Just over a year ago the Conservatives conclusively won Mill Hill ward. I know all about how, as I was standing for their main rivals in Mill Hill, the Lib Dems. The Lib Dems had been councillors for Mill Hill for the previous 16 years, since 1994. They originally won the ward, due to extreme laziness and complacency on the part of the local Conservative party and on the back of a huge split in the local Conservatives. The Lib Dems also gained a huge local following as a result of an active campaign against local overdevelopment of the green belt at Belmont Farm and Copthall. From 1994 until 2002, the Lib Dems and the Labour party were in power in Barnet. Many sensible policies were brought in and many local improvements were made. For the first three years of the Lib/Lab administration, they were hamstrung by having to deal with a totally inept central government.
In 1997, Tony Blair got in with a huge majority. Although many mistakes were made by the Blair government, there were two areas in which they were a massive improvement. Firstly they made huge sums available for school rebuilding. In Barnet, the Council started a much needed overhaul of local schools. Progressive central policies meant that schools in Barnet started to improve. In Mill Hill, perhaps the best example of this was the complete rebuilding of St Vincents RC school. This had been a ramshackle collection of worn out buildings and a highly dangerous play area on a steep slope. Other plans were put in place, but in 2002 the Tories retook the council, on the back of a national backlash against the Blair government. In Mill Hill, the Lib Dems were again successful, taking all three seats.
Initially, the local Tories under the sensible leadership of Victor Lyons (recently sadly departed) began a program of consolidation. By appointing Brian Coleman to run the Boroughs roads, Lyon started the decimation of the road safety measures the Lib/Lab administration had introduced. Road humps were ripped out and the Partingdale Lane ratrun reopened. From being a Borough who's road safety was improving relative to other Boroughs, the accident and death rate again saw Barnet as the worst London Borough this year. In education, the generosity of the local Labour government allowed the local Tories to claim credit for national policies and build on the good work done by Labour.
At the 2010 council elections, the Lib Dems in Mill Hill were faced with a local election on the same day as the national election. Hendon was a target constituency, so huge resources were poured in. A highly dishonest campaign was run by the local Conservatives. They ran this using two massive porkies. The first was that the local Lib Dems were planning a huge football stadium at Barnet Copthall for Kentish Town Football club (average attendance 30). When we first saw the leaflet, we were amazed. I'd never even heard of Kentish Town FC until someone challenged me. Having campaigned against overdevelopment at Copthall, the local Lib Dems were being called hypocrites by the Tories. Even though the whole story was a complete fabrication, locals faith in the Lib Dems was shaken. The second big porkie that they were spouting was that the local Lib Dems were anti semitic. This was based on the fact that one Lib Dem peer - Jenny Tonge - is a strident opponent of Israel. Whilst Tonge has many views with which I disagree on the subject, I don't want to live in a society where people cannot hold such views. What is rather ironic is that David Cameron had made some comments which went down rather badly as well on the subject of Israel. Strangely, local Jewish Conservative supporters didn't mention these when discussing these on the doorstep. Time and time again, Jewish voters told us they wouldn't vote Lib Dem whilst Tonge remained a member of the party. We discussed this many times. I was of the opinion that we should have grabbed the bull by the horns and put a leaflet out specifically addressing the issue, but the view that the less we said the better prevailed. For the record, I wanted us to publicly disassociate ourselves from her views, point out that she was a maverick and did not represent party policy on the subject. I also felt we should highlight certain other statements by promenent Tories.
Having said all of that, the most damaging leaflet of all in Mill Hill was not one put out by the Tories. It was one put out by the Labour party. This destroyed the base of labour voters who had lent their votes to the Lib Dems to keep out the Tories. It said "Don't vote Lib Dem, because they will form a coalition with the Tories". I was livid when I saw this leaflet. Given that the Lib Dems had run the council with the Labour group for eight years, I found it to be a total betrayal and a lie. I queried the local Labour group about it and they stated that it was part of Andrew Dismore's attempt to shore up the Labour vote and try and hold Hendon. They stated that local Labour supporters were sophisticated enough to know this. Rather sadly, my fears were correct. Labour voters dumped the Lib Dem councillors in their droves. Even more sadly, on the national scene, the leaflet was quite right. Many of the people who I'd spoken to on the doorstep, pointed out that the leaflet was right. All I could say was that it wouldn't have happened locally if I'd been elected.
Which brings me to 2011. I am still a member of the Barnet Lib Dems. People have started to ask me whether I will stand for Council again. Some people have suggested that I should rejoin the local Labour party and try and secure the nomination for Hale Ward, which I believe to be winnable. My own house was in Hale ward until a recent boundary change. I have huge affection and loyalty to the local Lib Dems, I believe that Wayne Casey and Jeremy Davies were the best councillors in Barnet, and that Jack Cohen is the most effective opponent of the Tories at present. I also think Lord Palmer did a fantastic job of the Audit of MetPro. I really believe that the Tories in Mill Hill deserve to be kicked out. They have done absolutely nothing for Mill Hill. They have said nothing about the real proposal for a monster stadium at Copthall for Saracens. They have said nothing about Etz Chaim school, when they should have been leading community efforts to bring the two parties together. They have done nothing to protect the Green belt. The conundrum I have is that I find it hard to accept that the party I belong to is in government with the likes of Cameron and Osborne.
Mill Hill desperately needs an effective campaign against the local Conservatives and the damage they are doing. I have no great desire to be a councillor or have a political career. I have a huge desire to see the Barnet Tories kicked out of power. I believe that the local opposition to the Bonkers Barnet Tories needs to get organised. My call to everyone who wants to see the reckless damage caused by the Tories stopped is to get out, get campaigning and get organised. We've all sat on our backsides for too long. I suspect that there will be a by-election in Mill Hill in the not too distant future. I sincerely hope Jeremy Davies stands for the Lib Dems. I will be on his campaign team and it will give us a chance to show the Tories that their policies of deception, sloth and ineptitude have been tumbled.
Next year we have the GLA election. Brian Coleman, the man who wrecked the road safety of Barnet stands against Andrew Dismore (and an as yet unnamed Lib Dem). That will certainly be an interesting contest. You can be assured of one thing, this blog will be reminding everyone of Coleman and his shenanigans
Daily Telegraph: "It’s the end of this road for the high street" - *Link to web site* *"When it comes to the high street, *few can rival Bill Grimsey’s footfall. 'Veteran retailer' is the phrase he uses to describe himsel...
8 hours ago