Tuesday, 31 December 2013

2013 - The year in blogs

Picture of the year - Cornelius Signs Capita Contract Unread
When I started to write my retrospective blog of the year, I struggled. As a naturally positive person, I look back on 2013 as a year when many bad things happened in Barnet.

As I looked at all of the blogs posted, I realised that this blog has told a fascinating story. Perhaps the most interesting aspect was the way a team of guest bloggers have given a narrative to the issues which have been of local and national concern. I think that these guest writers tell a far more interesting story about Barnet and the UK than anything I've written. So this review is in two parts. My favourite personal blogs, which tell my story. I hope this isn't being narcassistic, it just seemed to me that these were actually the most interesting things I wrote. The second part is a month by month selection of the best guest blogs. These provide a commentary on the stories in local and national news. The format limited the contributions - One per month. This meant that whilst December when there were lots, I could only feature one, wheras in September there were none. Rereading all of them, I can only thank my contributors for their efforts and the quality of the their work. I have chosen not to put a commentary on, as one of the terms of doing a guest blog is that I don't put my spin on it. I hope you enjoy this.

Here are my favourite blogs

January - Rog T's Cancer Blog - My Bucket List -  I revealed my teenage bucket list and my desires, fulfilled and unfulfilled. I note that a year later I still haven't fulfilled number 10 on the list. To watch the sun set on the Millfields whilst eating a tin of Pineapple chunks. Maybe today I will tick that one off. http://barneteye.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/rog-ts-cancer-blog-my-bucket-list.html

February - The Saturday List #34 - My top ten juke box tracks  I think this is a great blog. Strangely enough, I got the list wrong. I omitted Rebel Rebel by David Bowie. There is no greater thrill in the world than putting that track on the Juke Box and giving the one you love (or fancy) a great big kiss as Bowie sings "Hot Tramp I love you so". http://barneteye.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/the-saturday-list-34-my-top-ten-juke.html

March - Dyselxia blog - English as a foreign language  If you could change one thing in your life and restart it from that point, what would it be? After some analysis, nothing I'd stick with dyslexia http://barneteye.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/dyselxia-blog-english-as-foreign.html

April - What really matters in Barnet?  If you want to know why I write the Barnet Eye blog, read this. It sums up what I care about and where I find the energy to write a blog every day. I have tried to pick positive and upbeat blogs for this selection, but there really was nothing in April that warranted inclusion in this list that was in any way happy or uplifting. http://barneteye.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/what-really-matters-in-barnet.html

May - Is football run by morons?  A short blog that summed up my disgust at the way the Premier League football clubs conduct their business. At the time I thought I may be falling out of love with football. What a difference six months makes. We are halfway through the most exciting season for years. Half the teams in the Premiership (almost) could conceivably win the league and half almost might get relegated. Despite all of the chaos, it is great. back in the 1980's there was a famous series in the Judge Dredd strip in 2000AD, where an Urang Otang called Dave was elected to be Mayor of Megacity 1. Despite all of the dire predictions, he was the best Mayor ever, because he was uncorruptable. You can guess how the story ended. It reminded me of what happens at Chelsea. The less of a coherent plan they have for the future, the better they seem to do. http://barneteye.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/is-football-run-by-morons.html

June - "One day, you will be sorry for what you've done"  What will we think when the timer runs out of sand. The questions we will ask ourselves. What will we have achieved? Pretty much sums up my views on the world. http://barneteye.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/one-day-you-will-be-sorry-for-what.html

July - Mother - Sister - The death of an encumberance?  Human nature and the two sides of grief. A funeral recalled and what we really think http://barneteye.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/mother-sister-death-of-encumberance.html

August - Despite everything, Mill Hill is a great place to live !  A little blog describing the things I love about living in Mill Hill and how I spend my days. The things we love are often the simple things http://barneteye.blogspot.co.uk/2013/08/despite-everything-mill-hill-is-great.html

September - Sunday Morning youth football - A joy to behold, so don't make the kids play in your rubbish   One of my greatest joys is watching mys on play football for his team Watling Youth FC under 14. A blog about the joys of being a "football Dad" and a plea for the residents of Barnet not to use our parks as a dumping ground. http://barneteye.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/sunday-morning-youth-football-joy-to.html

October - Just say Yes !  A little rant about the negative messages we bombard our teenagers with. We are squeezing teenagers like never before. Tuition fees, closure of facilities, bombardment with tests and exams. I am glad I grew up in teh 60's & 70's. http://barneteye.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/just-say-yes.html

November - Remembrance Sunday  My remembrance day blog is always one of my favourite blogs of the year. It is important for us to remember. My father flew a Wellington bomber with 40 squardron during the second world war. He was shot down over Bucharest in Romania, whilst bombing oilfields in Ploesti. His rear gunner, F/O Andrew Murphy was killed during the engagement and is buried in a war grave in Bucharest. I believe it is the least I can do to remember his sacrifice. http://barneteye.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/remembrance-sunday.html

December  - The Baby Jesus was an Asylum Seeker  Yeah, I know it was only yesterday, but I think this was a great blog! http://barneteye.blogspot.co.uk/2013/12/the-baby-jesus-was-asylum-seeker.html

And here is the pick of the Guest blogs.




Guest Blog - Maria Nash is being victimised - A response by Linda Edwards


Guest Blog - Barnet Spring March Saturday 23/03/2013 - By John Sullivan


Guest blog - The Big Con of “being in the community” - The Latest Endemic National Institutional Practice - By Linda Edwards MBE


Guest blog - The Silence of the Lambs - by Dr Julia Hines


Guest Blog - Richard Cornelius in the Press - A response, by John Sullivan


Guest Blog - Another Barnet Council Outsourcing Disaster - By Andrew Dismore


Guest Blog - Richard Dawkins - Hardline religious fundamentalist? - A response by Andrew Evans


Guest Blog - Welcome to the legal block! If we stick together, we can't be fracked! - By Scarlett Cannon


Guest Blog - Kicked in the stomach - By A.M Poppy


Your Choice Barnet Week - Day 1 - The LIE That Is Your Choice Barnet - Guest blog by John Sullivan http://barneteye.blogspot.co.uk/2013/12/your-choice-barnet-week-day-1-lie-that.html

Barring accidents and major news stories, that's it folks for 2014. Many thanks for your support. This year we passed a million hits. I never imagined when I started that I'd get a thousand, let alone a million hits. I hope I have repaid your faith in this blog.

Monday, 30 December 2013

Press Release - Barnet Council risk register shows quality of life in Barnet at risk from right wing Council policies

Today the Barnet Eye sent the following press release to local and national news outlets, drawing attention to the shocking revelations in the Barnet Council risk register as detailed yesterday.

Date 30th December 2013.
On the 16th December, Barnet Council published a risk register on the Council website. This report, tucked away in a pack of committee reports, details nine areas where the policies of the Council are putting the economic wellbeing, the quailty of life and the infrastructure of the Borough at risk. The report details nine significant areas of risk, brought about by Council policies.  The areas concerned are
Risk 1. Homelessness in Barnet.
Risk 2. Waste management and sustainability.
Risk 3. Demographic Change and Population growth.
Risk 4. Welfare and Benefit reform.
Risk 5. People. (Lack of competent staff following the One Barnet outsourcing program)
Risk 6. Financial Position.
Risk 7. Information Management.
Risk 8. Barnets position as a prosperous suburb.
All of the above risks are High or Medium High.
There is one further risk, which is "Medium Low",
Risk 9. Resident engagement.
The Barnet Eye has given a commentary on these rsks at this site - http://barneteye.blogspot.co.uk/2013/12/the-barnet-council-corporate-risk.html
It is clear from the risk register that the Council has failed in its duty of care to the people of Barnet and by admitting that all of the above areas are at significant risk, the Council has shown that the extreme right wing policies of the Conservative adminsitration are putting the prosperity of the London Borough of Barnet at risk. Even more worrying is the complete lack of a plan to mitigate these risks. The Council clearly released this report in the run up to Christmas, hoping that it would be missed in the excitement of the ferstive season.
The Barnety Eye believes that this is a major news story. There was widespread media coverage earlier in the year of Barnet Council claiming that the One Barnet program had transformed the finances of the Council and put the council on a sound financial basis. This report, prepared by the Council, exposes this a complete myth.
The Barnet Eye calls on all media outlets, local and naational, to investigate this issue and ensure that the dangers of persuing such ideologically driven policies is properly examined in the run up to the 2014 election. As the media are looking forward to 2014, we should be doing everything to inform about the risks we are facing.
Yesterday the Barnet Eye emailed every Councillor in the London Borough of Barnet for comment. We have had 27 read acknowledgements, but not a single response about the report.

