6 June 2012

Booted out of the (Brunswick) Park

What a turnaround. In May 2010 there were 3 candidates of each colour who stood for Brunswick Park ward. The average vote (of the 3) and the percentage to each party was as follows:

2010 Votes %
Cons 3,384 49.9
Labour 1,769 26.1
LibDem 1,170 17.2
Green 463 6.8
Total 6,786 100.0

Fast forward to May 2012 and the results were as follows.
2012 Votes %
Cons 1,598 46.1
Labour 1,769 51.1
LibDem 97 2.8

Total 3,464 100.0

The reasons will be many and varied. A new belief by Labour after the ousting of Brian Coleman AM must have been a major factor and lots of bodies on the street. Mr Mustard himself pushed some BAPS leaflets through letterboxes one Saturday and although they weren't election leaflets as such they did highlight many things that are wrong with the Conservative's One Barnet programme. The bloggers played only a small part in this by-election but every vote helps. Mr Mustard has some ideas for the 2014 elections. By then the bloggers will have done their bit to make sure the One Barnet programme is much more widely known and voters will be armed with knowledge about what you have been doing councillors in the name of One Barnet and some very tough questions indeed. Having a candidate who lived locally was not the vote winner it was thought to be.

As you know Mr Mustard was unimpressed by the leaflet that vaunted the local connections of the conservative candidate Shaheen Mahmood. He thought it was a stupid leaflet (the returning officer had also kicked one leaflet into touch for claims about parking that, to say the least, stretched the truth) and he thought it did a dis-service to one of the other existing conservative councillors in that very ward, Lisa Rutter.

Now Mr Mustard first came across Lisa at a Chipping Barnet Residents Forum. He was not impressed with either her chairing of the meeting, her failure to allow debate or questions or to know the answers to many of them. He engaged afterwards in an email exchange with her about the state of the roads which didn't enhance Lisa in his eyes. It also didn't help that Mrs Angry reckoned that if you squinted at a photo of Toyah Wilcox you would see Lisa. Try it for yourself.

There may be some likeness Mrs Angry but Mr Mustard reckons the best fit is Lisa Simpson (and if Lisa Rutter is reading it is a compliment to be compared to Lisa Simpson who is highly intelligent)

she even has the pearls

Whilst we are on the subject of lookalikes, or not, Mr Mustard couldn't help but notice that the failed candidate reminded him of a Little Britain character (but to have blogged it before the election might have been seen as juvenile behaviour, and not improved democracy, so Mr Mustard resisted the temptation)

standard Private Eye lookalike layout

If Andy Hipkin had stood, as he often does when his carer's back is turned, he would have doubtless have had a landslide victory (whoever he stood for).

Anyway Shaheen is, for now, history. We will have to wait two years to see if she fancies another go in the 2014 election.

Back to Lisa who has spent a year wearing gold chains, cutting ribbons, planting trees and talking to community groups, a role at which she seems to have performed perfectly well.

Mr Mustard thought that he would find out what Lisa thought of the leaflet which banged on about the local nature of the candidate as Mr Mustard has seen no evidence that living about 3 miles from the edge of her ward has led to a lack of knowledge or care. So, Mr Mustard emailed as follows:

Dear Cllr Rutter

As you know there is a by-election tomorrow and I have seen the candidate's letter of 25 May in which she makes it a major plank of the argument to vote for her that she is "the only candidate who lives in the ward". 

Now Boris has joined in today and said "she is the only person for the job" because, after the obvious reason that she is a member of the same party as him, the next reason quoted is "she is the only candidate who lives in the ward".

Isn't this arrant nonsense as you don't live in the ward you represent (perhaps you used to?) and no-one has accused you of not being able to represent the ward properly because you don't live in it, have they? (I would not be at all surprised if come 2014 any candidates who are not resident in the ward gets that fact used against them by the other parties).

Surely as the council votes in full council on matters that affect the whole borough it is sufficient to live within the borough? although even that isn't essential. If you lived in, say, Enfield you could still keep well up to date on Barnet's affairs and be at the Town Hall on time.

What do you think? If living in the ward trumps whatever other good points the candidate supposedly has, then there don't seem to be many? 

Best regards

Mr Mustard
30 May 2012

and Mr Mustard was delighted (thank you Lisa) to receive a speedy and thoughtful reply which was sensibly sent after the polls had closed on 31 May:

Dear Mr Mustard,

Thank you for your email; you raise some interesting points which I can't comment on as I don't design the leaflets. I will however pass them on to our central office. You asked for my thoughts - I personally think a Councillor should at least live in the borough where they represent and I suspect a lot of people actually like the fact the Councillor or candidate lives in the Ward they represent. I don't live in Brunswick Park Ward but I feel I have represented, helped and done a good job for the residents in the Ward over the last 6 years and will continue to do so.

Kind regards

Cllr. Lisa Rutter
So if central office have any sense, they will not be using the fact that the candidate lives in the ward as a virtue to try and influence the electorate in 2014. If you do, then Mr Mustard, and doubtless other bloggers, will examine one ward at a time the residential status of all candidates and listing for you the ones who live outside of the ward as a reason to vote against them. It could get messy.
What one would like to see in a leaflet are the skills which the councillor will bring to the job which will make them a good councillor.
Only 2 years to wait unless we have another by-election.
Yours frugally
Mr Mustard

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