Friday, 12 September 2008

Goodbye To Not The Barnet Times


Today we bid a fond farewell to “Not The Barnet Times” and welcome instead Barnet Council Watch.


When I started this blog at the end of July 2008, it was in response to an article on the Barnet Times web site written by Mill Hill resident Rog T. His piece was entitled “Barnet’s very own Stalinist Mr Bean” and criticised council leader Mike Freer. The blog was subsequently removed by the Editor who decided that it broke their rules. It was an excellent article and, in my opinion, the paper made a mistake by removing it. Hence, Not The Barnet Times was born.

What happened next surprised me. Instead of constructive criticism of Roger’s article, a number of anonymous postings appeared criticising me for posting the article. And there was I thinking that we lived in a democracy! It was clear that the article had struck a raw nerve. But if you are a politician - and especially so if you are the leader of a council and wish to become an MP - you have to accept that not everyone will think you are wonderful. Not everyone will bow down before you. Some people will have a contrary view and, what is more, they have a right to say it without being abused.

A few articles later and it was clear that Mike Freer’s cage was well and truly rattled. How could I, the anonymous councillor wrote, criticise Cllr Freer when we are both members of the same party? Well, we might be in the same party, but only one of us is a Conservative. There are many loyal party members who, like me, believe that scrutiny of the decision making process within Barnet Council has effectively been neutered resulting in a total lack of democratic accountability.

In short, the Executive and Chief Officers are out of control, and if you believe in democracy then you have a moral duty to speak out - even if that means criticising members of your own party.

The Local Government Act 2000, brought in by Labour, has shifted power from the 63 elected representatives on the Council to a small secretive cabal which includes non elected officers. Whatever the intentions of the Act, it has failed miserably.

As Janet Daly wrote in an excellent article in the Daily Telegraph recently: “I have not got over the shock of being in a democratic country where the governing class holds the views of ordinary people in such contempt: the priorities of the public…can be disregarded or dismissed if the governing elite decides that they are wrong-headed or benighted. There is almost no sense at all of the principle that underpins the US Constitution: that in a democracy, the will of the majority of the people is sacred.”

I would be delighted if this blog became redundant. But for that to happen, it requires the 53 non cabinet councillors to do their job properly, re-assert control and hold the Executive to account. Until then, welcome to Barnet Council Watch.

www barnetcouncilwatch org uk

3 comments:

Barnet_jane said...

"There are many loyal party members who, like me"

The funniest thing I have heard all week!

Rog T said...

Jane,

Has it ever occurred to you that standing by and saying nothing isn't being loyal, it's being stupid.

What David is saying is that if the Torys carry on as they are in Barnet and either the LibDems or Labour ever get their act together, then the Tories will be out on their ear.

Bear in mind that it was only a year ago that Gordon Brown was seen as an all conquering hero in the eyes of Labour supporters. Things can change very quickly. Look at America, a month ago Obama was unassailable. Things change and if it does, then the only thing that may keep the Tories in is their record. Not too likely from what I've seen.

If you really think that standing by and saying nothing as Council officials buy tellies with your money for their desks, Council Leaders fly off on jolly's first class, buy obsolete Laptops go into storage sheds etc, you clearly have a bizarre idea of what being a conservative is.

What amuses me most is that David's blog was originally started because of my column about Mike Freer being a Stalinist. It certainly seems that you conform to a central plank of Stalinism. No criticism of the leader is tolerated in the Party.

It may be a difficult concept for you to get but David can be loyal to the Tory Party without being Loyal to Freer. I seem to remember that the Tories hailed the coup to unseat the incompetant regime of Iain Duncan-Smith. Would you criticise these "plotters"? Are they disloyal?

Don't Call Me Dave said...

Rog

You don’t have to look as far back as the unseating of IDS for examples of ‘disloyalty’ to the leader. Just days after the Conservatives won the council elections in 2006, there was a coup to remove Brian Salinger - who had delivered the party’s best results for 16 years - and replace him with Mike Freer.

Unlike David Cameron, who was elected Tory leader by popular vote of party members, Mike Freer speaks only for 32 Conservative councillors. He was not elected leader of the group by local party members. Nor did the public did vote for him to be leader of council. He is not entitled to expect loyalty from me or any other party members for that matter as he has no democratic mandate as leader.