Jonathan Fryer

Posts Tagged ‘Tim Farron’

Immigration, Blessing or Curse?

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 17th January, 2014

immigration graphicimmigration graphic 2The Liberal Democrat President, Tim Farron, rightly won plaudits from liberal quarters when he said on the BBC’s Question Time last night that immigration is a blessing, not a curse, and that more politicians should be saying so. Doubtless his twitter and other social media timelines are now receiving a lot of very hostile comments, as well; immigration is an issue that tends to polarise the public, with some pretty extreme language being used by those who sing to the tune of the late Enoch Powell. Some of these viscerally anti-immigration voices are motivated by what can only be described as racism, but more often the problem is fear: a fear that immigrants will take jobs at a time of high unemployment among local people, that they’ll put an undue strain on council housing (not that there’s much of that around these days) or the social services and education. Fear can make people say irrational things, which is why it is important to have a measured debate about immigration in this country, based on facts not emotions, avoiding the xenophobic rhetoric and Armageddon prophesies of the more unprincipled Press, such as the Daily Mail and Daily Express. Let me state at the outset that it is a given that no nation in the modern world can have an “open door” policy for unlimited immigration. Britain doesn’t (despite what some UKIPers seem to believe), and shouldn’t. But controlled immigration for a country like Britain is not only desirable but necessary. Given demographic trends among the indigenous population, we need a regulated influx of younger, energetic workers to help pay for the pensions and social care of older citizens. Moreover, as most big businesses accept, for Britain to retain a leading role in key sectors such as financial services and the knowledge economy, we need to attract the brightest and the best from overseas to keep ahead of the curve. There are a couple of other important matters to be taken into consideration, which should also temper the UK immigration debate. The first relates to freedom of movement within the European Union, or EU migration, which should be seen as one of the greatest achievements of the single market and of huge benefit for Britain, both in terms of the workforce that has been attracted here — in all sectors of the economy — and in the opportunities it has given to British subjects living, studying or working in the other 27 EU member states. Instead of adopting the red tops’ negative narrative on freedom of movement, the Conservatives who lead the Coalition government should be championing the benefits. The other issue is the perception of many Brits that the country is “full” and therefore should shut the door completely to EU migrants and immigrants from other parts of the world. This is a false perception largely based on the fact that the UK economy and population are concentrated to an unhealthy degree in London and the South East. The solution to that is to regenerate areas of the country that saw a sharp decline in the post-War period because of the collapse of manufacturing, mining and other industries — and immigrants could play an important role in making that regeneration happen.

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The Consequences of UK Euroscepticism

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 16th January, 2014

NOS logoTurhan Ozen and JFThis evening, at an inaugural debate at the new Network of Students (NOS) building in Whitehall my fellow London LibDem Euro-candidate Turhan Ozen and I debated the Consequences of the UK’s Euroscepticism with young people from Turkey, Russia (Chechnya), Ireland, the UK and elsewhere. I explained that when I was first sent to Brussels by Reuters soon after leaving university — and not very long after Britain joined the then European Economic Community — I was a bit of a Eurosceptic myself, but in the true sense of the word, i.e. examining critically and questioning what this evolving body and its institutions were all about. Seven years in the self-styled Capital of Europe really awakened me to the great potential of a more united Europe, as well as to the great richness and diversity of European culture. How much more so today, with 28 member states and a single market in which there is freedom of movement, which means young people can seek new opportunities for study, work or travel, and many older people find a place in the sun in which to retire. But all that is being put at risk by today’s Eurosceptics, who ought really to be called Europhobes. They hate the EU with a passion that at times spills over into xenophobia. Moreover much of the propaganda put out by UKIP, the Tory Right and their cheerleaders in the Press (Dail Mail, Daily Express et al) is packed with lies, distortions and myths, which means that those of us who are Euro-realists — acknowledging the validity of the European project, while recognising that some things need to be reformed — are forced to spend a lot of our time simply refuting rubbish. Like the “invasion” of Britain by millions of Bulgarian and Romanian migrants this month, which simply hasn’t happened. Or the claim that EU migrants are a huge burden on our welfare system — even ripping it off — whereas all the evidence shows that they make a substantial net contribution to the national coffers through their tax and national insurance. As I said this evening, my fear is that in trying to placate the Europhobes in his own party in the forlorn hope that this will quieten them down, David Cameron is acually encouraging them to demand more. At the same time, our continental partners are getting increasingly pissed off with hokey-cokey Britain, with one foot in and one foot out, while trying to shake it all about. No wonder growing numbers of continentals now shrug their shoulders at the prospect of a UK withdrawal, as opposed to the expression of dismay of a few years ago. The run-up to the European elections in May are going to be a rum affair in this country, with the major Coalition partner singing from a very different hymn-sheet from that of its junior partner. But so be it. Nick Clegg and everyone else, from Party President Tim Farron through Ministers to MPs and most LibDem activists are singing the same hymn, which proclaims that the Liberal Democrats are the party of IN. We must shout that from the rooftops so fellow Euro-realists realise there actually is a mainstream party in the UK that is sane on the matter.

