Jonathan Fryer

Posts Tagged ‘Ken Livingstone’

Pidgeon Curry in Greenwich

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 3rd June, 2013

Caroline PidgeonCutty SarkTransport 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!

Links: http://www.carolinepidgeon.org and http://www.greenwich-libdems.org.uk

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Has the UKIP Bubble Burst?

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 20th January, 2013

Nigel FarageAn interesting opinion poll from YouGov this weekend, asking people how they will vote in next year’s European elections, has UKIP in fourth place, behind the Liberal Democrats (LAB 38%, CON 30%, LD 13%, UKIP 12%, SNP/PC 3%, Grn 3%, BNP 1%). That’s quite a bump down from even a week ago, but more significantly indicates that all the hoo-haa about UKIP over the past few months may actually have damaged the party’s prospects. Its leader, Nigel Farage, has been ubiquitous on the broadcast media, but that blanket coverage of him does not seem to have done UKIP much good. Maybe it has highlighted the fact that while Mr Farage may be an amusing cheeky chappie at times, others in the party are more disturbing. Or indeed simply that people actually don’t trust a cheeky chappie with running something important (think how Ken Livingstone ploughed in last years London Mayoral election). What does seem to be true — unless later developments prove otherwise — is that UKIP has peaked too soon. The Euro-elections are still nearly 18 months away, and public opinion appears to be becoming more objective about the benefits of Britain’s membership of the European Union, despite all the europhobic bile poured out by certain popular newspapers. Indeed, another opinion poll from YouGov released this weekend suggests that 40% of the public would vote to keep the UK in the EU as opposed to 34% who would vote to leave. That is a very dramatic turn-around from even a few months ago and gives one hope that the comments of prominent businssmen such as Richard Branson and John Browne are having some effect — despite the shilly-shallying of Prime Minister David Cameron.

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Bojo for PM?

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 6th August, 2012

The euphoria over TeamGB’s triumphs at the London Olympics over the past few days, as well as the boost to national morale that the Games have been giving, has caused a flurry of speculation about whether London Mayor Boris Johnson could become the next leader of the Conservative Party and therefore possibly Prime Minister. He always denies that this is his ambition but I doubt whether he would turn down the opportunity if it came along. Of course, he would have to get back into the House of Commons to do so, but that would not be difficult if a safe Conservative seat comes up at a by-election – definitely not Louise Mensch’s Corby, incidentally! Boris’s great advantage is that he appeals to many non-Tory voters — indeed to many people who don’t normally vote at all, including youngsters. Thus he was able to defy national opinion polls and retain the London mayoralty in May (though Labour made a big mistake in choosing tired and tarnished Ken Livingstone as their candidate again). There is a mixture of brilliance and buffoonery in Boris that is sometimes irritating but often endearing. Who else could have been left dangling from a wire during a slightly misfired stunt near the London Eye at the weekend and keep their reputation intact? And he has a way with words, like a boy’s own cartoon figure. I first came across him in Brussels when he was a boy, as I knew his parents Stanley (a writer then working at the European Commission) and Charlotte (an extraordinary artist). Boris returned to Brussels later for an ill-fated stint as a reporter covering the EU, when he lost his job for not letting facts get in the way of a good story. But his wit and verve and sheer cheek eventually won through, making him now one of the most highly paid newspaper columnists in the country. One thing is certain: in comparison with Boris, David Cameron looks insipid. But does that mean Boris would make a better Prime Minister, despite Cameron’s mistakes in government? That I doubt. One can clown about as Mayor of London; in fact it gives the job some panache. But that’s not an act that would transfer well to 10 Downing Street.

