Jonathan Fryer

Posts Tagged ‘Eric Pickles’

Don Foster’s Twit of the Year

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 24th November, 2012

Don Foster has long been one of the most entertaining Liberal Democrat public speakers and since becoming a government Minister he has not lost his touch. Last evening he addressed the AGM of Kingston Liberal Democrats at Kingston Rugby Club, only occasionally letting his eye wander to the screen at the end of the room that was showing (silently) a match with his home team Bath playing. For two years he was at the Department of Media, Culture and Sport, thus enjoying a grandstand view of this summer’s Olympics and Paralympics. But in the recent reshuffle Don was moved to the Department for Communities and Local Government, under (fortunately not literally) Eric Pickles. As Don said last night, it has been a steep learning curve but he is a committed believer in local government. However, much of his speech was an amusing take on this week’s Away Day of LibDem parliamentarians at an anonymous hotel. After all the pep talks there was some light-hearted banter about some of the tweets LibDem MPs have posted, ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous, as our elected representatives show widely varying talents in the medium. The Twit of the Year, in Don’s view, was clearly the Chief Whip, Alistair Carmichael, who hit the jackpot with his tweet: “Nadine Dorries, I served with Lembit Opik, I knew Lembit Opik. Let me tell you, Nadine Dorries, you are no Lembit Opik.”

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London Liberal Democrats’ Autumn Conference

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 22nd October, 2011

From 1979 onwards, Britain endured 31 years of centralising government, but since May 2010 a new doctrine has been in place, as yet little referenced by the political commentariat, bedazzled as they are by distractions such as the putative EU referendum. With Eric Pickles, no less, the Minister in charge, the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition government has espoused the philosophy of Localism: bringing decision-making down to an appropriately lower level (something the EU’s principle of subsidiarity also promotes). This was the key theme of today’s London Liberal Democrats’ Autumn Conference, held at the University of West London in Brentford. Former local councillor Andrew Dakers reminded those of us who were present of some of the ideology and analysis behind Gordon Lishman and Tony Greaves’s mantra for Community Politics a generation ago. And a session moderated by Terry Stacy, Leader of the Opposition on Islington Borough Council, provided us with some examples of best practice from places such as Sutton (Ruth Dombey) and Liverpool (Richard Kemp). Dr Mark Pack also added his weight and experience to the subject. Listening to speeches about both localism and the London Mayoral and Assembly elections brought to my mind Chairman Mao’s dictum about walking on two legs — in this case one local, one regional. Team London, the concept that London Liberal Democrats successfully launched last year and is now integral to regional activity, understands the wisdom of that two-legged strategy — and also manages to keep one eye firmly focussed on May 2012 and the other on the borough council elections in 2014.

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Andrew Stunell’s Hot Potato

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 19th January, 2011

Andrew Stunell, Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (and LibDem MP for Hazel Grove), returned to his South-West London roots this evening when he spoke to a Richmond Liberal Democrats Potato and Politics in the Vestry Hall in Paradise Road. He laid out the achievements that the Liberal Democrat partners in the Coaliti0n Government had scored, but this did not stop the audience of local party members putting some pretty tough questions to him, particularly relating to social housing, planning, benefits and health. Andrew stressed repeatedly that the government had to tackle the appalling financial situation it inherited from Labour. We are still having to borrow £400 million a day to close the gap between spending and revenue, he said, which helps put the cuts into perspective. He felt bitter about the way the Guardian in particular has really gone for the jugular in its reporting of the Coalition, and especially the LibDems, which I felt was fair comment, even though I sometimes write for that august organ! He pointed out that 200-odd points out of 300-odd points in the last Liberal Democrat manifesto had made it into the Coalition Agreement. Almost evey week there is a ‘win’, even if some of the Labour-leaning Press concentrates on the negatives. I cheekily asked him how he got on with his Minister, Eric Pickles, but apparently another Guardian journalist had asked him the same question over lunch and his answer to me was distinctly coy. All in all a robust performance, nonetheless, even if no everyone in the room left totally mollified.

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Art Malik at the LibDem Rally

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 19th September, 2010

The actor Art Malik compered the Rally at the Liberal Democrat conference in Liverpool last night, introducing with humour and verve the Man in the White Suit, Martin Bell, the political reform campaigner Pam Giddy and a trio of LibDem stars: Jo Swinson, Tim Farron and Nick Clegg. Charles Kennedy had been billed to perform but was reportedly prevented by travel problems, which meant that his last-minute replacement, Tim Farron, had to wing it — rather successfully, with a few spicy political jokes. Nick Clegg also had a good gag about Eric Pickles and a stalker, though I suspected that the short standing ovation he got at the end was more dutiful than heart-felt. There were clearly many in the hall who still feel a little nervous about some aspects of the Coalition government. However, the real theme of the evening was electoral reform reform and why we must all campaign hard for a Yes vote in the AV referendum next May, so from the moment Art Malik set out his passionate belief in reform (and support for the LibDems), the mood was upbeat.

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