Transport is the one thing that gets most Londoners hot under the collar and is probably the area in which Liberal Democrats have made most impact on the London Assembly — first through Lynne Featherstone and now Caroline Pidgeon. London is a preeminent global city — certainly Europe’s unrivaled metropolis — but it does not have a public transport system to match. This is despite constant upgrades and one of the highest fare structures in the world. Part of the problems is that the underground system is 19th century in its origins, but it also has to be said that Mayor Boris Johnson has had some pretty odd priorities since he took over the helm of the Greater London Authority from Ken Livingstone in 2004. His Routemaster+ buses are proving to be expensive disaster+ buses, with costly conductors who cannot take fares or even oversee the back door off-peak. At a curry and discussion evening in Greenwich this evening, Caroline Pidgeon, AM, regaled Liberal Democrat members from Greenwich, Lewisham and further afield with stories of her holding the Mayor to account. I picked up on a passing reference she made to his latest harebrained suggestion that commercial companies should be able to sponsor tube stations. Anyone for Starbucks Temple, or Oval MacNuggets or Winga Wembley Park, anyone? But it’s not just Boris Johnson, and the even more out-of-touch right-wing Tory group on the GLA, that Caroline has been taking to task. She has been having a go at Greenwich’s Labour Council leader, Chris Roberts, who as a matter of principle refuses to respond to any request or approach from her, despite her London-wide role. One party Stalinism rules in Labour Greenwich, and alas not only there!
Posts Tagged ‘Caroline Pidgeon’
Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 2nd January, 2013
The fireworks over the Thames that signalled the New Year in London symbolically coincided with a handover of the chairmanship of London Liberal Democrats, as I ended my three years at the helm and Mike Tuffrey – until last May a leading Member of the London Assembly – took over. My time in office was quite a roller-coaster, from the inflated national euphoria of Cleggmania just before the 2010 general election – when in the event we managed to hold on to seven parliamentary seats, but alas lost Richmond Park – to the frankly dire city-wide vote we received in the London Mayoral and GLA elections last May. At least we managed to return Caroline Pidgeon (rightly recognised in the New Year honours) and Stephen Knight to the Assembly. Of course, the kicking we received from the electorate then – at least some of it a protest at George Osborne’s Budget, as well as unhappiness over Coalition cuts – was not unique to London. Moreover, we have had some excellent local by-election results, which showed that the old mantra “where we work, we win” can still hold true.
Less visible, but significant, has been the way the regional party has become more professional over the past three years, including a move into larger and more flexible office space in Brixton and the appointment of a full-time Campaigns Manager, Chris Butler (backed up by the indefatigable Campaigns Chair Pete Dollimore and his team). Even if the results last May were disappointing, the campaign itself was much slicker than anything we’ve done before and indeed the candidates themselves were impressive and for the first time truly reflected the diverse nature of our capital city.
So what can Mike Tuffrey look forward to? Undoubtedly more needs to be done not just to recruit new members but particularly to retain the ones we have. And given Mike’s particular expertise in London-wide policy-making, honing a credible, attractive and specific London Liberal Democrat narrative is going to be crucial to future success. 2013 is a year with no major scheduled elections in London, though local council by-elections continue to come up thick and fast. But this provides a golden opportunity not only to strengthen the Party further in the capital but to lay the groundwork for the 2014 city-wide borough elections and the Euro-elections, which will almost certainly fall on the same day. That coincidence poses several new challenges not least how to integrate a local campaign in which ruthless targeting is going to be essential with a London-wide European campaign when the Liberal Democrats are likely to be the only party putting out an essentially positive message on Europe – and rightly so. At least the eight London Euro-candidates – who have been in place since 1 December – are already part of the integrated team. Those of us who have not gone abroad for New Year will be joining the first regional action day of the year this Saturday in North Kingston (Richmond Park).
Jonathan Fryer is the immediate past Chair of London Liberal Democrats and is Number 2 on the London Euro-list.
