The Last Hooraah

I failed to get elected to Hertford Town Council for the Bengeo Ward. I would like to thank the other 258 electors who did vote for me.

I would also like to thank all those people who took time to read my election manifesto page which showed a healthy amount of hits according to my web logs. I must also thank the Hertfordshire Mercury for their coverage of my ‘Independence For Folly Island’ Campaign. This was the first time in 19 years that I have appeared in print wearing a collar and tie and not my usual ‘smart but casual look’.

Here is the full result for Bengeo:

Peter Alan RUFFLES1182 (E)
Alex DAAR1034(E)
Sally NEWTON929(E)
Linda Elisabeth RADFORD853(E)
Veronica Elizabeth FRASER703
John William WIGGETT631
Tracy Kim Martin TURNER584
Alec TURNER507
John David BARBER259
Election result Bengeo Ward

It is not surprising given the percentage of voters living in Bengeo proper and the successful campaign resulting in the Secretary of State agreeing with the Government Inspector that planning permission be refused for a quarry to extract gravel. It is good to see that the Green Party came a very creditable second to the evergreen Cllr Peter Ruffles.

So why did I bother to stand for election. Often sanitised for TV is this:

It’s probably better to have him inside the tent pissing out, than outside the tent pissing in. Lyndon Johnson, as quoted in The New York Times (31 October 1971).

For the best part of nineteen years it has been me pissing in.

Then in 2015 we lost Zach our three year grandson to brain cancer. I could not go on bashing my head against the establishment’s brick wall and I withdrew from all my involvement in the town. I did not understand how the life of an innocent young boy could be so cruelly ended and I cannot understand it now, almost four years on. This blog has been my way of clearing my head of all the stuff that has happened in those nineteen years, most of which I do understand, but not necessarily agree with.

In the space of the last three months I have lost three good friends who I met as drinking partners in the White Horse when I first moved to Hertford in 1980.

I know that this is the order of things as your grow older but even though you expect death and other losses to increase with your own age it does not make it any easier to bear.

Despite my well known eccentric and often bizarre take on Hertford’s political and social life I have worked closely with most of the past Mayors on various projects. Councillors too (all Conservative); and although I have never hidden the fact that my political leanings are well left of centre it has not stopped us becoming good friends. Some have died, some moved away and others retired from the fray.

The same with Officers from Hertfordshire Highways with whom I argued at the Hertford Transport Forum but shared a convivial drink in the pub afterwards. The Mercury always came to me for news and never gave me a bad press and Hertbeat fm (now Bobfm) were a constant voice at the other end of the phone for quotes and an interview of what was happening in town.

I worked very closely officers from the Police Community Teams on Town Watch and Pub Watch and they too have moved on to pastures new and hopefully greener.

I could go on but you will appreciate the network that I had built up that had slowly dissolved for many reasons by about 2009. I could spend a day walking the streets talking to traders and passing their views back to Councils, all of which were ignored.

It made the job of Town Centre Manager always pleasant when you knew you had the trust of the community at large but the town centre is not the same any more as anyone reading these blogs will know.

Some may consider my election manifesto a trifle flippant if not bordering on the completely daft but to explain.

Folly Island is a Local Conservation Area; one designed to protect and enhance. Next time you walk over Folly Bridge you will notice the damaged brickwork in places where it has only just been repaired from previous incidents of being hit by vehicles that have got lost down Bull Plain.

As past Chairman of the Folly Island Residents Association and as Town Centre Manager I have argued at the Hertford Transport Forum (which does not now exist) for more to be done to prevent forty foot pantechnicons and ‘the big six-wheeler, scarlet-painted, diesel engine, ninety-seven horsepower omnibus’ (see Flanders & Swann) from being able to travel further than Salisbury Square. In other words large delivery lorries and the lesser-spotted and increasingly rare species the single decker bus.

I, my predecessors and current committee have argued for larger and more visible signage in the town centre to prevent these vehicles who have no business here accessing the Island. Nothing has ever been done.

If you cannot prevent such vehicles from driving through Folly Island then it is only right that they are liable to pay for any damage to fabric of the bridge and the local streets.

The idea of a large treadmill to power free electricity for Folly Island owes everything to Screaming Lord Sutch and the first election manifesto of the Official Monster Raving Looney Party.

On the other hand the idea of a tunnel under the Lea is a result of my wife’s manager at W H Smith offering to make her journey to work easier beneath the canal and the barges. I pointed out to him that these craft are houseboats and it is the Lea Navigation and not a canal.

But, the myth still persists of a network of tunnels under the town centre first published in the Hertfordshire Mercury in 2004. My book on The Tunnels of Hertford is available from Amazon and a brief summary on its own page on this site.

Part Two of this post will look at the improvements to Maidenhead Street and beyond and ask the question: who is going to be responsible for opening and locking the gates at either end of Maidenhead Street to protect the pedestrianisation between 9.30am and 5.30pm?

All my previous posts archived here:

By John Barber

John Barber was born in London at the height of the UK Post War baby boom. He had careers in Advertising, International Banking and the Wine Industry before becoming Town Centre Manager in his home town of Hertford. He has been writing professionally since 1996 when he began to contribute articles to magazines on social and local history. His first published book in 2002 was a non-fiction work entitled The Camden Town Murder, a hitherto unsolved murder case from 1907.