Saturday 30 April 2022
Friday 29 April 2022
We are in the final countdown to the Barnet Council election. Many of the councillors who were elected in 2018 and in subsequent elections are standing again. The first question I'd ask any of them is "What have you done to earn my vote?". There are two things that annoys me more than anything else.
The first is councillors who won in marginal seats and don't have the balls to stand again on their record. It is known in the trade as "the chicken run". Of course sometimes there are good reasons for councillors moving ward. Maybe they've moved or for whatever reason have developed a stronger relationship with another ward. It is also true that Barnet has seen it's boundaries redrawn, so some councillors, such as Labour's Anne Clarke who is standing in Cricklewood, is standing in a new seat drawn largely from her previous ward. Others such as two of Mill Hill's Conservative candidates have dumped their former electors in Hale, many of whom are in a new ward called Edgwarebury, which is highly marginal, for what they assumed was a safe seat in Mill Hill (more of that later).
Then there are councillors such as Conservative Alex Prager who won highly marginal West Hendon last time and has moved up the road to what he thought was a safer bet in Hendon, leaving the more deprived and harder to win West Hendon behind.
His former Tory Colleague Helene Richman was appalled at the way her Tory Colleagues dumped the ward when they thought it might be hard to hold. Helene has strong ties to her local ward and was determined to fight it. She fell out with the local Tories over their neglect of the ward and was deselected. The local misogynistic Tories don't seem to like strong women who are outspoken.
Helene did not want to dump the people she'd built a relationship with and decided to join the Lib Dems and fight the ward. She's had little time to organise her campaign, but I have been really impressed by her efforts. One thing she'd done, that I've not seen any other candidate do is make a video that details her achievements as a councillor and listed all of the work she's done. I watched this video and thought to myself how ridiculous it is that every single standing councillor hasn't followed Helene's example and told us what they've done to justify our vote. Please have a look at her video, even if you won't consider voting Lib Dem. Ask your councillors what they've done. If they knock on your door, they should be prepared to give you an answer. If they've moved from another ward, ask them what they did for the people who voted for them previously, why they've moved to their new ward and why they are better than the opposition.
The second thing that really bugs me are candidates who don't live in the ward. Now I understand that it can be hard for parties to get a full slate of candidates, if a party has six great candidates in one ward and none in a neighbouring ward, then of course you'd be silly not to choose them for a ward next door. However, in West Hendon, the person roped in to replace Helene boasts on his Twitter profile that he's a 'former lifelong Hackney resident'. Surely if you are a former 'lifelong' Hackney resident, that means you are dead? His profile and postings make no mention of West Hendon. It is beyond me why anyone would want to stand in a ward they are not associated with.
Which brings me to Mill Hill ward, where I am standing. The sole reason that I am standing is because I love Mill Hill. I was born in the area, I hope I die in the area (but not just yet), I live in the area, my family have since 1948. We've run businesses in the area all of that time. I've run Mill Hill Music Complex studios since 1979. I eat in the local restaurants, drink in the local pubs, use the local butchers, bakers and I'd use the candlestick maker if we had one. I walk my dogs in the local parks, play football at the local powerleague. I support the nearest local football team, Hadley FC (okay I'll fess up, I'm also a lifelong Manchester City Fan because my mum was born in Manchester). I belong to the Mill Hill Services club, of which I'm a management committee member. I'm also a member of the Sacred Heart Church and on the Finance committee. In short, I get a lot out of this community and I try to put a lot back into it. Being a councillor would give me access to the council officers to sort things out.
I also believe that many of the council's processes and methods are not fit for purpose. I believe that there could be huge savings made by overhauling the way the council does it's business. I've run a business for 43 years. I can read a spreadsheet and I know the benefits of identifying savings. The council is highly bureaucratic, everything takes months to do, even the most simple of tasks. I have excellent relationships with the staff and local trades unions and I know that they are amenable to improvement. The local Conservatives do not understand trades unions. They view them as the enemy. They believe that the union are not interested in doing things properly, only in making life cushy for union members. In other European nations, Unions form part of the management teams of councils and efficiencies are delivered harmoniously. I believe that a properly run council would deliver more efficient services, at lower cost to the taxpayer with better conditions for workers. How you may ask? The answer is simple. Cut out the layers of bureaucracy that stop things getting done and give some of the savings to the taxpayer and a bit to the staff, so Barnet Council becomes a place where people want to work. The outsourcing model so loved by the Barnet Tories has not worked. Council tax has gone up, services have got worse and the workforce has got ever more demoralised.
