So the dust has started to settle in the Borough of Barnet following the tumultous events of Thursday night / Friday morning. This is the third of four blogs, in this one we look at the challenges facing the Barnet Tories. If you click here, you can find your local councillor. At the moment, many have no picture available, because they newly elected.
Over the next few weeks, many of the Barnet Conservative Councillors will realise that it is no fun at all when you've been in power and all of a sudden you are not. Up until Thursday, they ran the council, made the decisions and were generally pretty obnoxious to Labour councillors, rubbing their noses in the fact that they'd lost the last election. I doubt there are too many people who are not in some way connected with the Council that have attended more meetings over the last 14 years than me. Unlike everyone else (apart from a couple of bloggers), I've simply gone to observe and record events. Any long time readers will know just how awful this has been at times. I sincerely hope, for the good of everyone that Labour choose to not play the Tories game and treat the opposition (and the public) with dignity.
Most of the worst Tories actually went in 2014. The ones who delighted in being rude, the one who assaulted an opponent in the council chamber and the ones who lied in the cover up. Sadly, this behaviour did rub off on some, who I suspect would have been quite decent councillors if they hadn't had such an awful example from senior colleagues. What I see left is a party with little talent left. Current (although I expect that this will not be for too long) leader Dan Thomas did his best to get rid of anyone who was in any way independent minded or a threat. This involved shafting people like talented Barrister Helene Richman, who was popular locally and absolutely hated by the Labour Party. Helene woud have been a formidable talent to have in the Tories new role as Scrutineers. They also lack the old guard who were previously in opposition, who knew how to play the game.
The first big shock will be when they see their bank balance next month. As the party in power, you appoint the chairs of committees. This means that you can dole out around £16,000 to all of your mates, who you appoint as chairs. That is one for all of these committees
Policy and Resources Committee,
Children, Education and Safeguarding Committee
Adults and Safeguarding Committee
Community Leadership and Libraries
Committee Financial Performance and Contracts Committee
Housing & Growth Strategic Planning Committee
Planning Committee A
Planning Committee B
Planning Committee C
Health and Well-Being Board
Constitution and General Purposes Committee
Pension Fund Committee
Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee
That's 15 Tory Councillors that are £16 grand worse off.
On top of that there are the 'lesser committees', which don't meet to often, who only get nine grand and the deputy chairmen
Finchley and Golders Green Area Committee
Hendon Residents Forum
Chipping Barnet Area Committee
Policy and Resources Committee
Children, Education and Safeguarding Committee
Adults and Safeguarding Committee
Housing & Growth Committee
Community Leadership and Libraries Committee
Financial Performance and Contracts Committee
So that's another 19 that will be worse off (of course, thety don't have enough councillors to fill all of these roles now, so hey ho).
Where Dan Thomas was getting an extra £35,287 a year as leader of the Council, he now will be getting only £15,914.
If you've ever wondered why the Barnet Tories put their hands up when told to, maybe this throws some light on it. If you stepped out of line, Kersplunk, no dosh!
The Tory group, having just been massacred, will be choosing a new group Leader, who will at least get the £15,914 bung. Will they feel inclined to reward Dan? I'd be amazed.
Then there is the fact that they no will no longer have the levers of the council machine at their disposal to implement pet projects. For the last 20 years, they've been indulged, whereas Labour councillors have had to fight tooth and nail for everything. Officers are not stupid and know they have new bosses. It is a cruel old world.
I'd be amazed to see them all stick around. A local Tory activist told me that they confidently expect 4-5 of them to simply pack it in. They aren't interested in scrutinising Labour decisions and doing the work necessary to ensure good decisions are made. They did very little proper scrutiny when they were in charge, so why would they do it now, when the magic money fountain has dried up?
Some will be in shock, but over the next eighteen months, they will come to the realisation that they can do very little indeed, other than casework, which many have simply never bothered with. The sensible, decent and committed ones (which by maths is probably about two thirds of them) will grin and bear it, but the ambitious ones, who saw this as a stepping stone to bigger things, have had their dreams trashed.
There are four new Tories. These are Joshua Conway, Shuey Gordon, Michael Mire and Lucy Wakeley. I know nothing about these newbies. I'm sort of guessing that when they put their name forwards, it was last year when Boris was doing OK and Dominic Cummings hadn't dished the dirt. I wonder if opposition was what they signed up to?
So who are they? Well a quick google search tells me Shuey Gordon is a Director at a Venture Capital fund and he's got a degree from the Open University. That at least tells me he's abit of a grafter.
Lucy Wakeley? Well, her entry on the Conservatives website tells me this "She has worked since 2018 as a Parliamentary Caseworker and plans to use the skills she has developed to serve the people of Edgware. Since 2020 she has been Chair of the Barnet Young Conservatives. She is passionate about getting young people involved in politics and hopes that being elected as Councillor will allow her to continue with this work. In her spare time, she is a keen Hockey player and you will often find her in Edgwarebury Park walking her dog Maxi with her Dad" Generally I get on with dog owners and I'm glad she wants to get young people into politics. As a Parliamentary caseworker, lets hope this means she'll get stuck into casework ( I sincerely hope she wasn't Matthew Offords caseworkers, for the sake of the people of Edgware, given the responses and lack of them we've got used to). I'm very biased, but I'd prefer politicians to have had proper jobs, but hope Lucy proves me wrong.
