more than the skin deep polite middle class disdain that he describes in his blog.

The offending  blog which caused my demise at the Hendon Times is the second blog I wrote on this website. You can read it by clicking here - Barnet Council's incompetance puts Nazi propoganda...

If you don't believe me, have a look at David Miller's blog. David is Jewish and the son of Baroness Miller of Hendon. He is a one time chair of Chipping Barnet Conservative association.  Here is his blog - Offensive Video

He also posted this blog to welcome the start of this blog - Rog T Is Back!.

It is a free country, Brian Coleman is free to write whatever he likes. It is the duty of the rest of us to point out when his blog is, shall we say, not quite as accurate as it could be.