Friday 16 March 2018

Barnet Eye Exclusive - The Barnet Tories cunning plan AKA Council Election Strategy revealed

We are sorry that we are not doing a Friday Joke today. We have something far more important to share with you. Following the events this week in the local Conservatives, where several long standing, well respected loyal councillors have been deselected, the Barnet Eye has covertly seen details of the Barnet Tories election strategy. In our role as a public information provider, we feel that it is our duty to share this with the good people of the London Borough of Barnet.

Last year, following the disastrous general election campaign, an inner cabal within the Barnet Conservatives held an emergency meeting to review what went wrong. Following some number crunching, it became clear that unless something radical was done, the Tories would lose the council in May 2018 and this would give the Labour party a springboard to take all three constituency seats in a general election. These three seats could well be the difference between a Tory or Labour administration. There were several issues identified. These were as follows :-

1. Falling membership - The Barnet Conservatives have seen a steady decline in membership as older members die off or move away. New blood has proven difficult to attract.

2. Poor social media presence. The Barnet Conservatives have not had a successful social media presence. Many see the Barnet bloggers as the most effective opposition and they have been forced to conclude that they are losing this battle. It was clear that they needed to revamp the way they managed social media and engaged with the local population. 

3. Ageing and out of touch councillors. The review concluded that whilst the local MP's (Freer, Offord and Villiers) were viewed as attractive and engaging to the public, local councillors were seen as elderly, distant, aloof and out of touch. It was concluded that these out of touch councillors were extremely damaging to the prospects of the local MP's. 

An action team was set up to address these issues. The Barnet Eye has labelled this Barnet Organisational Logistical Local Operational Committee (AKA BOLLOC) although we are not 100% sure if this name has been adopted. It was agreed that this team would have to operate covertley and ensure that the local party organisation was "ENHANCED" to ensure that the local party was brought into the twentieth century.

Each of these areas of weakness had an operational plan set up to address. The three main strands then had an operational strategy created to try and address the problems.

Falling Membership - The key to this is to get young people into the party and to convince them that once they are in, it is worth staying. They can then be used to recruit friends and grow the party. BOLLOC identified that many young people had joined, only to get disheartened and fed up by the ageing people that run the associations and seem set on thwarting every initiative. 

Poor Social Media presence - It was recognised that this needed an overhaul. More central control and a greater effort to ensure that the message was "got out there".  It was also agreed that where possible local bloggers would be targetted. Whilst this may have risks, if the credibility of the local blogs could be undermined, this would remove a massive thorn in the side of the Barnet Conservatives.

Ageing and out of touch councillors - Whilst there was a recognition that they couldn't simply deselect every "out of touch" councillor, it would be well worth the effort of culling as many as possible. The criteria for culling were as follows. 1. Must be in a Safe Ward. 2. Must not have a strong personal base within the party. 3.  No more than one per ward. 4. Must be loyal enough not to rock the boat after deselection. The last thing they wanted was defections after deselection, as this would lose the Conservatives control of the council. Getting rid of these would free up some seats to bring a few of the next generation through. It would also send out a strong message to the young bloods that there would be opportunities in the party. 

It seems that BOLLUC then set about their business with gusto. Deselecting councillors in a secret ballot is not the easiest thing to achieve. It was realised that for the strategy to work, the Reselection meetings had to be held as late as possible and those being lined up for the cull were not to be given a hint, so that they would not marshall their own supporters. Those involved in the scheming had to be loyalists and on side with the plan. 

The information that the Barnet Eye has seen shows just how ruthless the members of BOLLUC are. The degree of deception and two faced behaviour in regards to those lined up for the chop was quite breathtaking. When Councillor Joan Scannell was awarded the BEM, she was lauded by the full council. As she received a round of applause, it was quite interesting to observe the faces of her fellow councillors. As she received a round of applause, there were even some of her Hendon Tory colleagues who did not clap. I mentioned this to Joan at a Mill Hill Music Festival Committee meeting and her response was that some of her colleagues were jealous. It seems that what both Joan and I missed was that there was a little more than a few green eyed monsters with noses put out of joint.

