Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Archive for May, 2009

The Last Furlong

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 31st May, 2009

LibDem vote on 4 JuneThis lunchtime I addressed about a thousand Spanish-speaking Latin Americans at the Fusion leisure centre in Elephant and Castle in South London, alongside Jean Lambert (the current Green MEP) and a Filipino independent. Interesting how both the Tories and Labour seem to have given up on the European elections. This is the fourth hustings in a row at which the Tories have failed to field a candidate, and the third at which there has been a Labour no-show. What are they afraid of?

Meanwhile, it was good to see The Observer coming out clearly in an editorial today, advising people to vote LibDem on 4 June. That recommendation is both because the party has the only credible agenda for real engagement with our partners in the European Union, but also because Nick Clegg has set out a plausible schema for the sort of radical reform that the British political system needs. Politics in this country is indeed broken, as Nick has been arguing for ages, long before all the expenses sleaze stuff oozed out. Roy Jenkins must be chuckling in his grave now that the public realises that it really is time to break the mould.


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LibDems Leapfrog Labour in both National and Euro-election Polls

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 30th May, 2009

There’s grim news for Labour in tomorrow’s Sunday Telegraph, which publishes an ICM poll that predicts that the LibDems would push Labour well into third place if there were a general election tomorrow — and, more significantly, will do so in the real-time European elections on Thursday. This certainly confirms the message I’ve been getting on the doorstep in London, though with the political atmosphere so volatile at the moment, it would be rash to take anything for granted. This time next week, we will know the true picture, as the UK will announce its Euro-election results when polls close in those continental EU member states which vote on Sundays.

According to the ICM poll, voting intentions nationwide for the Euros in the UK are as follows: Conservatives 29%, LibDems 20%, Labour 17%, Green 11%, UKIP 10%, BNP 5%.

The figures relating to a hypothetical general election are even more striking: Conservatives 40%, LibDems 25%, Labour 22%. Even under Britain’s distorting first-past-the-post electoral system used in national elections, that would really change the political landscape.


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Frying Tonight

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 30th May, 2009

Stephen FryI’m increasingly being asked, ‘So, what are you going to do after the election, then?’, to which the obvious response is: ‘that depends on the result!’ But because the UK votes on Thursday, whereas most of the Continent only goes to the polls at the weekend, the results of the European elections won’t be known in London until Sunday evening. Which leaves a hiatus of  almost three days.

 Jonathan Fryer 017The Friday plan is easy, as it’s my birthday and I’ll have to clear all the accumulated clutter from the house in preparation for an early evening party for my fellow candidates and election team, to thank them for all their hard work (which is still going on!). But Saturday is more ‘exotic’ and totally non-political, as Stephen Fry and I — both Patrons of the Oscar Wilde Society — have a long-standing engagement to perform at ‘Oscance’: the 125th anniversary of the wedding of Oscar Wilde to Constance Lloyd, at St James Paddington, compered by the broadcaster Christopher Cook. Stephen will be interviweed about playing Oscar in the film ‘Wilde’, as well as reading the story ‘The Young King’. I will be reading passages relating to the theme ‘Wilde about London’.

Tickets for the event are available only through advance booking, for a donation of a minimum of £15 each (the Church is raising funds to erect a beautiful screen in Wilde’s memory), available from Oscance, 39 Westbourne Gardens, London W2 5NR. Bookings asap. The performance is on Saturday, 6 June, starting at 3pm, with sparkling wine and canapés.


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Questions for Cash

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 29th May, 2009

Bill Cash‘Cash for Questions’  tarnished the reputation of the last Conservative government in Britain, but this morning, it is Questions for Cash that must be putting party leader David Cameron off his cornflakes, in the latest epsiode of the seemingly endless Daily Telegraph saga of expenses abuse in the House of Commons. According to the newspaper’s newest revelations, the Stafforshire MP and arch Euro-sceptic, Bill Cash, paid his daughter £15,000 in rent for a flat, as a supposed ‘second home’, despite owning one himself nearer Parliament. Mr Cash is a wealthy man in his own right, but this didn’t stop him apparently milking the system. He says he broke no rules, and I believe him; it is abundantly clear by now that the rules, put in place during Mrs Thatcher’s reign, are a licence to top up one’s salary and — as we have seen from the whole sorry soap opera, from Derek Conway onwards — to help one’s family out at the same time.

When such things happen in Africa — admittedly often on a much larger scale — we call this corruption and nepotism. I am not suggesting that this is what Mr Cash and his colleagues — on both sides of the House — have been knowingly involved in, but increasingly that is the impression that the British public is getting. It is indeed an urgent necessity, as Nick Clegg argued in the Guardian yesterday, for MPs to get their house in order, renouncing their long summer recess, if needs be, until things are sorted out through the introduction of sweeping reforms. It is not just the reputation of individual MPs that is at stake, but the very credibility of British democracy. Like a rotting carcass, the Westminster system has exploded, scattering its putrid entrails far and wide.

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Former Libertas Director Switches Sides on Lisbon Treaty

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 27th May, 2009

Naoise NunnThe former Executive Director of Libertas, Naoise Nunn, who managed the successful ‘No’ campaign in Ireland’s referendum on the EU Lisbon Treaty last year, tonight declared in a BBC Newsnight interview that circumstances have changed, and that he now thinks Ireland should and probably will vote ‘yes’ when there is a rerun of the referendum, probably in the autumn. As he told political correspondent David Grossman, given changed economic circumstances, Ireland is now not in a position to hold up the European project and to thumb its nose at its EU partners. So this time, he’ll be urging his countrymen to vote ‘yes’. Doesn’t this rather pull the rug out from under the feet of the Libertas Euro-election campaign here in the UK? Not to mention the absurd posturing from David Cameron, whose strident calls for a UK  referendum on the Lisbon Treaty is starting to look as shop-soiled as his predecessor William Hague’s pathetic ‘Save the Pound!’ strategy a few years ago.


