Jonathan Fryer

Posts Tagged ‘Democrats Abroad’

LIBG’s Look at the US Elections

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 30th October, 2012

The US election is exactly one week away, but the two main candidates have not been out campaigning today because of the Frankenstorm Sandy. However, in the bowels of the National Liberal Club members of Liberal International British Group (LIBG) gathered this evening to hear a brilliant presentation by Karin Robinson, Vice-Chair of Democrats Abroad UK, on where she thinks the contest is at. Obviously she is rooting for Barack Obama’s re-election, but she acknowledges that there isn’t quite the same buzz as four years ago, when many new voters were encouraged to register and volunteers poured in to Democrat offices (especially after Sara Palin was chosen as the Republicans’ vice-presidential candidate). Nonetheless, early voting — which varies in type in different states — has been going well for the Democrats this year. For the British public, US politics is a bit of a mystery; why, as someone asked tonight, should Mitt Romney be against universal health care, especially when he introduced in Massachusetts a state-wide version of Obamacare? Karin agreed with the contention that the US public in general is rather insular and the country isolationist, but the main thrust of her remarks was how much the economy matters in this election, even more than usual. Social issues have rarely figured. She welcomed advances in US public opinion on LGBT rights, for example, but is alarmed by the retrogressive slant of many Republicans’ views on women’s rights. A recent opinion poll in Britain suggested that two thirds of Britons would vote for Obama, which makes it difficult to comprehend how someone like Romney can have traction in the US. But as Karin emphasized, the US electorate is essentially split 50:50 between Republicans and Democrats, so the actual outcome next Tuesday will probably depend on a small number of voters in swing states. In the meantime, the two main candidates and their supporters have reportedly spent more than $2 billion between them. Democracy in America does not come cheap, and it is very different to what we’re used to over here.

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Democrats and Liberal Democrats Abroad

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 15th April, 2011

One thing that goes in Barack Obama’s favour as he heads into the 2012 US presidential election race is that Americans have usually granted a second term to an incumbent seeking re-election, with the notable exception of Jimmy Carter in 1980. Bill Barnard, International Treasurer of Democrats Abroad (and immediate past Chairman of the organisation’s UK chapter) told the Association of European Journalists (AEJ) at Europe House today that another advantage Obama has is that as yet no substantial Republican challenger has been identified. Sarah Palin’s star is in the wane, he believes, even if she still has high name recognition. I pointed out that many people in Britain are horrified by suggestions that this might be the first ‘billion dollar election campaign’, but Bill says there is little chance of UK-style spending limitations being adopted State-side. Being able to contribute as much as one wants to a campaign is seen as an extension of the right to free speech, he commented. That means that branches of Democrats abroad are expected to raise large sums of money for US elections. At a dinner in London for Al Gore, for example, tables were filled with US expats prepared to pay $10,000 a plate. I can’t see many British expats being ready to stump up such sums, nonetheless the Liberal Democras are now building up a network of chapters abroad. Brussels and Luxembourg, not surprisingly, has had one for some time; many pro-Europeans are naturally attracted to the LibDems. Recently a second branch was launched in Hong Kong. Other should follow soon, including, one hopes, in the United States.

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Liberal Democrats Abroad

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 23rd September, 2010

I have long thought it odd that the UK Liberal Democrats haven’t had branches overseas, given the number of liberal-mided expatriates there are. The one exception has been the Brussels and Luxemboug local party, which found fertile recruiting ground amongst Eurocrats and Europhiles and which often organises good events (including for visiting LibDem politicians from Britain), as well as raising funds for election campaigns. The (US) Democrats Abroad, for example, is a formidable operation, which in many ways the LibDems could long have emulated. But at last the lacuna has been filled, with the launch today of Liberal Democrats Abroad, a network that will be coordinated out of the International Office of the party at 4, Cowley Street, London SW1P 3NB. Hong Kong looks like being one early branch, but I supect Spain, Portugal and other retirement havens may prove fruitful, as well as busy international centres such as Paris, Frankfurt and New York. The contact for the new network is paul.speller@libdems.org.uk .

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US Democrats Abroad, Please Register to Vote!

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 21st September, 2008

On my way to help Linda Chung’s campaign in the Hamsptead Town ward local by-election this morning, I was delighted to be accosted — in the friendliest way possible — by two activists from Democrats Abroad, who were encouraging US citizens resident in the area or merely passing through to register to vote in November’s presidential elections. The deadline for registering is near and there are large numbers of US citizens in this country — most of whom pay American taxes. A high percentage of those are potential Democrat voters. They understand that George W Bush has done immense harm to America’s reputation overseas over the past eight years, and alas John McCain and Sarah Palin would be likely to do the same. Three quarters of the European population is rooting for Barack Obama, so anyone who knows an American citizen here who is not yet signed up to vote, please get them to log on to www.votefromabroad.org .

Similarly, Liberal Democrats in London and beyond are being urged by myself and other LibDem Euro-candidates to get other EU citizens in this country to register to vote in next June’s European elections (if they have not done so already) and to ensure that they vote here, rather than in their countries of origin. The LibDems are the only pro-European party in Britain and getting out the other EU citizens to vote — of whom there are a significant number in Hampstead — could make all the difference.

Links: www.votefromabroad.org and www.americansabroad.barackobama.com

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Breakfast with Auntie

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 15th September, 2008

The BBC breakfast is always one of the best-attended fringe events at LibDem conferences. Sponsored by the BBC World Service (radio), BBC World News (TV) and BBC Monitoring, it’s a good opportunity for the external services of the corporation to unveil new developments to a sympathetic audience. As Nigel Chapman, Director of the World Service, admitted, there have been highs and lows over recent years. Closing down remaining European language services (including latterly the Romanian service) was a tough decision. But on the up-side, BBC Arabic television was successfully launched esrlier this year — or more accurately, relaunched, as it had a short life once before. Soon it will provide 24-hour broadcasting, competing strongly with al-Jazeera and other Arabic-language channels. The best news, though, is that a new BBC Persian TV service will begin this autumn, opening up an exciting new channel for dialogue with people in Iran and other Farsi-speaking regions.

This evening, in collaboration with the British Council, the World Service will host another fringe event: a debate on the transatlantic relationship in the post-Bush era, chaired by my old Bush House colleague Nick Childs and featuring the LibDem Shadow Foreign Secretary, Ed Davey, the Chair of Democrats Abroad, Bill Barnard, and others.

Link: www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice

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