Brian Coleman AM: Ignorant incompetent sexist buffoon

11:06 pm - December 14th 2008

by MatGB    

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Oh dear. Boris doesn’t half know how to pick ’em, right? This time, it’s his Chair of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority, Brian Coleman AM, that’s shown himself up. His crime? Complete ignorance of fire authority guidelines, a sexist attack on a female MP and a complete unwillingness to actually find out what you’re supposed to do in an emergency.

Beggers belief, doesn’t it? I think the worst aspect of the whole story is that the Tory press is completely on side with his story, and even when quoting fire service sources debunking his claim, have still joined in with his incompetent posturing.

So, here’s the full story. Lynne Featherstone, blogging MP and occasional contributor to this site, wrote a post on her blog describing how grateful she was to the fire service for responding to her callout at 10pm after her house started shaking and her gas boiler started sparking in an alarming manner. Quoth she:

I called 999 and the Fire Brigade, moved the car out the drive, put one daughter and dog in the car and the other daughter ran back in to turn off heating and hot water – which did stop the noise. We waited. Within a couple of minutes the firefighters arrived – checked everything – said it was a hammer airlock (probably) and that we had done the right thing.

Just to re-iterate that bit, the firefighters that attended the call confirmed that she had done the right thing in calling them.

Two weeks later, at a meeting of the authority, Coleman and his Tory colleagues in the Assembly tried to have some fun with the story in the presence of Commissioner Ron Dobson of the Fire Authority. He rebutted their claims, making it clear that:

any such call would have gone through the necessary triaging and a fire team would only have visited if it was assessed as needing a crew.

The firefighters on scene said she did the right thing, and the Commissioner of the authority confirmed that an engine would only have been called if they thought it necessary. Despite this, Coleman issued a press release, which was picked up and run with by the Daily Mail, who quote him as saying:

You don’t call the fire brigade – you switch your boiler off and call a plumber. She has shown herself to be completely dizzy.

‘Airheads and airlocks are obviously not unrelated. She can’t tell the difference between an airlock and a major catastrophe.’

Despite being told that she’d acted correctly, followed the guidelines and been through the fire authority triage routine, Coleman still thinks its acceptable to call a female opponent a “dizzy airhead”. This from the man who had previously claimed “he has been passed over for a senior post due to homophobia by fellow Tories.” Glass houses Mr Coleman! You don’t get to accuse others of bigotry then use pejorative language yourself without looking like a complete arse. An ignorant one as well.

According to the BBC, a London Fire Brigade spokeswoman said:

If it’s obvious that there has been an ongoing problem with the boiler, then you can call a plumber. But if your boiler suddenly starts making strange noises in the middle of the night, call the fire brigade.

Once again, Lynne did exactly the right thing and Coleman doesn’t know the guidance issued by the service he’s supposed to be overseeing. In fact, a number of firefighters have contacted Lynne offering her support, and The Fire Brigade Union’s regional secretary for London, Joe MacVeigh, said:

Councillor Coleman needs to decide whether he wants to be a serious political figure or whether he wants to continue playing the role of complete buffoon. He holds a position of enormous responsibility, and he should be dignified and statesmanlike in everything he does. Instead, he blunders around, whipping up controversy, and trying to draw attention to himself at every opportunity. Such an attitude does not befit the office of head of the world’s third largest fire and rescue service. His remarks about [Lynne Featherstone] were disgraceful.

This is, incidentally, the same Brian Coleman who managed to claim nearly as much expenses on taxis last year as both the Mayor and the other 24 GLA members combined. He’s also one of the very few AMs I’d heard of before I moved to London, and it wasn’t for good reasons then, in fact his response to a small legitimate protest outside Parliament was to condemn the protesters for damaging the London tourism trade, prompting a one friend to describe him as a ‘tedious cock

He doesn’t half have an ability to attract insults his way. I was quite impressed that for quite some time, my old post was the first result in Google for the search “Brian Coleman AM”, despite that blog being abandoned and never that successful. Liberal Conspiracy is, of course, a much bigger and more prominent site. If you’re as fed up as I am of this tedious, incompetent buffoon claiming massive expenses and overseeing services he blatantly doesn’t understand, then writing to the Commissioner and the Mayor would be a good start. Lots of people linking to this post with the text ‘Brian Coleman’ as the anchor would push this post up quite quickly as well. Which wouldn’t achieve much.

