Saturday, 26 March 2022

The Saturday List #341 - The 14 essential blogs of the Barnet Eye

 This has been our 'Greatest Hits' week. I wanted to make the case that local bloggers can make a difference. I listed four subjects where I felt this blog has made a unique and very important difference to our community. Please have a look at the four blogs we featured. Each looks at a very different subject, but each has made a real and important difference. If you have something to say, a blog is an excellent way to say it. This blog has never been advertised, it has built its readership up from scratch. I've always worked on the philosophy that if I'm interested in a topic, someone else, somewhere must be. Some of the blogs I've least  expected to get a reaction have got the best engagement. It doesn't always work and it is hard work, but ultimately, and putting this series together has reminded me why I do it, it is worthwhile. 

I've always done my best to promote other blogs, there's a list of great blogs in the sidebar (on the desktop version of the blog), sadly not all do the same thing, . The latest in the Barnet family of blogs is the Mr Limitless blog. Have a look. 

Anyway, on to the matter in hand. I thought I'd put a list together of what I consider 'essential blogs' of the Barnet Eye. I've not included the topics that were featured earlier in the week. You can view these by CLICKING HERE.

I've chosen one for every year of the blog.

2008 -  Barnet Council's incompetance puts Nazi propoganda on YouTube

This was the blog that started the Barnet Eye. I wrote this blog exposing how Barnet Council had placed an anti semitic video on their website for the Barnet Times. You may think that the Barnet Tories, who give lip service to supporting our local Jewish community would be horrified and thank me for this awful slip up? Not a bit of it. They made such a fuss to the Barnet Times editor that he sacked me as a contributor, stating that the "tone of the blog was too incendiary". Ironically, the Jewish Chronicle saw the blog and when they picked up the story, the blog was removed. Many local Tories, including David Miller, former chair of the Chipping Barnet Tories staunchly supported my stance. I've never quite understood how the Tories got away with it. It is worth a read.

2009 - I'm resigning from the Labour Party

This was a big moment for me. I'd been a member since the 1980's. I'd always thought of politics in tribal terms and I'd always thought that the Labour party stood for equality and compassion. When I saw the then Labour Home Secretary Alan Johnson congratulating French Riot Police for their brutal closure of the Sangatte refugee camp, as images of riot police attacking women and children were shown, I realised that I couldn't remain a member. In truth I'd been in denial for a decade. The Blair regime had a huge majority when it was elected. They could have transformed the UK for the better. What did Blair do? Lied to Parliament, started illegal wars, pandered to the multinational companies, kept regressive taxes, allowed private rail companies to run riot. I also realised that grown ups shouldn't be tribal about politics. We should not give any politician a free pass. Thirteen years later, I think it was one of the best decisions I've made. If I was still a member I'd have spent the last thirteen years either shutting my eyes and ears to what the party really is or I'd be a hypocrite and a liar.

I really wanted to pick a blog in 2010 about the Barnet Tories Future Shape/EasyCouncil/One Barnet project. This was the year that it really swung into life. There were plenty to choose from. But I chose this one, a very short blog indeed. When I read this, I thought "12 years later, every word of this is still true" - This is the key detail
Barnet Council auditors Grant Thornton issued a report which highlighted the following :-

No project plan
No Business Case
No Project Milestones
No effective control of the project

All project details are discussed in secret, there is no openness or transparency whatsoever
To this day, the Barnet Tories refuse to share the key financial details. Only last month Mr Reasonable made just this point at the Barnet Council Finance, Performance and Contracts committee, which we rather conveniently videod for posterity. Nothing has changed. The truth is that if it had worked, they would publish the figures, cut the secrecy and be putting it on their election brochures.

This was a day I was proud of Barnet. 1,000 people marched in the snow from Finchley Central, ending up at the Arts Depot, for a gig I'd organised, featuring The Foundations, my band and a host of others, as well as speeches froma whole bevvy of people campaigning against austerity. It made the BBC news. As a campaigner, what more could you do or ask for. This event was very much the brainchild of myself and Barnet Unison secretary John Burgess, who did most of the heavy lifting. 

In 2012, we made a film. Working with John Burgess of Unison and the Barnet Trades Council, we commissioned USA film maker Charles Honderick to make a film about Barnet. We organised a viewing at The Phoenix cinema, it was so well attended that we had to organise two showings. It was featured on ITV News, BBC News and BBC local radio. How proud was I as producer? Immensely. It was a really difficult film to make, as the day approached, new things kept happening requiring re-edits. Charles Honderick, the director did about ten times more work than he thought, we got great value for money. Technically the production was not what I'd wanted, because we simply ran out of time, but in terms of content it is spot on. It did the job, hundreds of people walked out saying "I had no idea this was going on". It was a great day. The film was shown at The House of Commons and at the Unison conference. Proud? You bet.