Now I know I can't do this on my own, but if I'm elected, I can start the process. There is a good chance that the Lib Dems will hold the balance of power in a hung council chambre and I'd make my support for any new administration conditional on the council becoming a more dynamic, efficient and responsive organisation, which both taxpayers and workforce can be proud of.
You may say "How can he say that? What does he know?". Well, most of you know I run a music studio. What most of you don't know is that I also worked for many years as a freelance consultant working in IT and process improvement, before I decided to concentrate full time on my music business. Unlike many people who work in the field, having run my own business and worked in the family business, I realised that there is always scope for improvement in any process and every saving matters and the best way to identify savings is to talk to the people who are doing the job and find out where the problems are. One example of this was when I warned Barnet Council in October 2018 that their bin round reorganisation would result in chaos. How did I know? I'm not mystic Meg. I just talked to the bin men and friends in the depot. They told me it wouldn't work and the management who'd designed it simply didn't understand the logistics of what they were proposing. The result? Many people in Mill Hill and across Barnet didn't have their bins collected at all for weeks, if not months.
No one in management had actually bothered to ask the binmen if the changes were feasable. Barnet has spent tens of millions of pounds on business consultants, but they never ask the staff on the ground, who actually had to do the work. If I'd been a councillor, I could have prevented that. I've have dragged the council leader down to chat to the binmen if he'd not listened to sense from me. There is a culture in Barnet Council of councillors thinking that "sending an email" is doing work. It isn't. You need to follow things up and if things are not moving, go and see people face to face to find out why.
Some councillors on all sides get this and if you've read this blog, you'll know their names. I'll work with anyone who is sensible to make Mill Hill and the Borough of Barnet a better place. Isn't that what every Barnet Councillor should do, and not just before an election.
Thursday 28 April 2022
Back in 2018, after the local elections, I had a beer with my fellow Mill Hill Lib Dem candidate Richard Logue. We'd run a good campaign in difficult circumstances. We'd more than doubled the Lib Dem vote, in face of an onslaught from both the Conservatives who ran a strong anti Corbyn campaign and the Momentum left who got a big response from the local left vote, who both had a good go at Mill Hill.
Richard asked me if he thought the Lib Dems had any chance in 2022. I replied that it was a long way away.We didn't know how much things would change. I said "All we have to do is persuade one Conservative a day to switch to the Lib Dems and we'll walk it". When you talk about switching, 1,460 voters, that's a hell of a lot, but it's only one day. So where do you start?
If you want to win as an opposition candidate, you have to persuade people that you can make a difference. I don't stand because I want a career in Politics, I do it because I want a better Mill Hill for residents. I have written over 300 emails to the council in that time, on subjects from enforcement of building controls, the environment, green belt violations and planning applications, problems with street lighting. Not to impress people, just because it's right.
When we've been out canvassing, people have raised issues, I've been able to show evidence of work I've been doing over the last four years on the issues. Last night, a lady I was canvassing on Bittacy Rise told me she was disillusioned with politics. I told her I understood and asked why. She listed a whole list of things, most of which I'd been in a long running dialogue with the council about. Former Mill Hill Councillor Jeremy Davies was out with me and explained how the councillors could have sorted the issues out, had they been so minded. That was another voter who's mind we'd changed.
I've no idea how many people will have changed as a result of such chats, through reading this blog, through the chats that I have in M&S, Iceland and Tesco's, or whilst walking the dog in the Broadway. What I do know is that our canvass returns are telling a different story to 2018. In some ways, the 2014 elections were a better baseline for assessing the Tory base vote. There was no Corbyn bogeyman for most residents.
Mill Hill Conservative vote 2014
As you can see, you usually need 1,800-2,000 votes to win in Mill Hill. My gut feeling is that the Tories will be 25% down on that year. The Lib Dems didn't really run a strong campaign that year. I was not a member at the time. This time it is different. We are hearing tales from disaffected Tory voters of them giving Tory Telelphone canvassers a flea in their ear.
This year I feel strong parallels with what happened in 1994, when the Lib Dems came from third place to win. It seems to me that Boris Johnson's regime is even more unpopular than John Major was in 1994.
Mill Hill ward results 1994 Council elections
|Liberal Democrats||Sheila Gottsche||1,836||38.7||+27.3|
|Liberal Democrats||Jeremy Davies||1,830||38.6||+28.8|
|Liberal Democrats||Wayne Casey||1,817||38.3||+28.9|
Wednesday 27 April 2022
It may sound like an odd thing to say, but I believe this Monday will be the most important day of the career of Boris Johnson's tenure at No 10 Downing Street. It is the day we find whether Dominic Cummings is a Political genius or just a rather unfortunate charlatan, who Boris Johnson was stupid enough to get himself involved with.