Ends ++++++++++++++

The Baby Jesus was an Asylum Seeker

Yet again the right wing tabloid press bombard us with stories of a forthcoming apocalypse of immigrants. The current flavour of the month for immigrant bashing are Romanians and Bulgarians, who will shortly have a legal right to come and live in the UK. They seem to have usurped Asylum Seekers as the target for bile in the right wing press. The Daily Mail has several immigration related stories on their website this morning



The recurrent theme is that "immigrants are bad". We are encouraged to begrudge immigrants the right to free treatment in A&E departments in one of the Daily Mail stories. The Mail are telling me that if someone moves to the UK, perfectly legally, from Romania to work, perfectly legally, contributing to the UK economy and GDP, they should be denied healthcare if they get run over? The Mail gloats

Migrants who go to A&E will be billed between £20 and £100 for a consultation, on top of the cost of their treatment – with staff presenting chip-and-pin machines at their bedsides.

Whilst I am sure that many Mail readers will be bashing one out in an excited frenzy at such news, I find it appalling. For many years the bogeymen of the right were Asylum Seekers. I often wonder what spin the Daily Mail would have put on the biblical story of Joseph and Mary taking the baby Jesus to Egypt, to escape Herod's Slaughter of the innocents. Here is my stab at how the Cairo Daily Mail (circa 0AD) may have covered the story (we must of course recall that the Daily Mail has a bit of history for being anti semitic, supporting Hitler in the 1930's). Something like this?

The Cairo Daily Mail has uncovered an incredible story of dodgy Asylum seekers from Israel. It wasn't so long ago that the Jews were only too keen to turn their back on Egyptian hospitality, under the radical cleric Moses. Now it seems the Land of Milk and Honey isn't so sweet. The Cairo Daily Mail was shocked to learn of the story of a Mr Joseph Davidson, a Jew from Bethlehem, who recently arrived in Cairo. Customs officials found a large amount of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh in his position. Mr Davidson claimed that "Three Kings had turned up from the East and given it to his son". On questioning, it transpired that the woman Mary, travelling with Mr Davidson wasn't actually his wife. When questioned Mr Davidson admitted that the baby wasn't even his child. He told customs officials that "an Angel of the Lord nipped round, whilst I was making a table for Avi Cohen". When questioned as to how he could believe such a cock and bull story , Mr Davidson said "I had a dream where an Angel told me it was OK". Customs officials are currently testing the large stash of Frankincense, to see if it actually something stronger.

When asked why he'd brought his 'family' to Cairo, Mr Davidson said that the angel of the Lord had told him to escape persecution by King Herod, whilst him and his girlfriend were squatting in a barn with the baby. When customs officials asked why King Herod would be bothered about a carpenter and his mistress, Mr Davidson replied that he was scared because the baby was the rightful king of the Jews. Mr Davidson explained that King Herod and his army were terrified that the baby would kick them out of their palace. Customs officials suggested that maybe Mr Davidson was more concerned with undercutting local tradesmen and taking advantage of the Egyptian medical and social security systems.

Ever since lax border controls were brought in under the left wing administration of Cleopatra, Egypt has been swamped with foreigners. There are no longer proper border controls, allowing the likes of Davidson to turn up and simply live here, taking jobs from skilled Cairo craftsmen. Doubtless this baby will put a further strain on the oversubscribed Cairo schools and Mary will soon be off looking for other "Angels" whilst Mr Davidson is round fixing the Pharoah's table leg. Whilst the story of "Dodgy Davidson" and his "modern family" will soon be forgotten, Egypt will be permanently ruined by these dodgy foreigners and asylum seekers if something isn't done.


Nothing really changes, does it?

Sunday, 29 December 2013

The Barnet Council Corporate Risk Register -

Barnet Council has published its Corporate risk register. You can view it here -


We've loaded it up onto our blog for your perusal. I must confess that reading this document is profoundly depressing. We live in what is perhaps Londons wealthiest Borough, at a time when the UK Economy is growing faster than the USA. Please have a look at the challenges facing us. Below I will give my commentary

Risk 1. Homelessness in Barnet. The council concedes that this is set to rise. I work with a Homeless charity as a volunteer. I was disturbed to read the causes that the Council think cause homelessness. Although the reasons they list are factors, they completely misunderstand the main causes. There is no mention of family breakdown, mental illness, drug and alcohol abuse and migration issues are the main causes in Barnet. The fact that the council mentions none of these mean that the action plan they are developing is doomed to failure. I am shocked that the Council clearly haven't got a clue about the issue.

Risk 2. Waste management and sustainability. It is clear from the risk register that this has been allowed to get out of control and we are likely to have to see Council tax rises to deal with this mismanagement. The register states  "Procuring value for money waste disposal and managing waste collection services both need to be considered in order to ensure quality services at an affordable price delivering optimum customer satisfaction."  Now lets get this straight. The Tories have been running Barnet for eleven years, yet they have not considered sorting this out until now? This is truly scandalous. This is a truly horrendous admission by the Council.

Risk 3. Demographic Change and Population growth. The council has admitted that it is unprepared for population growth, despite having a corporate plan to increase the population of Barnet from 320,000 to 380,000. They are the people who have approved the Brent Cross, Stonegrove, Colindale, Mill Hill East etc developments and now they say they are unprepared for the consequences. This is scandalously incompetent.

Risk 4. Welfare and Benefit reform. What's this? Barnets Tory Council have admitted that the coalition policies are ill thought out and cause "unintended consequences". In the councils own words "Consequence: potential to negatively affect those economically disadvantaged within the community." I suppose it is good that the Tories in the Town Hall acknowledge that the Tories in Whitehall are dangerous to our community. The Good Lord only knows why the Labour Party in the Town hall have not mentioned this?

Risk 5. People. I had to chuckle when I saw this title. I though Barnet Council must be the only Council in the world which views people as a risk? What do they want? Daleks? Actually the risk is that they've got rid of all the people in the Council who know what they are doing, as a consequence of the One Barnet program. Now they have realised that they are up Le Creek de la Merde and they have mislaid the paddle. In their own words "Consequence: The consequence of failure in this respect and the escalation of risk will be a skills/knowledge/competence gap in the organisation that will result in poorer service performance in the medium term and/or longer term strategic failure."

Risk 6. Financial Position. It is clear that the council do not understand economics or maths. The narrative says "Demographic changes mean that the Council faces a growing population, an ageing population and increasing numbers of young people, which adds further to the pressure and demand on services." Firstly the population growth has been driven by their own planning policies. They were the ones with the grand masterplans to add 60,000 new residents. This growth is almost exclusively going to be made up of immigrants of working age and their children. All of the new rabbit hutch flats being thrown up around the Borough are not being put up for Barnet residents. There is no baby boom in Barnet, so it is clear that this population growth will be one fuelled by migratory labour. They are not council houses for local people. I am not anti immigration in the way UKIP are. The prosperity of the UK is built on immigration. The trouble is that Barnet Council have not understood the consequences of their plans. Mike Freer and Richard Cornelius are the men who have presided over this planning failure. It is entirely the responsibility of the political Leadership of Barnet Council.

Risk 7. Information Management. This is incredible. The Council admits it doesn't understand the data it holds or its sensitivity. It says "Cause: Variable accessibility and quality of data means we don’t know what information we hold, its value or sensitivity. " What does it plan to do about this? "Beginning to understand data sources and constraints on them". It is incredible that the Council can admit that it has only just identified the fact that it doesn't understand the data it holds and is only now beginning to try and get to grips with it".

Risk 8. Barnets position as a prosperous suburb. This is a truly incredible admission from the Conservatives after eleven years of mismanagement. They now admit that they have placed our prosperity at risk. The consequences of their policies? "Consequence:  Barnet becomes less desirable as a place to live and work "

All of the above risks are High or Medium High. The Conservatives have been in charge for eleven years and this is where their policies have brought us.

