Saturday 31 October 2015

Opinion Polls, Jeremy Corbyn, Porn for Girlies and the lies of the Press

This morning I awoke to yet another article, this time by Matthew Parris in The Times, describing how Labour are in termoil, how they are unelectable, how the "moderates" need to mount a coup. As I read it, I got to thinking "hang on a minute, how come if Labour are doing so badly, I've not seen opinion polls on the front page saying this"? I've actually not seen a single poll in any of the papers I read since Corbyn was elected. How odd is this? As I lay in bed drinking my tea, I was wondering if the polling organisations have given up, since the May election debacle?

Courtesy UK Polling Report
I was planning to write a blog about music today, but this nagging feeling that we are all being seriously mislead by the press was tugging at me. In this day and age, it is simple enough to find information. I simply typed "latest opinion polls" into Google. What came back shocked me to the core. The first item was the UK POLLING REPORT website. Far from there being no polls, there have been dozens since the last election. If you had read the Times article, you'd expect the Corbyn effect to see Labour in single digits or even less. The general consensus of these polls is a srong trend towards Labour narrowing the gap on the Tories. In the aftermath of the election, the Tories were polling at 40%, with a double digit lead. This has dropped to the mid 30's and a 5% lead on average.

The UKPOLLING website also details that the Daily Mail commissioned a poll from Comres, which was released yesterday and showing Labour up 3%. So I went to the Daily Mail website to see what they had to say about it. Not a sausage on their front page. So I did a site search. Not a mention anywhere. There are plenty of stories of Labour in disarray and a meltdown, but not a sausage about the fact that the numbers don't support this. Interestingly, the same site has a little dig at the Mail for its use of voodoo polls. What do we make of this comment?

UPDATE: While I’m here in voodoo polling corner, I should also highlight this cracking example of a voodoo poll in the Daily Mail. It claims “One in three women admit they watch porn at least once a week”… but it seems to be an open access poll of Marie Claire readers, certainly it is in no way representative of all women in terms of things like age. It contains the delightful line that “Out of the more than 3,000 women surveyed, 91 per cent of the survey’s respondents identify as female, eight per cent identify as men and one per cent is transgender.” I don’t know how to break it to them, but you probably can’t include the 8% who are men in a survey of 3000 women.

 Another Poll which you won't see in any of the anti EU press is reported on the site. If you believe the Daily Express, there is a huge consensus for leaving the EU. Again the figures show this is a myth

ICM’s latest weekly tracker on the EU referendum has voting intentions of REMAIN 44%(-1), LEAVE 38%(+2). The gap has narrowed since last week, but doesn’t reflect any real trend: looking at ICM’s EU polls since the referendum wording was changed they’ve been very steady, REMAIN at 42%-45%, LEAVE at 36%-40%. These week’s figures are pretty much in the middle of that range. Tabs are here.
I’ve collected up the polling on the referendum so far here.

I was under the impression that the purpose of a free press in a democracy was to inform us and to tell us the truth. Can anyone possibly think that we are siing honest reporting of the facts. This week at Prime Ministers Question Time, Jeremy Corbyn probably had his best yet performance. The consensus was that he nailed Cameron. I have no doubt that the majority of the Parliamentary Labour Party hate Corbyns guts and are secretly praying he falls under a bus. They are however waking up to the fact that he has the measure of Cameron at PMQ's. John Crace, sketchwriter for the Guardian summed it up pretty well.

For the first time, Corbyn stuck to the same topic for all six of his questions and Dave was left opening and closing his mouth like a demented goldfish that had only just realised it had no choice but to swim round and round in circles. The question was simple: could the prime minister please give a guarantee that no one on tax credits would be worse off next April? There’s only a certain numbers of ways a politician can say: “No, of course I can’t, because I had always assumed the legislation would go through on the nod and George and I haven’t begun to work out a back-of-an-envelope compromise,” and Dave had run out long before he got to six. Telling Corbyn that Karen would be better off because other people living near her would be better off was particularly unconvincing.
The "received wisdom" was that Corbyn would be marmalised by Cameron every week, Labour polling figures would go into meltdown and within a few months the logic for a Blairite coup would be irrefutable. The right wing press are still sticking to that mantra. The truth is that nothing of the sort is happening. The polls clearly indicate that Labour voters are in no way spooked by Corbyn. This is a rather inconvenient truth for many people. I suspect that rather like Thatcher, the public see Corbyn as someone who is an outsider who stands up for what he believes in. The idea that this would spook the British public is nonsense. Clearly there are sectors of the population who loathe and despise him. I would guess that apart from the Parliamentary Labour party, nearly all of these would never vote Labour anyway. To win an election, Corbyn needs to persuade swing voters that he's not a dangerous nutcase. Considering that he's had nearly six months of having the kitchen sink thrown at him by the right wing press and Labour is more popular than it was in May, it is clear that he is winning that battle.

For many people in the UK, the real threat to their households are the hard right ideology of David Cameron and George Osborne. There are many sensible voices in the Conservative Party who recognise the fact that if you attack hard working people on low wages, you will see your support base fall away. Many Tory MP's were delighted that the Lords pulled the rug from George Osbornes proposal to cut the incomes of millions through working tax credits. You never see these stories in the Mail, but the truth is that they are not stupid and they have realised that George Osborne may be skewering their chances of winning the next election. Whilst the Tories clearly have a working majority, they know that tehy were gifted the election by a completely inept campaign from Labour. The Tories scared the living daylights out of the electorate with stories of the SNP running the country. Labour never had an answer to these stories and buried their heads in the sand. Will they learn? This is the biggest challenge for Corbyn. I could probably write the Tories strategy plan for the 2020 election today, if Corbyn remains in power. As an engineer by trade, when I design a solution, the first thing I do is try and anticipate all of the scenarios that will break my design. I then design my solution to mitigate them. The one thing which I have a massive admiration for Tony Blair and his new Labour machine was that they understood this. They had a "rapid rebuttal unit". This team was on 24 hour standby to get a response out to any Tory scare story and turn it on its head. Ed Miliband replace it with "head in the sand" unit. Every scare the Tories put out was met with a vacant scare and a few mumbled words over a bacon sarnie.

Whatever Jeremy Corbyn does or doesn't do, if he is serious about winning the election, he will have to design a strategy to counter the lies and distortions of a press owned by billionaires with a huge financial interest in maintaining a tax cutting Tory government. To me the answer is simple, it is right here before your eyes. The likes of the Mail and Express cannot be taken on at their own game or oin their own terms. Social media is the way forward. Blogs such as this give people the chance to see the facts that the Press Barons don't want us to see. We can highlight the fact that The Daily Mail commissions polls and then suppresses the results when they don't suit the agenda.

There are many reasons I write blogs. Today the reason is sheer anger at the fact that organisations we are supposed to be able to trust are packed with lies. It makes me sick. But it also inspires me to get out of bed on a Saturday morning and try my damnedest to rectify the wrong that is beng perpetrated on us all.

