Saturday, 5 May 2012

Take me out and shoot me... Or: Brian Coleman: My Part in His Downfall

North Finchley traders representative, Helen Michael
It's a funny thing but, for all all the excitement of yesterday, what is exercising me most this morning is the fact that I missed the chance to take a great picture.

At 6pm I was standing with a friend outside the entrance to Alexandra Palace, at the count for the Barnet and Camden London Assembly member election, when Brian Coleman arrived, with his mother.

It was clear by then that he had lost his London Assembly seat to Andrew Dismore, and people had been speculating on whether or not Coleman would show his face.

Now, here he was, against a spectacular backdrop of all of London, walking towards me. What did I do?

I'll tell you what I did. I failed to take a picture. And I have the audacity to call myself a journalist!

On reflection, it's lucky I didn't. Lucky for me, lucky for Coleman, lucky for everyone. His miserable face was a picture of studied light-heartedness; he was clearly utterly miserable. He lost by 21,000 votes, after all. (Full result here.)

He went into the big hall where the counting took place for the very end of the count; then he stood in the Palm Court while a knackered Nick Walkley, Chief Executive of Barnet Council and its returning officer, read out the result, and then, I understand, sloped off while a justifiably delighted Andrew Dismore made his victory speech. No speech from Coleman. No chance for the rest of us to practise our agreed upon dignified applause.

Yesterday was a great day for me and lots of other Barnet campaigners, trade unionists, anti-cuts activists, and residents who are simply browned off with Coleman. All of these 'constituencies' were represented up at Ally Pally. It was also a great day for the local Labour Party.

After such a day, month, year it would be tempting to write a blogpost along the lines of "Brian Coleman: My Part in His Downfall", casting oneself as Spike Milligan (although much less funny, of course).

If I'd got That Picture yesterday I could have stuck it at the top of this blogpost and written: "Errr, look at me! If nothing else, I'm the one with the camera who whips it out at the right moment." Instead, I'm the one with the camera who forgets all about it at the crucial moment and rather too compassionately steps aside to let a wounded man, not to mention his mother, pass unhassled.

I'm too soft, that's my trouble; it's why I'll never make it in politics. Or journalism.

I'll write some more analysis of the election result soon, and say What I Think Should Happen Next. In the meantime, I hope you like the picture I did put at the top of this blogpost. (I hope Helen Michael doesn't mind it.) It's a hommage to a rather famous picture of Brian Coleman, celebrating his councillor's code of conduct hearing - which he lost, by the way! - against "Barnet Eye" blogger Roger Tichborne.

Helen, a representative of the North Finchley traders who have suffered so much as a result of Barnet council's - in the first place, Brian Coleman's - parking policies, has borne the brunt of Coleman's legendary rudeness recently. She is one of the people who has helped to defeat him in this election and deserves a place of honour.

UPDATE: A few pics from yesterday taken with my crappy compact camera, none of Brian... oh, I told you that already:


Mr Mustard said...

Indeed she does Vicky; we will have to rely on Dan for a good picture then as he always has his tripod at the ready.

I think we were all a bit tired and emotional at the end last night; I know I was.

Hope to see you later at the Friern Barnet pop-up library.

David Duff said...

Congratulations, er, if that is quite the word but do keep a careful eye on how he uses his allowances!

Anonymous said...

I misread and thought you meant Nick Walkley sloped off (wishful thinking).
Nick had looked far from happy (does he ever look happy?).
Let's hope the councillors take note and re-think the one barnet strategy

Citizen Barnet said...

Yes, Anonymous, I decided to give Walkley the benefit of the doubt and attribute his miserable visage to tiredness. If he was angry with the result in any way: why?

D.D., we are getting quite good at scrutinising our politicians and our senior council officers here in Barnet. And it bears fruit, as yesterday proved.

Mr M, Dan takes more care of his tripod than he does of his hat. By the way, if he catches nits, it wasn't from me.

Don't Call Me Dave said...

It would be churlish not to congratulate Mr Dismore on his victory, but it is also important that he understands that many people - DCMD amongst them - voted for him for no other reason than to give Brian Coleman a good kicking.

The statistical analysis suggests that this was, indeed, an anti-Coleman protest rather than anti-Tory.

Looking at the Barnet & Camden figures only, Boris beat Ken by 24,485 votes (49.4% to Ken’s 34.8%). This is a substantial victory for Boris when you consider how close the result was elsewhere in the Capital.

On the London list, Labour beat the Conservatives by just 2,822 votes. The Tory vote was down a mere 2.1%, which is a much better result than in other parts of London and the country.

It is when you look at the constituency result that you can really appreciate the scale of Brian Coleman’s thrashing. His vote was down 9.1%. In 2008, he won with a majority of 19,693. In 2012, Dismore won with a majority of 21,299. Even allowing for the low turnout, this was simply an astonishing turnaround. It was the largest swing against the Conservatives in London.

Politicians always try and spin bad results, but it is quite clear that Conservative voters in Barnet and Camden were willing to vote Conservative for the Mayor and for the London list. They were simply not prepared to vote for Coleman. 82,839 Conservative supporters went out and voted for Boris. 29,461 of those same voters (35% of them) refused to back Coleman. I do not think it is possible to send a clearer message to any politician than that.

To the rest of the Conservatives in Barnet, but Richard Cornelius in particular, the message from your natural supporters is very simple. Wake up and smell the coffee, before Coleman drags you into political oblivion.