International Women’s Day fell during the Liberal Democrats Brighton Conference and among several events pegged to the occasion was a fringe meeting with the Turkish writer Elif Safak, which was put on by Liberal Democrat Friends of Turkey. Elif won many friends among London Liberal Democrats when she spoke at our autumn conference in Croydon in October, when she read from her latest novel. This time, she spoke of the two women who had made a big impression on her in her childhood: her mother, a Westernised, free-thinking woman who went on to do university studies; and the grandmother who subsequently raised Elif — a much more conservative, irrational, superstitious woman. In a sense the two personified different aspects of Turkey, an immensely complex and changing society. In principle the theme of the Brighton Conference fringe meeting was women and post-feminism in the Muslim world, which is a subject that fell within Elif’s own postgraduate studies, as well as the sort of thing I teach at SOAS in the summer term. But as usual with her much of what she talked abut was autobiographical, weaving into the story both considerations of the multilayered aspects of self as well as elements of Turkey’s Ottoman past, in which there was far greater diversity than is acknowledged today and there was an indigenous women’s movement. We should also not forget that Turkey gave women the right to vote before France did, for example. And women fill high positions in all sorts of sectors in the labour force. And yet much of Turkish society, whether ethnic Turk, Kurdish or Armenian, remains patriarchal and there are still occasional so-called honour killings, often involving brothers killing sisters who have formed a romantic relationship with someone deemed unsuitable or, worse still,who have lost their virginity. Such contradictions in a country that has an enviable growth rate and is making its mark in the modern world are part of Turkey’s fascination, of course, and will provide Elif with many more themes for her novels. Liberal Democrat Friends of Turkey, meanwhile, is playing a crucial role in reaching out to the extensive Turkish, Kurdish and Turkish Cypriot community in Britain, much of that based in London.
Posts Tagged ‘London Liberal Democrats’
Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 10th March, 2013
Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 2nd January, 2013
The fireworks over the Thames that signalled the New Year in London symbolically coincided with a handover of the chairmanship of London Liberal Democrats, as I ended my three years at the helm and Mike Tuffrey – until last May a leading Member of the London Assembly – took over. My time in office was quite a roller-coaster, from the inflated national euphoria of Cleggmania just before the 2010 general election – when in the event we managed to hold on to seven parliamentary seats, but alas lost Richmond Park – to the frankly dire city-wide vote we received in the London Mayoral and GLA elections last May. At least we managed to return Caroline Pidgeon (rightly recognised in the New Year honours) and Stephen Knight to the Assembly. Of course, the kicking we received from the electorate then – at least some of it a protest at George Osborne’s Budget, as well as unhappiness over Coalition cuts – was not unique to London. Moreover, we have had some excellent local by-election results, which showed that the old mantra “where we work, we win” can still hold true.
Less visible, but significant, has been the way the regional party has become more professional over the past three years, including a move into larger and more flexible office space in Brixton and the appointment of a full-time Campaigns Manager, Chris Butler (backed up by the indefatigable Campaigns Chair Pete Dollimore and his team). Even if the results last May were disappointing, the campaign itself was much slicker than anything we’ve done before and indeed the candidates themselves were impressive and for the first time truly reflected the diverse nature of our capital city.
So what can Mike Tuffrey look forward to? Undoubtedly more needs to be done not just to recruit new members but particularly to retain the ones we have. And given Mike’s particular expertise in London-wide policy-making, honing a credible, attractive and specific London Liberal Democrat narrative is going to be crucial to future success. 2013 is a year with no major scheduled elections in London, though local council by-elections continue to come up thick and fast. But this provides a golden opportunity not only to strengthen the Party further in the capital but to lay the groundwork for the 2014 city-wide borough elections and the Euro-elections, which will almost certainly fall on the same day. That coincidence poses several new challenges not least how to integrate a local campaign in which ruthless targeting is going to be essential with a London-wide European campaign when the Liberal Democrats are likely to be the only party putting out an essentially positive message on Europe – and rightly so. At least the eight London Euro-candidates – who have been in place since 1 December – are already part of the integrated team. Those of us who have not gone abroad for New Year will be joining the first regional action day of the year this Saturday in North Kingston (Richmond Park).