There is one further risk, which is "Medium Low",

Risk 9. Resident engagement. What does this mean? "Consequence: Consultations not contributing to service design, do not deliver the services resident want, lack of transparency on outcomes, customer satisfaction declines. " In effect, after five years of writing this blog, Barnet Council has admitted that we are right, they have failed to engage and consult residents properly. The reason we held the "Your Choice Barnet Week" was to highlight the fact that the Council weren't listening. If nothing else, at least they have admitted it.

What is interesting is the fact that there is not a single issue that this blog hasn't raised at length. I will be emailing this commentary to our local councillors for comment. As I said at the start of this blog, I am disturbed by this. In the past, my team of lovable Trolls have pointed out that a "risk register is only a document to identify what might happen". As far as I am concerned, if the risk is "High" or "Medium High". Of these nine risks, one is "almost certain", two are "likely" and the rest are "possible" (whatever that means). Note that Possible is not unlikely. I believe that there should be a full public consultation to try and sort out what has gone wrong. To me, this document is a tale of corporate failure and mismanagement. If you are a Barnet resident, please read this document. The council have clearly released it during the holiday season to try and make sure we didn't see it whilst the mulled wine and mince pies were doing their work. Of course they failed to recognise the fact that when people are off work, they have more time to read blogs !

Saturday, 28 December 2013

The Saturday list #49 - 10 most missed from 2013

Here's my list of the 10 most missed people who shuffled this mortal coil

1. Lou Reed - http://barneteye.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/lou-reed-rip.html
2. JJ Cale
3. Andrew Livingstone - Former manager of Watling FC under 8 team
4. Patrick Sheridan - Former Headmaster of local Schools and Neighbour for 35 years
5. Richie Havens - http://barneteye.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/richie-havens-rip.html
6. Nelson Mandela - http://barneteye.blogspot.co.uk/2013/12/nelson-mandela-rip.html
7. Andrew "Spud" Hudson - http://barneteye.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/andrew-spud-hudson-rip.html
8. Stan Davison - http://barneteye.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/stan-davison-rip-barnet-legend-full.html
9. Phillip Chevron - (Pogues, Radiators from Space)
10. Bert Trauttman - (Manchester City goalkeeper)

Please feel free to add any comments with your own list. Sadly, I think the world is a worse place for the loss of all of these. They have left a mark on many peoples lives

Ricky and the Stooges Live at Barnet Town Hall

Don't be deceived. This is the season of goodwill, the fourth day of Christmas, but already some of us in Barnet are looking forward to May next year. There will be council election, where we get to decide who will administer the contract with Capita to run Barnet Council. In 2010, I stood for the council, as I believed it was the most important election ever facing the people of Barnet. Unlike the majority of people in the Borough, I was fully aware of the plans to turn Barnet into "Capitaville", surgically removing all democratic accountability from local people and turning provision of local services into a commodity. Now the contracts have been signed. There are 63 councillors, but in truth there is nothing much for them to do. We've signed a ten year contract with Capita and so they can sit back and count their allowances. Of course there are still plenty of civic receptions to go to, with plush buffets. There are still the perks of the job, such as free parking permits. There is just nothing much for them to do. Capita are responsible for administering licensing, cemetaries, business licensing, collection of council tax, call centres and planning. Areas such as Social care have been outsourced to Your Choice Barnet. Parking control has been outsourced to NSL.Even the running of the legal side of the council, which adminsters all of this has been outsourced to Harrow Council. In short, the Council no longer exists in any real sense of the word. If Barnet have done the job properly with the outsourcing, they shouldn't really have any employees left in any of the above areas.

You may ask what the council still does? Well it runs schools and it has kept household waste collection in house. So the question is, why do we need 63 councillors. The question becomes even more interesting when you consider the way that these councillors have voted since the last election. To the best of my knowledge, only on one occasion has a Conservative Councillor not voted the way they were told to by the whips. That Councillor was Kate Salinger. In August 2010, she decided that the decision by the Tory Councillors to award themselves a payrise was immoral. She refused to follow the Party whip. Lets be 100% clear. This wasn't a policy that the Tories had put in their election manifesto. This wasn't a policy they'd discussed on the doorsteps. Nope, they simply got back into power and decided that "hey ho, we can vote ourselves a pay rise". What happened to Councillor Salinger. In open Council, all her Tory chums vindictively stripped her of all responsibilty in a succession of votes. Which brings us back to the question "Why do we need 63 Councillors, when the Council doesn't do anything". The answer is we don't. They are a bunch of Stooges, a bunch of passengers. Are you familiar with the lyrics of "The Passenger" by Iggy Pop

Oh, the passenger
How, how he rides
Oh, the passenger
He rides and he rides
He looks through his window
What does he see?

The sad truth is that this bunch of passengers have spent the last four years riding around the Borough, closing their eyes. They have seen nothing. When they raised the cost of CPZ parking permits, they closed their eyes and didn't see the huge pain and expense this was causing local residents. They closed their eyes, so they didn't listen when local campaigners told them it was illegal. As a result, they lost a court case and tens of thousands of residents were entitled to CPZ refunds. They closed their eyes when they hiked High Street parking charges and scrapped Pay and Display parking. Local businesses were driven to the wall. The local Conservatives stuck their fingers in their ears and shouted "La La La". Then in may 2012, there was an election for the GLA and the local Tory, who previously had a massive majority, was uncermoniously booted out. After some panic, High Street parking charges were cut and pay and display restored. Then there was the cuts to Adult Social care, brought about by the Your Choice Barnet botched privatisation. This company is a private company, fully owned and controlled by Barnet Council. This has been a fantastic resource for some people in Barnet, namely the directors and executives of this company, who's pay has been removed from democratic oversight. Sadly for the local disabled people, reliant on its services, it has been a disaster. Cuts are order of the day. Front line staff are subject to wage cuts. Services for people reliant on the council have been slashed and some of the most vulnerable people in Barnet have had their quality of life decimated. How did the passengers react? Well despite all of their distortions, the truth came out, when Your Choice Barnet required a £1 million payout to stay afloat. An emergency committee of councillors was set up to sort the mess out. A meeting was held, where these councillors took representations from local carers, people such as John and Ida Sullivan who have hundreds of years experience at the coalface of caring for the disabled. What did the passengers on the committee do? They shut their eyes, closed their ears and shouted "la la la", ignoring all of the representations of the local residents.

The leader of the Council is Richard Cornelius. In many ways he is a very pleasant chap. Unlike some, I don't believe him to be Evil. I don't believe he spends his days planning new ways to harpoon the disabled with new schemes, designed only to drive them from the Borough. I suspect he'd be horrified if he knew the just what some of the parents of local disabled people had said to me about him and his intentions. I just think that Tricky Ricky is in many ways a passenger and all of this has simply passed him by. He is relatively well off and he moves in the upper echelons of Barnet society, so how can we expect him to understand the plight of the people he is meant to have a duty of care towards. When the likes of John Sullivan speak of the distress that the Council policies have caused his disabled daughter Susan and her friends and peers, Mr Cornelius thinks "Here we go again". He doesn't listen. People may say he doesn't care, but how can you care if you don't bother to listen and you don't know the story. We are all guilty of not listening and not caring to some extent, but whilst most of us can't do anything about it and most of us aren't paid to care and listen, Tricky Ricky is paid to care and he is paid to do something about it.

So what has been the response of the local Conservatives to the plight of the disabled in Barnet? Well the local Conservative machine is a very efficient political organisation, that has delivered some stunning election results at the last general and council election. Two Labour MP's seats in parliament were taken and the on the Council, gains were made. The local Tory Councillors like the perks of their job. Who can blame them? Allowances are generous and there are plenty of opportunities for social networking. Now it wouldn't be very nice to openly attack people such as John Sullivan and Tony Solomons, who have disabled children and clearly simply want the best for them. There are however, other ways to cook an egg. Two weeks ago, the local disabled community took over this blog. They spent two weeks publishing blogs describing the issues they were having with Your Choice Barnet. John Sullivan organised this, contacting many people in the disabled community and getting them to document their experiences.