Friday 30 October 2015

The Friday Joke - The keys to the Old Trafford Trophy Room

I have been assurred by an extremely trustworthy source that the below email is 100% genuine

Have a great weekend. I am sure Sir Alex will!!!!
"ye thinks its funny do ye"

Thursday 29 October 2015

Save London Music Campaign - Why it matters

The UK economic miracle appears to be grinding to a halt. Recent figures show that previous forecasts for growth were far too optimistic. However there is one area which is surging ahead. This is the Creative sector. The Guardian reports that this sector was up 5.9% on the previous three months. My own studio business has seen growth of over 100% since 2012, so you may say "why do we need a campaign to Save London Music if it's doing so well?".

There are several reasons. The figures include areas such as filmmaking, which are booming. Producers come to the UK because it is a great place to make movies.  The technical facilities and expertise are unmatched and wheras in the USA different regional centres have different strengths, there is virtually nothing you can't find in the UK and especially in London. However tokeep ahead of the game, you need a constant influx of new talent. The government has decided in its wisdom that going to University will become hellishly expensive and will saddle students with massive debts in the form of loans. If you are a student and you are faced with a life of debt, would you take a chance on a degree in a creative field, or would you hedge your bets and go for a field that seemingly guarantees an income, such as law, economics or accountancy? Twenty years ago, my nephew was about to finish his A levels. I took him for a beer and we discussed what he wanted to do. He was thinking of doing an art foundation course and was worried that this may not lead anywhere. It was a one year course and I thought it was a brilliant idea. I advised him to ignore anyone who said "What sort of a job will that ever get you (and there were a fair few)". He went on to become an animator and his latest work, The Clangers, has been nominated for a BAFTA. That is why I was delighted last year when my Daughter started a foundation course and that she's doing a fine art degree this year. I believe we need creative people. I just find it sad that so many people are so blinkered. Without these people, there would be no booming film and music sector. It is vital that we campaign to get rid of student fees ASAP, but that really is another campaign! What is clear though is that if we strangle creativity and artistic courses, the sector will die. It seems perverse that George Osborne is prepared to give tax breaks to the rich producers of films, whilst imposing a huge tax burden on the people who do the work in the sector (I believe that is what a student loan is). If in ten years time there are no talented young artistically minded people coming through, all the tax breaks in the world won't save the UK film industry.

Sadly the Guardian talks a lot about the film industry and fails to mention music. Here are few keyfacts from the BPI

  • UK acts account for over 1 in 7 of albums sold world-wide in 2014
  • 5 of top 10 best-selling artist albums globally are by home-grown talent
  • UK albums and singles generate approx. $2.75 billion in world sales in 2014
  • UK artists accounted for 13.7 per cent of artist albums sold around the world.The global retail value of British recorded music is estimated at around $2.75 billion in 2014
  • British artists dominated at home with over half of all UK Official Chart album sales (53.5 per cent) and enjoyed major share gains in key global markets, including the US, Canada, Australia, Italy and Sweden
UK Artists Share of Global Music Sales: 2010 – 2014
2010       2011       2012       2013     2014
11.8%    12.6%    13.3%    13.0%    13.7%    source: BPI

Again these figures look robust. However, it usually takes years for artists to reach the stage in their career where they can meaningfully contribute to such figures. The megastars who make global hits are long past the stage where they need to play at the Dog and Duck in Egham. What the #SaveLondonMusic campaign is trying to do is to safeguard our future. It is the small and medium sized venues that are getting hit hard. No artist can start by selling out Wembley stadium. They have to start in a local pub or club, develop their craft, move to medium sied venues, do support tours, build a profile. They need to rehearse in small, local studios. Only when they have built up a suitable reportoire of songs can they even start to think about gigging and developing a career. Without local studios, this simply won't happen. This is why the destruction of venues is  a huge issue. We won't see the effect for several years, but if new artsist can't develop live performing skills, we will see an ageing artist base and declining interest from young people.

As I mentioned above, I run a studio and our turnover has doubled since 2012. Why? There are two reasons. The first is that we invested heavily in building a new studio complex, purpose built for the modern musicians needs. The second is that greedy Landlords have decimated the opposition. To build a studio is an extremely expensive and complex business. we spent over a million pounds on our new complex. We did this because we realised that the number of studios was shrinking and we were in a unique position. We are just about reaching the time when we are starting to see a payback.

Another huge problem we had was that no bank is interested in lending a business like us money. They don't understand what we do, they don't want to understand either. When we tried to borrow the money, we were told that our business case didn't stack up. When we said "how can that be, because it shows a profit" the banks replied "Your current trading levels do not support that". Do you think that if you double your capicity (which was fully utilised then), improve the facilities beyond recognition and give a far better,safer and more user friendly environment you will get the same level of custom? Well the banks did. As a result, I had to cash in personal investments and self fund. In the long run, that has worked very well for me. The studio is only in debt to me! No one else to explain anything to. However most studio owners are not in such a position. They are begotten to Landlords, who are cashing in all over London, to sell to developers. So although our business is doing well as a result, the bigger picture is alarming. The bottom line is that it is virtually impossible to start a new studio up and the existing ones are under pressure. If there are no local studios for up and coming artists to get their set together, then it will be the death of the UK music scene.

As I mentioned above, young people are urged to study subjects like Law, Accountancy and Economics, so they will get a good job. There is one piece of the picture missing. This is that none of these subjects generate wealth. Creative industries generate huge income for the UK. Economists, Lawyers and Accountants simply piggyback on wealth creating creative and manufacturing businesses. The UK used to be the workshop of the world, now we make nothing. If we throw away our music industry so casually, then where will the UK generate its prosperity?

We are launching our #SaveLondonMusic campaign on Friday 6th November at the Fiddlers Elbow in Camden Town. Please come down and support us. CLICK HERE for the campaign website and CLICK HERE for details of the event.

Wednesday 28 October 2015

Save London Music Campaign - Official Campaign Launch

On the 6th November, the #SaveLondonMusic campaign will have its official London wide launch.  We originally started the  campaign in February in response to the closure of six local music venues in Mill Hill and the closure of two well respected local recording/rehearsal studios in Southgate.  We wanted to highlight the fact that music venues are under threat and this will have profound consequences for the health of the London music scene and the UK economy. Creative industries generate £8 million and hour for the UK economy.  It is not only the economic impact of music that matters. Music is a huge part of our culture and heritage.

Since the campaign started, over 20 London studios and venues have signed up as supporters of the growing campaign. The campaign has also received endorsements from many well known musicians based in London including Lee Thompson of Madness, Dell Richardson of Osibisa and Boz Boorer who is musical director for Morrissey.

The Camden Falcon - once a key venue
The campaign has started to make a difference. Our lobbying has persuaded the Mayor to set up a Music Venues taskforce with the aim of protecting our cultural heritage. Of course this is just the start. We need to keep the campaign going. One of the key factors in the success of any campaign is information. We have spent a significant amount of time, money and effort building a website to ensure that anyone who is interested in the campaign has all the facts to hand. The  website as a resource for all musicians, campaigners and music lovers, so that they have easy access to as much information as possible .

The  page contains details of many articles, websites and other information about venue closures, the campaign and other useful facts if you want to know what is going on in the London Music Scene.