But it would be quite funny.

Full disclosure: I’ve met Lynne Featherstone a number of times since I joined the Lib Dems in 2006; in fact reading her blog and talking to her online was one of the things that persuaded me to do so. I like her and respect her abilities. I have tried to ensure I’ve covered all the bases in this post and kept obvious personal bias to a minimum but, well, he really is a tedious cock, isn’t he?

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About the author
Mat Bowles is an occasional contributor to Liberal Conspiracy. He's mostly a house-husband working part-time at a local school, and is based in Calderdale, Yorkshire. A member of the Liberal Democrats, he is 35 and lives with Jennie Rigg. His general interest blog is currently hosted on Dreamwidth and his old political blog is at Not Little England.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Conservative Party ,Local Government ,London Mayor

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Reader comments

Nice post, babe. *smooch*

Nice one. What does AM stabnd for?

Assembly Member, he’s on the glorified county council that’s supposed to keep Boris under control but is too limited in scope and now controlled by the Tories anyway.

That should’ve been a very obvious answer… *blushes*

Someone pointed this story out to me on Saturday while I was doing the paper review and I ignored it because I’d seen Lynne’s post on it, and knew it was hogwash.

No surprise to find one of the Tory AMs trying to make political capital out of it though. Twat.

6. douglas clark


Thanks for asking. I had no idea what an AM was either.

O.o malfunctioning boiler= fire hazard. as in, it could blow the bloody house up! everyone knows that! some boilers use water, but they can also use oil or gas. you could call a plumber, but they might not get there until the next day, and then they’d tell you they can’t DO anything.

the fire brigade are capable of doing MANY things- especially accessing situations. it’s what they’re trained for! when my nan was ill, it was the fire department that got to my home first, with oxygen.

so, she puts up something in her blog about how good the fire brigade is, and he just turns it ’round to make it seem it wasn’t worth their time? well, okay. so it’s better to trot on the side of “caution” and let the bloody house blow up- along with the others around, too.


also… he’s in the chair of the fire committee, but he doesn’t know how a boiler works, or how to respond in an emergency situation, or…… anything useful.


9. douglas clark


You said:

Full disclosure: I’ve met Lynne Featherstone a number of times since I joined the Lib Dems in 2006; in fact reading her blog and talking to her online was one of the things that persuaded me to do so. I like her and respect her abilities.

On the basis of degrees of separation, do you think there is any chance that she might consider our comments, reduced, on CIC, worth raising in the House?

It seems to me that we should try to use allies wherever we find them. And Lynne Featherstone would seem to me to be a friend of this site.

10. douglas clark


It’s MatGB.

Lynne Featherstone is perhaps someone we ought to support financially. So says the only admitted SNP member of this site.


Douglas, she’s youth and equality spokesman, so it may or may not be within her remit, but pretty sure most Lib Dem MPs would be sympathetic to raising points we’ve identified. As for supporting her financially, I’m sure she’d be appreciative but given her personal financial situation and the strength of her local party, I suspect the money would be better put to other candidates and MPs we’d like to support.

Some local parties and areas are very good at organisint and fundraising, other not so much–her area, significantly due to her organisational ability, is incredibly good and acknowledged as such within the wider party.

Heh. Set up by a friend of mine:

Brian Coleman is, indeed a tedious cock – I’m still struggling to work out what the fire risk would be in this situation that couldn’t be addressed by, err, switching the boiler off at the (electric and gas) mains, though…

(full disclosure: LF’s revolting behaviour over the Baby P case has probably prejudiced me against her to some extent)

14. Green Socialist

Here’s another, more reasonable it seems Tory AM member on the Progressive opposition.