Jonathan Fryer is the immediate past Chair of London Liberal Democrats and is Number 2 on the London Euro-list.
N.B. This post first appeared as an oped on LibDemVoice: http://www.libdemvoice.org/opinion-changing-gear-in-london-32463.html#utm_source=tweet&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=twitter
Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 3rd November, 2012
London Liberal Democrats’ Team London descended on Thornton Heath today for an Action Day of leafleting, surveying and canvassing with Marisha Ray, the Party’s candidate in the Croydon North byelection. Some of the streets were very familiar to those of us old enough to remember the by-election in Croydon North West (as the seat’s predecessor was then called) in 1981 when Bill Pitt was swept into Parliament in the heady days of the Liberal-SDP Alliance. The national public mood might not be as euphoric today as the Coalition government faces up to difficult challenges but there is no doubting how friendly the local people are. Much of Croydon North also has the huge advantage for byelection campaigners of being largely terraced housing with individual doorways and even, miraculously, sensible-sized letter boxes. Anyone who has tried to canvass the mansion blocks of Kensington or the locked tower blocks of Tower Hamlets will know exactly what I mean. The constituency is ethnically very mixed which makes it an interesting place to operate and although she may only just have entered the fray Marisha is already receiving plenty of challenging casework.
[photo credits: Simon Drage and www.thisiscroydontoday.co.uk]
Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 20th October, 2012
London Liberal Democrats descended on Croydon today for our autumn conference, which also featured a Question and Answer session with nine of the ten shortlisted London Euro-candidates. The full hustings will be at Friends House, Euston Road, on Sunday 4 November. But the star turn of the day today was guest speaker Elif Shafak, the Turkish novelist who writes in both Turkish and English, including penning articles for The Guardian from time to time. She read an extract from her latest novel and also spoke on the theme of identity and belonging, especially in the context of a migratory life. While no model of multiculturalism is perfect, she feels London is an amazing place to be, and rather regrets that Kemalist Turkey modeled itself on France, laicité and all. Today was also special as it provided a platform to launch the by-election campaign for the newly-selected Croydon North Liberal Democrat candidate Marisha Ray. By a coincidence that Dame Edna Everage would undoubtedly have termed ‘spooky’ we had chosen Croydon as the venue for this year’s autumn conference long before there was any inkling that the poor Labour MP for Croydon North — the much-respected Malcolm Wicks — would pass away, leaving a vacancy. In the extended lunch-break, accordingly, most of us set off to the constituency to do some delivery and surveying, and a very friendly reception we got too. In the afternoon, Tom Brake MP, newly appointed Deputy Leader of the House of Commons, explained entertaingly what that job entails. Brian Paddick made an excellent power-point presentation on leadership and then the man who will succeed me as regional Chair when I step down at the end of the year, Mike Tuffrey, gave a speech which proved why he is a very sound choice.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: Brian Paddick, Croydon, Croydon North by-election, Dame Edna Everage, Elif Shafak, London Liberal Democrats, Malcolm Wicks, Marisha Ray, Mike Tuffrey, Tom Brake | 1 Comment »
Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 1st April, 2012
With just over a month to go to the London Mayoral and GLA elections, London Liberal Democrats had their minds firmly focussed on campaigning when we gathered in the East Wintergarden at Canary Wharf yesterday, chaired by (Baroness) Susan Kramer. The mayoral candidate Brian Paddick alongside Caroline Pidgeon, head of the GLA list, presented a summary of their manifesto, which had largely been drawn up my outgoing GLA member Mike Tuffrey, who also gave a presentation on housing. There were several innovations at the conference, including a speech on Extremism by Maajid Nawaz of the Quilliam Foundation and some stunning unaccompanied singing by Pauline Pearce, the “heroine of Hackney” who is the Party’s candidate in the Hackney Central council by-election that will take place on the same day as the main London poll, 3 May. There was also a “trialogue” question time which I chaired with a panel comprising London MEP (Baroness) Sarah Ludford, (Baroness) Sally Hamwee and Caroline Pidgeon. Ed Davey, the Secretary of State of Energy and Climate Change, spoke about his role in government and MPs Tom Brake and Simon Hughes shared their views on the current state of play. A central message was that Liberal Democrats should be proud of what we have achieved as the junior partner in Government but we will be campaigning in these elections on a purely Liberal Democrat platform, even if that sometimes diverges from Coalition policy. At the drinks reception at the end of the busy day several participants said it was the best London Liberal Democrat ever, for which thanks must go to Conference Committee Chair Jill Fraser and her team, including Pete Dollimore, who facilitated the training sessions going on in parallel with the plenary.