The  page contains the latest tweets containing the #Tags #SaveLondonMusic and #KeepMusicLive. This means that you can have instant access to what is happening on the ground in social media.

And if you want to get in touch, the details are here,
To mark the start of the campaign, we are staging a very special gig on Friday 6th November at the iconic Fiddlers Elbow in the heart of Londons Camden Town. To emphasise the fact that London is a global music city, we've selected a fantastic line up featuring musicians from all around the world.

Headlining is world music Legend Dell Richardson and friends. Dell is the frontman of Osibisa, who's hit "Sunshine day" was a global smash hit. Next on the bill are The False Dots, featuring well known Singer, Author and Poet Allen Ashley on vocals and amazing Portuguese bass player Fil Ross They will be featuring songs from their new album "Songs of Love and War" . Next on the bill are the up and coming band Hamptons, featuring US born singer Charlie Honderick and the amzing guitar talents of Alex Sarychkin, who is of Russian ancestry. Finally on the bill, we have the amazing London Power duo (after all it is London Music we are campaigning for!) The Black Doldrums. The event starts at 8pm and entrance is free.

If you want more information or want to attend the event, the details are on Facebook here -

Please support the campaign and the event.

Here is Dell doing the business!

Tuesday 27 October 2015

We've spent our kids inheritance

Here's a question for you. How much money did George Osborne and David Cameron have to pay back to clear their student loans? Sweet Feck all mate. How much will my daughters have to pay when they finish their recently started Uni courses? £27,000.

There is a saying that if you want to be rich you need to ensure everyone else is poor. Who would get up every day to sweep floors, wipe bums, clean floors or dig holes in the road in the pouring rain if they stinking rich? I've had many a discussion with friends as to what I'd do if I won the Lottery or the Euromillions. Strangely no one has ever said "I'd really like to get up every day and wipe old mens bums, change their nappies and wash their floors". I admire people who work in the cring professions, but I do wonder how many would go to work the day after they won the lottery?

If we had an equal society, who would be a butler or a housemaid to an obnoxious pig? As it is my daughters and the children of most of my friends will leave Univrsity with a mountain of debt. When I was 25 I didn't have a penny of debt. In fact I had enough money to put down a deposit and buy a semi detached house in Mill Hill. This wasn't money I'd been lent by bank of Mum and Dad. I wasn't unique. I had just got a job and saved up. I knew the rules. Save up a deposit and the bank will lend you an amount which was three times your salary. My salery then was £18,000 per year. over four years I'd managed to save up £4,500. I lived life to the full, never had a night in.

If my kids wanted to buy my house today, if the same rules applied, they'd have to save up £70,000 and have a salary £220,000 per year. Can you imagine any 25year old managing that without severe Mummy and Daddy assistance?

Basically we are the most disgusting, selfish generation in history. We stick our elderly parents in homes so we can forget about them. We snigger about them because they smell of wee wee and we laugh at their disabilities. We've robbed and spent our kids inheritance and we've created a world where they will always be in debt (at least till they die). Well a word of warning. Just one word Euthenasia. Because sooner or later, our generation will be in the minority. Our kids generation will be the majority. We will be at the whim of a democratic society. What goes around, comes around. When they twig that we shafted their grandparents and spent their inheritence, it will be simple enough. Change the law, allow them to bump us off and get the cash back.

Does that prospect disturb you? Well if it does, maybe you shouldn't be voting for the current thieving shower who have created this nightmare. You may think that the bank of mum and dad will make your kids love you. Think again. Who loves the bloke they owe an arm and leg to.

Your kids will always be beholden to you. Until the day that.......

Monday 26 October 2015

Beware of the Bogeyman

Beware there is Bogeyman on the loose. The Daily Express warns us that there is a predatory rapist on the loose who has escaped deportation by claiming he's a Syrian refugee

Some stories in the press beggar belief. The clear subtext is that we should be fearful of Syrian refugees because if we let them in, bad things will happen. But hang on a second. THINK. This bloke isn't a Syrian refugee. He's a lying toe rag. People tell porkies to the courts and the Police all the time. If our criminal justice system is so poor that lying isn't an aggravating factor in sentencing people, we can't try and blame asylum seeker for it all going wrong.

If it was down to me, I'd automatically impose harsher sentences on people who try and pervert the course of justice by lying. A few years ago, I had to witness the sickening sight of brutal thug of a man lie to the police, his friends, the press and even himself after he assaulted a female friend of mine in Finchley High Road. The man used his status as a councillor to get a light punishment. The cctv footage blew away his tissue of lies. To this day, he taunts his victim, posts Twitter messages claiming he was set up and tells his friends it was a terrible miscarriage of justice. 

I saw my friend five minutes after his attack. She was tearful and shaking like a leaf. She had bruising and was in a state of shock. The lies were simply ignored during sentencing. The last minute change of plea was seen as something positive by the Judge. The six months of lies was conveniently forgotten. But the Daily Express doesn't demonise Barnets Tory Councillors because there was a bad apple in the basket. We would think it unfair if they did. So why do we think it's ok to besmirch the poor victims of circumstance who flee war zones? Especially when the case in point was lying?

Sunday 25 October 2015

The meaning of life?

It is fair to say this has been one of the more difficult weekends. On Friday, I attended the funeral of a fine young man. His name was James Murphy, he was 20 years old and he passed away in a tragic accident whilst Kayaking in New Zealand, on a trip with his University friends. His Mum and Dad are friends of ours. The funeral service was at St Pauls Church on the Ridgway. It is fair to say his friends and family did him proud. There must have been 500 people at the service, friends and family come to pay tribute to an exceptional young man. The circumstances of James passing were a testament to just what an exceptional young man he was. Although the deatils are not clear at this stage, James went into very cold water to save a girl who was in trouble in her Kayak. Although he managed to save her, it appears he got too cold and suffered from hypothermia.

Whilst the grief must be beyond comprehension for James parents, they paid enormous tribute to the way James friends have rallied around. They have made their home an open house for James friends, who came to share stories and pay tribute to James. Video clips from phones, photographs and anecdotes have brought a light to the family in the darkest hours. At the start of the service tribute was paid by James father John to James friends and how they have brought such positivity to such a tragic event.

As a parent with a daughter the same age as James, the mere thought of such a tragedy simply fills me with dread. The sad news broke the day before I took my daughter to Leeds Uni. The thought of my baby being away from my love and care was hard enough without the risks of life being thrown into such hard focus. I have no idea how I could possibly cope in such circumstances.

At the service, many of James friends made incredibly moving and heartfelt tributes. His two younger brothers spoke of what a great brother he was. But even more all emphasised that James was no saint. He was incredibly strong, kind and caring, but he had a wicked sense of fun. In his 20 years he lived life and loved life. The hundreds who turned up to pay tribute, some travelling across the world, show just how many lives he touched. The service and the stories at the wake showed the depth of the love he generated.

