11 October 2011

Residents Forums - Cllr Gordon - In defence of the indefensible

Barnet bloggers respond to Councillor Gordon’s defence of Barnet Council residents’ forums

Dear Councillor Gordon

A letter was published last week in the Press group of newspapers from you concerning the Barnet Alliance for Public Services residents’ forum held on Tuesday 4th October. 

click to enlarge; back to return

We must correct a factual inaccuracy in your letter. The forum was not "private", it was open to all. All Barnet councillors were invited and would have been welcome to attend.

You state that Barnet Council’s own residents’ forums are not in any way hampered by the new rules governing them. Is this your opinion, we wonder, or have you asked the residents who attend? We think they would have a different view? 

You state that the forums are "marred occasionally by the irresponsible actions of anti-council agitators". We ask you to withdraw this offensive remark. The undersigned have all attended numerous residents’ forums and have never witnessed an "anti-council agitator".

We have witnessed many local residents who disagree with the policies of the current administration, and we believe their comments are born out of deep concern for the direction of the Council and cannot be in any way construed as "anti-council".

We are also concerned by the description you give of the appropriate way to deal with residents and taxpayers. The phrase "with firm chairmanship, those individuals are fairly swiftly subdued" has highly oppressive overtones and clearly implies that residents are not welcome to express views at odds with the chair.

We would like to remind you, Cllr Gordon, that the forums exist for residents’ benefit, not for that of the chair.

We would also like to remind you of the circumstances in which you became chair, when it became necessary to instigate an investigation into the behaviour of the previous Conservative incumbent.

We remind you that Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, has praised the concerned citizens of Barnet for their efforts in exposing the shambles that your administration allowed to develop in the Council’s purchasing department.

We are pleased that you have drawn attention to the next set of Council residents’ forums. We look forward to the opportunity to discuss your comments with you and your colleagues at these events.

Yours sincerely

Derek Dishman
John Dix
Vicki Morris
Theresa Musgrove
Roger Tichborne

Mr Mustard was thinking about the use of language in Barnet and the title of Residents Forum which rather implies that the forums are for residents and yet his impression is that they are a sop, to be got through as fast as possible and his thoughts turned to George Orwell and doublespeak. A quick search of the internet unearthed an essay on Politics and The English Language which you can read in its entirety here.

The following passage is reproduced for your convenience.

In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible. Things like the continuance of British rule in India, the Russian purges and deportations, the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan, can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face, and which do not square with the professed aims of the political parties. Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness.

"Better services for less money" doesn't translate to "better councillors for less money" for some unfathomable reason.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard


  1. You are correct Mrs A. Defense is American English and so I have changed the heading but left the essay unchanged as it is a copy.


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