Brian Coleman (aka Mr Toad) has GOT to go!:



What a completely pointless issue. Why has there been no discussion on this blog about the De Menzes verdict? Why are the New Labour patsies shying away from this?

What can be said on the De Menezes verdict? It was the most damning allowed, a terrible police chief lost his job pretty much because of how it’s been handled, what else is there to discuss that hasn’t been discussed at length before?

Also note that it was us ‘new Labour patsies’ leading the call for an investigation and suggesting that things had been done disgracefully three years ago, at which point the right-wing commentariat were still in ‘oooh, but he was a dirty foreign illegal immigrant who looked like a terrorist and jumped the barriers’ mode…

What John said—I write about what I’m in the mood to write about, others write about what they like, that’s the nature of the site. Given I’m a mbmer of a completely different party and spend a lot of my spare time campaigning in seats currently held by Labour (although McCafferty would be offended being called ‘new’ I think), meh, if the arse wants to call me a patsy that’s his call.

I covered Menezes and other issues a lot when it was a current issue, but frankly, there’s not much more to say.

@John: 10pm at night, both your kids present, replacement cost of house insignificant compared to perceived risk. Fire Brigade dispatcher could’ve talked that through as an option if they thought that was what they should’ve done.

What a completely pointless issue. Why has there been no discussion on this blog about the De Menzes verdict? Why are the New Labour patsies shying away from this?

Oh dear… not only is chavscum reduced to calling MatGB a New Labour patsy, but his only useless contribution (once again) is to ineffectively point towards something else and ask why we haven’t covered that. I know its painful for you to accept this chavscum – but we don’t run along your editorial ideas.

Hold on. Is this the same met chief that only resigned because he was forced out by Boris Johnson? The same Blair that was given unequivocal support by the Labour Govt and leaked news to the press to create the jumping the barriers story? Who leaked the illegal immigrant story?

The underlying issue about the whole affair is that nobody takes responsibility and there is no accountability for officials under this Govt.

Um, Chavscum? The first mention of any Blair in this entire thread is by you in that comment. Ian Blair was the head of the Met police that some of us were calling to resign three years ago. Coleman is the chair of the fire authority, that even his own Tory colleagues don’t seem to like that much.

If anyone fancies a giggle, the minutes of the confirmation hearing where Coleman’s appointment as chair were discussed are comedy gold:

I would want him to try and improve his behaviour – or to check his own behaviour – in relation to
those most important people of all, because it does not matter what he says to me behind closed
doors, but what he says to staff and how he says it and how he behaves in the human resources
context is important. Without putting too big an emphasis on it, I would say there are occasions on
which Brian, as we all know, behaves like an unexploded volcano and we can cope with that but I am
concerned that he should always behave properly in relation to staff.

23. dreamingspire

It seems from her blog that Lynne’s boiler is in the basement, and they were rightly unwilling to go down there.

But she also says that (after they’d called out the firemen) “the other daughter ran back in to turn off heating and hot water – which did stop the noise”.

I don’t think she behaved irresponsibly – I just have trouble relating to a mindset that goes “there is something that might be dodgy; call the fire brigade, then switch it off and see if things still seem to be wrong”, rather than “there is something that might be dodgy; switch it off, and if things still seem to be wrong then call the fire brigade”.

Is switching something off the right thing to do? I had a suspected gas leak once, rang up the gas company and was told very firmly that due to the risk of sparking I should not turn off any switches before leaving the property.

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  1. Linkblogging for 14/12/2008 « Sci-Ence! Justice Leak!

    […] Linkblogging for 14/12/2008 By Andrew Hickey Liberal Conspiracy has been a bit more of a Labour mouthpiece than I like recently, but today there have been two very good posts, one by Laurie Penny on work and benefits, and one by my friend MatGB on Brian Coleman. […]

  2. Mat Bowles

    thinks Brian Coleman AM is a sexist buffoon

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