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.


Mrs Angry said...

My point was about the council, not the MPs: and I really do think it is the case that the position of women in the Tory group in Barnet is secondary to the men. There are no hard hitting women in the group: Lisa Rutter may not be dull, exactly, and I am sure she is a perfectly nice woman, but political activist she is not. The other women are tolerated, not leading the course of direction of policy. And there are, unfortunately, too many younger, ideologically blinkered male councillors, some of whom still live at home with mum and dad, & are still wet behind the ears. Perhaps some younger ideoligically blinkered female councillors would be a start.

Kate Salinger is lovely, and was abused most dreadfully by her colleagues, male and female, but the appointment as deputy Mayor is nominal, and has no power or influence.

What is needed in the Tory group, and indeed in Labour, who are at least not misogynistic, are women who live in the real world and have families to support. Some real life experience would do wonders in giving party policy a more useful perspective.

Rog may not agree with my analysis, but then he is a bloke. Let's hear what other women think?

Mrs Angry said...

PS The point about misogyny is proven by the absolute failure of the leader, the deputy leader, the Mayor and actually every Tory councillor to speak out against the language Coleman used, but it a deeply ingrained attitude amongst the Barnet Tory men, as seen in almost every full council meeting where they snigger like schoolboys almost every time a woman opens her mouth: they simply have no real respect for the views of even their own female councillors.

Rog T said...

Surely whether I'm a bloke is irrelevant, it's whether I'm right or wrong. I would never say "Mrs Angry may not agree with my analysis, but then she is a woman".

I spoke to Kate Salinger last week and she does not see the Deputy Mayor as a "nominal" role and she takes it very seriously.

The Tories appointed a young muslim as their candidate in Brunswick Park, so you can't say they are not trying. The only scope for new councillors is at the next election.

It must be also noted that Richard Cornelius offered Helen Michael the chance to become a councillor. He told her that she was the type of person they needed.

I think to claim Cornelius doesn't care isn't fair and isn't based on evidence. I don't dispute that some Tories behave badly especially Coleman but I think in his case it is far more comoplicated than simple misogynism.

I'm all for pulling the Conservatives up for bad behaviour, but I think such charges have to be sustainable.

Citizen Barnet said...

I think Barnet Tories are institutionally misogynist. You know, in the way the Met confessed a few years ago to being institutionally racist.

Then it meant, whether they meant to be as individuals or not, that the Met collectively in its culture, practices, style, and so on, was, well, racist.

And so it is with the Barnet Tories, I believe, in relation to misogyny.

It isn't any surprise; we live in a culture steeped in prejudice about women - and men - as about every group of people. But the Tories, by failing to reflect on this fact, are doomed to carry on despising women and putting them down.

The councillors snicker and gossip during speeches by Labour councillors, but especially by women councillors. Coleman did call women members of the public "hags", and the rest of the Tories only chortled along.

(You have to wonder what Coleman would have to say to offend any of them on a personal level.)

Don't Call Me Dave said...

At the risk of being pedantic, there are 8 MEPs for the London region, 3 of whom are Conservative. Of these, Marina Yannakoudakis is the only female (33.33% of the Conservative total). She owes her position to a manipulation of the selection rules by David Cameron. In the selection contest, party members were invited to rank the candidates. Marina was voted 5th out of 6 candidates, but was placed at the top of the list because the 4 people above her were male.

When Vince Cable recently suggested that corporations should be compelled by law to have a percentage of women in the boardroom, Marina wrote a letter to the Daily Telegraph pointing out (correctly) that this was patronising and demeaning to women. Strangely, she doesn’t think the same of the party selection rules that now give her bucket loads of taxpayer cash every year.

Forget arguments about misogyny. It’s the rank hypocrisy of the political classes which is the bigger problem.

Morris Hickey said...

Well done DCMD for your accurate description of the situation with MEPs. The sole female is there not so much because she is female, but more because she benefits from Clamourclown's AQ-list type policies - a gross travesty if ever there were one.