A promenent local Conservative ex Councillor, used their twitter account to propogate a succession of lies about this. They suggested that this blog had been "bought". They suggested that the local people who participated in the series of blogs were orchestrated by the Barnet Alliance for Public Services and they suggested that the authors of the blogs were "CRANKS". First this person posted this message to me

So who's bought your blog for next week? Unions? Other cranks? Labour Party?

This was followed up by another tweet to me saying

Clearly been taken over by the cranky 'anti Tory' this week. Maybe you waive ur fees to SETs?

As you can see,  the author of this text made 100% clear, he believed the "Your Choice Barnet week" guest blogs to be the work of "Cranks" associated with the Barnet Alliance. Anyone who didn't know the people involved would clearly be mislead. As John Sullivan is not a member of the Barnet Alliance and clearly not a CRANK, to imply such things is truly despicable. Mr Sullivan was truly enraged when he saw these comments. He contacted the person who placed the comments and demanded an explanation. He received a response, which was truly unbelievable. Despite claiming it was clear that the Barnet Eye had been "taken over by the cranky 'anti Tory' " the author of these tweets claimed they'd not actually bothered to read the blogs (so much for accuracy). Furthermore, having been completely caught out, the author of these comments then challenged Mr Sullivan to state whether he was a member of the Barnet Alliance Executive ( I should also make clear that the Barnet Allliance simply an organisation for local people who are opposed to the destruction of public services. It is also part of a wider campaign of denigration to portray them as "Cranks"). Mr Sullivan is not a member of BAPS or on its executive. He has a full time job caring for a disabled daughter. It was quite interesting to note that when challenged, the rather cowardly individual, who had previously been so bold and sdrident in his comments about the YCB week, actually asked Mr Sullivan, who contributed two blogs for YCB, including one on the day of the offensive Twitter messages, to prove the comments referred to him. Mr Sullivan is a man in his '70's and in very poor health. The author of these messages also accused Mr Sullivan of "trying to intimidate him" by requesting a face to face meeting to correct any inaccuracies. It all left Mr Sullivan rather bemused. His response to me was to ask why someone would bother posting offensive messages on Twitter, when they hadn't read the blogs, and why someone would claim to be terrified of someone who was so ill he couldn't even address an important council meeting recently (there is Youtube footage of Mr Sullivans speech being delivered by a friend on his behalf, to the Council meeting). I can only speculate. Were the comments simply an off the cuff remark or were they part of a wider agenda against Mr Sullivan and the other carers fighting for justice? After much thought, I have decided that we shouldn't be shooting the messenger. If it was a stupid off the cuff remark, made by a complete idiot, then it is probably best to ignore it. If however, the messages were planted as part of a more sinister agenda, it is not the monkey we should take issue with, but the organ grinder. Which means ultimately that Richard Cornelius has to distance himself and his administration from such comments, if he wants to retain credibility.

This is the Barnet Conservative Party in 2013/4. We have detached councillors, who don't listen to the people most in need of Council services. We have marginal figures on the fringes, doing the dirty work, for reasons we can only speculate.

As I said at the start of this blog, given the long contracts with suppliers and the destruction of the in house teams, the next Council elections will not be as significant as the 2010 elections. Rather than making a series of key decisions, affecting the long term future of the Council, the next administration will simply be "managing the decline of Barnet".  That doesn't mean that it is not important. Do we want a council with a proven track record of ignoring the concerns of residents and riding roughshod over their requirements? Do we want a council to be run by a party which uses third party proxies to attack those who say things they don't like.

I must admit I have completely lost faith in most of our local politicians. I have seen no evidence at all that the people of Barnet and their needs are being met either by the administration or the opposition. I was at a social event recently and a very senior local Tory told me that "all the proper opposition is actually within the Conservative group". Whether this is true or not I have no clue, but it is clear to me that if it is, this "internal opposition" is equally ineffective.

What we really need is a whole new crop of councillors. There is too much dead wood being paid too much money and not doing their job. A truly brave and honest Council would slash the number of councillors to reflect the fact that at the Council doesn't actually exist anymore. I invite any Councillor of any Party to submit a guest blog detailing why they deserve to keep their job. As with all guest blogs, assuming it isn't defamatory or libellous, I will publish it without comment. Will any have the balls to actually take the offer up? Or is the situation as I suspect. Do we have Ricky and the Stooges at the Town Hall, giving the longest ever performance of  "The Passenger" in history. For those of you, like me who are partial to a decent tune, here is the Ig with his fine rendition.

Friday, 27 December 2013

Never mind the Baubles - Xmas '77 with The Sex Pistols - Review

As Barnets leading entertainment and gossip blog, we like to bring you reviews of all the best shows on TV. We watched quite a lot of TV this Christmas as we digested the copious amounts of food and drink associated with a Tichborne family Christmas. For me, there was only really one stand out show. That was Julian Temple's film on BBC 4 last night "Never mind the Baubles - Xmas '77 with The Sex Pistols".Being a big fan of the work of both Julian Temple and the Sex Pistols, this was a big treat for me. Now those of you (like my wife) who are not fans of the Pistols, would probably not bother watching the show. Luckily for her, I insisted. We were not disapponted. Wheras most "rock documentaries" are hagiographical glimpses of what the marketing department want you to see of the band, this was something altogether different. It was the story of Xmas '77 with the Sex Pistols as the conduit for telling the story. The full state of the economic decline of Great Britain in the '70's was there for all to see. Not only that, but the film gave a graphic illustration of how the times and social mores have changed.

For those who weren't around, or weren't paying attention, the Sex Pistols were viewed as a serious threat by the establishment. The full might of the Murdoch press was used to attack them. John Lydon pointed out that it is only now perhaps people see who the real threat was. MP's would have the band's gigs closed down and a 27 date tour of the UK was decimated, with tour buses going to gigs, only to find the council had banned it. Can you remember the last time a gig was banned  by a Local Council? Ironically, I can. It was here in Barnet and the gig was organised by Councillor Robert Rams, to promote local libraries. Sadly Robert forgot to get a music license from his own council, and he got the Sex Pistols treatment from the authority he is a cabinet member of. Then it was different. The Lord Provost of Glasgow announced that the Pistols would be banned as "Scotland has enough hooligans of their own". 

The film featured copious amounts of footage of "Top of the Pops", "The Generation Game" and even the 1977 Xmas Weather forecast. We had Chancellor Dennis Healey on an Entertainment show asking celebrities for a few quid to repay the IMF. We had John Lydon comparing the members of the Pistols to members of the Carry On team, stating that Steve Jones was Sid James. 

And we had stories of the firemans strike of '77 with the firemen on strike for nine weeks before Christmas. The Pistols had nowhere to play and the Fireman had nothing in the pot for their kids. So they offered to host a Christmas Day party for the children of striking Firemen at Ivanhoe's in Huddersfield. This was followed by a gig in the evening "for the adults". We saw a completely different side of the Pistols. Lydon talked about how he loved Xmas as a kid, but always preferred the boxes the presents actually came in to the toys. Steve Jones talked of how miserable his Christmas experiences were as a kid. Paul Cook explained that Jones would come around to his house, because it was always happier. One of the kids who attended the party spoke of how special the whole thing was. "Rock Stars" didn't play kids parties in Huddersfield on Xmas day. The band came with free badges, T-shirts, Skateboards and cake. Lydon spoke of how you had to keep it real for the kids. Footage showed him chatting and relaxing with 8 & 9 year olds. Steve Jones commented how Lydon was always great with kids and how they loved him. During Pretty Vacant, Lydon jumped off the stage and put his face in the cake, getting pelted with more cake by the kids. I doubt there is any footage anywhere of any Rock Star looking so truly happy whilst playing. Even Sid Vicious was seen to smile. Steve Jones noted that Lydon refrained from swearing (part of the bands trademark) and Lydon recalled that he'd lectured Sid Vicious on the importance of doing the right thing by the kids, because kids will always see through if you are faking it. 

Various '77 punks talked about how they turned up for the evening show. The Pistols refused to play unless they were let in. Some of them reminsced after how Lydon spent half an hour chatting with them after the show. They said he was "just like one of your mates". They said that before Punk they'd been football hooligans and how they saw people from other towns as "different crews" to be battled. The punk experience opened their eyes to the fact we are all the same. One stated how he'd travelled all over the country and made friends everywhere, being put up at strangers houses.

