Jonathan Fryer

Posts Tagged ‘Sarah Ludford’

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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BBC Sunday Politics Euro-debate

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 14th April, 2014

Sunday Politics EU DebateYesterday afternoon BBC1 hosted a debate between lead candidates in the European elections: Syed Kamall MEP (Conservative), Richard Howitt MEP (Labour), Sarah Ludford MEP (LibDem) and Patrick O’Flynn (UKIP). It was rather odd of UKIP not to field an MEP, but given some of the extraordinary things some of them have come out with, perhaps wise. Andrew Neil moderated the debate with commendable fairness, asking equally penetrating and sometimes uncomfortable questions of each of the four. The tone was at times abrasive, with two or even three speakers shouting over each other, which may not have impressed some TV viewers who are less used to political rough and tumble. Syed Kamall had the difficult task of trying to put forward a coherent Tory policy on Britain’s membership, finally declaring that in any future IN/OUT referendum, he would vote to stay in, providing David Cameron had negotiated sufficient concessions from Brussels, though he couldn’t specify what those concessions might be. Richard Howitt was mild-mannered and in fact very close to the LibDem line on several things, only more sotto voce. Sarah Ludford had the advantage of arguing from a clear, united party position and got in some good points about the benefits of UK membership of the EU and of labour mobility. Patrick O’Flynn not surprisingly found himself being attacked by all the others, but having played the role of UKIP spin-doctor for some time he was no particularly fazed by that and one fears that some of his populist rhetoric will have struck a chord among viewers who are only too happy to view the EU as some giant foreign conspiracy. The Greens will be furious at having been excluded from the debate, and indeed from the opinion polls would appear to be on course to lose both their current MEPs. But opinion polls can be deceptive and I wonder really if any of the four speakers in yesterday’s debate actually converted anyone to their cause. More likely, they will have reinforced people’s exisiting positions.

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Newroz in Finsbury Park

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 23rd March, 2014

Newroz Finsbury ParkThis afternoon I stood in bright sunshine on a stage in London’s Finsbury Park, speaking to a crowd of several thousand Kurds, to mark the festival of Newroz. In traditional Kurdish villages, people would jump over a fire at Newroz, but as I said in my speech, although there was no fire in front of me I could feel the fire in the people before me. They are right to be proud of their long history, culture and language, and to struggle for greater rights in the Middle East. In recent years I have been to Amed (Diyarbakir) and surrounding districts in predominantly Kurdiah areas of south-eastern Turkey, monitoring elections, though I won’t be able to go to cover the local elections in Turkey next month as I’m staying in London to campaign for the European elections. I said to the crowd it is important that they — if they have British or other European Union passports — vote on 22 May for a party that supports the rights of minority peoples and is committed to Britain remaining in the EU, or otherwise urge their neighbours and friends to do so. Apart from Sarah Ludford MEP (who also has a longstanding interest in Kurdish issues) and myself, on the LibDem list for London we also have a Turkish Kurd, Turhan Ozen. The situation in Turkey is frustrating in that Recep Tayyip Erdogan made some significant moves towards recognising Kurdish rights but like so much of his policy, this has often been a situation of one step forward, one step back. In Syrian Rojava the situation is critical for many Kurds and in Iran several Kurdish leaders have recently been executed or harassed. Only in the Kurdish region of Iraq (KRG) — which I visited this time last year — is the situation markedly better. So Kurds have a lot to struggle for. But as I concluded in my short speech, today is a day for celebration. Newroz Piroj Be!