As I do every Sunday, today I went to mass at The Sacred Heart. I use this time as quiet time to reflect on the things which matter. Whilst I am not someone who believes that "going to church makes you a better person" I find that setting the time aside for quiet meditive reflect is of enormous help to me personally. Many of us pray for many things. I only ever pray for two things, the strnegth to overcome the challenges I face and the wisdom to deal with them. I believe this is all we can reasonably expect from any God we may choose to believe in.

Sometimes it is harder to have the strength and wisdom to pull through. These are the times we need our friends and family. But even with them, we sometimes still struggle to make sense of the terrible things that happen. As I contemplated the terrible events of James passing, my mind turned to my own father. During the war, he flew Wellington bombers for 40 Squadron. His rear gunner, F/O Andrew "Spud" Murphy was not much older than James. When my father was shot down over Ploesti in Romania on a bombing mission, F/O Murphy was the only one of my fathers crew not to bale out and survive. My father once confided to me how deeply this affected him. F/O Murphy was the youngest of his crew and the most full of life and mischief. My Dad would regail us with stories of their sheannigans with their squadron in North Africa and Italy. My father was taken to identify his body and he was given a military funeral by the Rumanian airforce. To the best of my knowledge, my father was F/O Murphys only friend at the funeral.

As I pondered this, my mind went back to a conversation I had with my Dad over a few Guinnesses and a few Scotches. We sat up until 2am chatting on a Tuesday night, about a years before he passed away.  I remember because he was intrigued by a project I was working on. I was about 23 at the time. He suddenly, as was his want, started regailing me with stories of his wartime shenanigans. In each story He'd lovingly refer to Spud. Generally there was much alcohol and a hapless senior RAF officer as the butt end of the story. Towards the end of the night, he said "You know what, the thing is that no matter how sad I felt about Spud, I've never ever been able to think of him without smiling and thinking how lucky I was that he was on my crew and that we were mates". My Dad then gave me some great advice. He told me that "Spud was so full of life, you could never imagine him not being there. I guess the one thing I learned was to appreciate your friends when you have them"

I am sure that in years to come, the friends and family of James will feel the same. They will always feel his warmth and smile when they think about him. The sadness will always remain but the good times will be there and those are the things which stay with us forever. I am sure we all sometimes ask "whats it all about and why are we here" or "what is the meaning of life?". I can't shed any light at all on that question, but I can categorically state that life is better for the people we love, so appreciate them while they are here. All of those silly pictures and video clips on your phone, all those memories of drunken nights, bad dancing and silliness, all of the jokes, laughs, music and love we shared will be with us forever. So appreciate them as best you can. As I thought about James and Spud, I realised that if we have friends we are lucky, if we touch peoples hearts we are blessed. And if we have a damn good laugh in the process, then we've probably got this whole life thing sorted.

Saturday 24 October 2015

UEFA exposed - Manchester City fans expose the blatent hypocrisy of the men who run football

The UEFA Champions league is probably the most important football competition on the planet. Whilst we all love watching the World Cup, it does not feature the best teams. Team selection is based on nationality, so by definition it is impossible to put the eleven best players on the planet on the same team. Theoretically at least, in the Champions league, you can have a multi national team which contains the eleven best players on the planet. However as football is a team game, they are not always going to win. Tactics, mistakes, off days, perverse decisions have all conspired to ensure that we've not seen a team retain the trophy. That is why football is such a fascinationg sport. As it is a relatively low scoring game, a team can sneak a goal and then hang on for dear life. Sometimes the better team gets rattled and the worse team get two or three. Sometimes a young player will come out of nowhere and change the dynamics. Sometimes a referee will send off a teams key player and the dynamics will change.

These are the reasons we love football. But then there is the dark side of the game. Corruption is endemic at the highest levels. We find that Michel Platini was given over a million pounds by Sepp Blatter as some part of a verbal agreement. Then there is racism. In the UK this has largely been banished. Black players do not get monkey chants or bananas thrown at them. On the odd occasion where this does happen, the culprits are quickly identified and usually arrested and banned from football. Any team in the UK tolerating such behaviour by their fans would quickly be fined, banned and have all manner of sanction. The UK game is not perfect (note the lack of BME Managers), but compared to Europe, we are doing ok. The FA have clear policies and these have made a difference.

As a Manchester City FC supporter, I am aware of the huge contribution that black players have made to the club. I can remember back in the early 1980's going to see City play Fulham at Craven Cottage. At the time the City goalkeeper was Alex Williams. Of all the positions on the field, the keeper is the most exposed to the fans and any abuse. I was with a couple of friends who were Fulham fans. Williams spent about ten minutes on the end of a whole barrage of vile abuse about the colour of his skin. His behaviour was incredible in the circumstances. Someone threw a banana at him, he picked it up, put it behind the goal and said "Cheers, I'll have that later", giving a thumbs up and a broad smile.About 20 seconds later he pulled off a truly astonishing save. The bullies in the crowd realised that they weren't going to get under his skin, so they shut up. In fact at the end of the game, he came over and had a bit of banter with the same people who'd been giving him abuse. The general consenus was that he was a great bloke amongst the people who had started out screaming abuse. There are many ways to win an argument, but that day Alex Williams gave a lot of people a lesson in dignity, humour and respect. He should never have had to, but players like Williams were vanguards in the English game. Another moment that springs to mind was the amazing goal John Barnes scored as England beat Brazil 3-1 in the Maracana. Only an idiot would fail to be proud of Barnes and his efforts for our country.

But UEFA are still languishing in the stone age when it comes to Racism. If you are a high profile black player and your team is drawn against certain teams in the Champions League or Europa Cup, you know you will get abuse, bananas and monnkey chants. And perhaps more worryingly, you know that unlike the FFC fans in 1983, you won't win them over with humour, dignity, skill and banter. You know that you will be made to feel awful. That is bad enough, but perhaps the most sickening thing of all, you know that clubs who do this will face no sanction at all. A Portuguese club received a £16,000 fine for the racist abuse dished out to Mario Balloteli whilst playing for Manchester City. This is nothing compared to the millions the club received for playing in the tournament. A UEFA ban on Russian fans watching the club play City was ignored by the club, with 400 fans let in. No sanction was taken. The only way that this will change is if clubs are thrown out of the competition. I'd say that there should be a simple system of escalating penalties. For one incident, lose all income from the tie. For two, lose all income from the competition and for three get thrown out for three years. Of course, a lone nutter in the crowd shouldn't be able to cause such a sanction, but should be identified and ejected. We are talking about large sections of the crowd. I would say that if such chanting occurs, the referee should pull the players off the pitch, they should announce that the tie will be awarded to the team on the receiving end, with the team being given a 3-0 win if they are losing or drawing or add three goals to the score if they are winning. The team would then retake the feild. If the chanting continues, that is that. Then the sanctions listed above would kick in. It may be that some morons in the stands won't care, but the clubs will and will soon figure out how to sort the problem out.

Manchester City FC fans feel that the UEFA has it in for them. They are the victims of  "financial fair play" rules. These are imposed by a bunch of greedy troughers, who think million pound bungs are the way to do business. They suspect that the draws are always rigged so City are in "the group of death" and play the best teams in the knockout rounds. If UEFA wasn't so corrupt, I would probably dismiss such talk as "bonkers conspiracy theories" but when you see the sheer scale of what has been going on, surely anything is possible?