In some ways, it all seemed so much more innocent. Wheras today such a show would be accompanied by a marketing exercise and "look how wonderful these boys are", the whole thing was unheard of and the footage, shot by Temple who accompanied the band everywhere, left it on a shelf for 35 years. Lydon said that it was incredible that the band split up a month later, anyone seeing the footage would have thought they would last forever. It was their last UK gig and Lydon said that in some ways, it was a fitting end to the band. He said that the US tour and what followed was like some strange afterthought. 

The band are still hugely influential. Their album "Never Mind the Bollocks" will probably always be listed as an all time classic. We remember the Pistols for many things, but perhaps not for truly understanding the meaning of Christmas. Lydon stated that he'd never write a Christmas song. I believe he already has, for me, the song Rise, by Public Image is the greatest Christmas song of all. 

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Dr Who Christmas Special - Time to sack Stephen Moffat?

Dr Who - The way we were
As Barnets leading entertainment and gossip blog, we like to catch the zietgeist of the times and discuss the really important questions which are troubling people performing their suburban Christmas dance routine. Yesterday at the Tichborne household, 20 of us assembled at 7:30pm to watch the Doctor Who Christmas special. This has become part of the Xmas routine.

When the Doctor first returned to our screens, my little boy was just out of nappies. When Christopher Ecclestone died and was regenerated, he burst into tears and demanded "the real doctor" be returned. He soon got used to David Tennant and forgave the writers, realising that regenerations are part of the Doctor story.

Now a thirteen year old, his love affair with the Doctor has somewhat waned. His view is that Stephen Moffat has made the show boring, the plot is too hard to follow, there is not enough action and it isn't scary. I've been watching Doctor Who since the early 1960's. I have vague recollections of the first Doctor, William Hartnell and even some of the early monsters such as the Chumblies and the Zarbi. I think this was because my elder Brothers always made sure I watched the show, in the certain knowledge it would scare the crap out of me and give me nightmares.

When satellite TV first arrived in our household, to coincide with the launch of the Premiership, UK gold started to repeat the Early Doctor Who series that the BBC hadn't erased. It was on at midnight and I found that the schedule was ideal, allowing me to get home from the pub just in time to get the next installment. I reacquainted myself with William Hartnell. I soon realised that despite the poor effects and production quality, it was actually quite scary. Without the luxury of CGI, the script writers had to rely on the plot to do the work. The early sets were claustrophobic and the action was intense. I soon realised that the secret to the early doctor's scaryness was the fact that the scriptwriters were completely ruthless. New assistants and companions would be brought in. You would get to know them and find them likeable and sympathetic characters. Then they would get exterminated, often unexpectedly. Even more scary was the fact that Hartnell never shed a tear. As to the Daleks, we got to know their personality. Terry Nation wrote them as the logical endpoint for the Nazi ideology. The ultimate "masterrace" transformed into killing machines, set on making the rest of the Universe subservient, exterminating "inferior" races. Daleks had no feelings, no morality beyond furthering the ambitions of the Daleks. They would lay planets to waste, enslave entire races. They were technological killing machines. Yet the Doctor always won. Why did he always win? Because he simply happened to be cleverer than the Daleks. Although it was sometimes ambiguous, he was the good guy. He was a Time Lord. He could be more powerful than anyone, but he simply chose to tour the Multiverse as an observer, stepping in when things got too out of hand. He didn't look for fights, but when there was one, he'd do just enough to ensure the right thing happened. He was however oddly devoid of feelings for his companions. He wasn't given to self doubt either. That was back in the 1960's.

When the Doctor first returned, Ecclestone and Tennant captured the best elements of Hartnell era, adding improved effects and more budget. The show was scary, with occasional lighter moments. Perhaps the scariest monster of the new generation was the "weeping angels". These exploited our own weakness, our need to blink, to destroy us. The creator of these was Stephen Moffat, so when Russell T Davies chose to stand down as chief writer, who else could possibly step up to the mark?

Well I am sorry to say the consensus in our house is that it is all starting to go wrong. For last nights screening we had nine teenagers in the room. These were the new Doctor Who generation and the consensus was that last nights show didn't cut the mustard. Comments such as there was "no action" and "no story" were the biggest beef. When The Doctor arrived on the snow covered planet and was attacked by weeping angels, it seemed it was going to be a belter. How would the Doctor get out of that scrape? He simply beamed up to the Tardis. When he found that Church of the Papal mainframe had been overtaken by Daleks and its leader "Dalekified", he simply persuaded her to suppress the Dalek in her and let him escape. When a huge Dalek battlefleet arrived to destroy the planet, his assistant simply asked the Timelords to help him out, giving him special powers that allowed him to Smite the Daleks off the face of the world he was on. Everyone lived happily ever after. The tension never built, the plot never developed. Moffat hasn't quite twigged that if one monster can sustain an episode and keep the tension going, having every monster the Doctor has ever faced in One episode simply dilutes any tension.

If the whole episode had have simply been the Doctor outwitting the Weeping Angels on the planet, whilst the rest of his enemies hang around, isolated from the planet, it could have been cracking. When the Church of the Papal mainframe sent him down to the Surface for one hour, I thought Moffat had pulled a masterstroke. In my favourite western of all time, High Noon, Gary Cooper has one hour to save the town from a bunch of baddies. The film is shot in real time and the tension builds towards High Noon. I thought Moffat was going to deploy the same trick. A realtime battle with the angels, culminating with his victory and then getting knifed by one of the people he'd saved would have been a better ending. He could have been carried to the Tower, where the crack in time appeared and as he died, the Timelords could have regenerated him. At that point, he could have been beamed back up to face the Daleks on the Papal Mainframe mothership, leaving a great plotline for the new series. As it is, we had the almost annual spectacle of the Doctor completely destroying the entire Dalek fleet. This is now more predictable than the annual Status Quo last ever reunion tour. Perhaps the most telling point in the whole show was the appearance of a wooden Cyberman, this was completely in keeping with a completely wooden plot.

At the end of the show I was left with the feeling that it wasn't the Doctor Who needed to be regenerated, but the whole team of writers, who seem hell bent on making the show completely bland, boring and sterile.

I've no idea if Stephen Moffat lives in Barnet or reads this blog, but if he does, I suggest he watches a few of the early Hartnell episodes and reminds himself of the core features of the show, which have made it the longest surviving Sci Fi show. Don't get me wrong, I love the show and I want it to succeed. It's just that in its present form it is bloated and dull. I wonder if we'll see Sherlock Holmes granted magic powers to beat his enemies for the New Years Special. The point with the Doctor is he's never needed "powers". He uses his brain, which makes him far more powerful.

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Happy Christmas to all readers of the Barnet Eye

I'd just like to wish all of my readers a Happy Christmas. I write this as I am preparing lunch. As is the tradition, we play our favourite music until the guests and family arrive (we have a big dinner). At the moment we have the best of David Bowie, Golden Years is spinning. When that finishes it will probably be MC5, then LAMF by the Heartbreakers, then Puremania by the Vibrators, followed by a little bit of the Buzzcocks. Then the friends and family will arrive and the carols will go on. It wrks for us (if not the neighbours !).

The doggies are eating their Xmas bones, the kids are tidying the house up and my good lady is sorting out the table. I love Christmas.

Whatever you do, have a good one.

Nigella - Let he who is without sin.....

I was intrigued to hear that the fraud case involving the Grillo Sisters was still being discussed on the radio this morning. When was the last time that a witness in a theft case has been put on public trial in the way Nigella Lawson has been? Let us be perfectly clear about it, she has been guilty of one thing and one thing only.She is guilty of having more money than sense. To fail to notice that £600,000 has been removed from your bank account shows that her and Charles Saatchi had a bit too much dosh for their own good.

However that is not the thrust of what she is being pilloried for. The press have the knives out because Nigella has admitted being partial to the odd spliff and has apparently taken cocaine seven times if you believe her or at every possible occasion if you believe the two sisters, who used the excuse that she was off her nut to go on a spending spree with her credit card. I don't really understand the Grillo's defence, which was that it was ok spending all her dosh, as we covered it up from Charles Saatchi?