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Sutton 40 Years On

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 9th December, 2012

1972 Sutton Focus leafletGraham TopeSutton is rightly hailed as London Liberal Democrats’ flagship council but of course the borough was put on the map politically some years before the (then) Liberal-SDP Alliance actually won control (on the Mayor’s casting vote). Indeed, 40 years ago the parliamentary constituency of Sutton and Cheam hit the headlines when young Graham Tope — at that time characterised by his cruel glasses and wicked sideburns — seized the seat from the Tories in a by-election on at 32.6% swing. I was in my final year at university at the time but remember the subsequent Liberal euphoria well. As was rightly recognised at a 40th anniversary buffet dinner at the Sutton Life Centre last evening, the Sutton & Cheam by-election was the first time Trevor Jones from Liverpool put into practice his concept of community politics — which meant pounding the streets to identify local issues and then trumpeting them in regular Focus leaflets — including the scary example illustrated here. Focuses are such old hat these days that it’s hard to imagine the huge impact this technique had. The Conservatives didn’t know what had hit them and Graham became not just a local celebrity but a national one too. Alas he was unable to hold the seat in the February 1974 general election, but he went on to become Leader of Sutton Council, a Member of theHouse of Lords, a London Assembly member and one of the Liberal Democrat representatives on the EU’s Committee of the Regions, at one time simultaneously. Apparently he can, like Margaret Thatcher, get by on very little sleep — though there the similarities end. Anyway, it was a splendid occasion last night, free of pomp but full of good humour and enlivened with tributes to Graham from a variety of people who have served with him in various guises, including Lynne Featherstone MP, (Baroness) Sally Hamwee, (Baroness) Sarah Ludford MEP and former Sutton Council leader Sean Brennan. There was even some audio-visual entertainment, including a replay of the 1974 election night TV coverage, which included a nice potted portrait of the man.

Link: http://sutton-libdems.org.uk

 

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Ludford Calls for Strong LibDem Euro-message

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 3rd December, 2012

Sarah LudfordIn her first local party engagement since being re-elected to the top of London Liberal Democrats’ Euro-list, Baroness Sarah Ludford MEP told the Tower Hamlets Liberal Democrats’ AGM in Bethnal Green this evening that the Party must be quite clear in its pro-EU stance in the 2014 Euro-elections and she pointed out that we are likely to be the only party that is. That doesn’t mean saying that everything coming out of Brussels is rosy; there are things that need reforming. But the electorate knows where the LibDems stand on Europe and it would be madness to obfuscate. Local member David Hall-Matthews — a prominent figure in the Social Liberal Forum — argued from the floor that if, as expected, the Euros coincide with the London borough elections (and in Tower Hamlets’ case a mayoral election as well) then it is essential that the Euro-campaign is indeed about Europe and not about British domestic issues, as has sometimes been the case in the past. I added the comment that we will need a strong regional and national campaign on Europe London-wide to complement the more targetted campaigning for the local elections, and highlighted the fact that among many Tory voters in Tower Hamlets and beyond there are those who realise that elements of the capital’s prosperity — and in some cases their jobs — depend on Britain’s being a full member of the EU. There are just 18 months left for Sarah, myself and the other six members of the London Euro-candidate team to get our messages across. And those must indeed be strong and simple and persuasively argue the benefits of being part of Europe.

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London Liberal Democrats’ Spring Conference

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)

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Reforming the ECHR

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 23rd February, 2012

The 47-nation Council of Europe is little known and much misunderstood, particularly in Britain, where the populist media is in a state of permanent warfare with anything ‘European’. As I hope most readers of this blog already know, the CofE is a completely separate body from the European Union and embraces all of the countries of wider Europe, from Iceland to Azerbaijan and Russia, with the single exception of wayward Belarus. It has its own parliamentary assembly, which meets in Strasbourg, but this is not directly elected by European citizens, unlike the European Parliament, and it has almost no power. But the CofE does much useful work, for example in protecting media freedom, the rights of minorities (notably the Roma in recent years) and promoting transparent democracy. Of course, the main reason the institution gets into the British newspapers at the moment is because of the associated European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). This has come under a lot of fire recently in Britain, including from Prime Minister David Cameron, who in turn was strongly criticised by London’s LibDem MEP Baroness (Sarah) Ludford last night, at a seminar on Issues around Reform of the European Court of Human Rights, held at Europe House in Westminster. Mr Cameron likened the ECHR to a small claims court, highlighting how some of the thousands of cases that are sent to the ECHR for consideration each year are of an essentially trivial nature. Certainly, there are far too many of them, which has resulted in a horrendous backlog. Moreover, the British Conservatives in general tend to oppose the idea that the ECHR should have the right to ‘interfere’ in or ‘overturn’ the decisions of British Courts, for example relating to prisoners’ rights to vote and the non-deportation of Jordanian extremist Abu Qatada. But as the QC and leading human rights lawyer Lord Lester pointed out eloquently last night, much of the press coverage of the ECHR in Britain is simply wrong. However, both he and Sarah Ludford and the third speaker Daniel Holtgen, Director Communications at the CofE, acknowledged that the institution is in need of reform. Indeed, the parametres for this may well be set at an upcoming CofE gathering in Brighton. The CofE should probably try to do less but better. And when the EU signs up to the ECHR, as is planned, there will need to be some readjustments to avoid duplication. But it would be helpful in the meantime if British politicians and journalists who should know better stop slagging it off and misrepresenting it. Human rights and democracy are the cornerstones of the European world view, and the CofE is the right forum in which to work for their enhancement.