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Mulling over Cameron’s Misguided Move

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 11th December, 2011

This Sunday is traditionally the time when Liberal Democrats in London stop writing Focus leaflets and do a bit of festive socialising as a reward for working hard all year round. And today the parties did indeed take place — I attended a lunch put on in Barnes by the local branch, then a mulled wine and mince party in Hornsey — but the conversation at both was highly political. This is not just because two elections are due to take place next Thursday: the parliamentary contest in Feltham and Heston (where I ran into Ken Livingstone and a posse of Labour MPs, including my local MP Jim Fitzpatrick, while I was out delivering yesterday) and a double local council by-election in the Coombe Vale ward of Kingston borough. Most LibDem members, including me, are furious at the way David Cameron mishandled the Brussels EU Summit, pandering to his Eurosceptics but marginalising Britain in the process. The Tory Little Emglanders will doubtless cheer him to the rafters when he addresses the House of Commons tomorrow, but I hope LibDem MPs will blow him a giant raspberry. Certainly the comments from Nick Clegg, Vince Cable, Lord (Paddy) Ashdown and others have been pretty strong, as have the criticisms from the UK LibDem MEPs, most significantly Sharon Bowles. At the Barnes event this lunchtime, Susan Kramer – until 2010 the local MP and now a highly valued member of the House of Lords (as well as being President-elect of London Liberal Democrats) — gave an excellent short summary of what happened at the summit and its possible consequences. In Hornsey, local MP and Home Office junior Minister Lynne Featherstone preferred to concentrate more on the very real ‘wins’ on equality issues which the LibDems have managed to obtain since going into government. But most of us will be going to bed tonight thinking more of the big losses to Britain’s standing in the world that our misguided Conservative Prime Minister has inflicted on us.

[Photo shows blogger Mark Pack, Lynne Featherstone MP, Enfeld and Haringey GLA candidate Dawn Barnes and JF]

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London Mayoral Replay

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.

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London Riots

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 9th August, 2011

As I write this, the Prime Minister David Cameron is chairing the civil contingencies committee, COBRA, summoned to discuss what to do about the three days of rioting in London (and some elsewhere) that have shocked the nation. Though unrest began in Tottenham, following a police shooting, yesterday it spread across much of the city in copycat outbursts, with some agitators reportedly egging people on via their Blackberries. Croydon, of all places, was the worst hit. A furniture store was set alight there and the blaze soon spread to surrounding buildings. The tramlink was seriously damaged and some cars and buses torched, as has happened in several other places. Here in Tower Hamlets, where I live, violence was limited to the western Whitechapel/Bethnal Green end, with many Asian youths reportedly repelling the rioters. Similarly, in parts of Hackney, Turkish and Kurdish shopowners and their families fiercely defended their properties and livelihoods. The police were clearly overstretched, leading to calls from some quarters for the army to be sent in. Let us hope it does not have to come to that. The Government, stupidly, failed to field anyone on BBC2′s ‘Newsnght’, thus allowing Labour’s Mayoral hopeful Ken Livingstone free rein to blame it for the turmoil (though his performance was so opportunistic that he might have lost, rather than won, support for himself). UKIP leader Nigel Farage stoked the embers by declaring that the riots were the outcome of multiculturalism, thereby playing into the hads of the EDL and other racist groups. Actually, the events of the past few days have given some credence to David Cameron’s mantra about ‘Broken Britain’, though whether his Big Society concept can mend it is another matter. Confronted with the damage and the thuggery, I suspect that most of the public will be in the mood for a crackdown, including heavy penalties for looters and arsonists. It will be the political Right that ultimately benefits from all this, not the Left, as some Leftists hope.

 

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Stephen Gilbert Speaks Out on Yes2AV

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 17th March, 2011

With only six weeks to go to the Alternative Vote referendum in the United Kingdom, MPs who are in favour of the switch to a fairer voting system are beginning to speak out loud. Last night, Stephen Gilbert, LibDem MP for St Austell and Newquay, was guest of honour at a social event put on by Holborn & St Pancras Liberal Democrats in London and urged everyone present to seize this opportunity for change. Were the vote to go the wrong way, it is unlikely there would be another chance for electoral reform for a generation, he claimed. Steve is right that the LibDems must not leave the campaigning only to non-party-political groups, although cooperation with them is of course very important. Although Ed Miliband and some other leading Labour figures (including London mayoral candidate Ken Livingstone) have come out in favour of AV, 200 Labour MPs are said to be opposed. So is most of the Conservative Party, the BNP (!) and some absurd purists such as Crossbench peers David Alton and David Owen who argue that people should vote No on 5 May because AV is not STV (the single transferable vote). Of course most LibDem campaigners for electoral reform would prefer STV, but the Conservatives made clear that was not an option when the Coalition Agreement was negotiated. So we have to work hard for the second best, AV. There has been a fear among some senior figures in the party that parts of the electorate would be turned off if the LibDems are seen to be too prominent in the Yes2AV campaign. But there is an even greater danger: that we could lose the referendum if they are not.