You may find this an odd statement, but I believe that Boris's future at no 10 depends on what happens at the local elections Next Thursday, May 5th. A truly awful set of results and the already jittery Tory MP's will know that his time has run out with voters. They expect the results to be bad, but if they point to a wipe out at the next election, which must be held in the next couple of years, they know that they need to ditch him to allow a new leader to detoxify the party.
So why is Monday so important. I've always believed that Dominic Cummings loyalty was with Michael Gove, not Boris Johnson. It was Gove who persuaded Johnson to take on Cummings. Gove is a crafty sod. He's not put his name in the hat as a potential leader, but you wait for Boris to go. He'll soon be up there and making the running. Cummings is his go to strategy man. If Boris recovers, Gove may well find that his chance has passed to the next generation of Tory hopefuls. I've thought all along that the Cummings revealations were far more about Gove's plotting than anything else. Cummings clearly doesn't believe that Boris is the last job he'd have in British Politics, but what right minded person would employ him after he's shafted his old boss so comprehensively? The only answer can be someone who was in on the plan, someone who wants to be leader themselves.
When voters cast their votes, they have a lot of reasons to give Boris the cold shoulder, but a final massive dead cat from Cummings at the start of election week will seal the deal. He's the man who started the whole Partygate saga, despite his own ill advised trip to Barnard Castle in lockdown.
There are only two possible views of Cummings. One is that he's a charlatan and a busted flush, who has simply thrown mud at Boris in a fit of pique, because he was booted out when Boris realised he was poison, sadly for Boris, long after the poison was supped.
Then there is the other option. It's all been a well worked out plan, to gradually destroy the credibility of Boris, in the run up to the local elections, with the coup de grace being delivered in election week. The ties and mutual admiration between Cummings and Gove are well documented and Gove has never made any secret of the fact he thinks he'd be a better PM than Boris, as recent press speculation has revealed.
So how will we know? If on Monday we get the Boris bombshell that I fully expect, we can be pretty sure that a long standing plan is reaching it's climax. By Thursday, voters will be marching to the polls boiling with anger. Of course, if I'm wrong about all of this, and I probably am, Cummings will not be on the news channels, Gove will be pounding the streets hard to support Tory candidates in the local elections and saving Boris and the voters will simply be extremely pissed off with Boris, as opposed to boiling with rage.
I ran my theory by a well placed source that I have, who has been spot on about a number of things No 10 has done regarding strategy. Their response? "Whilst I'm sure that what your saying is not necessarily the last thing Boris is worrying about heading into the locals, the last thing he needs is another dead cat, but I'd say he has other things that may be concerning him more". Make of that what you will. They also said that they thought the odds on Michael Gove at 33/1 were a pretty good price right now if you were going to have a punt on anyone.
Of course, all of this is a purely personal opinion.
Tuesday 26 April 2022
Misogyny is rife right across the Tory party and has been for years. The latest outbreak is truly disgusting. The fact that 'unnamed MP's' have briefed in such a revolting way about Labours MP Angela Rayner is something that in this day and age is totally unacceptable. What makes me sick is the fact that there is a massive story here. It is nothing to do with Angela Rayner. It is the fact that Tory MP's are prepared to come out with such vile crap to national papers and that they are prepared to print it.
If the Daily Mail had any principles at all, they would have named and shamed the MP's who tried to plant the story. It is clearly in the public interest. I would not want to vote for such vile individuals and I doubt that too many Tories would. If the Mail had a shred of decency, they could nip this in the bud by putting the MP's on the front page. Then we'd get a grovelling apology and voters would be given the opportunity at the next election to cast their verdict. By witholding the names, the Mail is simply serving a bunch of sexist, male chauvanist pigs.
Then there is the Tory Party. It is beyond belief that the whips don't know who did it. Anyone who knows the workings of Westminster, knows that any Tory MP thick enough to say such a thing would not do so without the nod from the whips. There are only really two possible explanations. One is the whips knew and are now trying to shut it down. The other is that they've lost their grip on both the Tory party and their common sense. If I was them, I'd be making it my business to know. Of course they will try and cover it up, but no sane person should think they don't know. If Boris was good to his word, he'd call them in, find the culprits and make them apologise. Of course he won't.