Link: http://coe.int

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Team London at the Kingston Double

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 21st November, 2011

London LibDems’ Team London was out in force at the weekend, canvassing and delivering in the double by-election (caused by the resignation of two Tory councillors) in the Coombe Vale ward in Kingston. We were blessed with fantastic weather — though that did also mean that quite a lot of the voters were out! — and the ward is a fascinating mix of rather grand residences and much more modest abodes. Kingston-upon-Thames has been LibDem controlled for some time, the results in May 2010 (number of councillors) being LibDem 27 Conservative 21 Others 0. The lead LibDem candidate in Coombe Vale in 2010 was only 79 votes behind the third Tory, so this is a by-election with everything to play for. We have excellent candidates in Kamala Kugan and Rupert Nichol. It was good to be out campaigning on Saturday with London MEP Sarah Ludford, GLA list candidate Shas Sheehan and others and the ward can be sure of many more distinguished door-knockers between now and polling day on 15 December.

Link: www.kingstonlibdems.org

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Earl’s Court Campaign Hots Up

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 4th September, 2010

With less than a fortnight to go before the Earl’s Court ward byelection in Kensington & Chelsea, London, dozens of LibDem campaigners have been hitting the streets in support of local champion and LibDem candidate Linda Wade, who is fighting to win a seat vacated in rather unfortunate circumstances by longstanding Tory Councillor Barry Phelps. The party’s Deputy Leader, Simon Hughes MP, was in the ward this afternoon, to do a Press interview and a photocall with party activists, including Baroness Sarah Ludford MEP, Mike Tuffrey of the GLA and myself. The Liberal Democrats last summer ended decades in the political wilderness in K&C by electing Carol Caruana to represent Colville ward (around Portobello Road). In May this year, Carol was joined by new ward colleague Tim Jones. Kensington & Chelsea has tended to be seen as the bluest of blue London boroughs (it is ‘Royal’ after all!), but the days when the Conservative Party ruled the roost unchallenged, apart from a few token Labour councillors in ‘tolerated’ wards, may well be over. Certainly, if Linda Wade seizes Earl’s Court on 16 September, it will mark a sea-change.

Link: http://kensingtonandchelsealibdems.org.uk

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Lynne Featherstone on Being a Minister

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 10th July, 2010

Lynne Featherstone, LibDem MP for Hornsey and Wood Green and now the Minister of State for Equalities and Criminal Information (sic), was the guest of honour at Sutton Liberal Democrats’ annual garden party this afternoon, in the spacious garden of perennial host Jayanta Chatterjee. In keeping with the Coalition Government’s new age of austerity, she arrived not in a chauffeur-driven limousine, but by train, like me. And from her description of life in the Home Office (up at 5.30am and only to bed at midnight, day after day) her tasks are demanding, despite the assiduousness of her civil servants. Far from being under the kitten heels of Home Secretary Theresa May, Lynne has been doing her best to stamp a LibDem tinge on her department’s policies; bilateral relations with her boss are in fact very cordial. Lynne was suitably prominent in last Saturday’s Gay Pride March — seemingly part of a new girl band, half-dancing alongside London Assembly Member Caroline Pidgeon, Party President Ros Scott and London’s LibDem MEP Sarah Ludford. Lynne said that the only thing that impressed her children about her new status in life was the arrival of the first lead-lined wooden red ministerial box. The civil servants will be making sure those ministerial papers keep coming.

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