N.B. This post first appeared as an oped on LibDemVoice: http://www.libdemvoice.org/opinion-changing-gear-in-london-32463.html#utm_source=tweet&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=twitter
Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 14th September, 2012
As someone who has lived in London for more than 30 years I know how important public transport is to most people’s lives in the city, so it was hardly surprising that Caroline Pidgeon, Liberal Democrat member of the Greater London Assembly (GLA) and Chair of the Assembly’s Transport Committee, attracted a good audience and a barrage of questions when she spoke to Merton Liberal Democrats last night. She paid tribute to the way that many Londoners shifted their working patterns during the recent Olympics and Paralympics, which meant that the underground system and Docklands Light Railway managed to cope despite the millions of extra journeys by visitors. With ongoing advances in communications technology, there is good reason to assume that some London companies and their employees will build more home-working, video-conferencing etc into their lives, reducing the need for daily commutes. Yet there is every reason to suppose that the pressure on the public transport network will increase. The underground system — the oldest in the world — still needs massive new investment to be fit for purpose, though Crossrail — now progressing after several decades of inexcusable dithering and delay — should ease the east-west congestion. Caroline was a great supporter of the proposed cross-river tram, which would have eased north-south congestion too, but the project was alas abandoned. Indeed, Mayor Boris Johnson does not seem to be aware of the true potential of trams, Caroline said. She also argued that much more use could be made of the River Thames as a transport highway, and she spoke up strongly for more, better and safer cycling provisions. I raised the issue of aviation, as the Liberal Democrats need to have more of a coherent policy than merely opposing a third runway at Heathrow. That will be the subject of a debate at the up-coming party conference in Brighton. In the meantime, what is clear is that both the Conservatives and Labour are deeply divided on whether there should be increased air capacity in London and the South East, and if so, where.
Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 1st April, 2012
With just over a month to go to the London Mayoral and GLA elections, London Liberal Democrats had their minds firmly focussed on campaigning when we gathered in the East Wintergarden at Canary Wharf yesterday, chaired by (Baroness) Susan Kramer. The mayoral candidate Brian Paddick alongside Caroline Pidgeon, head of the GLA list, presented a summary of their manifesto, which had largely been drawn up my outgoing GLA member Mike Tuffrey, who also gave a presentation on housing. There were several innovations at the conference, including a speech on Extremism by Maajid Nawaz of the Quilliam Foundation and some stunning unaccompanied singing by Pauline Pearce, the “heroine of Hackney” who is the Party’s candidate in the Hackney Central council by-election that will take place on the same day as the main London poll, 3 May. There was also a “trialogue” question time which I chaired with a panel comprising London MEP (Baroness) Sarah Ludford, (Baroness) Sally Hamwee and Caroline Pidgeon. Ed Davey, the Secretary of State of Energy and Climate Change, spoke about his role in government and MPs Tom Brake and Simon Hughes shared their views on the current state of play. A central message was that Liberal Democrats should be proud of what we have achieved as the junior partner in Government but we will be campaigning in these elections on a purely Liberal Democrat platform, even if that sometimes diverges from Coalition policy. At the drinks reception at the end of the busy day several participants said it was the best London Liberal Democrat ever, for which thanks must go to Conference Committee Chair Jill Fraser and her team, including Pete Dollimore, who facilitated the training sessions going on in parallel with the plenary.
(photo by Merlene Emerson)
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: Brian Paddick, Canary Wharf, Caroline Pidgeon, East Wintergarden, Ed Davey, Jill Fraser, London Liberal Democrats, Merlene Emerson, Mike Tuffrey, Pauline Pearce, Pete Dollimore, Quilliam Foundation, Sally Hamwee, Sarah Ludford, Simon Hughes, Susan Kramer, Tom Brake | Leave a Comment »
Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 8th February, 2012
The Ministry of Sound is used to revving people up at its base in London’s Elephant and Castle, but this evening the throbbing crowd was somewhat different than usual in that it was made up of Liberal Democrat activists, in party mode. The event was the launch of the LibDems’ London2012 election campaign, compered by local MP and Deputy Leader, Simon Hughes. Party President Tim Farron gave an upbeat speech, underlining how seriously the Federal Party is taking the London elections this time, in contrast to previous occasions. Both the mayoral candidate, Brian Paddick, and the leader of the GLA team, Caroline Pidgeon, gave sterling performances, against the backdrop line-up of the impressive and diverse phalanx of GLA list and constituency candidates. The point was made — as it will be repeatedly to the electorate over the next 12 weeks — that last time the LibDems were just pipped at the post for the final seat on the proportional represnetation list by the BNP. This time, we will be fighting hard to get that fourth seat back, and who better to achieve that than Shas Sheehan, a Muslim woman who has already proved her worth as a former Richmond Councillor and parliamentary candidate for Wimbledon at the 2010 General Election. In 2000, we got five London Assembly members, which must be a target we can aim for this year. If successful that would also see Merlene Emerson, Chair of Chinese Liberal Democrats, catapulted into City Hall. When I took over as Chairman of London Liberal Democrats in January 2010, I was determined to up our game, to help make the organisation more professional and to build the sense of London-wide identity for local parties and activists. This evening’s event at the Ministry of Sound (courtesy of James Paulmbo) was yet another step upwards in that journey. And I am happy that in Brian Paddick we have a mayoral candidate who is an impressive figurehead, with particular expertise on policing matters, moreover one who is determined — as he said tonight — to lead a ‘radical and risky’ Liberal Democrat campaign — in the best sense of both those adjectives!
