Jonathan Fryer

Posts Tagged ‘European elections’

UKIP Gets Its “First” MP

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 28th August, 2014

Douglas CarswellHaving debated against the eloquent Euro-sceptic Conservative MP for Clacton, Douglas Carswell, during May’s European election campaign, I am not particularly surprised by his defection to UKIP. In a sense it is odd he didn’t do it before — indeed, during that campaign — but maybe UKIP’s strong showing in May persuaded him that it is now a risk worth taking. Honorably he is causing a by-election, though precedent suggests that might be a double-edged strategy. When Bruce Douglas-Mann, Labour MP for Mitcham & Morden, switched to the newly-formed SDP and caused a by-election in 1982, the seat was seized by the Conservatives. However, Mr Carswell may feel that his personal vote will bring over many Conservative supporters. His 12,000 majority over Labour in 2010 was pretty healthy and Clacton is the sort of Essex coastal constituency where UKIP is currently popular. Interestingly, UKIP didn’t field a candidate in 2010 (though a BNP candidate almost saved his deposit). The Conservatives are bound to throw everything they’ve got at this by-election; if they were really brave, they’d field Boris Johnson. But if they fail to hold the seat and Douglas Carswell becomes UKIP’s first elected MP it doesn’t mean he’ll hang on in May next year. Anyway, he has certainly put a bit of vim into the pre-Party Conference season’s politics. And may the best man (or woman) win!

(NB: Bob Spink MP defected from the Conservatives to UKIP in 2008, but was later reclassified as an Independent, as there was no UKIP whip in the Commons. He lost his seat in the 2010 general election, standing as an Independent with UKIP support)

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Do Not Lose Euro-heart!

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 17th June, 2014

The following first appeared in yesterday’s London Liberal Democrats’ weekly email bulletin:

JF at homeThe result of the recent Euro-elections was deeply dispiriting, not least because for the first time ever the Liberal Democrats pinned our pro-European colours to the mast — the only major party to do so. Yet we lost all but one of our MEPs (the exception being Catherine Bearder in South East England), including London’s Sarah Ludford, who has done so much good over the past 15 years, especially in the field of Justice and Home Affairs. At least we do not “lose” Sarah completely, as she can now return to the House of Lords and play an active role there, with all the benefits of her Euro-experience.

The important thing now is to learn from the May 2014 experience and to rebuild, so that we ensure we once again have at least one LibDem MEP for London in 2019. I believe there are two main lessons, though other people may suggest more. First, although being the Party of IN was the right strategy, the message was wrong: it should have been “We’re IN it to Fix It!”, as we are the party of EU reform, not of the status quo. Second, whereas I understand the argument for targeting held seats and strong boroughs (especially when there were local elections on the same day), we cannot just ignore two-thirds of London’s electorate in a PR election. So we need somehow to raise the funds for a London-wide Freepost in 2019.

On Friday, I was in Brussels for the governing Council of the Alliance of European Liberals and Democrats (ALDE), our “family” in the European Parliament. Despite the dire results in Britain and Germany the mood was good, as ALDE member parties had done well elsewhere. So I am returning to London re-energised and ever more determined to make 2019 a year for London Liberal Democrat Euro-celebration!

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Nick Clegg: The Biography

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 27th May, 2014

Nick Clegg 3It might seem an odd way to wind down from the exhaustion of the European election campaign — and the frustration at the results — but I’ve used the time (when not asleep) to read Chris Bowers’ biography of Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, which I bought in a bargain bookstore a few weeks ago. Although published by Biteback in 2011, much in the book still resonates. I’ve known Nick since he was MEP for the East Midlands, but there was much about his early life that I was unfamiliar with. I am also well aware that his public persona, as caricatured by opponents in the Labour Party particularly, is a travesty of the man himself, who is warm and humorous and often far more effective in one-to-one conversations or small gatherings than on a wider public stage or in front of a television camera. That said, I thought his performance in the LibDems’ European elections broadcast was brilliant. That made it all the more dismaying that the European results were so catastrophic, with only the South East of England’s Catherine Bearder being re-elected. The Party rightly pinned its European colours to the mast, and fought a principled campaign that underlined its internationalism and its refusal to get caught up in the anti-migrant hysteria of UKIP and the tabloid Press. Those within the Party (not to mention those outside) now gunning for Nick because of the three consecutive years of bad local election and now European election results should try to be more objective about the qualities of the man and the way he brought Liberals into government for the first time since the Second World War. I agree with Chris Bowers’ assessment that the Rose Garden launch of the Coalition and Nick’s determination that the Party should be seen to be “owning” the Coalition (i.e. be seen to be fully engaged) dulled the distinctiveness of the Liberal Democrat message and helped Labour portray Clegg as joined to Cameron at the hip. And despite the Party’s best efforts, its real achievements in Government (e.g. raising the tax threshold, the pupil premium, sensible pension reform) have not really got across to the public. As I discovered on the doorstep during the election campaign, the issue of trust is still a problem, because of the tuition fees debacle, though largely unfairly so. Moreover, the Cleggmania just before the 2010 General Election made a fall from political grace almost inevitable, when the new kid on the block suddenly became part of the Establishment. The current new kid, UKIP’s Nigel Farage, is a very different cup of tea, but it will be interesting to see how quickly he is now knocked off his pedestal.