At the recent Champions League game against Sevilla, City fans let UEFA know what they think of them. They booe'd the Champions League Anthem. I am 100% with them on this. I think it is a horrible piece of music. It is a revolting piece of cod Opera. It is overblown, pompous and grating. City have certain songs which you will always hear at the Etihad. Blue Moon is the City anthem. Hey Jude is played at the interval and Roll with It by Oasis at the end. These are proper songs that football fans love. The Champions League Anthem, to me and to the majority of City fans sums up everything that is wrong with the way football is run. It was immediately announced after the game that City are under investigation by UEFA down to this well deserved rebuke to UEFA. It is strange how the disciplinary porcess can be invoked so rapidly over such a trivial incident, when Platini is still in a job and Blatter is still in a job at FIFA, despite clear evidence of all manner of shenanigans. It seems that insulting a banal piece of music is more serious in UEFA's mind than the insulting of black players and corruption. The English clubs were banned for five years for Heysel, but there are dozens of places that City fans will go and be at risk of stabbings and violence in the streets before and after. It seems that it is only English fans who faace such sanction. The Premiership is probably the worlds most popular televised league. I believe this is because the global TV audience recognises that in the UK we love great footballers regardless of creed and colour and we take them to our hearts.

Sadly UEFA have a reputation for only caring about UEFA. I congratulate the City fans for exposing this hypocricy. I applaud City manager Manuel Pelligrini for siding with the fans on the issue. And I hope that all of the other English fans of clubs will join in and boo the Champions League anthem before every game until UEFA sorts itself out.

Friday 23 October 2015

The Friday Joke 23/10/2015 - Shenanigans exposed in North West London Council Leaders household !!!!

It's been a rough old week. Many years ago former top Barnet blogger VickiM instituted "The Friday Joke" for just such weeks. It may surprise you to know that a couple of our Conservative Councillors tell me some of the finest jokes I've published here. 

Many are totally unpublishable, but I think this one is one of the best I've been saving this one up for just such a week. Enjoy and have a very pleasant weekend.

As we all know, the Leaders of large North West London Councils and their wives are very busy people. They need some household chores. 

The leader of one such council's wife has for many years had a trusted Polish housemaid. 

Last week, the  maid asked the lady of the house for a pay raise. The Lady of the house became very angry about this and decided to talk to her about this raise. 
She said, “Now Anna, why do you think you should get a pay increase?" 
 Anna: “Well, Madam, there are tree reasons why I wunt the increaze. The 1st is that I do iron better than you." 
Lady of House: “Who said you iron better than me?” 
Anna: “Your husband he say so.” 
Lady of House: “Oh yeah?” 
Anna: “The second reason eez that I am a better cook than you.” Lady of House: “that's a lie, who said you were a better cook than me?” 
Anna: “Your hozban he did.” 
The Lady of the House increasingly agitated: “Oh he did, did he?” 
Anna: “The third reason is that I am better at sex than you in the bed.” 
By now, the Lady of the house is incandescent with rage, through gritted teeth asks, “And did my husband say that as well?” 
Anna: “No Madam… The gardener did.”
(A moment of silence passes...) 
To which, the Lady of the house replied "So, how much do you want?” 

The Barnet Eye wishes to assure all readers that this is a joke and any similarity between the fictional characters above and the Leaders of any North West London Council, their wife, their maid and their gardners are purely coincidental. Furthermore, I'd love to assure all readers that such shenanigans are totally unknown in the London Borough of Barnet. 

Thursday 22 October 2015

How Barnet Labour failed us and let the Tories wreck our libraries

Tuesday night saw both the Tories and Labour in Barnet fail us. As ever the Tories did it maliciously, Labour did it by incompetence. Prior to the vote, I'd spoken to one of the more sensible Tories in Barnet. This member is disgusted at the proposal and assurred me  they would vote against the cut. As there are 32 Tories and 31 opposition councillors, the proposal would have fell. On the night however, three Labour Councillors failed to show up. I was called by my Tory friend last night, who apologised for their actions, but stated that in the event his vote would have been futile. So we will never really know. But that is Barnet. Those 3 get a £10,000 allowance to turn up

Tuesday 20 October 2015

Barnet Libraries - This is the beginning of the battle, not the end

In May 2014, the people of Mill Hill elected three Conservative Councillors. They are

 Mill Hill

Tonigh, these three councillors voted to destroy Mill Hill Library. It currently has a fooprint of 3,606 Sq ft, trained librarians and ample facilities for children to study in peace and quiet. The three councillors listed above decided that this assett is worthless. They have decided to halve the size of it down to 1,991 sq ft. They have decided to remove the librarians and they have decided to remove access for children aged 14-15 (unless accompanied by parents).

Any one of these three councillors could have stopped this. The Conservatives have a majority of 1 in the town hall. This means that only one councillor needed to change sides and the proposal would have been thrown out. These councillors cannot claim that they would have faced sanctions from their colleagues. If such threats were made, all the councillor need do is say "I'll stand as an independent" and the Conservatives would have lost their majority. Nothing would have happened.

Dishonest scoundrels may say that the Conservatives won the election, so they had a mandate. This is highly dishonest as their manifesto committed them to preserving the Library service, not to destroying it. If you buy beef burgers in Tesco, you have recourse if you find horsemeat in them.

The Tories tried this trick before. They closed Friern Barnet library. What happened there should have been a lesson to them. The locals rebelled. The Library was occupied and eventually reopened. Ironically Friern Barnet is the only library not receiving a savage haircut in this round. In Friern Barnet, the Conservative councillor Kate Salinger was kicked out as a result of the Tories policy. Her husband Brian Salinger was photographed entering tonights Council meeting by local blogger Mrs Angry. He had a message to all users of Barnet Librarys as he entered.

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Councillor Salinger has a message for Barnet Library users

It seems that the concept of standards of public behaviour in Barnet is something that died with the concept of a library service. Councillor Brian Salinger isn't some oddball maverick in the Tory group. He was their Leader until 2006.

I missed most of the fun. I turned up for the meeting bang on 7pm when it was due to start. The public gallery was packed as you may have expected. I sat through a lengthy rant by the Borough Rabbi. The Mayor said he was going to give us a prayer, but he gave the councillors a lecture on their responsibility to the children of the Borough. It is interesting how keen the Barnet Tories are to play the faith card and how little they listen when a religious leader has a message they dont like.

Then we had a rather smug section of what can be best called "Mayoral Announcements". Our current Mayor Mark Shooter, clearly enjoys this, Mark is a lovely chap, but seems to be developing a rather large ego. He went to great lengths to tell us all about the marvellous letter he sent to the Queen in his role as Mayor. It congratulated her on being the longest ever reigning monarch Quite bizzarely he didn't seem at all interested in reading her reply. Maybe she agreed with the Rabbi. Then we had the rather odd spectacle of Tory after Tory stand up and declare that they are a Landlord, declaring an interest in a later matter. I wonder how many rent to council tenants. It doesn't stop them voting. Councillor Helelna Hart announced that she had an interest in something or other, but had sought an exemption to vote to "maintain political balance". I found this outrageous. Lets use a little analogy. If councillors were to vote themselves a 54% increase in their allowance, would you expect them to be able to dodge the rule saying that you can't vote if you have a financial interest in the matter? You would say "hold on, thats bang out of order". Actually that is just what the Barnet Tories did in 2010.

