#VisionForBarnet hustings Part 1

The Barnet Society decided on the hashtag, Your Vision For Barnet, for a hustings.

I was there.

(so was Mr Reasonable)


Here is what happened.

The Barnet Society gave us some facts and figures about new homes and planning.

People introduced themselves very briefly; with many candidates.  They were supposed to say their name, their party, and which ward they were standing in.  Some people thought it was a chance to give their biography.  For David Longstaff, this includes chairing the Chipping Barnet Town Team, school governor, and charity.  Lara has a really good elevator pitch and for that reason I predict she will hold the seat held by a Tory in the 2-way marginal area of Underhill, off Mays Lane.

Then there was a stack of questions about development.  The Green Belt is a concern.

What are the parties policies?
The Conservatives say they are tackling empty properties by using council tax as an incentive.  Of course a major policy in this area has been the #BedroomTax which they call the empty properies.  With a freudian slip about greenfield vs brownfield, David Longstaff said that the London Plan will mean more housing which means the Green Belt is under attack.

The Greens say that there are 2,800 empty properties in 2010, and 4,100 empty properties in 2011.  We opposed the way people of Sweets Way were decanted from their homes for profit, and made homeless.  Obi noted the change of designation of green zones, and protecting metropolitan open space from erosion and loss to developers that are supported by parties in power.

The Lib Dems former Councillor said it's also businesses on the High Street that have been empty.

Paul Edwards from Labour who have 2 seats in Underhill as well as some neighbouring towns, and mentioned council housing and affordability.  He then said Conservatives have caved in to developers highlighting the % reduced from viability assessments.  He is still renting because he can't buy his own home.  On the Green Belt, he clarified that Labour will not build on the Green Belt, and blamed the Conservatives for building on the Ark Academy former football stadium.  Walking around, Amy is upset about viability and weak councils too.  She too is looking at incentives around empty properties.  The questioner then asked to reply, and pointed out that people who can afford second homes for £800,000 are not going to be put off by an increase in rates; also made fun of the planning of the Ark Academy.  Longstaff came back and said, Cllr Tim Roberts allegedly voted to develop the old dog kennels, which is on Green Belt land.  He says local Tories have to bear in mind national planning law on school building.  In conclusion it was Labour that originally sold off the Barnet FC cheaply, when they were in charge of Barnet Council a generation ago.

So in conclusion developers are still very much in the picture.  Labour's Amy holds a principled position against Academies and Free Schools, which are still Labour policy.

To be continued...

Winter Reading 2

Winter is Coming: Or is it?
A friend who is also into Game of Thrones comments that the books are not as good as the films.  This is true.  The special effects are amazing.  The final, 8th, series can't possibly top this.  Afterwards I expect prequels and other George R. R. Martin titles.

My FT subscription has expired, on the free trial, and I am looking around for titles to try next winter.  Still I spend a lot of time looking at the news.  Local elections are approaching with 3 sources of local journalism: Times Series, the JC - which has a high readership in many local areas, and BBC London radio.  In my time working as a paper boy in Golders Green, Thursday was almost as heavy as weekends, due to the weekly Jewish papers; the Jewish Chronicle, plus free advertisers, Hamodia, and Mishpacha.

I love comics:  An expensive habit if it weren't for the local libraries.  I am up to Batman B&W volume 3 of 4.  On my reading list are: A long halloween, and Batman & Robin 1 and 2.  The story telling, such as of Neil Gaiman, is juxtaposed with real accessible art work from many graphic artists and calligraphers  Neil Gaiman's latest book, a collection of short stories, is also very accessible: I particularly enjoyed Cassandra.  Of course, fiction does have a real benefit.  At times people can lack empathy:  Fiction builds empathy skills by allowing the reader to identify with characters.  This year, Justice League 2017 is coming out on DVD.  Many Batmans and Batwomans were evident at the megilla reading I attended:  Which is odd because as a real superhero fan I immediately opted for the easiest DC comic book character to dress up as, Aquaman.  In the film Aquaman wears an outdoor jacket and maritime jersey jumper.  He is slightly unshaved, and has long hair.  Enough said.  Sadly no Wonder Woman this year, but that is the ultimate clichee; even more clichee than the guy who dressed up as an Arab, or the native American head-dress.  I see two sides to this and am inclined to say we don't do cultural appropriation; I've had the priviledge of meeting people from other cultures but rather than aping them, I prefer to give them a platform directly and see what they have to say; whether it's about the Oxfam abuse scandal or what's going on in the Muslim world.  There is one short story about a librarian by day, Batwoman by night.

For Holocaust Memorial Day I've been reading a history of the British Jewish Community's response.  An honorable mention goes to my ancestor Cecil Roth.  A historian, he is noted for his ego.  While the Holocaust was happening, British Jewry was dominated by families and clashes of personalities.  This lack of solidarity against the crimes was hugely distressing to those living in Europe, waiting for the UK to intervene.  Cecil's call for unity was the best he could do, but it was difficult to rise above his personal positions, towards a unified response.  I've found some theological responses to the Holocaust, as well as Denial, Deborah Lipstadt's sequel to the book that is featured in the new film Denial.  The Power of Words being this year's theme.  So many other books and articles:  The story of a Polish riteous gentile who is similar to Schindler in the Spielberg film.

I've been reading Owen Jones.  He is a great orator and would be my preferred opposition leader to Jeremy Corbyn - who is weak on foreign policy, and will not be around forever.

art books.  I'm not particularly into fine art but it's quite sad when people redecorate but have no art on the walls.  My home has a hall landing with 3 mirrors, and a few framed photographs.  In line with Jewish tradition I have a painting depicting Jerusalem's holy site, the "Wailing Wall".  In the painting, the Jews are multi-coloured and it is the Old City that seems to be a scream.  I ended up with this painting because its previous owners hated it.  I also have a lovely cut out tree after Matisse, by my little brother, and 2 printouts of paintings from the website that collects all public-owned works of art.

I've started reading biographies at the recommendation of Campaign Organisers, a peer led programme.  Reading Mandela, you can see that they got over difficult hurdles to achieve change, so you can too.  So as well as finding out about the monarchy, I've picked up biographies of Gordon Brown and David Cameron.  Cameron is one of the most uninspiring, sickeningly privileged lives I have ever come across.  Really interesting to see he moves in the same circles as Alex James from Labour; maybe they could start a band!  Non-fiction has always been my favourite, because I enjoy knowing as much as possible to the limits.  I've also picked up a really good book about a Scouse teacher of English literature to Palestinians who just want to learn English in hope of getting a good job or travelling.  With the world at their fingertips, a better education really offers hope, despite circumstances.  But with local elections coming up, enough said about that, because large numbers of people are looking for a scrap; which doesn't serve civic cohesion.

Thank goodness for libraries:  really.  I miss the university library, and will renew my membership of the British Library so I can access professional magazines.  They'd arrive about a month late but were so clear about environmental issues, and selected articles are great to have around at meetings.  I think they had a calming effect on people whose minds otherwise get bored, frustrated, impatient and restless.  The British Library doesn't have the best database of all journals, but I believe if I put a bit of effort into reading my fields of interest: Inorganic Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, Analytical Chemistry, and Green Chemistry; that I would be familiar enough with the trends and leaders, to break back into chemical science one day, or at least feed into the scientific process from a theoretical space.  I am in the library right now and the sun has just come out from the clouds, streaming over the bookshelves across the space.

I've also enjoyed the brief introduction books, opting for one on Classical Mythology.  One of the things I really appreciate in party politics is a good narrative.