One of the things I'm most proud of, is giving a platform to other members of the public in Barnet. I could have chosen any but I've chosen Linda Edwards blog as it is very powerful and is still relevant. It is a difficult read for anyone who cares about how the Borough of Barnet deals with vulnerable adults. I spoke to Linda recently and nine years later, she is still struggling. Nothing changes.

Of all the sorry stories we've covered in Barnet, this was perhaps the most revolting, but for once the Barnet Tories had a rebellion in the ranks and common sense prevailed. I wish I could claim this as a victory for the Barnet Eye, but to be honest, I think that the sight of all the parents of disabled children was just too much for the Tory councillors who rebelled. In truth, I was just glad I was there to see the moment.  I wrote
Then, from a rather unexpected source, the final blow. Councillor Maureen Braun, not a friend of this blog asked Rubes "Who is more vulnerable than disabled children". Rubes tried to string a sentence together, but failed. Braun had summed up the general feeling in the room. Rayner had sensed early on that the Torie were on a loser. He had spent the evening trying to figure out how to extract his reputation from this situation. He clearly didn't want to shaft Mapledown, but couldn't work out how to protect his Tory friend. He moved to a vote and to the amazement of all, Salinger and Braun, to their great credit voted to send the report back to the cabinet. In short a Tory Committee had agreed that the Mapledown cut was unfair and unjust and needed review.
I have never been more pleased to have been at a meeting. No one thought this would happen before the meeting. I'm glad I preserved that moment for posterity.

Whilst many of these blogs concern really important things, I often blog about life. My father was a wise man and nothing makes me happier than sharing the knowledge he passed on. Every time I re-read this blog, it brings a tear to my eye. My Dad was a great man, a WW2 bomber pilot, successful businessman, great cricketer. But the best thing he gave me was wisdom and generosity of spirit. The lesson of this blog is probably more important than anything. I sometimes wish that the people who run our Borough had a Dad like him, as there would be no way they'd be so mean spirited. My Dad was a Conservative, which is why I've never subscribed to the 'all Tories are bad' view. 

I couldn't resist including this. How wrong can you possibly be? It just shows how you don't really appreciate what you've got until it's gone. I do think it's time that we give serious thought to the question I posed 
 What exactly do you think we've done to piss the big fella up there off? 2016 - We are only half way through the year. I am not going to tempt fate and say "How much worse can it get" because I think we all know a couple of very good examples of the that. 
Clearly we didn't get the message in 2016.

We haven't done the Barnet Eye Community Awards for a couple of years, for obvious reasons. I used to love the evening. Every year we'd ask for nominations and then give the winner a certificate and a round of applause. It was our way of saying thank you to people who do great things. I just hope that we can do it again this year. It is always fun and it gives local people a chance to show some appreciation of those who do good things. Barnet Council has followed our lead and is recognising community champions now, so I count that as a small victory. I discussed this with former Leader Richard Cornelius on many occasions and credit to him for listening. 

When I posted this blog, there were no objections to the proposal. Within a few days, there were hundreds. The battle is not won, but the pub is still standing and this version of the proposal was slung out. This is the sort of thing local blogs do well. I'm particularly proud of this one.

I had to include a Saturday List, as this is one of our favourite regular features. I chose this one as it sums up a good Saturday list, evocative and at the same time absurd. I hope you enjoy these.

Blimey, this was eighteen months ago! Where did the time go. I wanted to include a mention of The Robert Elms show on this list, as to me it is the bedrock of London's culture. I won't discuss the appalling changes to the BBC London schedule that has almost destroyed the station and put Robert on at very inconvenient times. I loved doing this. I'd love to do another pick sometime

Music is my life. I've run a studio for 43 years. Of all the people to pass through, and there have been tens of thousands, the most iconic was Amy. She was loved by us. I never sought to make a big thing of it, but after her passing and several documentaries that I felt didn't really tell the full story, I had to put the record straight. This was my attempt. I'm a believer and I look forward to the big gig in the sky where I'll hear that amazing voice again,

We finish, almost where we started, mismanagement and embarrassment for the Barnet Tories. In 2010 we detailed how the Council Auditors stated that the project was being run chaotically and they were not being open about it. Twelve years later, they've reaped what they have sown. A sorry tale.

I hope you've enjoyed this round up and the selection of blogs. I'll leave you with some music. Please have a listen.

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