Anyway, what is obsessing the media is whether "brand Nigella" has been damaged. I've met a few journalists over the years, I've not met too many who are saints. I do wonder how they keep a straight face as they stick the knives in. When I try and decide whether someone is a bad or a good person, I generally judge them by how their actions affect the rest of us. There is absolutely nothing in the coverage of Nigella that indicates anything other than the fact she has at times found it difficult to cope and has succumbed to the desire to get off her head. She lost her first husband, John Diamond to cancer. John Diamond used to write a diary of his struggle in the Daily Star. At the time I used to buy the paper simply to read his column. It was fascinating. His struggle was harrowing, losing his tongue and losing his ability to enjoy food. If I was in his shoes, I would do what I could to enjoy myself. If you know you are going to die soon, you might as well go out with a bang. I've no idea whether I would become a cokehead, but until you've been in that position, I really think you shouldn't judge. So what was Nigella to do? Could she disapprove or could she support him and go along for the ride. You may disagree, but I'd hope if I was in her position, I would take the role she did of supporting her husband and not turn my nose up and say "don't be so stupid, die in pain and misery".

When John, passed away she put the Charlie away. It stayed away until she was in a period of extreme stress. Unlike many marriages that fall apart, the disintegration of Nigella's was on the front page of the papers. We all shared in the way she was treated. There is no argument that she has been under stress. Does that excuse anything? Well if she was going out bashing people up, I'd say no, but who hasn't had some sort of lapse when they are stressed. Before we judge Nigella, lets ask whether we've ever done stupid things in times of stress. As it says in the bible, "let he who is without sin cast the first stone".

I don't think anything Nigella has done, as revealed by the press, shows her to be anything other than a normal person, albiet a rather rich and at times silly one. She is probably one of the few celebrities I'd be quite happy to spend an evening at a dinner party with, not least because at least you'd get a decent bit of dinner. On Christmas day, lets not forget who Jesus preferred the company of, the sinners. Give me Nigella any day rather than the two faced hypocrites who snipe at her.

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Christmas Eve Special - It's not the Church that's dangerous, only the people who go there ?

There is a song by the Damned called Anti Pope. Captain Sensible sings "I've got nothing against Church, just the people who go there". Is he right? Over recent years the humanist movement has become ever more self confident, using every opportunity to attack the Churches and other religions (most recently Islam). The press was full of the story this week where Marks and Spencers were allegedly supposed to have a policy where Muslim staff could refuse to sell alcohol or pork. Many people were outraged that staff should be allowed to conscienciously object to selling such products on religious grounds. My own view is that is you don't feel comfortable working in a shop selling such products, don't work there. The issue however (as I understand) was not that the Islamic religious organisation were calling for such rules, but that one of their adherents took a personal decision to request such a rule.

There is a view amongst some quarters that "religion is dangerous". Again I would suggest it is not religion that is problematical, but human nature. A brief reading of history shows us that it was not "religion" that was the major problem in the last centry, but the "ism's". Which of the "ism's" has killed more people? Communism, Nazism or Capitalism? I had a debate recently with an avowed communist. He excused the excesses of Stalinism by claiming that Capitalism had killed ten times as many people and was keeping half the world in poverty. Whether he is right or wrong, I suspect that he'd royally missed the point. As with the statement of Captain Sensible, there is nothing wrong with ism's just the people who follow them. In fact the problem with ism's is the same as that with religion. The devout zealot, who believes they are totally right and cares more about the adoption of their ideology than the people who it is meant to benefit, is the true issue.

I had an interesting discussion with a friend, who is an expert on China, who told me that Mao's cultural revolution had been an incredible success. He stated that prior to the Cultural Revolution, China had fallen ever further behind the west in terms of pruductivity, output and innovation. He stated that by "purging" the old ways and ideas, it cleared the decks for Chinas current economic miracle. If you ignore the misery, death and destruction it caused, you could say he was correct. It is a totally stupid argument, like claiming that the success of modern day Germany happened because Hitlers war cleared the deck for a modern democracy.

The trouble with zealots is that they can always take any facts and twist them to produce any outcome they want. The sad, dull truth is that the best places to live are ones where zealots and ideologues are treated as eccentrics and not adopted as saviours. Religion should be used as a tool to guide us and make us more caring for our fellow man. As soon as we use it as an excuse to start and argument or denigrate someone else, we have lost the essence of what we are supposed to be promoting, which is peace, mutual respect, love and tolerance. It is the same with political ideologies. The biggest lie is that you "have to break a few eggs to make an omelette" as a political truth. If you are making an omelette, sure its true, but surely the best omelette is one where all of the ingredient work together and contribute to making a great omelette. The eggs aren't broken, so much as improved by being seasoned and cooked. It is like our current debate on immigration. People seem to forget just how much this country has benefitted from the constant influx over the last 2,000 years of immigrants. Isn't it something to be celebrated that people want to come to the UK?

 I for one think that the fact that I can buy a curry, a kebab, a Pizza and a Spring roll from fine restaurants in Mill Hill is a massively positive development. When I go to Xmas Eve mass today at 6pm at the Sacred Heart to celebrate Xmas, I will be enormously reassured to be surrounded by  people from every continent, all coming together in peace, harmony and friendship. Afterwards, as our family tradition, we'll go for a meal with family and friends in the Turkish restaurant in Mill Hill, an establishment run by Muslims. We'll have a fine meal and a few drinks. I don't actually agree with the Captain in his assessment of the people who go to church, although when I see the hate filled zealots who usually are used as examples of religion on TV, I most certainly understand where he is coming from. I however enjoy the Xmas service, the carols associated with this time of year and the traditions we've built up.

Have a great Xmas and don't forget those in our community who are lonely, disenfranchised and destitute.

Monday, 23 December 2013

The Boris effect - Homelessness doubles in three years for young people in London

This morning the BBC are reporting that homelessness has doubled in three years amongst Londons young people. Boris Johnson has been the Tory mayor for five years. Is he proud of this statistic? As a volunteer for a London homeless charity it is heartbreaking to see this. The sad truth is that this is a direct result of the policies of the Tory Mayor and the ConDem coalition government. Any decent Mayor and any decent govenment should always see less people on the street at the end of their term than the start. It is a mark of failure of both Mayor and Government policy.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Dyslexia and Christmas

For those of you who have read my dyslexia blogs before, you may wish to skip this paragraph as it is just the background. If you haven't read my dyslexia blogs before, here is a little preamble and introduction, so you know who I am and what I do and why I write this stuff. For those of you who know the story, skip to the end of the paragraph for todays installment. Let me give you a bit of Background so you know who I am and what I do. I was born in 1962. I didn't start talking until I was 4 years old (at all, not a single word). My parents thought I was deaf. My reading age at eleven was 5. When I was fifteen I started a rock and roll band called the False Dots, the band is still going strong. When I was 16 I started a business called Mill Hill Music Complex (although then it was simply called the studio), a rehearsal studio, as we had nowhere to rehearse. The business has grown into a very successful enterprise, one of Londons biggest and most well respected independent studios. We now have 16 studios and a music shop and also have a photography/video studio and a dance studio. I also have done IT work, mostly on a freelance basis since 1983. In 2012 I also moved into film production, producing two highly acclaimed documentary films, both of which had screenings at the House of Commons. When I was 31, a friend suggested I had a dyslexia test. To my surprise I was told I was moderately dyslexic. This made me interested in the subject. To my amazement, what I have learned over the years is that my lack of educational aptitude, my feelings of anger and injustice and the core of my personality have been formed by the fact I cannot read words in a linear fashion.

I guess that Christmas is a great time of year for Children everywhere. When I was but a wee nipper, I used to love it. I can remember raucous family dinners in the Tichborne household. We'd awake at 4am to check our stockings. I guess things were simpler then. We'd get a couple of quality street choccies, a tangerine, a few small presents and a big present. We'd write Xmas lists, which we'd burn on the fire and send up to Father Christmas. My choices were usually things like a train set, an action man or a Corgi toy, usually the latest Thunderbird or one of the machines from UFO. It was great. Then as I grew up Christmas became more serious. I guess the worst Christmas was when I was around 12. My parents felt I was too old for toys. It was a right of passage in our house that at a certain point you stopped getting toys and started to get clothes and books. Now I wasn't into clothes and being dyslexic I could read properly.