Earlier today, I wrote a blog concerning former Conservative West Hendon Councillor, who recently joined the Lib Dems. It is pretty clear to anyone that she wasn't 'one of the boys' and fell victim to the well known misogyny in the Barnet Tories, that saw other former female councillors humiliated by their male colleagues, Kate Salinger springing to mind as a prime example. Make no mistake, the party is riddled with this from top to bottom. What Angela Rayner has had to put up with happens at every level of the Tory Party. Over recent months, we've had the vile spectacle of Tory Bigwig Brian Coleman attacking Labour GLA rep Anne Clarke. I was so revolted that I made the unusual step of supporting a political opponent on Twitter.
Although I’m @LibDems I’ve the utmost respect for @anne_clarke and I’m thoroughly sickened by the repeated misogynistic attacks on her by @briancoleman251 who displays a stunning degree of hypocrisy in these two recent tweets. When will the @BarnetTories grow some & call him out pic.twitter.com/BTeAklTfkU— Roger Tichborne/RogT🔸 (@Barneteye) November 5, 2021
We need some decency in politics and if women can't stand without these revolting attacks, then our councils and parliament will find itself shorn of 50% of the most talented people in the land. The conecpt that this goes with the gig is plain wrong. Stopping this is one reason why I am standing and one reason why I am proud to share a platform with the Donna Pickup who is an excellent candidate and I am sure will do an amazing job for the people of Mill Hill. It will also send a message to these dinosaurs. The council elections in May is an ideal opportunity to send both the local and national Conservatives a strong message that this won't do. And as for the Daily Mail. Don't touch it with a bargepole.
Several locals have asked me whether I will be supporting Helene Richman's candidacy for the Lib Dems in the West Hendon By Election. The answer is unreservedly yes. There are many reasons, but I'd like to go on record and explain why. Some people have asked why I am supporting a former Conservative Councillor, as I hope all decent West Hendon locals will, especially those who previously voted for her as a Conservative
1. She was a staunch supporter of the campaign to Save The Midland Hotel from the bulldozers and get it listed as an asset of community value. She came down to an event I'd organised and made a fantastic speech. As best I can recall, she's the only Barnet Councillor to publicly come out and support such a campaign of any party. She did a few months after an election so was not simply out a few weeks before the election to harvest votes.
2. She is an asset to Barnet council as she is highly intelligent, a Barrister by trade and she speaks her mind. I don't always agree with her, but I respect the fact that she stands her ground. I suspect that when she was first elected, the Tory leadership of Barnet Council used her to say a few things they wanted to say but were to scared to say themselves. My sister is a Barrister and one of the things you have to do as part of the job is say things to people that they don't like. I'd much rather have people who I knew where I stood with. Political parties are better for being reasonably broadly based. Having heard what both Conservative and Labour members have said about other members of their party on many occasions and heard the porkies both parties have come out with to mislead the public over the years, it is good to hear someone say what they think, even if you disagree with them. Fair play for her in sticking in her ward and giving it a go. I've always had a degree of disdain for councillors who took the chicken run.
3. I've been told privately by Barnet Conservative councillors that she was unfairly treated by the group. The accusations against her were unsustainable and she has the support of several local Rabbi's which really tells you everything you need to know.
4. As we've seen over the weekend, the Conservative Party is a bastion of misogyny. Is it any surprise that a strong and driven female councillor was undermined when she didn't sit back and toe the line set by a far less capable leader.
Anyone who reads this blog, knows I speak my mind. Whatever happens in the election in May, I believe we need the strongest and best candidates to win. I don't think there are too many stronger than Helene and I think Barnet Council needs such people.
Monday 25 April 2022
I just wanted to say a BIG THANK to everyone that has tweeted , messaged and phoned me since it was confirmed yesterday that @hadleyfc would be promoted to step 4.— Anthony clark (clarky) (@clarky_ant1984) April 25, 2022
Honestly it’s much appreciated thank you
Saturday 23 April 2022
The Saturday List #345 - Five useless companies and the corporate failures that have cost me a fortune
Friday 22 April 2022
In two weeks time, I will be writing a blog, picking over the bones of the local election results. The last election was in 2018. I was intriguid to see what I wrote on this day back then. It is quite instructive. I chose not really to discuss the election at all, but to report on the final meeting of the Audit Committee to be chaired by Ex Tory Councillor Hugh Rayner. My coverage of the election was rather low key, considering I was working my butt off. In truth, as a Lib Dem Candidate in Mill Hill, we knew we were on a hiding to nothing. We set ourselves a target of trying to get our vote up to 20%, which we achieved. We raised local issues and our ambition was to try and keep the local Tories honest. We thought that if we demonstrate that there was a serious opposition in Mill Hill, prepared to work hard, it would keep the local Tory Councillors honest and ensure they worked hard. We were aware that the local Labour party were on the attack, despite knowing they couldn't win. The hard left seemed to dislike the idea of a Lib Dem win in Mill Hill even less than a Tory victory. The Tories rather oddly posted "Vote Lib Dem, get Jerey Corbyn" to their voters. This message resonated with many local residents, despite the fact that Jeremy Corbyn had nothing to do with either the Lib Dems or the Barnet elections. The Tories very effectively made the point that the only way to tell Jeremy Corbyn what you thought of him was to vote for them. It seemed like every door we knocked on asked us "What do you think of Jeremy Corbyn". If they were Conservative leaning, they'd slam the door in our face and if they were Labour left, they'd do exactly the same.