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Speaking to the Ibero-American Community

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 20th May, 2014

On a couple of occasions, I’ve spoken to Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking communities in London — in Lambeth and Newham, to be precise — as part of the Liberal Democrats’ European Election campaign. Here’s what the Ibero-American community website MINKA NEWS had to say about it:

Liberal Democrats’ Jonathan Fryer: For the recognition of the entire Iberian American community and the Amigo Month

Minka News 1As a Liberal Democrat candidate for the European Parliament for London I recognise the great contribution that the Iberian-American community has made to both the economy and the social life of our capital, which has become not just the premier city of Europe but truly a global metropolis. The European Union officially celebrates our continent’s ethnic, cultural and linguistic diversity and we can see the glorious richness of that diversity in the streets of London. Spanish and Portuguese — both of which I speak reasonably well, though not perfectly — are of course among the official languages of the European Union, but I feel they have not yet been given sufficient attention in Britain, whether in terms of language teaching in our schools or in the provision of services to the Iberian-American community.

Latino LondonThe current European elections are to my mind the most important ones since direct elections to the European Parliament began in 1979. UKIP and some elements of the Conservative-leaning Press have demonised immigrants — and in particular, EU migrant workers from central and eastern Europe — echoing some of the deplorable xenophobic rhetoric we encounter in some other EU member states. Liberal Democrats categorically reject this scapegoating of immigrants; we enthusiastically acknowledge the positive contribution that immigrants have made to economic growth in London and the wider UK, and we resolutely defend the principle of labour mobility for citizens of the EU as an inalienable part of the European Single Market. Moreover, if I am elected to the European Parliament on 22 May, I shall work hard to promote EU-wide legislation to counter xenophobia and hate crimes, and to strengthen human rights so that everyone across the EU can live in dignity and security.

In past years I have backed calls for the regularisation of the situation of undocumented immigrants from outside the EU, which includes many people from the Americas and lusophone Africa. Individuals, families and communities can never be fully integrated into our diverse London society until they enjoy full rights and access to services.

Many of the specific questions I have been asked are about matters that are dealt with at a borough council, Great London Authority or British national parliament level, rather than being a European competence, but I happily pledge to work with my Liberal Democrat colleagues at those different levels of government to further the interests of the Ibero-American community. My personal opinion on specific points raised are as follows:

– yes, Portuguese should be an additional language option available for purchasing London Underground tickets, given the large number of residents and visitors from Portugal, Brazil, Angola and other lusophone countries;

– yes, it seems self-evident to me that ethnic monitoring forms should in future have a category for Ibero-Americans with which they can comfortably identify;

– I would be prepared to lobby the relevant authorities regarding the erection of statues, commemorative plaques and the like for truly worthy Iberian-Americans or British subjects with an Iberian-American connection, on a case-by-case basis;

– I hope that the Amigo month becomes an annual fixture in London’s cultural calendar and would be happy to help promote it and encourage cooperation between different cultural institutes and embassies from relevant countries, as well as seeing it recognised in our schools and other educational and cultural institutions;

– I would be delighted to take part in events during this year’s Amigo Month, as far as is possible given other constraints on my time or absence in Brussels or elsewhere;

– I am very enthusiastic about the idea of a latino corridor in Southwark and Lambeth and will be happy to work with my Liberal Democrat colleagues on those two borough councils, as well as on the GLA, to try to further the project.

Lastly, may I stress how important it is that everyone in London’s Ibero-American community who is registered to vote here does vote here on 22 May. We need to show the world that UKIP and the Euro-sceptic wing of the Conservative Party are not the true voice of London — and the clearest way of doing that is to vote for the one political party that has stood up forcefully against UKIP and has defended the worth and rights of EU migrants and immigrants from other parts of the world: the Liberal Democrats.