What is interesting is that the four Conservative Councillors targetted were ones whittled down from a larger list. It seems that the reasons that a couple of other prime candidates for the chop escaped for the most, shall we say, interesting of reasons.  However the deselections are not the most interesting aspect of the plan. What is far more interesting is the "replacements" that are being lined up. Firstly, lets be 100% clear that they were all assured long ago that they would be standing. They are not hurriedly brushing up their CV's and doing a frantic round of door knocking to make a last minute impression on the committee. The Barnet Eye has seen a list of names, which we believe is very credible and a list of reasons why they are being put forward. 

In my own ward of Mill Hill, the name I've seen is very close to our MP and Councillor Val Duschinsky. The person is a very capable campaigner and is keen to raise their profile. They are seen as someone who will work far harder for the Conservatives locally and be onside with the policies of the administration. The person is also highly thought of by the small band of young activists locally. Sury Khatri was a vociferous critic withing the party of many of the Tories more extreme policies and this had rubbed up some colleagues the wrong way. As he'd been continually been cowed into voting for these disastrous policies, the members of BOLLUC assumed that he'd simply take it and not defect. His actions in resigning the Tory whip have come as a massive shock. 

It may seem that much of what I've written is a bit obtuse. What team BOLLUC don't seem to realise is that they are not the only Barnet Tories who can be a bit two faced. There are several councillors who BOLLUC think are onside with their policies who are quite definitely horrified by what has happened. Not only that, but they have realised that the BOLLUC strategy is likely to massively backfire. If the Tories lose the council and seats they thought were safe such as Mill Hill and High Barnet, then it could do lasting damage. These councillors are rather keen for the Barnet Eye to understand that they do not wish to be associated with what is going on. There is a tacit admission that it has all been "rather badly managed".  It is not unusual for this blog to have private chats with councillors of all parties. With a few notable exceptions, I get on well with most of them. The ones I've spoken to are horrified that their association has managed to score a spectacular own goal and that they are all covered in the debris of what just hit the fan. They are concerned that if the "strategy" that has been outlined is stuck to, it could absolutely ruin their personal reputation. 

A question that I've been asked is whether I really think that a "Corbynite Labour Council" would be good for people such as myself in Barnet. As I am standing for the Lib Dems, I pointed out that whatever happened, if such an outcome occurs it is nothing to do with me or our campaign. No one familiar with Barnet Labour believes that they are "Corbynite". If anything they would be far too Blairite for my tastes. The Lib Dems are running a strong campaign in Barnet, Mill Hill and Childs Hill. My advice to all Tories in Barnet, Mill Hill and Childs Hill would be to vote Lib Dem to ensure that the next council has to have a sensible coalition. The Tories really cannot win in Child Hill following the Cricklewood Aggregates fiasco. In Mill Hill, I've already spoken to dozens of residents who will not be voting Tory following the treatment of Sury Khatri. It seems likely that a similar thing will happen in High Barnet, where Councillor Bridget Perry has been deselected. Labour believes it can snatch High Barnet, as do the Lib Dems. As the ward had a Lib Dem presence until 2010, it would seem that Duncan MacDonald and the team up there suddenly have a real incentive to go for it. 

I've also noticed a change in what people are saying this week. Wheras last week, the biggest question was "Do you have a chance?", this week the question is "What are you going to do if you get elected?". People are starting to believe that the Lib Dems can win in Mill Hill. This is a direct result of the actions of BOLLUC. 

As we mentioned above, another strand of BOLLUC's activity is a determined attempt to attack the Barnet Bloggers. Sadly for BOLLUC, the latest example of this has also backfired spectacularly. For reasons that the Barnet Eye doesn't really understand, the Deputy Leader of the Barnet Tories, Councillor Daniel Thomas has disappeared off Twitter. A rather strange way to "Spread the Gospel", you may think. At the same time, the @BarnetTories account has become quite manically active. 