My Mum took this into account, so got me things she felt would interest me, such as the Manchester City Yearbook or the Shoot Annual. She figured that if I had something I liked, I'd at least have a crack at it. She'd say "What book would you like for Christmas?" I'd reply "Comics". She'd say "You're too old for them". I then realised what the game was. I'd ask for things which were vaguely educational, such as Chemistry sets. All I wanted to do was to use the set to make explosives. I must confess that my Dad was also fairly fed up as that was what he was hoping to do as well. Instead you got Copper Sulphate and were able to make nails look like copper. My Dad, being quite kind in that respect, realised my disappointment and took me to his workshop for a quick crash course in making expolsives. Having assembled several prototype bombs, we proceded to a piece of wasteland at the back of his workshop and let them off. It was one of the best days of my life. My father was raised in the outback of Australia and worked on goldfields. Handling things such as nitroglycerene and dynamite were part of daily life. Sadly though, reading and following instructions were not my strong point, so my bomb making career never flourished, my attempts always seem to go wrong (thankfully). I was thinking about my early Christmas experiences and I was wondering how I would have approached Christmas if I was the parent of a dyslexic child. Happily my three do not have the condition.

Firstly, I guess that however much fun it was, I wouldn't give them lessons in bomb making! The Chemistry set was also a bit frustrating because I couldn't get on with the instructions. Anything which has overly technical reading requirements is not great for a dyslexic youth. Needing help only reinforces the frustration and the sense of uselessness. 

The thing which transformed my life was music. I would always encourage dyslexics to try music. A Ukulele is a good way in to playing as it is simple and you can play along on your own. It is easy to pick out simple melodies and also to play chords as a background. 

Another thing which I got into was photography. My folks bought me a cheap instamatic camera and I went around taking all manner of odd pictures of Mill Hill. I still do, many of them I've posted here on the blog. Whilst most people liked taking snaps of their friends, I hated pictures with people in them. My folks would laugh and say "what is that supposed to be?". It is something I never really took further, but would have liked to.

I also loved games. We'd play cards at Christmas and other board games. I was quite good at reading other people, but lousy at counting cards, which my brothers both excelled at. I learned to read their ticks and also to give misleading signs myself. As for board games, I loved games like monopoly and risk. These games help you devise strategy. Many families seem to have lost the art of playing board games. I would suggest that they are great for dyslexics. 

Another thing which I got into then was gardening. My sister Cath used to buy me seeds and plants. I would grow all manner of things. I still have a couple of trees in the garden that I planted when I was twelve (I bought my folks house from them in 1987). I really got into gardening and worked for a landscape gardening firm for a while when I left school. I loved being out in the open. 

Another thing I loved was cooking. My mum would follow recipes, but my Dad always simply cooked by intuition and taste. If he cooked a bacon sarnie, he'd never simply have bacon, he'd always put some tomatoes and mushrooms with it. His omelettes were legendary and I watched and cook a pretty good one myself. He said that if you could cook, you could live like a king. He explained the importance of seasonings and why certain foods worked well with other foods. My mum noting my interest, bought me cookbooks, but the instructions often baffled me. Maybe one day I will make a cooking video for dyslexics. I believe that if you understand the taste of food and why it tastes good or bad, you can cook. I love cooking Xmas dinner.

The last thing in my list is drawing and painting. I've always enjoyed it, although I am truly useless. It is something that you can enjoy. My mother started painting in her 60's and developed a great love of it going on courses in France. It is something I will do if ever I get to retire. For the modern day generation computers open up other forms of art such as video making, which are often easy and intuitive. 

So anyway, my advice is that if you are giving presents to a dyslexic youngster, ask what they want. If you see that there are hidden issues such as difficult and baffling instructions, then discuss this. I personally would steer away from anything overly educational at Xmas. For me this was always a source of disappointment . For many dyslexic children, especially those in their early teens, Xmas is a break from school and is a big highlight of the year. Make it special. We all need to enjoy ourselves sometimes and not be vividly reminded of our big failings as human beings. 

Has this Barnet Troll got a conscience?

Since I started writing this blog in 2008, I've come across all manner of people. There are some people I have the highest admiration for. Some people humble me with their commitment and passion to do the right thing in the face of adversity. Sadly I have also come across some despicable people, people who sometimes undermine my strong faith in human nature.

 I try my very hardest never to hold feelings of bitterness, hatred and resentment towards my fellow man, because these are negative and will always do you far more damage than the person who you feel these feelings towards. There are times when I am nearly pushed to the absolute edge. As we approach the Christmas season, it is vital we put these feelings aside and concentrate on what is good in the world. It is a time when we should fight for justice. Whatever your beliefs and whatever your religion, the sad truth about the Christmas story (whether you believe it or think it is a fantasy) is that the baby we remember did not have a happy ending. His life was taken by a brutal state as a result of lies, injustice and jealousy. Whatever else you may or may not believe, there are millions of innocent babies born in our history, who have died as the result of lies, jealousy and injustice for holding views that people have sought to suppress. Ultimately the way to a better world is through all of us learning mutual respect and learning to consider other peoples thoughts and feelings and circumstances before we act.

So what has that got to do with a particularly nasty cyber bully in Barnet? Well the papers are full of stories of teenagers driven over the edge by cyberbullies. Sadly many teenagers are unaware of the impact of their actions. They lack the life experience to understand the consequences of saying nasty things and making things up on the internet.

As I mentioned above, I have met some people through my blog that I am in awe of. One such person is John Sullivan. John is a septugenarian in very poor health. Him and his wife have a daughter called Susan, who is 50 and has downs syndrome. I also have a cousin called Theresa who has downs syndrome, so I am only too aware of the challenges faced by the families of people in Johns situation. I try and take my cousin on holiday every year and as a result, I see the challenges John faces every day at first hand. Susan and Theresa were friends and used to attend a centre in Mill Hill for many years. Theresa moved to Barnet and so now goes elsewhere.

John Sullivan with his Daughter Susan in 2011
John has fought passionately for the rights of disabled people in Barnet. He organised the Your Choice Barnet week. He arranged for many of his friends, fellow carers, disabled people and other campaigners to write blogs highlighting the challenges faced by the Barnet disabled community. When I speak about such issues, I can only scratch the surface and speculate. The people who wrote these blogs are at the coal face of social care. A little appreciated fact is that these family carers save the Barnet taxpayer a fortune. If they were heartless and simply handed the people they care for to the Council to look after, the council would have a legal responsibility to assume the role of carer and the social budget would have to increase massively. This could only be paid for by a hike in taxes. So when John Sullivan and his fellow campaigners call for better transport and better facilities for the disabled, he is not asking out of a selfish desire to fleece the taxpayer. He is asking so that him and his fellow carers can cope. When Susan is at a daycentre, John and his wife can do the things that you or I can take for granted. When Susan is happy, she is joy to be with and her care is easy. When she is upset, she is a different proposition. That is why it is vital that people like John are supported.

John is not a saint. Over the years, I've got to know him. He's a working class boy from Burnt Oak who has done well for himself. When he was a lad, he went to Watling Boys club. His regular watering hole was the Bald Faced Stag in Burnt Oak, a pub well known for its raucous atmosphere. His family are steeped in army traditions and recently John was telling me of the experiences of his nephews in the various theaters of war that the army has found itself in. John has a very close and protective family network and is lucky that like many such families, he has plenty of support. I don't see eye to eye with John on many issues. John calls a spade a spade and if he disagrees, he says "You are talking b*ll*cks". Unlike me, he can't afford to take a theoritical view of the situation in Barnet. As he has pointed out on numerous occasions "while you lot are holding meetings and waffling, there are people out there at their wits end". When he sent me one guest  blog for submission, I suggested that describing one particular councillor as "sick and evil" was a tad strong. John replied "can you suggest another way of describing behaviour that causes vulnerable and disabled people distress". John doesn't beat about the bush. He calls things how he sees them and expects other people to be equally straightforward. When I discussed what he had to say in his blogs, he said "look, what you've got to realise is that everything I say is the truth and I can back it up. If you simply tell the truth, then you have nothing to fear". Mr Sullivan is not a left wing subversive. He speaks with enormous pride of his hephews service in the armed forces and the their efforts on our behalf in the various combat areas. He is looking forward to seeing them over Christmas, to catch up on their latest news and the latest stories. That is the sort of man John Sullivan is. That is why I respect him.