Our polling returns indicated a range of 1,000 to 1,400 votes. We got around 1,200. This time, it is different. Whereas last time it was Corbyn on the doorstep, this time it is Boris. Whereas last time doors were slammed in our face, casual Tory voters are saying "We will be voting for you as we couldn't possibly endorse Boris". Casual Labour voters are saying "We used to vote for you in the locals and we are this time". Our leaflets have been extraordinarily effective, causing the Tories into a humiliating climb down following a proposal to place a semi permanent fun fair on Mill Hill park this summer. They had the Chutzpah to claim it proved they are listening. Councillors hear about such plans in advance of any notices being posted, so the idea that they are doing a super job is complete nonsense. The posted on local Facebook sites, making highly dubious claims, at a time the Council is in purdah. Clearly knowing that they are on dodgy ground, they added the caveat "May I further say that this decision has nothing to do with the up and coming local elections"Oddly, Hale Ward councillors are claiming to represent Mill Hill, to raise their profile in the posts. To indulge in such shenanigans is clearly a sign of panic. The bottom line is that for the Lib Dems to win in Mill Hill, we'd need to see a 40% drop in Tory votes and a 50% increase in the Lib Dem vote. When I was asked to stand in October, I thought this was an impossible mountain to climb. Having been leafletting and knocking on doors, my gut feeling is that this more than achieveable. I totted up canvass returns and I'll be absolutely shocked if the the Tories do not see at least a 40% drop in votes.
Mill Hill Tories latest leaflet ‘please Facebook us to discuss all our cock ups’. They’ve given up saying they can sort problems out and are privately admitting they are in trouble and the @BarnetLibDems will take seats pic.twitter.com/qrvvs1thgs— A Better Mill Hill 🔸🌈🇬🇧🇪🇺 (@ABetterMillHill) April 19, 2022
Thursday 21 April 2022
|Pic courtesy of theconversation.com|
I don't think I've spoken about TINNITUS before, but realised I should after a brief chat with a friend who also suffers this morning. I've not seen him since before lockdown. Like me, he is a musician and like me he suffers from tinnitus. Last time I spoke, he was at his wits end. He confessed that he was verging on feeling suicidal as he couldn't sleep, couldn't concentrate and couldn't think.
When he told me this I was horrified. I had another friend who had a nervous breakdown due to tinnitus. They only got any help when they told their GP that it was making them feel suicidal. The more I've talked with friends about the subject, the more common I've realised how common these feelings are.
One thing that is good is that when friends have told their GP, they have been fast tracked and got some specialist help. For most people, there is not a cure, although often it is a symptom of other medical conditions that need treatment, such as high blood pressure. If you have tinnitus, I'd advise a check up.
So what is it like? For me I have a high pitched cyclical whining, that is especially pronounced in my left ear (I had an operation on that ear in 1988, which started it all). I also have some residual tinnitus in my right ear. Using equipment we have at the studio, I'd estimate that it adds about 70 decibels of noise. It is pretty constant, although I mostly notice it at night or on dog walks in the countryside. I live by the M1 motorway and I actually find the background noise helps me sleep and relax.
During lockdown, when there was almost no traffic, I found it almost impossible to relax. I also find that when I'm on holiday in quiet places it can be really irritating. However, there is one thing that does mitigate it. That is drinking alcohol. For health reasons, I don't drink 3-4 days a week. If I have a moderate amount , say 2-4 pints/glasses of wine, I sleep far better. This presents a dilemma. If I am tired, then generally I can nod off, so after football etc, I generally sleep well. If I'm not tired and haven't had a drink, it can be very hard.
There are things that can be done to help. The NHS website says
I have to confess, I don't think the NHS advice is entirely helpful in that it dismisses something that can make people feel suicidal and doesn't properly signpost this risk. There is better advise on the British Tinnitus Association website.
If tinnitus is a problem for you, I'd suggest that it is worth keeping a tinnitus diary and noting what works and what doesn't. Some of the advice, such as playing soft music is all very well, but if you have a partner you share a room with, this is not always practical, unless you can sleep with headphones in (I can't, they irritate me and I'm not overly keen on soft, ambient music) . There are apps that help some people.