Link: http://www.networkofstudents.org/nos/

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UK Should Be Leading, Not Leaving, the EU

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 11th January, 2014

Danny AlexanderWith just five months to go before the European elections, the junior partners in Britain’s governing Coalition, the Liberal Democrats, have been showing just how much  they differ from their Conservative partners when it comes to the country’s relationship with the European Union. The Party Leader, Nick Clegg, as well as its President, Tim Farron, have made abundantly clear why the LibDems are the party of “IN”, not “OUT”, as many Tories appear to be, aping UKIP. This weekend, the LibDem Treasury Secretary, Danny Alexander, has a strong piece on Liberal Democrat Voice (Link here: http://www.libdemvoice.org/danny-alexander-mp-writes-we-shouldnt-fritter-away-our-eu-influence-when-we-can-lead-drive-for-jobs-and-growth-37788.html) arguing that Britain mustn’t fritter away its EU influence when it could be leading the drive for jobs and growth. Danny is well placed to comment, having followed EU affairs closely since working as a young man for the European Movement. But I would go further than him and say that without Tory shilly-shallying, Britain could be leading the EU, as an equal patrner alongside Germany. The Germans would love that, especially now that France has a rather flakey President in Francois Hollande. And we have so much to offer the EU. We could be championing reforms that do need to occur, but are franklçy unlikely to do so long as Britain has its coat on and one hand on the door to leave, as European Council President Herman van Rompuy once brilliantly put it. So in the run-up to May, the two Coalition government partners will be singing from very different hymn-sheets when it comes to Britain in the EU — and it is vital that that LibDem voice be amplified, in the best interests of this country.

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Tim Farron Goes Turkish

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 28th November, 2013

Huseyin OzerTim FarronWestminster 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.

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Tim Farron Is Not David Laws, but…

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 5th November, 2012

David Laws, the Minister of State for Schools and the Cabinet Office, was billed to speak at a bangers-and-mash supper at the Clarendon Hotel in Blackheath this evening and Liberal Democrats from the three boroughs of Lewisham, Greenwich and Bromley — plus me — arrived prepared to quiz him quite firmly on issues such as his somewhat disparaging recent remarks about teachers and how he would justify some of the Coalition’s economic policies. But as so often happens with Ministers (and indeed MPs) he cancelled, because of other obligations, during the afternoon. So in through the door marched Party President Tim Farron instead. Now if David Laws might have felt like Daniel in the lions’ den, Tim found himself amongs a group of purring pussy-cats. Well, almost. He has a manner that can charm the proverbial birds off the trees and part of his widespread appeal across the party is that he acknowledges the mistakes that have been made in government, and where he has not agreed with what the government was doing. And not being a Minister he has a greater freedom to range more widely than many of his colleagues. He is undoubtedly closer to the ideological soul of LibDem activists than some. In the Q&A session after his speech, he was asked where he thought Britain was heading in its relations with the EU and he reaffirmed the party’s strong commitment to the UK’s need to be at the heart of Europe. He said he believed that the mood of the country means that we would probably never join the euro, which is the one major point on which I disagreed with him when I made a short speech myself on EU matters later in the meal. There may well come a time when it would be our interest to join the single currency, albeit not in the short-term, but the question remains whether our partners would open the door if the British Conservatives continue to handle dealings with them so ham-fistedly.

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Tim Farron’s Licence to Roam

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 17th June, 2012

There was a moment on the BBC’s Question Time this week when someone asked Liberal Democrat Party President Tim Farron whether he agrees with any of the Coalition government’s policies. It was a forgivable jibe and actually quite useful, as it gave Tim an opportunity to “differentiate”. I wager that is going to be the buzzword at the LibDem Conference in Brighton this September, as people stake out clearly the differences between Liberal Democrat policy and government policy. Of course, often the two do coincide. Considering how much the LibDems are the junior partner in the Coalition in terms of seats (thanks to our antideluvian voting system), it’s remarkable how many “wins” the party has had in getting through such things as raising the tax threshold and a reasonably positive attitude to the European Union (most of the time!) — often to the fury of backbench Tory MPs, who seem to believe that because they are the bigger party in the Coalition they should get their own way all the time. David Cameron, to his credit, understands the nature of Coalition government better than they do. But much of the public is still a bit baffled. The situation is not helped by the Labour opposition muddying the water by carrying out a full-frontal assault on the LibDems almost from Day 1. But this means that the LibDems need to keep saying over and over again — in the media, in Focuses, and most importantly on the doorstep — what these LibDem policy “wins” are, and moreover what the Party’s policy is and remains. As President, with no Government job, Tim Farron is in a ideal position to lead that effort. And maybe that is why he often gives the impression, on Question Time and elsewhere, that he has been given a Licence to Roam.

