Sunday, 10 April 2011

Amphibious assault

The Scumday Times, last weekend, exposed how Bob Crow (the Derek Hatton of the present day) lives in subsidised housing while receiving a generous salary package from his members.  Leaving aside Comrade Bob having achieved a growth in membership and income in his union that would be the envy of most companies, let alone political organisation, and the reality that he is constrained by legislation in what he can actually force RMT members to do, this is typical Murdoch smearing that would be far more entertaining if he also raked muck about the neo-cons in his client Tory party.

Exhibit 1:  Brian Coleman, member of the GLA for Camden and Barnet, as well as Cabinet Member for Environment and Transport at Barnet Council - personal motto "we never knowingly undercharge".  Mr Toad is also Chairman of the London Fire and Civil Defence Authority, and takes home over £140k in "allowances" for his numerous public duties. 

Coleman is one of the prime examples of why the Tories will never change their spots.  He has already had two complaints upheld by Barnet Council's Standards Sub-Committee, and doubtless there will be further fireworks as he seems to regard the electorate as a contemptible mass who shouldn't know details about his business, including the fact the he lives in rent-controlled housing while trousering several times the average wage from the public purse - quite apart from his tendency to use taxis rather than London's perfectly-adequate public transport system and then claiming it back.  Bri, for example, did not wish to publish his Members' Interests on line, preferring for those who might express an interest to go to the Council's offices rather than having access to the information.

It's seldom that Boris finds anyone as embarrassing as Brian Coleman, and the continued choreography will only become more intense as the GLA elections approach next year.  Any pact with the Tories at a local level would clearly founder in Camden and Barnet, so long as people like Coleman continue to provide the bedrock of Tory attitudes and behaviour.

The idea that Councillors should be given reasonable allowances for out-of-pocket expenses is not a bad one, but this should not be a substitute for voluntarism around another career.  If there is to be genuine reform and democratic renewal then we should be looking to cap the allowance level from all public posts to an acceptable level - say £50k per annum including expenses - and ensuring that those who secure the backing of political parties have some form of moral sense.  Not sure that Cllr Coleman could spell "turpitude".

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