Coleman charges: How Eric Pickles has failed councils and the Tory Party

Brian Coleman: An embarassment created by Eric Pickles. Pic courtesy: New Camden Journal

Update: Since this blog appeared Grant Shapps, chairman of the Conservative Party  has  finally suspended Coleman from national party membership though he still says he is a local Tory councillor. He appeared before Uxbridge magistrates on November 5 and pleaded not guilty to  an offence of assaulting by beating a local cafe owner, Helen Michael.  He has been bailed to appear before magistrates on February 6 when the case will be heard.

Full reports on this are on the @BarnetBugle and @ BrokenBarnet websites.

The news that  London’s former fire chair and Barnet councillor, Brian Coleman, has now been charged with assaulting local cafe owner Helen Michael and driving without proper caution is perhaps not surprising. Obviously as he will be appearing at Hendon magistrates on November 5 there can be no comment on the case.

But there is plenty of comment that can be made about Richard Cornelius, the leader of the Tory Party in Barnet and now self-serving arbiter of council standards in the borough. He has decided that despite Mr Coleman  being charged that there is no need to suspend him from the Tory Party pending the court’s decision.

As Mrs Angry says in her excellent blog today ” this is preposterous” ( He uses the lame excuse that somehow to suspend Mr Coleman would interfere with the judicial process. Like hell it would!

But there is a wider issue here. Mr Cornelius can only do this thanks to the decision of Eric Pickles, the communities secretary, to abolish in the name of  localism, the Local Government Standards board last January. By no means perfect, this board did set standards for England and councils would have to be very wary about ignoring its decisions. Indeed councillors had no choice but to stand down.

My old colleague and hero, Peter Preston, former editor of the Guardian. warned of this in a prescient article before Mr Pickles acted. You can read it here ( and everything he says applies to what is happening in Barnet now.

I hear rumours that Barnet Tories have checked the present law and even if Mr Coleman is convicted he could stay in office –  provided he doesn’t spend three months or more in prison.

Frankly this is both damaging to the standards required in local government and to the Conservative Party in particular. It gives the impression that there is one law for Tories, and another for the rest of the public. It chimes well with the recent behaviour of Andrew Mitchell, the former chief whip, who swore at the police, and sits very badly with David Cameron’s initiative on Monday for tough intelligent justice.

It is time someone quoted Henry II and said ” Who will rid me of this turbulent priest?” and put Coleman out of the picture (not of course as brutally as the four knights) before he does even more  damage to politics.

Finally  as @BrokenBarnet reports the local Tory leader acted and started procedures to suspend Brian Coleman though he is still a member of  the Conservative group at the moment.

Richard Cornelius, the Tory leader said:”I am initiating the process of suspending Councillor Coleman from the Conservative Group. There are group rules that need to be followed and I must abide by these rules.
“Due process must be followed and I will update as and when I can.”

2 thoughts on “Coleman charges: How Eric Pickles has failed councils and the Tory Party

  1. Pickles’ abolishment of the Standards Board is just one of the features of the localism bill which work in directly the opposite direction to his stated intention, ie to empower local communities.

    The result will be to empower councils, councillors and unaccountable senior officers, rather than communities, and in the case of a spectacularly bad council like Tory Barnet, which refuses to engage with the electorate via consultation or open debate – or to censure badly behaved councillors – local residents will find themselves entirely distanced from the democratic process, and at the mercy of unsanctionable councillors.

    (It’s Richard Cornelius, btw …)


  2. “Damage Politics”?? How can anyone damage something that is, in and of itself, a form of “Damage” to most right minded people who put humans before the military industrial complex, and it’s greedy ability to consume all before it in the name of consumerism, profit and total control over the world population through conflict and social engineering? I believe even the word “Parliament” literally means to talk in lies, extracted from the french. I also hear that there are still those out there who believe that Governments run countries, though I myself find this idea ridiculous, after all, how can people who owe their living to those that fund their election campaigns and parties possibly have a mind of their own, let alone make decisions in OUR best interests. Follow the money as they say, who stands to gain, I bet it’s not the masses on any level. When will today’s journalist start to really stick their necks out and start to tackle the real issues facing us in this day and age. With Rupert Murdoch and his cronies taking control of the media and producing ultra biased stations like Fox News, and the Sun apparently being written to appeal to a readership with a mental age of 8, is it any wonder the countries either side of the pond are in such a mess.


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