Joshua Conway? He;s a "Dedicated educator with over 10 years experience in the primary sector. Expert classroom teacher and pastoral manager. Strong leadership skills with an emphasis on personalised learning for every pupil..". It is good to have teachers in the Council chamber. The council has plays a massive role in Education and I suspect that if Joshua does his scrutiny job properly, he may do a good job. As to his 'strong leadership skills', there is clearly a need for those ASAP!
Michael Mire? I couldn't really find anything of note. I hope this not an omen of future performance. I'm sure he's a wonderful chap.
Many people have said to me "Do you think the Tories can win the council back in four years?". Anyone who makes that prediction is very brave, but if you think of it logically, there are four realistic scenarios (pandemics and wars permitting). I list these in order of how realistic I think they are.
1. The Tories boot out Boris and narrowly win the next election and are two years into an even more unpopular regime, with mid term blues, so Labour hang on
2. Labour win the next election and are two years into a difficult term, local voters have mid term blues and kick Labour out in Barnet.
3. The Tories don't boot Boris out and somehow scrape through an election, but by the next council election they have buyers regret and Labour do well again.
4. There is some sort of coalition. I wouldn't hazard a guess as to how this could affect Barnet Politics.
If you want to really understand where we are, from a Tory perspective, have a look at Edgware ward. It is and always has been solidly Tory
|Women's Equality||Lisa Bard||453|
Now compare that with 2014 (I've discounted 2018 as it was a very unusual year in Barnet due to Corbyn and anti semitism). It has not yet been hit with major redevelopment in the way some wards have.
|Liberal Democrats||Aliza Abeles||446||10.0||-3.2|
|Liberal Democrats||Elias Abeles||410||9.2||-4.7|
|Liberal Democrats||Alexander Ollier||169||3.8||-6.2|
The Lib Dems did not stand in 2022. It looks to me very much as if their votes were very much split between the Tories and Labour, as both increased their share of the vote. What conclusion do we draw? That the hardcore Tory areas will stay hardcore Tory areas and if the Lib Dems don't stand their vote doesn't all go Labour.
Now lets have a look at a less hardcore seat. My own beloverd Mill Hill.
|Liberal Democrats||Roger Tichborne||735|
|Liberal Democrats||Richard Logue||713|
|Liberal Democrats||Donna Pickup||672|
|Women's Equality||Kay Lauer||262|
|Liberal Democrats||Jeremy Davies||721||14.7||-15.6|
|Liberal Democrats||Alasdair Hill||512||10.4||-17.9|
|Liberal Democrats||Michael Lees||470||9.6||-17.7|
In both elections, without the Corbyn factor, the Tories polled roughly the same as did the Lib Dems. A few Tories would have been hoovered up by UKIP. The greens did just about the same. What is noticable is that the Labour vote was up by around 300. Labour did not target Mill Hill and did no proper work. Some in Labour feel that the ward may be winnable if they put the effort into it. I doubt they will, they will concentrate on keeping the seats they won last time.
But what this tells me in the bigger picture is that the Tories are in real trouble locally. A 20% increase, doing no work in Mill Hill means trouble for Matthew Offord. His anti Corbyn bounce made him look almost unassailable. The Barnet Tory machine, that has been driven by fat allowances and 'jobs for the boys', the reward for turning up and organising for Offord, Freer and Villiers has seen the wheels fall off the wagon. The local MP's didn't exactly break a sweat to help council colleagues. I doubt too many Tory activists will be inspired to return the favour.
And finally, a little look at the message that the Barnet Tories posted from former Council leader Dan Thomas
A statement from Cllr Dan Thomas, Leader of the Barnet Conservative Group pic.twitter.com/gN73m8WyWJ— Barnet Conservatives (@BarnetTories) May 6, 2022
I was a bit taken aback by this. Not least because it is total bollocks. In neighbouring Harrow, the Tories won back control of the Council. In Croydon, they won the Mayoral election. Why? Because they ran decent campaigns based on a strong coherent message. A cannier leader than Dan Thomas would have run a better campaign. Maybe they would have still lost, but not on the scale they did.
Back in January, I predicted that by April "With the new financial year, the effects of the tax increases, higher interest payments and higher energy prices driven by the situation in the Ukraine start to hit home. It becomes ever more clear that Boris Johnson is not a leader for such troubled times."
I actually think that the Partygate scandal is distracting us from the fact that the country has hit the finacial buffers. This is fairly and squarely down to Boris Johnson. Sooner or later, Tory supporters will wake up to the fact that the government is not up to running the country. They've already drawn that conclusion in the Borough of Barnet. When wallets get thinner and bills get bigger, governments change. The Tories spent the last 12 years blaming Labour, now there is no one left to blame but themselves.