On Tuesday, they tried to have a Pop at us. This went badly wrong as we immediately exposed their hypocrisy in posting a highly misleading Tweet. Like many bullies, when they pick a fight with a big boy and get a black eye, they then try and pick on a Girl. Yesterday we saw an outrageous porkie published by them, claiming Barnet Blogger Mrs Angry wanted to close half of Barnet's libraries. 

As I believe that this is not only a disgusting slander, but clearly a made up porkie, I immediately tweeted a challenge to the @BarnetTories

I don''t think there is a soul in Barnet who would believe the Tories would pass up a chance to rub my nose in it if there was a shred of evidence to pack up their outrageous claim. It goes without saying that the £500 is safely still in my wallet. It is a measure of their stupidity that they hadn't noticed that Mrs Angry has not posted a blog since the 2nd of January. There are various good reasons for this, which I am not going to go into, but their vile actions have stung her into life. As own goals go, this is perhaps the most spectacular I've seen. I await their attacks on Mr Mustard and Mr Reasonable in anticipation. Let's hope that they are as effective as these.

The conversations I've had with friendly Tories are keen to emphasise that they are not behind any personal attacks coming my way and the way of my fellow bloggers. They were also keen that I was quite aware of who is. It is pretty clear to me that the more sensible Tories locally know who the people of Barnet will trust and who they will side with if there are lies and porkies slung at The Brnet Bloggers. People will draw their own conclusions. If I were a Tory locally, I'd suggest that this whole strategy is a complet BOLLOC up, but that will only really become clear on STARWARS DAY. I've a lousy record of making predictions in Barnet politics, so I'll keep my opinions to myself. Let's just say that if our campaign team needed any incentive to go for it, we've been handed a massive gift in Mill Hill. I am jsut sorry that Sury Khatri, who is a decent man, had to be knifed to provide it.

As to the Barnet Tories efforts to engage with Young people. This too has been wildly successful. I had a look at The "Barnet Young Conservatives" Facebook page. I was stunned to see that the local Young Conservatives have such a lively and active community. The latest activty was only just over a month ago, with this team of lovely looking youngsters hosting an "Action Day" in East Barnet.

There are rumours that in an effort to boost the membership of the Barnet Young Conservatives, they've raised the minimum age for membership from 75 to 60, although we don't believe a word of such gossip.

What many people don't realise about the Conservative Party is that in all associations there are three distinct groups that keep the show on the road. Firstly there are the mainly white middle class male, Rotary club type businessmen, they hang around for years, enjoy dressing up in Robes and attending civic services. They are the core of most councils and are generally sensible and pragmatic. The second group are the Young Turks. These are younger men generally, out of University, looking to build their CV's, believing that they know far more about everything than all the old fuddy duddies and that they can change the world. They believe that a complete lack of experience, expertise and grey hair is an asset if you need to get something done. They generally sign up, do a few years as a councillor, then get bored and move away. Tom Davey is the latest example, standing down in Hale.
The final group are the "Blue Rinse brigade". There are the ladies of a certain age, who organise coffee mornings, put leaflets in envelopes, answer phones and uncomplainingly get on with all of the boring stuff that needs to get done to make the organisation work. Talk to any of them and they will always mention the behind the scenes work that they do and often how the other two groups do not appreciate them. Councillors Braun, Scannell and Prentice are the vanguard in Barnet of this group.

As the local Tories have made it quite clear that this group are not appreciated, it will be quite interesting how the machine operates without all the coffee mornings, letter stuffings etc. I do wonder how all the young turks will cope when they find themselves in opposition, with no power and now plumb jobs as committee chair's.  Whilst the old guard will wait patiently for the next election or the one after that, I suspect that rather like the Spring Cuckoo, they will be off when the wind turns chill. 

No comments: