Jonathan Fryer

Posts Tagged ‘Chris Huhne’

Ed Davey, the EU and Climate Change

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 16th June, 2013

Ed Daveyclimate changeThe European Union has been leading the way in the global fight against climate change, not least thanks to the efforts of Liberal Democrat Ministers in the UK’s Coalition government, Chris Huhne and now Ed Davey. The latter was guest speaker at Merton Liberal Democrats’ summer garden party in Wimbledon this afternoon and restated his determination that the Paris summit in 2015 must seal a meaningful new treaty, to build on achievements so far. There are some member states that are dragging their feet — notably Poland, which still relies heavily on coal for its energy needs. But the UK is part of a group of 10 EU member states — dubbed the Green Growth Group — which are on the side of the angels in the related debate. Moreover, Ed has been buoyed by the appointment of John Kerry as Barack Obama’s Secretary of State in his second term, as Kerry was ahead of Al Gore in recognising the problems of global warming. Even China is sending out some reassuring signals. The problems of air and water pollution in China are immense, as a result of the country’s rapid industrialisation and relatively lax environmental supervisory standards. But public opinion in China has become increasingly vociferous about the health consequences for children — all the more acute give China’s ongoing (though modified) one child policy. Accordingly, the Chinese Communist Party has started to take note of ecological protests, instead of just suppressing them, as it realises that its survival in government may be at stake. Back home in the UK, it is the Liberal Democrats who have been keeping the Coalition government on track on climate change issues, despite the scepticism of certain Tory right-wingers. In next year’s European elections (which in London will coincide with all-out borough council elections) the LibDems must champion this success. Furthermore, Ed argued, we should not hold back in attacking UKIP, which is not only the home of many climate change deniers but also tries through its lies and distortions to undermine European cooperation with all its beneficial aspects for our common future.

http://www.edwarddavey.co.uk and http://www.mertonlibdems.org.uk

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Are the Greens Sinking?

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 21st April, 2013

Natalie BennettIn the latest UK opinion poll, by YouGov for the Sunday Times, the Greens are put at just two per cent, confirming their slump in recent months. If they polled anything like that in next year’s Euro-elections they would lose both their MEPs — and all the associated funding. Their main asset remains Caroline Lucas, MP for Brighton Pavilion, but since she stood down as leader last year, in a worthy but perhaps foolish attempt to spread the exposure of Green politicians, few voters are able to say who’s the Green Leader (before you rush for your google search, it’s Natalie Bennett, pictured). It will be interesting to see how the Greens fare in the County Council elections in 10 days time, but I doubt whether it will be particularly good news for them. In 2010, when borough elections in London coincided with a general election, they fell back badly, especially in Lewisham, which was one of their strongest areas. So how can all this be explained? Partly it can be put down to the degree to which other parties have successfully sold themselves as being environment-friendly. That is particularly true of the Liberal Democrats, with the LibDem push within the Coalition for green energy, green jobs and a green investment bank; Ed Davey, as Secretary of State, ably took over the baton from Chris Huhne, who had done some excellent work in the field. And some protest voters who migrated to the Greens from the LibDems or Tories may, believe it or not, now have moved on to UKIP. But undoubtedly there is another, perhaps stronger, reason: namely that when the economic and financial situation is bad and many people are worried about their jobs and making ends meet, green issues tend to slip down the priorities of all but the most committed. At the Euro-elections in just over one year’s time the Greens will be praying that is not the case. And if they do lose their two seats it will be hard for them to promote themselves as a truly national party of significance in the run-up top the 2015 general election.

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The Buzz at Eastleigh

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 24th February, 2013

Eastleigh bye;ectionMike ThorntonA coachload of London Liberal Democrats went down to Eastleigh yesterday, where we found the by-election headquarters a hive of activity; apparently nearly 500 volunteers from all over the country went through the doors during the day. I don’t remember such a positive buzz about a by-election since the early days of the Liberal-SDP Alliance, but the difference in the level of professionalism between now and 30 years ago was striking. Arriving helpers were immediately divided and labelled into canvassers, deliverers and clerical, and people were genuinely asked what they preferred to do, rather than just being told, as if so often the case at such times. The warehouse space being used was large enough to have a number of different activities going on at the same time, while printers continued to churn out new literature. That literature itself was of a far higher quality than has sometimes been the case and presented the LibDem candidate Mike Thornton — a respected local councillor — as a man of the community who will do all he can to represent the areas interests at Westminster. So it was a pleasure to deliver it, even in the freezing cold and flurries of snow. Unusually, every single councillor in the constituency, at local and county level,  is LibDem, but that almost embarrassing dominance does not mean the by-election is going to be a walkover. The Party is still languishing at between 10 and 12 per cent in the national opinion polls and has been the subject of negative publicity recently, including over former MP Chris Huhne’s resignation and trial. Nonetheless there are a good number of dayglo poster boards up around the constituency and local opinion polls suggest the LibDems and Tories are neck and neck. UKIP is also going to poll well (though not well enough), with Labour trailing badly in fourth place. Of course we won’t know the actual result until after the count, but Mike Thornton deserves to win and both the number and enthusiasm of party helpers out and about in the constituency bode well for the Party’s health.

Link: http://www.eastleighlibdems.org.uk

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How Green Are the LibDems in Government?

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 16th September, 2012

The Coalition government in Britain pledged to be the greenest government ever, though the poor economic climate has encouraged those Conservative MPs and Ministers who were half-hearted about the importance of environmental issues to question the wisdom of that strategy now. Chris Huhne, as Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change made a real impact, on which his successor Ed Davey has continued to build. However, environmental pressure groups fear that the LibDems are losing the green argument within the Coalition, as was discussed at an event hosted by Hackney LibDems this afternoon, with contributions from Richard George of Greenpeace and Chris Huhne’s former aide, Joel Kenrick (now working for the World Wildlife Fund). Richard George highlighted the issue of sustainable transport, on which the LibDems had an excellent manifesto in the 2010 election and indeed still have an excellent Minister in place in the person of Norman Baker. Yet LibDem opposition to various road schemes has been overruled and of course within the Consverative Party there is a renewed debate about the desirability of a third runway at Heathrow Airport — something specifically ruled out in the Coalition Agreement. Joel Kenrick countered that there have been tangible green benefits from the LibDems being in government, such as the Green Investment Bank, which he described as a huge achievement. Joel seemed to believe George Osborne is the main villain of the piece so far as the government goes, whereas Richard argued that the right-wing Press — including the Daily Mail, the Daily Express and the Daily Telegraph — have been banging the drum for campaigns such as climate change denial. But that surely means the LibDems must trumpet louder the real achievements that have been made, through social media, Focuses and other methods, as well as via the few newspapers such as the Guardian and Independent which are sympathetic to green issues.

Related Link: http://greenlibdems.org.uk

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Ed Davey’s Renewable Energy

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 23rd June, 2012

Keeping warm is not usually a major consideration at a midsummer Garden Party even in England, but conditions were distinctly chilly for once at Sutton Liberal Democrats’ annual event this afternoon. As the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Ed Davey, spoke about insulation, lagging and other matters pertaining to energy conservation and cosy homes not a few of us were thinking we could have done with a bit of personal insulation in the garden. At least the rain kept off. Ed acquired his job when Chris Huhne had to step aside, pending the outcome of legal action, and Ed paid full tribute to Chris’s groundbreaking work in the role. Ed says he now spends a lot of time talking to his counterparts in France and Germany, in particular, as energy supply is increasingly an issue dealt with transnationally. There should be some way of taking greater advantage of the solar potential of southern Europe, he argued, as well as the wind and wave potential of the North, as part of the drive to use more renewable sources of energy. He was particularly pleased to have helped  broker a collective deal for energy consumers who switched suppliers en bloc, thus benifiting from a lower tariff. However he caused unease among some LibDems at the garden party by declaring that nuclear energy cannot be ruled out as a possible component of Britain’s future eneregy strategy, employing a new generation of reactors that create less hazardous waste. The mention of waste inevitably led to a question about the proposed incinerator project at Beddington, which has caused a lot of concern locally. The current landfill site is almost full. Ruth Dombey, who has recenty taken over as Leader of Sutton Council, says she has an open mind on the subject while she studies the implications. But she stressed that recycling would still receive the greatest emphasis from the Council that now has the largest LibDem majority of any in the country.

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Paul Burstow Champions Coalition Wins

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 4th February, 2012

When Nick Clegg planned a Liberal Democrat parliamentary away-day in Eastbourne this week he could hardly have known that the media hordes would descend on that seaside town, not to quiz MPs and Ministers about policy but rather about the fate of Chris Huhne. But if Plan A was to carry on as normal had the CPS decided not to prosecute Chris, Plan B quickly snapped into action when the opposite happened. Ed Davey, as widely rumoured, took over Chris’s Cabinet role as Energy Secretary, while Norman Lamb moved into Ed’s former position in the Department of Business, Industry and Skills. Norman’s slot has been filled by a goverment newcomer, Jenny Willott, MP for Cardiff Central — a welcome new female face on the front bench. Chris meanwhile left Eastbourne early to prepare his defence if that proved to be necessary. It should be stressed that he denies any wrongdoing and in keeping with the most basic principle of Britsh law, he should be presumed innocent unless proved otherwise. The Minister for Social Care, Paul Burstow, for his part, on Friday evening had a post-Eastbourne engagement to speak at Putney LibDems’ annual dinner, which he duly did after a warm-up introduction by the Merton and Wandsworth GLA constituency candidate Lisa Smart. For once Paul didn’t go into the minutiae of NHS Reforms (though this remains a hot topic), but rather stressed the messages that the Party needs to get out about LibDem wins inside the Coalition government’s programme, notably raising the tax threshold, rolling out the pupil premium and boosting apprenticeships. And of course he gave a big plug for people to go and help in the Worcester Park local council by-election in his own constituency of Sutton and Cheam; polling day 16 February. Being in government in coalition at such a difficult economic time is not easy, but I am impressed how chipper Ministers like Paul remain. As junior partners we do not get everything we would like, but it is remarkable how much has been achieved.