For me, the most effective strategies involve distraction. I find that if I read before bed and get engrossed, I'll often get tired and nod off. I also memories songs and play them in my head. There are times when none of this works. I discussed this with my former GP Dr Carswell in the early 1990's. His advice was to have get up and have a tot of scotch whisky. If it is really bad, this works, but I very rarely do this.
Another thing I have is a series of visualisation exercises that I use. I find that visualising sounds is particularly effective. I combine these with relaxation and breathing exercises. I found that some relaxation exercises are counter productive, especially ones where you lie silently and 'empty your mind', that is a part of many Yoga classes. To me, I find it sounds like I am at Niagra Falls and it ruins the mood. A friend suggested I visited Niagra Falls and used this as visualisation, which I did, but found it just made me aware of the Tinnitus.
There are devices that produce white noise that is also meant to help, although I personally find it slightly irritating. The worst times are when I wake up at 4am, with a really loud ringing in my ears and my mind racing. This is the time when it is worst. When you don't want to get up, you can't sleep and you are tired but not tired enough. Often, my thoughts are so chaotic that I can't concentrate enough to get myself into a place where I can deal with it. I discussed this once with a former Yoga teacher. He asked why I was always so 'fidgety in the relaxation'. I explained. The next time, he brought some low ambient music for the relaxation and that helped. He also gave me a couple of exercises and suggested that I try them at home when it was bugging me. The most effective is one where you regulate your breathing, then shift your consciousness to other parts of your body, starting with your toes. You slowly move your toes, and then feel how your toes are feeling. You then move to the soles of your feet, gradually moving up the body, spending around 30 seconds in each part. This will work around 50% of the time.
To sum up, if you suffer from tinnitus regularly and have not sought medical advice, I'd strongly advise that you do. If you have and it hasn't resolved anything, start trying to devise strategies that help. Don't expect them to work all of the time, but even if they improve things 25% of the time that is better, and I guarantee that if you keep refining what you do, it will improve over time. If it is causing you to feel depressed or suicidal, then tell your GP and you will be fast tracked to see specialists. Many people think "It's too trivial to raise" but if it is affecting your mental health, then it is very serious indeed. If you are using alcohol to cope, then this may cause harm so also mention this to your GP. Psychoactive drugs can also make the symptoms of tinnitus worse, as you sometimes draw some rather strange conclusions about what the noises is or is doing. Some people find that tinnitus is affected by electro magnetic fields, so it may be worth turning off all the plugs and leaving the mobile phone elsewhere in the house.
I'd like to see the NHS take the subject far more seriously, although I realise that for them, it is not a priority. I'd be interested to hear of other people's experiences and strategies.
Wednesday 20 April 2022
I was intrigued to see that the bookies still believe that Sir Keir Starmer is the favourite currently with the bookies to be next PM - Starmer is 4/1. That tells me that the smart money thinks that in the short term Boris Johnson is safe. There are three things I've learned over my lifetime about the Tories and their leaders
1) They are utterly ruthless when they think they've outlived their usefulness.
2) They wield the knife when it suits their interests and not those of the nation
3) The favourite rarely gets the job
So lets start with the favourite. That is Liz Truss. She is 6/1. Given the fact that the Tories rarely pick favourites, I suppose there is a certain logic to the odds. A couple of weeks ago I had a chat with a Tory Candidate about the options. When I mentioned Liz Truss, he gave me the same look as if I'd said Coco the Clown. In short, amongst the rank and file, she has little credibility. She seems to have a low profile and little backbone. She's foreign secretary, there is a European war raging, but you see the Invisible Man on telly more than Liz. I almost think she exists only to prove the old maxim about favourites right.
Next up at 8/1 we have Jeremy Hunt. A sane and rational person would think that Jeremy, untainted with the baggage of Boris would be an ideal choice. If I was a Tory, he'd be my choice (given the options, I must add), but I'm not sure he necessarily has the gumption for the job. I suspect he'd be less of a train wreck than Boris and he seems to be a more decent person (who isn't though). I suspect the fact I can say this rules him out completely, but at least he has the air of being vaguely competent.
I find the next on the list quite fascinating. At 9/1 it's Tom Tugendhat. He ticks the gumption box, as an ex military man, that is my big problem with Hunt. He's not tainted by Boris and has been quite independent as chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee. In January, he put his hat in the ring, saying he would consider standing if Boris went. The only downside is he lacks experience. Is he a safe pair of hands? I really don't know.