Jonathan Fryer

No. 2, Liberal-Democrat European List for London

(JONATHAN FRYER WAS SPEAKING IN FLUENT SPANISH AND PORTUGUESE TO HUNDREDS OF IBERIAN-AMERICAN LEADERS IN WEST NORWOOD LAST WEEK. ON SUNDAY, HE ALSO SPOKE TO HUNDREDS OF LATINOS IN A CHURCH IN CANNING TOWN)
 

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ALDE in Vienna

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 4th May, 2014

ALDE Rally ViennaThe  NEOS Party in Austria is a new force on the scene, incorporating the former Liberal Forum, but it is predicted to win as much as 14 per cent in this month’s European elections — a figure the UK Liberal Democrats can only envy. This is despite the fact that NEOS is an overtly Federalist Party, calling for a United States of Europe. or maybe that is the reason why, and also why it has attracted so many young, idealistic supporters, who thronged to the Marx Halls in the city for a huge rally on Friday night, at which the speakers included the twin heads of the ALDE (European Liberal Democrats) campaign, Guy Verhofstadt and Olli Rehn, as well as the president of ALDE, Sir Graham Watson. The rally was also the culmination of the ALDE conference and Council, which NEOS had bravely decided to host, despite being the new kid on the block. It all went remarkably smoothly, with no contentious issues raising their ugly head. Indeed, the mood was one of celebration, though in several EU member states the Liberal and Democrat cause is under threat by populist forces on both the right and left.

Links: http://www.aldeparty.eu and http://europa.neos.eu

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Lobbying and the European Elections

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 19th April, 2014

lobbyingMEPs in Brussels are used to being lobbied — by business groups, farmers, trade associations and NGOs of every description. This year, in the run up to next month’s European elections, MEP candidates are getting the same treatment as well. I have already replied to over 1,000 lobbying emails (over half of them from the Trade Justice/World Development Movement) and we are still over a month away from polling day. Because of the Liberal Democrat debacle over the NUS pledge about tuition fees before the 2010 general election in the UK, LibDem MEPs have decided not to sign pledges as a general rule, but I am prepared to view each one on its merits, on a case-by-case basis. Thus I have been happy to sign up to human rights pledges (including on LGBT+ issues) and various animal rights pledges, from the RSPCA to Horse Welfare. Some of the other pledges are so detailed, and yet sometimes also prone to ambiguity, that I have preferred to make my own statement of beliefs and intents, for example with example to the digital rights campaign. I know some candidates get browned off by the hundreds of emails flooding into their inbox each day, but I celebrate that as part of a healthy democratic process. If you can’t stand the heat, keep out of the kitchen. I aim to answer every single email I get in this election campaign — though I know that means some late nights sitting over my computer!

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Britain, Ireland and the EU

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 18th March, 2014

Ireland UK EUDan MulhallThe Irish in London have been in a fairly frolicking mood these last few days — perhaps not surprising considering St. Patrick’s Day. But there is more to it than that. As the (relatively new) Irish Ambassador to the Court of St. James’s, Dan Mulhall, put it at an event in the European Commission’s representation office, Europe House, this evening, the relationship between the UK and Eire has entered a whole new dimension by being fellow members of the European Union. That relationship has not always been easy in the past, given the resistance by certain English quarters to Irish home rule (the great Liberal Prime Minister William Gladstone being a significant exception). But the combination of the Good Friday Agreement over Northern Ireland and mutual interests within the EU have brought London and Dublin closer together now than ever in living memory. The Queen made what was generally regarded as a most successful visit to the Irish Republic in 2011, and the current Irish President,  Michael D. Higgins, is due here in London on the first ever state visit ere long. Ambassador Mulhall was in Europe House this evening for the opening of an exhibition of paintings by the Irish artist — long resident in London — Bernard Canavan, and naturally mused on the subject of Canavan’s work, which is largely about the Irish diaspora in the UK, from the Irish navvies working for Murphy’s to the nurses that helped keep the NHS afloat before more exotic helpmates arrived from elsewhere. Perhaps now some Brits could learn a thing or two from the Irish expats, not least a greater understanding of our common European identity, not only in culture but on a political level. All of the hundreds of thousands of Irish resident in the UK can vote here in the European elections on 22 May, of course, but so too can the residents of the other 26 EU member states other than Britain. The EU citizens, who make up such a vibrant part of London’s economy — as well as that in the UK as a whole — need to stand up and be counted, as to why Britain needs to be at the heart of the EU, not just for their future but for ours.