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Electoral Reform Society Conference

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 28th June, 2010

The political highlight of my weekend was down in the basement of the Mother’s Union in Westminster, alas hidden from the glorious summer weather, attending the annual conference of the Electoral Reform Society (ERS). The dedicated and indefatigable outgoing Chief Executive Ken Ritchie — who has given 13 years of sterling service to the organisation, though he will now probably be replaced by a more charismatic media performer — gave an excellent account of what ERS has been up to over the past 12 months, including some jolly japes on the Thames outside the Houses of Parliament, highlighting some of the many shortcomings of the UK political system. There was then a panel discussion on electoral reform — specifically referring to the referendum on the Alternative Vote (AV), which is expected in 2011. This panel brought together former Home Secretary Alan Johnson (the man I think ought to have been running for Labour leader at this time), the LibDems’ Deputy Leader Simon Hughes,  the London Green MEP Jean Lambert and a charming young man, Ryan Shorthouse (who really ought to be a LibDem) from the progressive Tory thinktank Bright Blue. No sign of Energy Secretary Chris Huhne (who had been earlier billed) or his new partner and ERS staff member Carina Trimingham. The central message from the panel was that however imperfect many of us may feel AV to be (in contrast to a more proportional system, such as STV), we have to campaign for it enthusiastically in the forthcoming referendum, otherwise the momentum for electoral reform will be lost for another generation.

Link: www.electoral-reform.org.uk

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Britain’s Gutter Press and Sex

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 19th June, 2010

The British media’s obsession with politicians’ private lives has always left our continental neighbours scratching their heads in disbelief. Why should the state of someone’s marriage or the relationship that X is conducting with Y be of any legitimate interest to anyone other than those immediately concerned? The claim by newspaper editors who ought to know better is that exposés of politicians’ sex lives ‘is in the public interest’. Rubbish. It is no more in the public interest than would be an exposé of the sex lives of the journalists themselves. Yet once again, courtesy of the People and the News of the World, another Britsh politician, Chris Huhne, (LibDem) Climate Secretary, has had his private life splashed all over tomorrow’s front pages, to the likely distress not only of him, his wife Vicky, his alleged mistress, Carina Trimingham, but also Chris and Vicky’s children. I have known Chris for 30 years, Vicky and the family for about a decade and Carina since she helped out with Brian Paddick’s London mayoral campaign in 2008. These are all human beings, flesh and blood and with emotions, not fictional characters in some TV soap. And as such, their private lives should remain exactly that: private. They will have enough problems dealing with their current situation without the added pressure of media scrutiny and hypocritical criticism. Media exposés of the private lives of politicians are the modern-day equivalent of the Roman ‘sport’ of throwing Christians to the lions and are just as distasteful.

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Floella Benjamin Revs up London LibDems

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 4th March, 2010

London Liberal Democrats rallied for success in the forthcoming general and local elections at our Spring Conference this evening. As I stated in my Chair’s remarks from the platform, we would hope to move into double figures for the number of London MPs we will have after the election, as well as gaining control of several new councils. The fight will be on two fronts, in a context in which neither of the larger parties is on a great roll, whatever David Cameron and his colleagues may claim. As Chris Huhne MP said in his opening address, the three-way TV debates are going to be crucial in determining the outcome of the parliamentary elections. Tom Brake MP emphasized how sitting LibDem MPs in London should benefit from the fact that (a) they came out smelling of roses in the MPs’ expenses affair (as testified by the Daily Telegraph, and (b) they work harder than most other London MPs (as testified by the Evening Standard). Party President (Baroness) Ros Scott said that she had found the party in good heart during her tours around the country. And in London we can celebrate having the fastest rising LibDem memership of any English region. But the star of the evening was undoubtedly Floella Benjamin, whose keynote speech revved up the delegates to go forth and win.

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4289 Ways to Be a Criminal

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 22nd January, 2010

The Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesman, Chris Huhne MP, has highlighted the astounding fact that since coming to power in Britain in 1997, New Labour has created 4,289 new criminal offences. As Chris comments tartly, ‘This legislative diarrhoea is not about making us safer, it is merely Ministers posturing on penalties. Many of these offences are worthless, as they duplicate offences which could perfectly well have been used instead.’

It’s a nightmare for the police and lawyers, let alone the public, to keep up with the legislation. As Chris says, ‘The legacy of Labour is hyperactive law-making that has spread confusion among police officers, judges and every other official who has to deal with this cascade of nonsense.’  The Liberal Democrats are suggesting that a new legal ‘stop unit’ should be set up within the Cabinet Office, to which every government department would have to make the case for the need of bringing in a new offence. Too many laws risk making the society paranoid, as well as clogging up the criminal justice system.

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