I was truly astonished to see a very nasty and sly attack on Barnet Bloggers by the Lib Dem candidate for Hendon, Matthew Harris, in the Jewish Chronicle - http://www.thejc.com/blogs/matthewharris/pro-palestinian-tory-and-local-jewish-community .
Matthew Harris said "I have never wasted much time blogging about Barnet Council. I have wasted lots of time blogging about other things, but rarely about that. There is a band of bloggers who spend all their time blogging about the Council as if it was Parliament and they were Private Eye...One such is Mrs Angry (I know, I know). "
Harris then continues with a long attack on Mrs Angry. Of course Matthew Harris is entitled to his view. I would point out that Harris came a very distant third in the Hendon constituency election. I worked with Matthew Harris on his campaign as I was at the time standing as a Lib Dem candidate in the Mill Hill Council ward. Whilst the Lib Dem Council candidates in Mill Hill lost, they polled the highest ever number of votes for the ward for Lib Dems. This was based on sheer hard work and attention to local issues. Whilst I've held my counsel about Matthew's suitability as a candidate, as he's chosen to take a sly dig at my blog, I think the time has come to put the record straight.
I am no longer a member of the Liberal Democrat Party. I felt that I couldn't remain a member given the policies of the coalition government, which I could not possibly support. Having said that I believe that the local Lib Dem politicians and activists are head and shoulders above the other parties in Barnet, both in the council chamber and on the streets. I suspect that Lib Dem Leader Jack Cohen is the only opposition councillor that the Tories truly fear (apart from possibly Labours Kath McGuirk, who I am sure is a descendent of Queen Boudicca). The former Lib Dem Councillors Wayne Casey and Jeremy Davies in Mill Hill and Duncan MacDonald in High Barnet were exemplary councillors and Barnet Council is a far worse place for their passing. The activists who helped me canvass were also fantastic and one of the reasons I have not been more strident in my views on the Lib Dem party is out of respect for these people. I genuinely believe that on a local level, the Lib Dems have a lot to offer in Barnet.
The one fly in the ointment was Mr Matthew Harris. Matthew always struck me as having a very disdainful attitude towards local people, local issues and local campaigns. I used to joke with other Lib Dem activists that Matthew was preparing for a career in the House of Lords. He let slip on a few occasions his contempt for the "Barnet Blogs". I took him to task for this on one occasion and he replied that he was only interested in "real politics" (whatever that may be). Whilst it was clear to me that the only hope of success for the Lib Dems in Barnet was to be seen to be fervently localist in their campaigning, Matthew was not in the least bit interested in stooping to these levels. His attitude to people on the doorstep was a nightmare. He was extremely patronising and he had an awful tendency to lecture people on their own doorsteps. During the course of the campaign dozens of local people privately told me that they thought he was a complete idiot. A common refrain was to ask whether we'd put him up to ensure people voted for Andrew Dismore, to keep Matthew Offord out.
Perhaps the biggest problem for the Lib Dems in Mill Hill was trying to deal with the strident views of Pro Palestinian Jenny Tonge, a Lib Dem peer. Many Jewish voters told me that they could not possibly vote Lib Dem with her in the party. As I was new to the party, I was at first completely taken aback by the vehemence of this feeling. As Matthew Harris is Jewish and a Member of the Lib Dem friends of Israel, I was under the impression that he should have been able to easily diffuse the issue. Sadly every utterence he made seemed to inflame the problem. At one point during the campaign, he even threatened to stand down, because Tonge had made some pronouncement he disagreed with. Can you imagine Mike Freer saying that, because of Matthew Offords remarks about Gay marriage? In short he was a loose cannon and we had no idea what he would do next. Whilst the rest of us worked as a team, Matthew had his own agenda. After the first TV debate, when Nick Clegg put in a brilliant performance (remember that), Matthew decided that the Hendon seat may actually be winnable. Whilst the strategy had been for him to bolster the council candidates in High Barnet and Mill Hill to help the party build a viable organisation, where there was a realistic chance of winning Council seats, Matthew started demanding that we give him greater visibility. In short, he threw a spanner in the works.
In his comments, Matthew Harris shows clear disdain for the blogs of Barnet. It is a measure of how out of touch he is that he fails to acknowledge the role the blogs have played in changing the face of Barnet politics. I believe that the blogs were the defining factor in the defeat of Brian Coleman in the GLA elections. Whilst many people and organisations played a part, the blogs tied all of these strand together. Harris also fails to acknowledge the scandals that the blogs have uncovered and the money we've saved Barnet. Perhaps he should google "METPRO SCANDAL".
Matthew Harris is an example of the worst kind of politician. He has no interest in the small issues that he can change. He has no interest in day to day campaigning. He only comes out at election time. Worst of all, he is pompous and completely up himself. His criticisms of Mrs Angry, I believe are born as much out of jealousy for her profile as any deep seated disagreement with her. In fact his criticism is nonsensical. He contends that Mrs Angry is wrong to suppose that Tory Jewish voters should be wary of a candidate with pro Palestinian views. Harris suggests that Palestinian supporters would be happy to vote for him, even though he supports Israel and it's various military interventions. These are clearly the blatherings of a deluded fool. That is like suggesting that I as a Roman Catholic should support Ian Paisley because he is a good constituency MP (which I believe he is), despite his years of Anti Catholic bile. Sorry Matthew, but the real world doesn't work like that.
If Matthew Harris worked one tenth as hard as Mrs Angry has over the last two years on local issues and connecting with local people, then he may actually be taken seriously as a politician.