Then we members questions. I sat through 34 questions, but I ran out of time. I am a trustee and chairman of a local charity that raises funds for a local school. It is a volunteer role. I had a meeting to chair at 8pm, so I had to leave. I completely missed the library debate. I had to follow it on Twitter. It is probably just as well.... It would have broken my heart.

Volunteering. A hot issue on this blog, this week.

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Councillor Reuben Thompstone tonight ( I kid you not! the image hasn't been airbrushed)
Regular readers will know that I had an exchange with Councillor Reuben Thompson, asking him to give up his £15,000 allowance. He didn't even bother to justify this huge bung for chairing a dozen or so council meetings. He just said that asking the question was an "ad hominem" attack.

I suspect that the Barnet Conservatives think that Jeremy Corbyn running the Labour party means they are invulnerable. I suspect they think they can do what they like and the electors will vote for them anyway. They made the same mistake in 1994, losing the council until 2002. They forget a few things. Firstly Council elections are not General elections. Issues like libraries do matter. Nothing would give me greater pleasure than to see the Barnet Tories lose control of the council in a ward where they are decimating a library in a by-election. My personal view is that the Barnet Labour party do not deserve to be in charge of the council. My preference would be for a strong group of independents to develop in marginal wards. I'd like to see the balance of power held by non aligned individuals, who vote on principle not on misplaced party loyalties.

I believe this could happen. I happen to believe that tonight was not the end of the battle, it was the start. It is a terrible wake up call for every Barnet Resident who cares. No one who saw the rude and rather ridiculous individuals, who make up the Tory Party in Barnet in action tonight could possibly think such a motley crew really have anything to offer.

Monday 19 October 2015

Save Barnet Libraries - Important announcement

Barnet Libraries - Commentary on Reuben Thompstone dialog with the Barnet Eye

Councillor Reuben ThompstoneRegular blog readers will know that on Friday, I emailed Councillor Reuben Thompstone with some suggestions as to how he could make his suggestions that the role of volunteers could be used to enhance the offering of the Barnet Library Service ( ). I will not pretend that myself and Councillor Thompstone have radically different views on what the Library service should look like and how volunteers should be used.

Let me give you some insight into how I think you deliver real savings and real change for the better in organisations. I am not talking out of my hat, I have run a successful business for 36 years. One of the principles I use is that "difficult individuals are an assett". This may sound like a ridiculous statement to many, but I want my staff to challenge my decisions. I want people who care passionately about the business and are prepared to stand their ground and argue their case. Between 1994 and 2000, we totally transformed Mill Hill Music Complex studios from an operation with two underutilised rooms to one with ten studios, a shop and a hire business. I went from employing one persone in 1994, to employing seven people in 2000. Why? I employed the most difficult individual imaginable as my studio manager. Ernie Ferebee, who served this role was 6'6 and a former bouncer, security guard, overland coach driver, London Ambulance service driver, bus driver and band tour manager.  Every decision I made, Ernie would challenge. He'd always take a different view. We would argue for hours. At the end, we'd come up with a solution which we both agreed. Often it was radically different to what either of us had initially suggested. We had a rule. Every penny we spent on the business, we'd apply a simple test. We'd apply three questions.

1) Of all the things we can spend this money on currently, is this the one which will bring the best return on investment.
2) Have we really looked at every alternative for ways of doing the same thing better.
3) Will the change deliver the biggest improvement for our customers.

Applying these simple tests and arguing vigorously about them delivered huge benefits and savings. One example. In one studio I suggested buying energy saving bulbs, because our bills were high. Ernie said "It would be more cost effective to buy door closers, then the heat would stay in". Guess what we did in the end? We agreed that heating was the biggest cost after some discussion. We then identified that most heat was lost because the studio had a corrugated iron roof with no insulation. Although fixing this was a far more expensive option than door closers, it would bring far bigger savings. In the end we got insulation, door closers and low energy bulbs. Our customers were warmer, bills went down and the business improved. One of the things we'd do as a business, is discuss changes with customers before we did them. If we felt they may have some useful knowledge or feedback, we'd  get even more benefit. As a result got the work done by a local builder who wanted some studio time. He did the work in exchange for some free studio time at a time of day when we didn't lose other business. By working with our customers, we delivered even more savings.
If I was a dictator who employed yes men, I'd simply have saved the money from the energy saving bulbs and thought I was marvellous.

What has all of this got to do with the responses from Councillor Reuben Thompstone yesterday? As I mentioned, Councillor Thompstone and myself have different views as to how the library service should be run and how savings can be derived. But there are areas where we both agree. We both believe that volunteers have a role to play. We disagree on what that role is. Now as an intelligent person, I would be quite prepared to sit down with Councillor Thompstone and discuss this. If I was doing Councillor Thompstones job, I'd set up forums at the local libraries, invite users, local business and other interested individuals along. I'd say "We have issues with the budget, how can we fix these?". Barnet is full of entrepreneurs, who know what they could come up with to make the library service better, cheaper, more relevant. Councillor Thompstones solution is to sack the staff and get people to open the doors as volunteers. He admits they are not librarians. Is this really the best way to use  valuable community resource. He also wants to cut the size of libraries down, which means less books. Is this better for the users? You can read Councillor Thompstones dialog with me here 

He accuses me of making Ad Hominem statements. For those of you who haven't studied Latin (as a victim of the Catholic Education system, I did for three years, at times like this it comes in useful) it means attacking the person not the issue they are proposing. If you read the original email, this claim is totally unsustainable. Maybe Cllr Thompstone lacks the sort of excellent education which Barnet provides and didn't really understand the phrase. Maybe he thought it meant "marvellous ideas", who can possibly know as he gives no justification at all for his statement (though he repeats it on numerous occasions). What I do no is that he completely failed to respond to the email

Firstly, I had made an offer to assist him to find volunteers. He responded by saying that if I organised events to promote volunteering at Libraries, he'd turn up on condition I was nowhere to be seen. In my opinion this is rather rude. He stated that based on the fact that he didn't like what I had to say at the Council meeting to discuss the future of the libraries, I had nothing worthwhile to say on the matter. I read this as saying that he is not prepared to have a sensible adult discussion with someone who has a long track record of involvement in trying to maintain a decent library service. It is a matter of public record that following the campaign I ran in 2010, the Barnet Conservatives did a complete U-turn on their strategy and actually ended up agreeing with me. Even Friern Barnet Library, which they shut and wanted to sell, has been reopened. They could have saved us all a lot of pain, if they'd had the conversation over a nice cup of tea in 2010 and we'd worked out a strategy without the huge campaign.