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The Sound of London Liberal Democrats

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!

Link: http://libdems4london.org.uk  and www.brianpaddick.com    Video: http://youtu.be/ZSmgrczJNCU

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Wandsworth Gets the Farron Treatment

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 24th January, 2012

One of the least glamorous and yet necessary tasks of being President of the Liberal Democrats is systematically going round local party meetings and events, though Tim Farron, like his predecessor Ros Scott, does this with seemingly unbounded energy and enthusiasm. Although he is an MP in the North West, we see a lot of him in London, as it is easy to make the short journey from Westminster to one of the region’s local parties. But as he told members of Battersea and Tooting LibDems at a social event in the Wandsworth Museum this evening, he is moreover committed to doing everything possible to boost the current London Mayoral and GLA campaign. Indeed, he has pledged to go out campaigning with London candidates once a fortnight in the run-up to May, over and above his usual party workload. The Wandsworth Museum — which was a public library when I last visited it, to take part in a Euro-election hustings some years back — was a nicely quirky venue to hold this evening’s event, with home-made chilli con carne and baked potatos. But I wonder if Tim noticed that while he was speaking he was standing next to an exhibit of a splendid vintage phamacy in which there were two historic billboards displayed: one for a lecture by Marie Stopes on fulfilling wedlock and another advertising a talk by a now forgotten member of the medical profession about venereal diseases. Tim’s subject was far less dramatic, though it did involve the health of the Liberal Democrats, which he believes is stronger than some recent opnioin polls suggest. These are difficult times, certainly, but the Party has known far worse, recovered and gone on to exceed people’s expectations.

Link: http://wandsworthlibdems.org.uk

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Serenading South West London

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 23rd November, 2011

Liberal Democrats from Richmond, Kingston and Hounslow — plus a number of supportive interlopers from other parts of London, such as myself and the increasingly ubiquitous Mark Pack — took over the Park Hotel in Teddington last night, for a highly successful fundraising event for the South West London GLA constituency campaign, which embraces the three aforementioned boroughs. The event was compered by Munira Wilson, who will be flying the LibDem flag in the constituency next May, and who is well known in the area, not least for having fought the Feltham and Heston parliamentary seat in Hounslow at the 2010 General Election. The first of two guest speakers was party president Tim Farron, who welcomed the fact that the party’s poll ratings had recently gone up from ‘flipping awful to mildly depressing’. As I’ve noted in previous posts, part of his current role is encouraging party activists to hang on in there during difficult times and to keep reminding people of the plus points of Liberal Democrat participation in the Coalition government. That was naturally a line echoed by the other speaker, Ed Davey, MP for Kingston and Surbiton, who seems genuinely enamoured of the various junior ministerial projects he is currently involved with, such as greater paternity rights (and therefore more gender equality) for couples with a young baby, and saving the Post Office network. Three GLA List candidates were present — Caroline Pidgeon, Stephen Knight and Shas Sheehan — and the event raised several thousand pounds for the campaign fund — a consderable proportion of which came from the auction. It’s amazing how many LibDem members in South West London seem to have holiday homes in France or Spain, and even more amazingly, are prepared to auction off weeks in their properties for the cause!

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Tim Farron, Hornsey and Europe

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 26th October, 2011

It’s rare to hear a Westminster MP talk enthusiastically about Europe, but this evening Liberal Democrat Party President Tim Farron launched into a spirited defence of the EU at a Haringey local party event in Hornsey. Clearly the adrenalin was still flowing from last night’s Commons debate on a putative EU Referendum, during which Tim had the dubious pleasure of finding himself sitting next to John Redwood, arch-Eurosceptic. Tim confessed he was only five when the last EU Referendum was held, but neither he nor the parliamentary party at large were in any hurry to see another one. As Prime Minister David Cameron had declared, the time was not right, while the eurozone, and interested countries outside it, including Britain, are trying to face up to a very serious debt crisis. Moreover, Tim believes if a Referendum were held in the near future it would likely be lost, with catastrophic consequences for the UK economy if this led to withdrawal. Too large a proportion of the electorate is still feeling sore about the Coalition government’s austerity measures, but even more important much of the Press in Britain has poisoned the debate over Europe. Rupert Murdoch and Co have been violently, vehemently anti-Europe, Tim said; if one considers their particular brand of free market global capitalism it is not hard to understand why. I am not quite so pessimistic about the outcome of any EU Referendum, if the case of EU membership were argued eloquently as it was in 1975. But I agree with the Government that at the moment it would be an unhelpful distraction, when all of Europe — including Britain — needs to be putting its shoulder to the wheel of economic recovery.

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