Your Choice Barnet week came about because John felt that the disabled were a forgotten underclass in Barnet. When Barnet Council sought to fleece motorists, by hiking prices of CPZ permits, the law came down on the side of the motorists and the hike were reversed. When the Council hiked parking prices in the High Streets, Helen Michael led a rebellion and the council backed down. The Tories in the Town hall realised that the traders were there core voters, so the Councillors may lose their jobs. Parking prices were slashed and the meters have returned. Sadly for the disabled, it is a different matter. At the task and finish group, Councillor Brian Salinger, a former Tory leader of Barnet Council stated that he had no problem with "making a profit out of services for the disabled". So motorists and businesses are protected, but the disabled are up to be fleeced. When Brian Salinger was Leader of the Council, his right hand man and enforcer was ex Councillor Daniel Hope. Hope represented Brunswick Park ward. Sadly for Mr Salinger, Mr Hope was not very good at this role. His local ward tired of Hope and replaced him with the lovely Lisa Rutter, Hope was banished to an unwinnable ward for the 2006 election. The role of the chief whip is to maintain order, but sadly for Brian Salinger, Hope had missed the fact that his colleagues were plotting and the day after the 2006 election, Salinger was sacked by the Tories as leader and replaced by Mike Freer, now MP for Finchley.

Since then, Hope has set up a succession of blogs and twitter accounts. The latest of these is the http://www.barnetconservatives.com/ website and the https://twitter.com/BarnetGrassCons website. Interestingly, the majority of the 18 followers of Mr Hope on this twitter account are actually local bloggers, and other people on the left. Mr Hope has had a steady stream of juicy tip offs from his former allies in the Tory ranks in Barnet, which have often been unhelpful to the Freer regime. Mr Hope has been a useful way for the anti Freer faction of the Conservatives to get their views across, without getting their hands dirty.

In his recent blogs, John Sullivan and his fellow carers have been less than complimentary about Mr Salinger and his comments. They feel badly let down by the local politicians, over the cuts to services being enacted by Your Choice Barnet. As many people will realise, there is a council election next year, and the last thing that councillors want is bad press, especially from a group such as the disabled which attracts widespread sympathy. One of the tactics that is tried and trusted for unscrupulous people to dismiss genuine concerns, is to pretend that criticisms are not genuine and are simply part of some other campaign, orchestrated by people merely seeking political gains. Of course anyone who actually bothered to read the guest blogs would realise that Mr Sullivan and his fellow bloggers were simply seeking a better life for their loved ones.

On Friday, Mr Hope used his BarnetGrassCons twitter account to mount such an attack on John Sullivan and his campaign for disabled rights in Barnet (the comment at the bottom was first). As you can see this clearly implies that this blog was "bought" and written by "cranks" . The second tweet implies(completely without any evidence) that the campaign was orchestrated by the Barnet Alliance. The third tweet calls the Barnet Alliance Cranks. Clearly when Hope posted the first tweet, he was referring to Your Choice Barnet Week and the posts of Mr Sullivan and the other YCB week bloggers.

  1. Twist and spin all you like, what tabloid gossip bloggers do! are the cranks.
  2. Clearly been taken over by the cranky 'anti Tory' this week. Maybe you waive ur fees to SETs?
  3. So who's bought your blog for next week? Unions? Other cranks? Labour Party?

When John Sullivan saw these comments hewas livid. John Sullivan contacted Hope. Hope admitted that he hadn't bothered to read the Your Choice Barnet week blogs. Here is this admission in an email to Mr Sullivan

Please ask Mr Tichbourne to provide you with the evidence that I have called you, specifically, a 'crank' (as opposed to my comments about BAPS writing his blog for a week). It is clear from your email that your are going on hearsay or you would have quoted what I had apparently said.

Until he raised your name I was unaware you had even written something during BAPS week. Are you on their Executive now? 

So Mr Hope launched an attack on John Sullivan and his fellow campaigners, having not even read their blogs. To me this a staggering admission. These comments were posted on Friday, the day John posted his second YCB week. It had John Sullivans name and picture on the title (Your Choice Barnet Week - Thank you for listening ...).
Mr Sullivan sought a meeting with Daniel Hope to explain to him why he was mistaken (a not unreasonable request). Mr Sullivan had hoped that Mr Hope might realise he'd made a mistake and correct his misleading tweets. For the absence of doubt, the Barnet Alliance for Public Services were not in any way associated with the Your Choice Barnet week. John Sullivan is not a member and he is not on their executive. In actual fact, as Mr Hope knows well, Mr Sullivan is not at all well. He is in his seventees and is undergoing treatment for a serious illness. He was so unwell that he could not address a recent council meeting and asked a friend to read a prepared speech, by agreement with the committee chair. This was featured in his first blog

So how did Mr Hope respond to Mr Sullivans request to meet him? Sadly rather than realise he'd made a mistake and apologise, he responded by claiming Mr Sullivan was threatening him and he was worried for his own safety. He suggested that unless Mr Sullivan stopped harrassing him, he would contact the authorities. To me, the concept that Mr Hope would be scared of a man who is in his seventies and so ill that he can't speak at a council meeting is ridiculous. It was clear to me that the intention of Mr Hope's email was to intimidate Mr Sullivan. One has to ask, what sort of a man threatens a man in his seventies, with a life threatening illness, five days before Christmas.

Let us remind ourselves that John Sullivan has a wife and a disabled daughter. He should be spending his time preparing for the festive season and keeping Susan happy. Whilst John is committed to the fight for disabled rights, his wife is highly concerned about the effect that Mr Hope's campaign may be having on John. The last thing he needs is stress. Mr Sullivan contacted me yesterday, forwarding the emails he'd exchanged with Mr Hope. I emailed Mr Hope and suggested that given Mr Sullivans age and ill health, maybe he should reconsider his spiteful campaign, especially as he'd clearly got his facts wrong.

Sadly, like all bullies, Mr Hope didn't think "hang on, maybe I've overstepped the mark". Nope, he unashamedly posted another tweet denigrating and taunting an elderly, unwell man.

Just had to block two users following very unsavoury trolling incident involving repeated threats to turn up at my home address.

I wonder whether Mr Hope has any conscience at all. Just to recap, he posted a series of tweets calling guest bloggers campaigning on behalf of their loved ones cranks. He accused Mr Sullivan of being on the executive of an organisation he doesn't belong to. He claimed I'd taken money to publish guest blogs. To compound all of this he admitted that he hadn't read the blogs which he was attacking in his comments.

Now I am quite used to being abused by Mr Hope in his various guises on Twitter. I really don't mind and try and give as good as I get (which has resulted in Mr Hope throwing his toys out of the pram on more than one occasion). It is however a completely different matter when he starts trying to bully a sick man in his seventies into submission. The dilemma I have is whether I should ignore the lies put about by Daniel Hope. If I do, he will say "he didn't deny it, so it must be true". When Mr Hope claims that he's been harrassed and people have threatened to turn up at his home, he doesn't say that the person in question was a sick man who was in his seventies and who simply asked if he could have a chat about some inaccuracies in his comments, so they could be corrected. In his weasel words, he claims that BAPS organised YCB week without a shred of truth. He also calls BAPS cranks, which is itself another slur. People unfamiliar with Barnet Politics should be aware that BAPS organised a very successful Peoples question time last year, which featured the Leader of Barnet Council Richard Cornelius and the other two party leaders. It was packed to the rafters and Mr Cornelius complemented BAPS on their efforts for organising it.Mr Hope was present at this meeting and haas attended many events organised by BAPS.  Mr Hope may disagree with the views of individual BAPS members, but to label everyone involved as Cranks is plain ignorant. I disagree with many of the policies of the current Tory administration, but I don't call them cranks as a group. If a specific individual says something ridiculous, then fine say so, but Mr Hope attacks people without even reading what they have to say (as admitted in his letter to Mr Sullivan). What sort of way is that to behave? One has to say that if this is the way Mr Hope conducts his business, it is unsurprising that he got deselected in Chipping Barnet and his Boss Mr Salinger got the sack.

As I said at the start of this blog, I try not to get upset at peoples behaviour and I try and see the good in all people, especially in the season of goodwill. Sometimes this is difficult.