And to round up our top five, we have yesterday's darling, Dishy Rishi Sunak. A year ago, he'd have probably been a shoe in, but he's been well and truly Boris'd. He made the mistake of attending illegal parties with the boss. As he's a teetotaller, it is quite cruel really. I don't think he can stand Boris and probably went out of a sense of very misguided duty. His family has an aversion to paying taxes, which when you are the head of the department that collects them off of the rest of us is a bit of a no no. He was promoted very rapidly Boris, but has learned that what Boris giveth, Boris will take away.
The key question is not whether but when Boris will feel the sharp blade between the shoulder blades. It is clear that unless they find dead bodies in the back garden of No 10, Tory MP's will not kick him out until after the council elections. I've been told that Tory spinners think the locals will not see as many losses as everyone is predicting. This is not because they will do well, but because Labour did OK in 2018 and so the scope for gains has been lessened. I am not convinced. I've been canvassing in Mill Hill, admittedly not in any way a ward typical of either London or the UK, but it has been an eye opener. Last time in 2018, the Lib Dems came third, but very respectably with around 20% of the vote. We felt we were making headway on doorsteps, but not nearly enough to have a chance of winning. I privately told everyone I thought I'd have done will if I got 1,200 votes (as in 2014 the LD's got 400 odd). I got 1,206.
Staunch Labourites were openly hostile. Tories would nod patronisingly and try and keep us talking. This time? The Staunch Labourite are asking if the Lib Dems really have a chance in Mill Hill and are saying things like "I might just vote for you in the locals as I really want to see the Tories lose". What we call soft Tories are saying "I can't possibly vote for them with Boris in charge, I' may vote for you or I may not vote at all". They are not wasting our time or trying to wind us up. The one Tory I spoke to who told me he had voted Conservative said "Everyone knows Boris is on borrowed time, so I am not going to break the habit of a lifetime just yet". As ringing endorsements go, it isn't exactly flattering to a party he's supported all of his life. I did some number crunching and it seems to me that maybe 40% of Tories wont be voting for them this time locally. Their 1st candidate got around 3,000 votes last time. if our polling stats are right, that means they will get around 1,700-1,800 votes. The Lib Dem canvass returns show an increase of 50-60% on positives from last time. That would give me 1,800-1,900 votes. What I can say for sure is that when people have said yes, they've been far more positive this time than 2018, when I suspect many of our canvass returns were over optimistic due to British politeness and our team wanting people to knock up on election day.
If, and this is a very, very big if, these are correct and this reflects a national trend, I expect a swathe of good, decent, hard working Tory candidates to lose their seats. Those staunch Tories are the bedrock of Tory MP's teams. The post election reviews that every party does will be telling their MP's exactly who's fault it is. That is the point when Boris will be in big trouble. When long standing councillors lose, many either leave politics completely or take a good long break. They are not well disposed to leaders and MP's who sold them down the river and didn't listen to their concerns. At some point in the next couple of years, there will be a general election and those teams will be needed to turn out for their MP's.
In Barnet, the Tories lost the Council in 1994. In the 1997, they lost two out of three MP's. I felt this was as much to do with the fact that the local Tory party had been damaged as to do with Tony Blair being an amazing candidate. It took them until 2010 to repair the damage and get their MP's back in. The more I look, the more the 2022 council elections look like the 1994 elections. After those, the Tories stuck with John Major, a nice chap but a lousy Tory leader. They got massacred in 1997 by Blair. The vast majority of Tory MP's were getting involved with politics at around that time and know this. That is why I believe the council elections are the key to whether Boris goes next month.
As to who replaces him. There are 359 Conservative MP's currently. Isn't it a bit sad that with so many, the rather uninspiring list earlier in the blog are the front runners? I suspect that all of the clever, dynamic Tories have far better paid jobs in the City. A Tory councillor recently told me that he'd quite like to see the PM paid a million pounds a year, as this was the least someone with that sort of responsibility should get and given you can get booted out at any time, it is not a ridiculous amount. He then said it was a crying shame that no one in politics could actually say such a thing publicly without getting ripped apart by the press. I've no real idea what a fair renumeration package should be for a Prime Minister or any other MP or Minister, but when you look at the calibre of people in the job, something is badly wrong.
BTW, the betting odds in Barnet are now strongly in favour of a Labour win. I was intrigued at the long odds on a no overall control. I am tempted to stick a tenner on it.
Tuesday 19 April 2022
|Click on image for a more readable version|
So lets see what they've featured.
Planning issues. The Barnet Tories have outsourced planning to Capita and now it is a 'profit centre' generating huge amounts of cash from big developers.
