Westminster Liberal Democrats may not have any local councillors, yet — though watch Bayswater ward closely next May! But they do have some dedicated and moreover interesting members, which means that their annual dinners are always particularly enjoyable. That is also due to the fact that these dinners have been hosted in recent years by Huseyin Ozer, proprietor of the Sofra restaurants, at his home base establishment in Covent Garden. When someone said that one of the items on the menu was Hittite rice I thought they must have misheard/misread, as my mind wandered back to T.E. Lawrence’s work on Hittite remains at Carchemish before the First World War. But they were quite correct, and the Ottoman (sic) delicacies that accompanied that rice were indeed fit for a Sultan. No Sultan being available, we were treated to the next best thing: Tim Farron, President of the Party. Before the meal Tim apologised to me that I had probably heard his speech before (well, we do both get around on the circuit), but amazingly I hadn’t (well, most of it, anyway). He has an engaging breezy style with a slightly cocky Cumbrian edge, which I can appreciate having spent (wet) holidays in the Lake District as a child. He doesn’t do bad language, but has a habit of using the word “flipping” where others might resort to something a little spicier. But the core of his message was that the party must go into next May’s European elections (for which he is the national supremo) confidently as the party of IN. Tim was not entirely complimentary about our Conservative Coalition colleagues, including the Prime Minister, but then such differentiation is now inevitable as we enter the final 18 months of the Westminster parliament, let alone the six months to next May’s European elections (combined with all-out borough elections in London). I have never met David Cameron, though I am sure he would be socially charming, but as a Lancashire lad myself originally I can understand those who look at him and feel he has no core beliefs other than that he believes people like himself should be in charge. Actually, to me that is still far less objectionable than the dreadful Tony Blair, with his Messianic certainties, or indeed the angst of poor Gordon Brown (whom I did meet), who lumbered into the premiership far later than he would have liked with all the finesse of a bear chasing bees from a honeycomb. Anyway, despite mediocre opinion poll ratings averaging around 10 per cent (we have been in places much worse than that in our history), membership of the Liberal Demorcats is on the up and if we say the messages loud and clear enough, we should get across the fact that thanks to Liberal Democrats the tax threshold has gone up, the pupil premium has helped thousands of kids from disadvantaged backgrounds (including in my own borough, Tower Hamlets), and the 3,000 children of asylum seekers whom Labour had locked up are for the great majority now at liberty.
Posts Tagged ‘Sofra’
Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 28th November, 2013
Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 21st November, 2012
Long before Simon Hughes became Mr Bermondsey (and more recently Mr Old Southwark too) he had European ambitions and indeed worked in Strasbourg for a while. But the looming opportunity of a byelection three decades ago diverted him onto a path that has led to his becoming Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats and the very model of a modern community politician. This evening, however, in the delightful surroundings of Sofra Covent Garden — courtesy of the restaurant group’s generous owner and Westminster LibDems member Huseyin Ozer — Simon was able to reflect on things European and international as the guest after-dinner speaker at the local party’s annual fundraising event. He stressed how important it is that the LibDems continue to champion the importance of Britain being at the heart of Europe and like St George face-to-face with the dragon he slayed some of the falsities put out by Tory Eurosceptics and the right-wing Press. He also stressed how vital it is that when the Leveson Inquiry reports the LibDems must take its recommendations to heart — something which again various people on the Tory right will attempt not to do. Sue Baring, now standing down as Chair of the local party after three years at the helm, rightly received plaudits and presents for her energy and commitment. And the best present of all for her will be in 2014 if, alongside a good performance in the European elections, the LibDems take Bayswater ward, which she and her colleagues have been building up for so long.