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Why I Stand up for Animals

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 16th March, 2014

baby sealLiberal Democrat Euro-candidates have been urged by sitting MEPs not to sign pledges presented to them in the run-up to the European elections on 22 May — and given the tuition fees pledge fiasco after the 2010 general election the caution is understandable. In general, anyhow, I prefer to give a reasoned answer to individual constituent’s’ inquiries, rather than saying yeah or nay to a prescribed formula. However, I have made an exception by signing the RSPCA’s pledge to work hard for encompassing animal welfare legislation if elected as this is a cause I not only believe in strongly but fear is being irrevocably damaged by human activities. Whole species are being wiped off the planet by irresponsible policies, including habitat destruction and in many areas of animal husbandry improvements need to be made to improve animals’ quality of life, even if they eventually destined for the dinner table. I think the RSPCA is right to highlight not just cruelty to domestic animals and pets but also so-called “game” and farm animals. Killing animals and birds for “sport” has always sickened me, which is why I have since my 20s been a Life Member of the League against Cruel Sports, and the use of real fur in fashion similarly raises my hackles. Hats off to those brave women who from time to time carry out stunts to highlight the practice. A beautiful white seal, for example, belongs in its natural environment in the Arctic, not filleted and slung round some supermodel’s neck.

Link: http://www.rspca.org.uk/getinvolved/campaigns/euroelections

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The Why I Am IN Broadcast

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 5th February, 2014

Nick Clegg EUParty political broadcasts are all too often toe-curlingly bad, but this evening’s LibDem PPB on “Why I am IN” (the EU, that is) is a corker. It gets across a simple but crucial message powerfully, with a stellar performance by Nick Clegg (really!) in his best relaxed but authoritative style, and three nice vignettes of engaging people explaining in just a couple of sentences why Britain’s continued membership of the European Union is important. I have been arguing for some time that we need to polarise the debate in the UK in the run-up to the European elections in May: if you want to leave the EU, vote UKIP; if you realise that to do so would be folly, vote LibDem. The Liberal Democrats are the only party that is unequivocally pinning its European colours to the mast, and therefore should be a rallying point for all those who understand that we are better together in Europe if we are going to thrive in an increasingly competitive, multipolar world. The EU has delivered so much that has benefited this country and its people. Of course there need to be some reforms, but those can be achieved more effectively from the inside, as a constructive member, not by sniping from the sidelines. Nick Clegg promised us that this time the European elections would be different, that the Liberal Democrats would not hide their European light under a bushel and that they would stand up to the doomsayers and scaremongers of UKIP and the Tory Right. Tonight’s PPB shows he really meant it. We now have little over three months to get that message across.

In case you missed it, here is a link to the broadcast: http://t.co/2v3Rgljk4T

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Youth and the European Elections

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 30th January, 2014

Yvote 2014Last evening I took part in a panel debate at King’s College London on what political parties are offering young people in May’s European elections. The event was part of KCL’s Europe Society’s European week, and attracted more than 50 students of diverse nationalities. UKIP had failed to nominate a spokesman, but the EPP (from which David Cameron withdrew the British Conservatives) was represented by the Finnish Chair of its youth wing. Labour and the Greens both sent Euro-candidates, but the Conservatives were represented by someone from the Beau Group. My message that the Liberal Democrats are the only party of IN regarding the UK and the EU went down well — and was unchallenged, even by Labour, who frankly don’t seem to have made their minds up about how they will play the European elections. I concentrated on the three key themes of the Liberal Democrat campaign — jobs, the environment and combating crime, but also highlighted the paradox that whereas young voters in Britain are the most supportive of the European project (and Britain’s rightful place in it), their voting participation is lower than older age groups. It is therefore crucial for a successful LibDem Euro-campaign that we motivate young people, first to register to vote and most importantly to go and vote, or agree to have a postal vote. As well over half of the audience were citizens of other EU member states I emphasized the fact that they can vote in the UK if they get on the register and sign a form saying they will not vote in their country of origin as well. I got the impression I was speaking to the converted as far as Britain and the EU was concerned, which is as it should be. But the message needs to be got out that this year’s Euro-elections are going to be rather like a mini-IN/OUT Referendum and the forces of youth, as well as of common sense, need to be mobilised to make their voices heard.

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