Fly Tipping. Before the Tories got in, we had regular street skips. These were left for residents to despose of items in. In what was one of the worst cases of false economies, they abolished the skips. Now dodgy waste disposal companies get paid to take household waste and then fly tip it in our local beauty spots, which the council has to remove anyway, at far greater expenses.
Housing Problems. This is a shameful claim. I know of many people who have had problems with housing. Sadly, this Conservative Council simply isn't interested.
Potholes. This has been an ongoing problem in Barnet. The sad truth is that our roads are simply not maintained properly. There are many false economies in the way repairs are conducted. Often roads have been resurfaced only for utility companies to dig them up a few weeks later and not restore them properly. No one seems to check such work and no effort is put into co-ordinating utility works and getting the utility companies to fix problems they have caused with the road surface. These lead to many of the potholes.
Parking problems. The council make a healthy profit on parking tickets. They outsourced this to a private company, who are very zealous in enforcement. Has this resolved the issues with parking? No. The council are also making a healthy problem on parking charges. The cost of these have risen considerably in recent years and they have introduced charges at many car parks that were previously free.
Cracked Pavements. This is quite interesting. Many of the pavements have been ripped up and replaced by asphalt. Many of those that have not are in terrible shape. How have they got like this? The Conservative Council has not looked after them properly. But never mind, if you have a problem you can tell them.
Refuse Issues. Remember three years ago when the Tories mucked up bin collections with new rounds that didn't work? Remember your bins not being collected because they'd completely screwed up? Well never mind. After a few months they sorted it out. It seems the Tories think no one has a memory in Barnet.
Council Tax Issues. Got a problem with Council Tax? Need to speak to someone at the Council? Well, you need to ring up and speak to someone, but sadly the Barnet Tories outsourced all such functions to Capita so good luck with that. There is an SLA between Capita and the Council for calls answered. This has never been met. But the Mill Hill Tories will be very sympathetic if you tell them about your problems.
(please note, I'd recommend you don't click the QR code on the image. If you do I take no responsibility).
Monday 18 April 2022
Barnet Council have recently posted a licencing application
(https://admin.barnet.gov.uk/sites/default/files/Licencingapplication04042022.pdf) on some lamp posts near and in Mill Hill Park.
The application states:
|Sign in Mill Hill Park|
“A new application seeking to allow: For all the activities below the hours are as follows; Monday – Sunday 10:00 -20:00 Plays Both Indoors and outdoors) Films Both Indoors and outdoors) Live music ( Both Indoors and outdoors ) Recorded music (Both Indoors and outdoors) Performances of dance Both Indoors and outdoors) Anything of a similar description to that falling within (e), (f) or (g) Anything of a similar description to that falling within (e), (f) or (g) “This application is to ensure that the park is correctly licenced for any future ad-hoc events ”
This application has very serious implications for residents like you who live near Mill Hill Park. At present if anyone wishes to run an event in the park, they must apply for a temporary events licence. Only a maximum of 15 events per year with a capacity of 499 – including staff – can be currently run at the park.
If this licence is approved events can run all year at the park and a premises licence allows a maximum capacity of 4999. Imagine the parking chaos and noise!
We are hearing that the fun fair at Brent Cross is looking for a new venue. Mill Hill Park could be that venue under this licence.
We must stop this from happening. It is vital that YOU put in a representation email to Barnet Council licencing to oppose this, but time is running short. You have until May 2nd – before the elections – to submit a representation at firstname.lastname@example.org
Barnet Council state the following:
• Representations must relate to one of more of the four licensing objectives, the prevention of crime and disorder, public safety, the prevention of public nuisance and the protection of children from harm.
Copthall Green Space under threat.
As if this wasn't bad enough, they are also planning to turn Copthall playing fields into a huge music venue this summer, with 10,000 people attending a large festival on green belt fields. The proposed license for the festival will have music until 10pm and will see thousands of revelllers descending on Mill Hill's train station when the music finishes. It will take at least two hours for such a crowd to disperse. The festival organisers are moving to Barnet after huge problems at it's previous home in Enfield, leading to Enfield Council banning the festival. Read this report in the Enfield press.
All of this is happening because the local Conservative Council have messed up the finances and are desperate to rent out the parks to bring in some cash to the empty coffers.
The Mill Hill Lib Dem team is committed to opposing these threats to our green spaces. We are available to discuss any issues you think should be dealt with. Please contact us by email at email@example.com
Please help us to protect Mill Hill's green spaces by giving us your support in the forthcoming local election in Mill Hill Ward. You can follow our campaign on our digital newsletter site here