Link: http://www.yes2av.org.uk

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Tower Hamlets’ New-Style Mayor

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 22nd October, 2010

The man Labour deselected as the party’s executive mayoral candidate in Tower Hamlets, Lutfur Rahman, stormed to victory in the first election of its kind last night, garnering over 51 per cent of the vote in first preferences among a field of five. He is a one-time Labour leader of the Council but trounced his successor, Helal Abbas. Eight other councillors have defected from official Labour into the Lutfur camp in recent weeks. The fight between the two became quite nasty, with leaflets being circulated accusing Helal of wife-beating. Outside York Hall, where the count was held, a large crowd of excited Muslim youths gathered, chanting, waiting to herald the new dawn in Tower Hamlets politics. Quite what that will mean is anyone’s guess. Doubtless Ken Livingstone, who infuriated many London Labour activists by endorsing Lutfur, will be amongst the first to congratulate him in the morning. Lutfur was at the centre of a Despatches programme on TV a few months ago, in which journalist Andrew Gilligan underlined his alleged links with radical elements in the Islamic Forum for Europe, and we can be sure that not only Gilligan but other London journos will be monitoring closely what Lutfur does as Mayor and what sort of team he manages to put together in the Town Hall.

Result: Independent (Rahman) 23,283, Labour (Abbas) 11,254, Conservative (King) 5,348, LibDem (Griffiths) 2,800, Green (Duffell) 2,300.

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Labour Lurches Left

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 25th September, 2010

Hot on the heels of Ken “let’s raise the top level of income tax to 80 per cent” Livingstone being chosen as Labour’s London Mayoral candidate (again!), the party has elected union-backed Ed Miliband — already dubbed ‘Red Ed’ by the more conservative tabloids — to be its new leader. This will doubtless warm the cockles of the Left and the Miriam Karlin “everybody out!” branch of trade unionism, but it is a disaster for Labour in its hopes of forming the next government. In his acceptance speech in Manchester this afternoon, Ed Miliband said that he will oppose the Coalition when he needs to but he will support it when he arees with it. But I don’t think those who backed him will let him. Meanwhile, it was interesting to see how many people in the hall at the Labour Party conference sat on their hands at key points in his speech, not just because they believe that the wrong Miliband won, but more importantly because they know that actually the party has fatally gone into the comfort zone of longterm opposition. Moreover, some of the more militant trade unions — such as Bob Crow’s RMT — will be calling for mass strike action — not something that is likely to endear Labour to the general public in the prevailing political climate of 2010.

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Oona King Enlivens Mayoral Race

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 24th May, 2010

The contest to become next Mayor of London has suddenly become a lot more interesting with Oona King’s announcement that she intends to run for the Labour nomination. The former MP for Bethnal Green & Bow — famously ousted by George Galloway at the 2005 General Election — has obviously decided that she misses frontline politics after all, having previously seemed to rather enjoy being out of it. She’s developed something of a media presence over the past five years and generally seems far more comfortable in her political skin than she did while she was an MP. It’s about time there was a BME candidate for the London Mayoralty (two of the three LibDem contenders for the nomination in 2008 were Asian, but ex-policeman Brian Paddick won it easily). Of course, there is one big obstacle to Oona King’s getting the Labour nomination an the chance to fight against the Tory incumbent Boris Johnson: Ken Livingstone, who has made it abundantly clear that he wants to get back in charge at City Hall. Ken does have a vociferous fan-base, even if many within the Labour Party think he’s last year’s goods. Others may, of course, throw their hats in the ring imminently. The actual nomination election will run parallel to the election of the new Labour Party leader, so there’ll be a result in the autumn.

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