Sadly Mr Thompstone looks set to make the same mistakes. Mr Thompstone clearly objects to my suggestion that he give up his £15,000 special allowance for chairing a committee that meets a dozen or so times a year for a couple of hours. I suggested that doing so would be a fine way to show his commitment to volunteering. I believe leadership is primarily about setting an example. This huge allowance was brought in by Barnet Council as recognition of the responsibility of being part of the Councils decision making cabinet. Whilst I disagreed with this concept, at least there was a justification as a cabinet member takes responsibility. The Tories abolished the cabinet system last year, but kept the bung for the committee chairmen. I don't think that giving a £15,000 bung in these difficult times to someone for a couple of hours work a month is justified. Other committee members get nothing. I would assume that if they do their jobs properly, they do just as much work. That is how committees are meant to operate. I also note that Mr Thompstone doesn't list any volunteering or association with such organisations where he may volunteer in his declaration of interests - Register of interestspdf icon PDF 386 KB - which would seem to me to indicate that he talks a good game on volunteering, but foesn't walk the walk.

Mr Thompstone also refused to discuss whether you can actually call a room full of books a public library, if there is no qualified librarian. This is central to the issue. I want Barnet libraries to be a successful service and one of the reasons why people want to live in Barnet. I believe volunteers have an important role in realising that goal. I believe that if Councillor Thompstone was prepared to engage with the whole community and seek ideas for ways to improve the finances of the libaries, such as commercial sponsorship, active friends committees, technolgy such as Solar panels etc, he could avoid the need to sack people. I am not a Luddite. It may be that some Librarians need to be a bit more agile in their working practises. If that is the case and that by working with volunteers, the same service could be delivered, then that proposal would merit serious discussion. But Mr Thompstone isn't prepared to have that discussion. He thinks he knows best.

I do wonder about how the UK runs its public services. Just for a second consider this. Consider a library such as Mill Hill. It was built in a different day and age. It has large windows. It has a large roof space. Double glazing and solar panels would deliver huge savings in energy costs. Both would pay for themselves over five years. If Councillor Thompstone was committed to keeping the service, then there is an excellent case to spend the money on them. Clearly there would be no issue getting a loan facility, as the council is a good payer and a stable organisation. So if the money was borrowed over ten years, then the council would see an annual cost reduction. If this was repeated across all of the Boroughs libaries, presumably that would save enough to fund a couple of librarians. Just suppose they say to the installer "We'll let you run a sales stall in the Libaray foyer for six months if you give us a discount on the job". Presumably this would also save money. Local people would clearly be inclined to use such a trusted installer. We could say the same to the solar panel installers. The council could promote such ethical companies on their website etc as part of the deal.

Mr Thompstone clearly gets upset by what he describes as "Ad Hominem" attacks. He feels that what has been said is personal in nature. As I explained this was not the intention and the claim cannot be substanciated with regards to the initial correspondence. I have to say that having seen his repliesand witnessed his behaviour, I do not think it is unfair to call Mr Thompstones behaviours and ethics into question. He receives a £15,000 allowance from the taxpayer to do a job.  Does he believe he is above criticism? I don't care what Mr Thompstone does in his spare time. Any comments are directly related to how he does his job. If he chairs his committee (at my expense) in a pompous and arrogant manner and is rude to me in correspondence, does he really believe I am not entitled to hold him to account. Most Conservative committee chairmen have a degree of urbane wit. Most understand that sometimes decisions arouse strong feelings and have the compassion to react accordingly. Most have the intellectual capability to engage positively with people they disagree with, for the betterment of Barnet. Most have the good manners to reply cordially, or not at all if they can't. Mr Thompstone chairs one of the most important committees. One where wise leadership can make a huge difference. Wise leadership involves bringing people into the tent, building a team and taking the various stakeholders with you.

I end by asking any fair minded reader one question. Councillor Thompsone is the chairman of the Children, Education, Libraries & Safeguarding Committee Does he have the good manners,  wit, compassion, morality, intellectual capabilities and leadership skills to hold such an important portfolio in Barnet Council? I'll let you form your own opinion. I've made my mind up though.

If you feel he's done a marvellous job and I've got it all wrong, plese email him with your support. I'm sure he'd be thrilled to hear from you. You can email him at 

Sunday 18 October 2015

*** Updated **** Councillor Reuben Thompstone responds to the Barnet Eye open letter regarding volunteering at Libraries

On Friday, I emailed Councillor Reuben Thompstone regarding volunteering at Barnet Libraries. I suggest you read this blog (if you haven't already) to see exactly what I suggested. Here is Councillor Thompstones reply.

From: Thompstone, Cllr Reuben []
Sent: 18 October 2015 08:53
To: '' <>
Cc: Cornelius, Cllr Richard <>; Mrs Angry; Thomas, Cllr Daniel <>;Mr Reasonable ; Mr Mustard; Barbara Jacobson; '' <>; '' <>
Subject: Re: Open Letter to Councillor Reuben Thompstone regarding volunteering at Barnet Libraries

Dear Mr Tichbourne,

Thank you for your email, I note your initiative. I welcome your offer to support as a volunteer and would like to clarify, the constitution allows members to question those making a public comment, however prohibits this for those asking public questions, hence no intentional differential treatment. With respect to your offer of working in partnership, your comments during the meeting on Monday, whilst officers were attempting to respond to elected members' questions, in conjunction with your ad hominem statements below, lead me to conclude that this would be unlikely to be a productive arrangement; instead I would be happy to endorse you to use those relationships to which you refer to encourage those who may be interested in volunteering to do so, and am happy to attend such meetings as my diary would allow, where this might prove productive and where you were unable to attend for any reason. I am not in the habit of responding to ad hominem statements and thus respect your right to your own approach to public conduct as you see fit without commenting further.


Reuben Thompstone
Councillor for Golders Green
Lead Member for Children
London Borough of Barnet


I am not surprised by Councillor Thompstones response. I have responded to Mr Thompstone. Here is my reply


Dear Councillor Thompstone,

Many thanks for your reply. I much appreciate the time you have spent composing your response and the efforts you have made responding to the points I raised. As you may be aware, I write a blog called the Barnet Eye, which is read by several tens of thousands of people in the London Borough of Barnet. Clearly, I am keen to keep the people of Barnet as up to date as possible with important developments in our community and also how Barnet Council spend the council tax raised from the wallets of hard working families. Whilst I appreciate the magnificent effort your response, it seems that you have omitted to address a couple of points which are fairly fundamental. I am sure this is merely an oversight due to the excitement generated by the Rugby world cup and the great success of the team from your native homeland. Many congratulations on them and their performance, a stark contrast to England.

Anyway, if you could be so kind as to address the key points, I am sure myself and the people of Barnet would be most reassured. To ensure that there is no misunderstanding, please can you respond to the following questions.

