Saturday, 22 September 2012

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.

No comments: