Friday, 4 September 2009

Brian Coleman victim of "poisonous" blog campaign

Brian Coleman is the victim of a "poisonous" blog campaign that is beginning to seep into the mainstream media, he has claimed.

Speaking to an investigating officer in advance of his Standards Hearing, Coleman said that the "drip, drip, drip of poison about him" could not go on.

"Do you know all that it takes for evil to win is for good men to do nothing"

"And I think sometimes you just have to say to these people, look enough is enough. why should my 85 year old mother read this? Why should my friends read this? Why, because it's just personal abuse and we're all thick skinned politicians and week after week you find, I have been called all sorts of things but week in week out drip, drip, drip of poison and to the extent that local papers have started "oh it's a slow news week let's have a look at his dodgy blogs."

"Well that story and some of the stuff about me was actually seeping into the local paper as news stories which is why I started with the outright tributes I got the press officers to correct because I know even the Evening Standard were starting to look at it. Katherine Barney of the Evening Standard started looking at his blog and picking out stories, oh another story about Coleman and his supposed expenses and it all feeds off each other. So sometimes enough is enough."

Coleman excluded Tory Troll and Dave Hill's blog from his criticism saying that although we featured him, our coverage was "part of the rough and tumble of politics"

However, he claimed that other attacks on him were "bordering" on the homophobic and anti-semitic and accused blogger Roger Tichborne of being a "stalker"

Coleman's extraordinary claims formed part of his defence against a standards investigation into his conduct.

The case began after he accused Tichborne of being:

"an obsessive, poisonous individual and Labour Party Member whose blog is full of lies, half-truths and misinformation"

However, when asked about the investigation Coleman told the Barnet Times:

"This has absolutely nothing to do with me, nothing whatsoever, and if you say otherwise you will be hearing from my solicitor."

Unfortunately this was in itself a lie and the Standards investigation was into Coleman

And although the council's insurers had offered to give Coleman legal cover for free, Coleman instead chose to hire Beachcroft solicitors.

Barnet Council then agreed to stump up a £10,000 indemnity to pay for it.

Once paid, Coleman's solicitors trawled through Tichborne's blog and listed every critical comment about his client.

They then compared Tichborne to a "schoolyard bully" and said that Coleman was the "victim" of an obsessive campaign.

However, depite this high-class cover, the investigator still found that Coleman had broken the code of conduct.

The case will be decided by a Barnet Standards Committee next week.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

funny how bullies cry victim when they're found out.

Don't Call Me Dave said...

There is an interesting exchange at the beginning of Brian Coleman’s interview. The investigator asks about the time gap between receiving Rog T’s e-mail and his reply:

Interviewer: I am asking because it might be said that if it was a small gap of time it was a quick response, it wasn’t a very considered response, or it might be said that if there was an hour in between..

Brian Coleman: My defence is not that this was a moment of anger and temper but I actually stand by and I would repeat everything I have said in the e-mail to Mr Tichborne. It was not a momentary lapse of judgement. (emphasis added)

I think this neatly sums up Coleman’s arrogant contempt for the Members Code of Conduct. If he had said something like: “I was tired. It was a tough day in the office. I replied without thinking and, with hindsight, shouldn’t have responded in that way,” then arguably the case against him might have collapsed. But he is actually proud of what he said.

If you are an elected politician, you have to accept that the public will sometimes attack you, criticise you and try to make your life difficult. That is part of the job. But if you are incapable of responding in polite courteous terms, irrespective of the provocation you feel you may have suffered, then a career in public life is clearly not for you.

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

Fascinating stuff but I'm glad he's not my MP.

Mark Lee said...

I'm not Brian Coleman's biggest fan, and would also accept that the email falls outside of the Members Code.

But, let's be honest, I've seen far more offensive emails and the complaint is fuelled by a dislike for the man, more than anything else.

Brian's stupid for replying in such a way to someone who would evidently use it as ammunition against him at a later date, but it really does strike me as being a bit petty and vexatious to make a formal complaint about it.

I doubt he'll get more than a slap on the wrist for this and it seems to be an enormous waste of public money and time.

AdamB said...

Standards hearings are very often a huge waste of time and money. The GLA churns over loads of them, 99% of which go absolutely nowhere.

I think that the system does need reforming, even though it does provide me with a lot of stories.

Don't Call Me Dave said...

Mark

You are right about the cost, but Barnet Council has an insurance policy to defend councillors against Standards Board investigations. The insurer was willing to provide an out of town lawyer at no cost to taxpayers, but Mr Coleman wanted a hotshot London firm instead who is costing £10,000 in addition to whatever the investigating officer will charge for her time. All of which could have been avoided if Mr Coleman had simply apologised and withdrawn his comments.

Calling someone a liar, as Mr Coleman did, is a serious matter.

Brian Coleman aka Mr Toad has GOT to go said...

Its not only a serious matter DCMD - its also more than a bit rich coming from Brian "This has absolutely nothing to do with me" Coleman.

tsk!

Mark Lee said...

DCMD, what do you think happens to insurance premiums when you start making claims? They go up... Insurance payouts aren't free money, althout admittedly I'd be surprised if the eventual cost was as much as Brian's demanded for his.

I can understand the need to clear your name if you have been publicly defamed, especially where there's a risk to your professional reputation, but the Standards Committee isn't addressing that - if you look on page 13 of the PDF it explicitly states that they will not consider whether or not the blog is factually correct. All they are considering is whether or not Brian's tone in email dialogue is appropriate. So it does nothing for the public reputation of the complainant.

Don't Call Me Dave said...

Mark

The cost of Barnet’s insurance policy was £1,950 which provides cover of up to £50,000 per claim, up to £500,000 total in any one year - easily covering the cost of his defence. I am sure you are right that the premium would go up if a claim was made, but even it doubled, Barnet would still be quids in.

But how long before insurers include an exemption clause? “This policy does not cover Brian Coleman.”

It is interesting that Mr Coleman accused Rog T of hypocrisy. I remember the row when former council leader Victor Lyon introduced an indemnity policy by the back door. At the Conservative Group meeting, Cllr Coleman was incensed at the decision. He stated that whilst he agreed with the need for an indemnity policy for officers, he was totally opposed to it for councillors. It hasn’t stopped him claiming though, has it?

Rog T said...

Adam,

You must be chuffed to find that Brian Coleman has officially endorsed your blog.

You should put that on your masthead !

Brian Coleman aka Mr Toad has GOT to go said...

Rog - I have no doubt that the forthcoming hearing will provide you with an embarrassment of riches when it comes to potential straplines for your own blog's masthead.

:-))

Brian Coleman aka Mr Toad has GOT to go said...

Oh dear! It seems that Coleman's plan to stop the Evening Standard looking Rog T's blog has backfired somewhat.