1)      I asked if you would be prepared to forego the £15,000 allowance which you receive for chairing the committee responsible for deciding the future of Library policy. I suggested that this would set a good example and would help encourage other people in the Borough to volunteer. I suggested that there are other ways that this money could be spent that would provide more benefit to the people of Barnet than simply going into your wallet. Please can you confirm that you have checked the budget of your department and you are 100% sure that paying you an allowance of £15,000 for chairing a committee which meets a dozen or so times a year for a couple of hours, is the best way of spending taxpayers cash? I note other committee members do not get such an allowance. Since the Cabinet system in Barnet was abolished, surely the related cabinet responsibility allowance is no long justified (that was the pretext for the huge allowance hike in 2010)? If you are having trouble managing your finances without this bung from the Barnet Taxpayer, can I suggest that you speak to this organisation

2)      You state that you would only appear at events to promote volunteering in Barnet under the condition that I did not attend. I would like to point out that I have worked with many of your Conservative colleagues, promoting all manner of good causes. I have helped raised large sums of cash for mayoral appeals from colleagues including Tony Finn, Lisa Rutter, Brian Schama and Hugh Rayner. I have promoted football schemes at the request of Hugh Rayner. Lisa Rutter launched a charity project based at my business in her capacity as Mayor of Barnet. None has ever had an issue appearing with me when this is part of the process of doing good things in Barnet. I have even helped your colleague John Hart promote his book. I am surprised that you completely dismissed my offer out of hand, without bothering to discuss ways that any initiative could be made to work. The Conservative Party promotes the concept of a big society. Do you think that your public rejection of an offer to assist you, in such a bad mannered way, will really help encourage volunteering in Barnet?

3)      I asked if you were aware that being a Librarian is a profession and that it requires a qualification. Furthermore, I asked whether you recognised that for a library to serve its primary purpose, you needed a librarian. You declined to answer this question. Would you care to now?

4)      There is a suspicion that your administration has no interest at all in actually seeing volunteering in well run Libraries. There is a suspicion that the whole scheme is designed to fail, so the council can shut down libraries completely and sell them off for a capital receipt. It is 100% clear to anyone who reads my original open letter and your response that you have zero interest in exploring in any way, shape or form my offer. You have no interest in engaging in dialog to try and develop a strategy with active members of the community. It is also clear that you are not the slightest bit interested in engaging with anyone who is prepared to give up their time to help in local libraries, unless it is on the terms you dictate to them, with no discussion at all. Do you believe that behaving in such a manner is the way to engage with members of the community who have contributed so much to yoyur household budget?

I have lived in the London Borough of Barnet all of my life. One of my first memories is going to Mill Hill Library with my mother to get “Thomas The Tank Engine” books, which she would read to me at bed time. My favourite was the story of Henry the Green Engine. I would strongly recommend this book to you. I see parallels with yourself and there is a strong message embedded, as you may expect from a vicar who was also an author. When I was a teenager, studying O levels and A levels, I spent many hours studying and revising in Mill Hill Library. I found that this was an environment free from distraction. I ascribe what academic success I had at school to this time. When my mother was in her final years, with failing eyesight and housebound, I would take her once a week to Mill Hill Library. She would return three large print books collect three more. She would ask the librarian for recommendations. The Librarians knew her well and would invariably pick out good choices.

I suspect that local Barnet libraries have not played such a key role in your life, hence your stilted view of their importance in the life and culture of Barnet. I note that you seem to have an issue with the fact that some Barnet residents have an emotional attachment to Barnets library service. You do not seem to have the emotional intelligence to recognise that for many of us, this is not just a matter of a few numbers on a Barnet Council accounts spreadsheet. Over the years, especially when the Conservatives were in opposition, I saw many examples of appalling behaviour both inside and outside the Council chamber, when things got heated. Life experience has taught me that this is a good thing. It shows people care. It seems to me from your comments, you really only want to engage with people who don’t care or are emotionally stunted. I trust you are not appalled by the behaviour of Tory MP’s at PMQ’s? Do you really want to live in a society run by Daleks?

Finally, can I give you some career advice. In my experience, the best committee chairmen recognise that the Public have every right to attend council meetings and when serious matters are being discussed will feel inclined to make their feelings known. Good committee chairmen deal with this with wit, humour and when necessary compassion. I sincerely hope that you start developing into such a chairman of your committee. Maybe you could have a chat with Tony Finn, who in my experience has no trouble getting the balance right.

I look forward to your response. Hopefully this time we will actually have some answers.

Roger Tichborne


I await Councillor Thompstones reply. It must also be noted that Mrs Angry sent a response to the rather hapless Councillor Thompstone. I'm a dyslexic, so I personally would never make such comments, but clearly Mrs Angry is not exactly chuffed that someone who is clearly semi literate is in charge of education in Barnet.


Dear Councillor Thompstone

Thank you for including me in your response.

Unfortunately, I could not understand it, as it is expressed in such impenetrable language, and seemingly without any reference to the rules of grammar.

I suggest that - in the course of your next session as a volunteer shelf-filler in a public library - you borrow a copy of 'Eats, Shoots and Leaves', or similar helpful guide to written English. 

If you cannot find anything on this subject, do ask a librarian to help you. You'll probably be able to track one down, in the queue at the local job centre.

With very best wishes,

Theresa Musgrove

pp Mrs Angry


I wonder how long it will take the Leader of the Council and his deputy, who are both cc'd on all of this to twig that it appears that they don't really have someone who is up to the job.
Updated 15:00

Councillor Thompstone responded to my email above as follows:-

Dear Mr Tichbourne,

Many thanks for your email, I note you appear to have presumed answers to your own questions and continue to engage in ad hominem statements. That is your prerogative however my response on the latter point remains the same and that for the former clearly requires no further response.


Reuben Thompstone
Councillor for Golders Green
Lead Member for Children
London Borough of Barnet

To which I simply replied

Dear Councillor Thompstone,

Many thanks for your enlightening response. As far as I can tell, the only question you have answered is one which I didn’t actually ask. That question is “Does Councillor Reuben Thompstone have the good manners,  wit, compassion, morality, intellectual capabilities and leadership skills to hold such an important portfolio in Barnet Council”. This discourse offered you the perfect opportunity to demonstrate all of these key characteristics. Your responses speak volumes. The only positive thing to come out of our exchange is that the people of Barnet now have some insight into your personality.  

Roger Tichborne

Updated 15:20
I will leave the last word to Mrs Angry. She clearly has his measure and sums it all up rather nicely!

Dear Cllr Thompstone

In your responses to Roger Tichborne - (please note the correct spelling) - you seem strangely reluctant to answer the most important question: why do you think libraries should be run by volunteers, when you refuse to perform your roles as councillor and chair in a similarly voluntary capacity? 

In this age of austerity, when all of us are asked to tighten our belts, should you, as an elected representative and proud Conservative, not set a good example and forego the generous amount of money given to you from the public purse? 

My other question is this: you think that the role of a professional librarian can be replaced by unqualified volunteers. 

I believe that you are a teacher: if I offer to take your post, in your school, on a permanent, voluntary basis, will you agree to step aside? 

I'm not qualified, of course, but that hardly matters, does it? I can probably wing my way through a few lessons, armed with a copy of 'The Complete Idiot's Guide to Science', and a fire extinguisher. 

And yes, you will lose your livelihood as a result, and you and your family face a future of unemployment, uncertainty and hardship - but think of the budget savings that will ensue!

Yours sincerely,

Theresa Musgrove