Saturday, 5 May 2012
Brian Coleman ex AM : A message that the Barnet Conservative Party cannot ignore
The main thing about the demise of Coleman is the message it sends to the Barnet Conservatives. They have been pursuing a hard right agenda since 2006, when Mike Freer organised a palace coup against the more sensible and measured leadership of Brian Salinger. Brian Coleman was the power behind the throne. Freer immediately embarked on what has become known as the One Barnet program. Freer was "engaged" by BT on a program called "Vital Vison" which is a tool BT use to indoctrinate dim councillors and other decision makers into thinking outsourcing (usually to BT) is the way of the future for Councils. The central plank of the One Barnet ideology is that Barnet Council is a business and lots of cash can be made out of it. In effect, we have paid to set up a system where our cash bankrolls the profits of huge companies and rather than providing services, the council has become a huge machine generating cash for multinational companies. The worst example of this are the changes to the parking regime. All of these have been geared to making the system as profitable as possible for the private contractors who now run Barnet. Pay and display was abolished because handling cash is not that profitable for private companies. Free parking bays in CPZ areas were abolished because there is no profit in these for the contractors. Charges were hiked so that there was plenty of fat and profit in the contract. Brian Coleman was the man who introduced these and he has paid for it with his GLA job.
The question is whether the rest of the Barnet Tories will get the message. The One Barnet program and it's many consequences have destroyed the local Conservative machine. We made a film "A Tale of Two Barnets" about the effects. We packed the Phoenix Cinema, the House of Commons and a few local venues. At the end of every screening, people would come up and say "I didn't realise it was this bad". In actual fact it is worse. Unless the local Conservatives start to listen, they will be slung out en masse in 2014. They have created a massive, grassroots campaign against their policies. A couple sticking plaster policies will not fix the mess. The Brian Coleman vote was in effect a referendum on One Barnet. People were given a choice between it's architect, Brian Coleman or Andrew Dismore, a man who believes in listening to people, providing services for people not to fleece people. The result could not be more resounding.
I happen to believe that Richard Cornelius, Leader of Barnet Council is a decent man. He now has the option to sack Brian Coleman from the cabinet, bring in some fresh blood, call a halt to the One Barnet program, introduce sensible parking arrangements for the High Street and start listening to the people who voted him in. He needs to call Council CEO Nick Walkley into his office on Monday morning and say "Nick, you have failed the people of Barnet and they have spoken. You have transformed Barnet Council into a joke. You're fired!".
In late 2009 I was asked to stand as a Council candidate in Mill Hill. In May 2010, I lost. Whilst many people would give up, I analysed the results. I talked to local people to try and work out how I could have got the message I wanted to tell over. I realised that the biggest mistake was to not allow enough time, not engage enough people and not make sure that everyone who voted knew what I stood for and what the other guys stood for. The next election was yesterdays GLA election. I worked tirelessly, via this blog, via the film and through networking with various local groups, to ensure that we made sure as many people as possible knew what the issues were.
The next election is the May 2014 council election. The work to change the way things are done starts today. Richard Cornelius has a small window to change, an opportunity afforded by the demise of Brian Coleman. If he announces a reshuffle and a change of tack, then he may be the saviour of the Barnet Conservatives. If he decides that it's business as usual, he'll have two years of sensationally bad press headlines. He'll have more films and better films like "A Tale of Two Barnets". He will see protest marches, rallys, political stunts. He will then find that in May 2014, there will be no Conservative Councillors in Barnet. You may think that such a statement is ridiculous. Well Brian Coleman thought he was uuntouchable. He got trounced. The message could not be starker for Richard.