DURING the little hiatus between posts this month, I interviewed Brian Coleman about the upcoming London elections and during our conversation he admitted that he had pressed the self destruct button towards the end of his local political career in Barnet. Everybody is well versed in how it all came crashing down for him, politically and personally, and he now freely jokes that he was just living up to the old adage that ‘all political careers end in failure’.
He now seems to be delighting in the failures of others a little too much, but, still, as someone who won three times in Barnet and Camden, it was interesting to also hear his views on how City Hall ticks, especially his claim that half of the work at the London Assembly is a complete wasted effort.
However blunt his manner is, there are threads in what Coleman says which are probably worth thinking about if London’s governance is to be reviewed again; that the mayor has so much power that the assembly members flail about struggling to claw back any real checks and balances and, as Coleman suggests, become doomed to being thought of as ‘glorified councillors’. It’s not controversial to suggest that the upcoming elections should be used to open up the debate as to what our assembly members actually do, and, perhaps more importantly, what they should be able to do.
As for Coleman, we must wait to see if his long-promised memoirs ever see publication. There are many local politicians, particularly in Barnet, who would rather such a wildcard wasn’t let loose with a printing press. Having spoken to him, any sales profit from a book would probably be wiped out by the hiring of a good lawyer; for he did not ask to go off-the-record in our interview or show any subtlety when naming people who he thinks are turncoats and creeps, from all parties, in a series of wicked anecdotes. Describing one of his former Labour opponents, Lucy Anderson (pictured above) now an MEP as ‘rising without trace’ was one of the kinder things he said.
We declined from publishing the identities of those in many of his tales, which means we couldn’t tell you who the prominent Labour Party member from Camden that Coleman insists texted ‘ding, dong, the witch is dead’ to him in 2008, shortly after his victory over Nicky Gavron in Barnet and Camden, was. You’d be surprised.
In another aside, Coleman showed little affectionate for his former election opponent – despite the passing of eight years – claiming Gavron had been fielded by Labour as a candidate who could win over the Jewish vote in the constituency. After she had failed to oust him, Coleman’s version has it that Ken Livingstone turned to him and said: “Next time we’ll have to put up a chief rabbi against you.”