On the beach with blogging Bryant

JOHN Bryant blogs! There it is, right there, a place on the web for him to claim his greatest triumph in local politics: getting a pelican crossing installed in Hull.

The “happily divorced” Lib Dem councillor in Camden reserves one of his first posts for a ‘defence’ of tedious (‘it’s fashionable to sneer‘) author Dan Brown.

And why will he be taking the Da Vinci code writer ‘to the beach’ this summer? Because – JB tells us earnestly – “what makes him stand out above his peers in the thriller stakes is his skill at systematically denigrating the Roman Catholic church, an institution which continues to demonstrate, even today, it’s institutional corruption.

The spiky reception for religion continues:

“Organised religion like the Roman Catholic church (only one of many I have the same problem with) is man-made and is designed by its leaders to control the lives and behaviour of the population at large.

The Christian church is based on four contradictory gospels written around 80 years after Christ was on the planet.

So the inevitable distortion of details derived from word-of-mouth stories, passed through at least three generations, means we have a highly stylised version of events relating to Christ’s life.”

You don’t, of course, have to have the longest memory in the world to recall a slight bit of public static between Councillor Bryant and the world of religion. As one of the architects of the Camden Council education strategies that paved the way for the UCL Academy to be created in Swiss Cottage, he had to deal with accusations that the Church of England had been frozen out of the process to decide upon a sponsor for the first new secondary school in Camden for a generation.

The London Diocese argued that as it controlled a third of the borough’s primary schools but not a secondary, it should at least be given the chance to argue its case in an open competition against rival interested parties.

The Lib Dems and Conservatives were not so keen on the idea. UCL, who said it would pull out if it had to go through the challenge of a competition (how’s that for hardball negotiating?), was instead handed the school’s keys by Camden Council in an arrangement critcised for appearing like a backroom deal.

And then a little later, the memo emerged. The memo. That memo. Cllr Bryant had written privately to a group of governors giving his frank insight but somebody somewhere leaked it to a wider audience. In it, the Dan Brown admirer said:

The claim that Church of England schools are successful is not always true – the last school in Special Measures in the borough was St Mary and St Pancras Primary nearby to Euston… Personally I am not in favour because while we currently have a number of faith schools in the borough, I don’t think it’s appropriate for the council to assist in the formation of any more.

The memo had other points that raised the ire of school campaigners and the note became part of a bundle of court papers headed for the High Court. A judicial review nonetheless failed to disrupt council plans. The Town Hall, it was ruled, was within its rights to pick a preferred bidder in UCL. The Church’s bid to sponsor that new school, now so close to opening, was at once cut dead in the water.

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