(photo by Merlene Emerson)
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: Brian Paddick, Canary Wharf, Caroline Pidgeon, East Wintergarden, Ed Davey, Jill Fraser, London Liberal Democrats, Merlene Emerson, Mike Tuffrey, Pauline Pearce, Pete Dollimore, Quilliam Foundation, Sally Hamwee, Sarah Ludford, Simon Hughes, Susan Kramer, Tom Brake | Leave a Comment »
Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 17th March, 2012
The selection by Hackney Liberal Democrats of Pauline Pearce to be their candidate in the forthcoming by-election in Hackney Central is symbolic of the way London Liberal Democrats have transformed themselves in recent years to be an inclusive party that can not only represent the UK’s multicultural capital but also reflects its diverse population. Pauline — dubbed the ’Heroine of Hackney’ by one local newspaper after she stood up to young rioters last summer and berated them — would be a brilliant addition to the Liberal Democrat group on Hackney Council (which currently includes Orthodox Jews and a Muslim), and would justifiably shame the local Labour Party which just assumes that people will vote for a Labour replacement after their sitting councillor moved to Scotland. But this is about more than just Hackney. Across London, Liberal Democrats have been signing up members from all ethnic and faith groups and electing a range of local representatives who are of and with their local communities. The election to the London Assembly this 3 May (the same day as the Hackney council by-election) sees a LibDem list which features three South Asians, one Chinese, one Afro-Caribbean and one Irish among the 11-strong team. The Asian Muslim woman, Shas Sheehan, has the strongest chance of being elected, as Number 4 on the list. It is true that the Party still has a way to go in diversity among our MPs, even in London. All seven LibDem MPs in London are white and there needs to be a huge effort to ensure some new, diverse faces get in somewhere in London in 2015. But overall, London Liberal Democrats can be proud of the way that they have led the way on diversity as far as the national party is concerned. And the subject will be an important issue at the London Liberal Democrats’ Spring Conference in Canary Wharf at the end of the month.
Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 15th February, 2012
Mayoral candidate Brian Paddick, GLA list candidate Shas Sheehan and I joined Paul Burstow MP, leading Sutton councillors and of course the Worcester Park by-election candidate Roger Roberts this evening for a final eve-of-poll push in that pleasant part of suburban South West London. The Liberal Democrats seem to have been running Sutton for ever, winning many ‘green’ accolades in the process, but nothing can be taken for granted at the moment, even in a fight that is essentially against the Tories. The Conservatives have been strugggling for years to try to wrest back control of Sutton, yet despite the ongoing gentrification of many of the streets in the borough they’ve so far failed to make the breakthrough. Indeed, in the 2010 local elections — held on the same day as the General Election — they not only failed to snatch either, let alone both, of the parliamentary constituencies in Sutton but also proved unable to dent the majority of the Liberal Democrat council. This only goes to show that the electorate appreciates local campaigners who work hard on their behalf. Labour, of course, are the ‘also rans’ in this part of London, and it will be interesting to see if UKIP manages to push them into fourth place. I’ve never really understood why UKIP fights local elections, frankly, but I suppose it is to prove that they are a grown-up political party. It’s a pity some of their elected representatives in the European Parliament demonstrate the contrary. Anyway, tomorrow is polling day in Worcester Park, with the weather promised to be considerably milder than it has been of late, so London Liberal Democrats’ Team London will once again be out in force, getting out the vote. And it would be great to see Roger Roberts back on the Council.
Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 8th February, 2012
The Ministry of Sound is used to revving people up at its base in London’s Elephant and Castle, but this evening the throbbing crowd was somewhat different than usual in that it was made up of Liberal Democrat activists, in party mode. The event was the launch of the LibDems’ London2012 election campaign, compered by local MP and Deputy Leader, Simon Hughes. Party President Tim Farron gave an upbeat speech, underlining how seriously the Federal Party is taking the London elections this time, in contrast to previous occasions. Both the mayoral candidate, Brian Paddick, and the leader of the GLA team, Caroline Pidgeon, gave sterling performances, against the backdrop line-up of the impressive and diverse phalanx of GLA list and constituency candidates. The point was made — as it will be repeatedly to the electorate over the next 12 weeks — that last time the LibDems were just pipped at the post for the final seat on the proportional represnetation list by the BNP. This time, we will be fighting hard to get that fourth seat back, and who better to achieve that than Shas Sheehan, a Muslim woman who has already proved her worth as a former Richmond Councillor and parliamentary candidate for Wimbledon at the 2010 General Election. In 2000, we got five London Assembly members, which must be a target we can aim for this year. If successful that would also see Merlene Emerson, Chair of Chinese Liberal Democrats, catapulted into City Hall. When I took over as Chairman of London Liberal Democrats in January 2010, I was determined to up our game, to help make the organisation more professional and to build the sense of London-wide identity for local parties and activists. This evening’s event at the Ministry of Sound (courtesy of James Paulmbo) was yet another step upwards in that journey. And I am happy that in Brian Paddick we have a mayoral candidate who is an impressive figurehead, with particular expertise on policing matters, moreover one who is determined — as he said tonight — to lead a ‘radical and risky’ Liberal Democrat campaign — in the best sense of both those adjectives!
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: Brian Paddick, Caroline Pidgeon, Chinese Liberal Democrats, Elephant and Castle, GLA, James Palumbo, London Liberal Democrats, Merlene Emerson, Ministry of Sound, Shas Sheehan, Simon Hughes, Tim Farron | Leave a Comment »
Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 13th January, 2012
Once a year, in January, the Lord Mayor of London (currently the genuinely charming David Wootton) hosts a banquet at the Mansion House for 300+ movers and shakers and top officials in London government; I’ve been there for the past three years as Chairman of London Liberal Democrats. The surroundings are historic — the banqueting hall is magnificent and pristine — and there are some very good Old Dutch Masters on the staircase on the way in. Unsually there was venison as the main course at the dinner this year, and very good is was too. But of course it is not the food or the (excellent) wines that really count, but the political content and the networking. The Aldermen and Common Councillors of the City of London — most of them present last night – are strictly non-party political, and for once the party politicians from the GLA and London boroughs put aside their differences and mingled. Council leaders and mayors are invited, as well as Chief Executives from each borough and the occasional hack (Tim Donovan of BBC London and Peter Dominiczak of the Evening Standard). The key attraction at these events is the speech by the Mayor of London (i.e. of Greater London, rather than the City), currently Boris Johnson. This year he stuck largely to his script, prepared (with the addition of a few of his own jokes and asides) by his staff this year; in the past, he has been known to furiously scribble notes for a speech during the meal itself. Predictably, his pitch was how wonderful London is and what a fantastic year we will have with the Olympics and Paralympics, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, etc. He made fun of the very modest facilities provided at the 1948 London Olympics, which was a little below the belt, as Britain was still in a state of rationing and post-War fatigue then. But he is still fizzing with energy; love him or hate him he is a genuine character.
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]
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: Barnes, Coombe Vale, David Cameron, Dawn Barnes, Enfield and Haringey, EU, Feltham and Heston, Hornsey, Jim Fitzpatrick, Ken Livingstone, Kingston, London Liberal Democrats, Lynne Featherstone, Mark Pack, Nick Clegg, Paddy Ashdown, Sharon Bowles, Susan Kramer, Vince Cable | Leave a Comment »