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: Brian Paddick, Caroline Pidgeon, Chinese Liberal Democrats, Elephant and Castle, GLA, James Palumbo, London Liberal Democrats, Merlene Emerson, Ministry of Sound, Shas Sheehan, Simon Hughes, Tim Farron | Leave a Comment »
Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 23rd November, 2011
Liberal Democrats from Richmond, Kingston and Hounslow — plus a number of supportive interlopers from other parts of London, such as myself and the increasingly ubiquitous Mark Pack — took over the Park Hotel in Teddington last night, for a highly successful fundraising event for the South West London GLA constituency campaign, which embraces the three aforementioned boroughs. The event was compered by Munira Wilson, who will be flying the LibDem flag in the constituency next May, and who is well known in the area, not least for having fought the Feltham and Heston parliamentary seat in Hounslow at the 2010 General Election. The first of two guest speakers was party president Tim Farron, who welcomed the fact that the party’s poll ratings had recently gone up from ‘flipping awful to mildly depressing’. As I’ve noted in previous posts, part of his current role is encouraging party activists to hang on in there during difficult times and to keep reminding people of the plus points of Liberal Democrat participation in the Coalition government. That was naturally a line echoed by the other speaker, Ed Davey, MP for Kingston and Surbiton, who seems genuinely enamoured of the various junior ministerial projects he is currently involved with, such as greater paternity rights (and therefore more gender equality) for couples with a young baby, and saving the Post Office network. Three GLA List candidates were present — Caroline Pidgeon, Stephen Knight and Shas Sheehan — and the event raised several thousand pounds for the campaign fund — a consderable proportion of which came from the auction. It’s amazing how many LibDem members in South West London seem to have holiday homes in France or Spain, and even more amazingly, are prepared to auction off weeks in their properties for the cause!
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: Caroline Pidgeon, Ed Davey, Feltham and Heston, Hounslow, Kingston, Kingston and Surbiton, Liberal Democrats, Mark Pack, Munira Wilson, Richmond, Shas Sheehan, South West London, Stephen Knight, Teddington, Tim Farron | 1 Comment »
Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 9th November, 2011
The London Liberal Democrats’ fundraising dinner at the National Liberal Club this evening of course featured Brian Paddick and Caroline Pidgeon (hot-foot from the Evening Standard’s 1000 most influential Londoners awards), who both spoke of the importance of next year’s London elections. But the keynote speaker was former party leader Paddy Ashdown — now apparently carving out a career for himself as the sane alternative to David Starkey as a TV presenter — who instead focussed on the state of the world. After a well-rehearsed joke about George Brown in Peru, Paddy gave us a pretty bleak overview of short-term prospects. He said he was ‘frightened, very frightened’ by the way that the stakes are being raised in the West’s standoff with Iran. If Israel launches a pre-emptive strike against supposed nuclear weapons installations in Iran, the situation could become very dangerous, he said. On this I felt he was being quite mild; I fear it would bring about Armageddon — for the Israelis. Intriguingly, Paddy was barracked, if not exactly heckled, by one member present about the LibDems’ failure to engage with the people protesting outside St Paul`s (Occupy LSX). Brian Paddick popped up and said he had been to speak to them, but whereas he sympathised with what they were protesting about (corporate greed and bankers’ mismanagement and overpayment), he could not detect a clear message from the protestors about any solution. Perhaps that is the job of the Liberal Democrats, though it will not be easy from within the Coalition government.
Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 5th September, 2011
Brian Paddick’s campaign as the Liberal Democrat candidate for Mayor of London had its press launch at the Party’s new national HQ in Westminster this morning, with most of the GLA List candidates — headed by Caroline Pidgeon — also present. Media included the BBC, ITN and the Press Association, as well as Spectrum Radio. Simon Hughes MP, deputy leader of the LibDems, introduced Brian, making the point that recent events in London have underlined why having a candidate with hands-on experience of policing is singularly relevant. The current Mayor, Boris Johnson, has proved his inability to oversee London’s policing personally, whereas Brian would relish the task. Inevitably, law and order figured prominently in the Q&A at the launch, but Brian was keen to emphasize the fact that he is not a one-trick pony. He has the expertise of the current GLA members — Dee Doocey, Caroline Pidgeon and Mike Tuffrey — to draw on, and he will now embark on a listening exercise during which he will go round every borough in the city, finding out what is on people’s minds so the public can have an input into the final London LibDem manifesto that will be unveiled in the New Year.
Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 2nd September, 2011
With the selection this evening of Brian Paddick as Liberal Democrat candidate for next year’s London Mayoral elections the capital will be seeing a first: a replay of the 2008 match with the same three main party candidates, but under very different circumstances. Back then, Boris Johnson was the new Tory kid on the block, full of zany charm and quixotic ideas, whereas this time he has to try to defend what he has done — or not done — during his term of office. As LibDem members of the London Assembly –Dee Doocey, Caroline Pidgeon and Mike Tuffrey – have pointed out, as they have called the Mayor to account, he has not actually achieved all that much. Even the Barclays-branded bikes which he managed to have dubbed ‘Boris Bikes’ were actually a proposal put forward by former LibDem Assembly member (and now Coalition government Minister) Lynne Featherstone. As for Ken Livingstone, he is not so much yesterday’s man as the day-before-yesterday’s man. He looks tired and has said some pretty wacky things lately, apart from pissing off some of his own party members by supporting a controversial independent candidate for Mayor of Tower Hamlets last year against his own party. But the interesting transformation that will make 2012 a much more fascinating contest than 2008 is in Brian Paddick. Back then, as he himself says, he was an ex-policeman with very little experience in frontline politics and he had a steep learning curve to climb during the campaign. Three years on, he is a tranformed character, more relaxed, broader in his policy interests but also more effective in his media performances. He has come out as a voice of both experience and sanity on a number of issues, most recently the London riots and the News International phone-hacking scandal. Same faces as in 2008, yes. But absolutely not the same contest this time.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: Boris Johnson, Brian Paddick, Caroline Pidgeon, Dee Doocey, GLA, Ken Livingstone, London Assembly, London riots, Lynne Featherstone, Mayor o London, Mike Tuffrey, News International | Leave a Comment »
Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 1st June, 2011
Most Londoners have no idea what the London Assembly actually does, even though next year electors in Greater London will be able to vote for its members for the fourth time (alongside the far more high-profile contest for Mayor). One hopes that political activists in the capital, at least, know that basically the Assembly scrutinises the Mayor (currently Boris Johnson). As former Assembly Chair and current Chair of the body’s Economy, Culture and Sport Committee, Dee Doocey, told Kensington and Chelsea Liberal Democrats at their Food for Thought event in Kensington this evening, even if the Assembly has no real power, it has a great deal of influence. Dee herself has spent a lot of the past seven years dealing with policing issues (as she sits on the Metropolitan Police Authority), as well as keeping a sharp eye on the preparations for the London Olympics 2012. There are currently just three LibDem members of the Assembly, all elected on the top-up city-wide list. But Caroline Pidgeon — who is the only one standing again — will be hoping to bring in some bright new talent with her next May. Dee herself was appointed to the House of Lords in the last intake. And she’s quickly found herself dealing with policing issues there as well.