Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Archive for May 5th, 2007

The Beginning of the End for Respect?

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 5th May, 2007

waiseul-islam.jpgVirtually unnoticed in all the electioneering and results of the past few days, there has been a significant defection: Whitechapel’s Respect Councillor, Waiseul Islam, has left the party for Labour. Labour is pleased, as it means their overall majority on Tower Hamlets Council has gone up from one to three. But the wider local community has reason to nod with a certain satisfaction, given what Cllr Islam has said about the party he has ditched: ‘I have been more and more frustrated with Respect, which offers little in the way of policies, direction or service to the community in Tower Hamlets… I reject the idea of dividing the local community for political gain, which is what I believe Respect are effectively doing.’  And as he told the East London Advertiser, ‘Respect is not a party that can deliver, especially when its elected MP [George Galloway] is hardly visible in his constituency, leaving those who voted for him neglected.’

Indeed, many voters in East London who were wooed by Respect’s enthusiastic youth squads and Gorgeous George’s  barnstorming electioneering style now rue the day. Respect hoovered up Muslim votes, in particular, during the 2004 Euro-elections and the 2005 general election in Tower Hamlets and parts of Newham, pushing the Liberal Democrats down into fourth place in the process. But subsequently, the MP for Bethnal Green and Bow outraged many of those same Muslims by his antics on Big Brother, and left many other voters feeling let down, as he gave the impression of being interested in furthering his media career. Moreover, the weird coalition between radical Muslims and the Socialist Workers Party (which is what Respect largely was at its outset in East London) could never hold together. So perhaps Cllr Islam’s defection will prove to be the beginning of the end. Watch this space.

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Cable Vision

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 5th May, 2007

vince-cable.jpgWhile LibDems across the country were last night slumped in their armchairs, from exhaustion in victory or defeat, a group of us got together in a church hall on Twickenham Green, South West London, to hear Deputy Leader Vince Cable give his take on Thursday’s results. Given that he had been up until 5.30 in the morning, watching the returns come in, he was remarkably alert and lucid. As he said, the Party maybe needs to learn how to manage expectations better. The outcome of the elections was indeed very mixed, with some real highs and some definite lows. I guess the pervasive feeling of disappointment has arisen from the hope that we would make an incremental advance, whereas essentially we stood still, at least in terms of the popular vote.

We still have a problem with low public recognition of some of our best parliamentary talent, Vince being a prime example. He is listened to with respect in the House, where his extensive hinterland in industry (notably Shell) and in academia is appreciated. Less well known is that many years ago, when he was a young Socialist, he worked with Gordon Brown on a book, so he has had nearly three decades of keeping an eye on our putative next Prime Minister, the last ten from the Opposition benches as MP for Twickenham. With his sound economic background and several interesting tax-cutting measures up his sleeve, he can be expected to keep Brown on his toes in the months and years to come and, one hopes, raise both his profile and that of the party in the process.


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