Monday 10 May 2021

Congratulations to the Progressive Alliance of Mutually Assured Self Destruction in the East Barnet By Election

Today I finish my commentary on the recent local elections, known as #LE2021. This won't be the first time I say this and it won't be the last (unless sanity somehow descends on the people of our esteemed borough).

These are the results for East Barnet

East Barnet by-election results May 2021

By Election for a Councillor for the East Barnet Ward of London Borough of Barnet on Thursday 6th May 2021.

GABRIELLE LOUISE BAILEYGreen Party candidate547
SEAN JAMES HOOKERLiberal Democrats415
LINDA LUSINGULabour Party2,257
ALEX MEROLAThe For Britain Movement49
NICOLE ALISON RICHERConservative Party Candidate2,549 (elected)

Turnout: 48.5% 

As you can see, the Conservatives won by around 300 votes. Firstly congratulations to Nicole Richer, who has worked very hard for the local Tories over the last few years and if anyone deserves a seat, I'd say she does. She has done the political rounds and is one of the few local Tories who bothers to tweet regulalrly, election or no election. I am sure she will be a good councillor, as she is a worker. I don't agree with her politics, but it is clear she is not a slacker, so she has my respect. 

As to the nearest challenger, Linda Lusingu. I don't know Linda. There are a couple of videos on the Barnet Labour Twitter feed introducing her.  You can see her Twitter account -  here   (I have edited this as I mistakenly believed that she did not have a Twitter account. Thanks to Julia Hines for the correction - Apologies to Linda). 

I've long been critical of the Barnet Labour Party and their campaigning techniques. It is all about getting teams of activists to deliver tons of leaflets, 99% of which go straight in people's bins. As to door knocking, this is targetted simply on 'getting out the core vote'. The Labour Party has run the same strategy for the last five council elections, losing each one. The only time that Labour has had major success was between 2012 and 2014, when they unseated Brian Coleman as GLA representative, replacing him with Andrew Dismore and taking a few seats in 2014 council elections. There was a big difference then. It was nothing to do with the official Labour machine either.

The Barnet Alliance for Public Services recruited a committed team of activists to defend public services. Brian Coleman had become extremely unpopular as the champion of  cashless parking, which had resulted in a huge downturn in trade for local High Streets. Furthermore, Tory Councillor Robert Rams had launched a Library closure campaign. I started the Save Barnet Libraries campaign in response in 2010. All of Barnets bloggers threw their weighjt behind this and we produced films, staged marches and recruited allies, many of whom were traditional Tories, behind the Anyone But Coleman campaign (ABC). Colemans 20,000 seat majority was overturned, which was extraordinary, given that Boris won the Mayoralty. Labours Andrew Dismore ended up with a 20,000 seat majority of his own. 

2012 was the high point of this and it was a community lead campaign. With such a powerful surge of goodwill for Labour in Barnet, it looked certain that Labour would take the council in 2014. What happened next was quite appalling. Labour refused to engage with the Barnet Alliance. When the Barnet Bloggers offered to work with Labour, they were told they could help out with leaflet deliveries. The Alliance was cross party, but Labour refused to form any sort of unofficial agreement with the Lib Dems, targetting Childs Hill, which had three Lib Dem Councillors. Had they given the Lib Dems a free run in 2014, Barnet Council would have fallen to a Labour / Lib Dem coalition. In the circumstances, One Lib Dem, Jack Cohen and Two Tories were returned and the Tories kept the council by one seat.

By 2018, the Barnet Alliance had ceased to be a serious campaigning organisation and the Tories cleaned up. Labour got hammered locally in all three Parliamentary seats in 2019. A simple pact between the Lib Dems and Labour in Finchley and Chipping where the parties did not actively campaign to give the other a chance would have delivered Finchley for the Lib Dems and Chipping for Labour. 

But the sad truth is that Barnet Labour's old guard would rather see the Tories control Barnet forever than reach an accomodation with the Lib Dems to deliver a progressive alliance. It is 100% clear that if the Greens and the Lib Dems stepped aside in East Barnet, then a progressive candidate would have won. If only half of the 962 votes that these parties polled had voted Labour and the rest stayed at home, Linda Lusingu would have won.

To kick the Tories out in Barnet in 2022 would be the easiest thing in the world for progressive parties. If  in all Tory held wards, Labour stood two candidates instead of three and the Lib Dems and Greens had the pick of the third, divvying them up, then the Tories would lose their majority. This would be sensible, grown up politics. A progressive council could then start to deliver progressive policies for the whole of Barnet, not just property developers and consultancy companies. I strongly believe that if voters believed the Lib Dems and the Greens had a real chance of success, they would vote accordingly. The electorate would see sensible, grown up people, putting tribal allegiance aside to deliver change for the better. It would also give a platform for such politics in the next general election. Without some accomodation, the Tories will hang on to all three seats. I am all for tribalism in football, but politics should be a place for rational discussion to deliver change for the better. 

If anyone in Barnet wants an inspiration to see what you need to do in Barnet to be successful, have a look at Nicole Richer. You may not like it, but she has worked hard and done what she had to do to get elected. Sad though it is, you have to do more than just say your prayers that the Good Lord will smile on you, if you want to win an election.

The bottom line is that the definition of stupidity is to do the same thing time after time and expect a different result to happen. This will never be the case in Barnet politics until people swallow their pride and start working together like grown ups. The only people who benefit from the way Labour run campaigns are the companies that produce leaflets. What many in Labour do not seem to understand or respect is the fact that people who vote Lib Dem or Green want the chance to cast their vote. They will lend it to Labour, if they can see that this will be reciprocated in other wards, but Labour seems to arrogantly think that Lib Dems and Greens should stand aside everywhere. The real worlds doesn't work like that. This was recognised in Barnet between 1994 and 2002 when there was a Labour/Lib Dem coalition. Sadly all of the sensible grown ups left when the Tories won in 2002. It is high time they came back.

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