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The Liberal Democrats’ European Election Site

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 27th May, 2009

Euro-manifesto gifA quick and easy way to see what the Liberal Democrats are standing for in the European elections — as the only mainstream party that is genuinely constructively engaged with the European Union — is to log on to the party’s European election website: . Amongst other things, this gives access to the manifesto and sets out the three main policy points the LibDems are focussing on: closer cooperation with our European partners on getting out of the economic recession, working together to combat climate change and other environmental challenges, and tackling cross-border crime such as people-trafficking, drugs-trafficking and terrorism, but without undermining civil liberties in the way the curent Labour government is doing.


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The Christian Peoples Alliance Is So Wrong on Europe

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 26th May, 2009

Christian Peoples AllianceIn various parts of East London, where I live, there are huge billboards proclaiming that voting for the tiny Christian Peoples Alliance (CPA) in the European elections is the surest way of stopping the BNP getting seats in the European Parliament. Alas, exactly the opposite is the case. The CPA hasn’t a cat in heaven’s chance of winning a seat at the European level (in London, they would need up to 10% of the total vote share to do that). Moreover, because of the particular method of proportional representation in use in the UK, voting CPA would not only be throwing votes away, it could actually make it easier for the BNP to get in; what is crucial in the electoral mathematics is that the Liberal Democrats get at least twice as many votes as the BNP or any other fringe group. The CPA is also falling into the trap that Labour has engineered of ‘talking up’ the BNP, in the hope of boosting its own chances.

I received an election address from the CPA today. Their slogan ‘For Honesty and Integrity in Politics’ is both apt and timely. But I am horrified by the use of the Cross as their election symbol and that their most prominent policy commitment is to a ‘Christian Europe’, in which there should be a ‘recognition that Christianity brought Europe the freedom, the culture and the values that we must return to’.  What about Ancient Greece and pre-Christian Rome? Moorish Andalucia? The cultural imput of the Jewish diaspora? Or the fact that London owes much of its current vibrancy to its religious and ethnic diversity, as well as to the important contribution of secularism? I am sure many CPA candidates and supporters are working from the purest of motives, but their message strikes me as way off the mark.

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Singing in the Rain

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 26th May, 2009

I had a photocall with the Ham & High newspaper at nine o’clock this morning, outside the Methodist Church in Middle Lane, Hornsey, which will be hosting an all-party Euro-hustings on Thursday evening. I found the photographer sheltering under a tree, then I had to get my tie and rosette on, while delicately balancing an umbrella against the rain. As the photographer wanted a happy shot, I had to grin and bear it — all a big contrast to the joys of campaigning in a warm, sunny Soho yesterday afternoon. It looked as though I was going to be the only candidate to brave the elements for this morning’s photocall, but just as we were about to leave, the Green, Ute Michel, turned up. One can only hope there will be a more complete line-up on the night.

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The Mystery of the Tory Euro-literature That Didn’t Arrive

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 24th May, 2009

David CameronOver the past few days, postal voters across London have been putting their crosses on their ballot papers and sending them off — but not a few are puzzled that they have had no European election  literature from the Conservatives. That’s true where I live in Tower Hamlets, for example: we’ve had leaflets from the LibDems and from Labour, and from a whole dolly-mixture of fringe parties, but nothing from the Tories. Rumour has it that this is because the Conservatives printed their election address in the wrong format, and the Royal Mail is refusing to deliver it, unless they are paid a premium mark-up. Can anyone elucidate further?

The other evening, as postal ballots were arriving in my area, a small group of Tory activists was standing outside Mile End tube station leafleting, though the reception they were getting from the punters was cool. They looked endearingly grateful when I actually asked for one of their handouts — but I was astonished to see that is was all about Boris Johnson and his record during the first year of his London Mayoralty. Not a word about the European elections on the 4th of June. What is going on here?

Mind you, it is probably a good thing that Tory Euro-literature isn’t getting to the voters, as it might depress the party’s performance even more. David Cameron seems to have little to offer the electorate except the promise of a retrospective referendum on the Lisbon Treaty (how about truly important matters such as European cooperation to get us out of the economic crisis, to combat climate change or to tackle cross-border crime?) and a pledge to leave the largest group in the European Parliament, the EPP (Christian Democrats/Conservatives), to link up with some tiny, anti-gypsy, homophobic right-wing parties from Poland and the Czech Republic. Bizarre.

(P.S. I tried to get an official photo of Conservative Party leader David Cameron to illustrate this piece from the party’s photo gallery website, but Google informed me that it was not available because ‘there is a probem with this website’s security certificate’)

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Getting out the Postal Vote

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 23rd May, 2009

Euro-election phone bankPostal votes for the European elections have been landing on people’s doormats over the past few days. Mine was hand-delivered to the house today (here in Tower Hamlets there have been so many scandals about postal votes being purloined in the past that the Council is trying to make things safer). When I attended a big dinner with Nick Clegg and Ed Davey MP in Tolworth (Kingston and Surbiton) last night, several people told me they had already put their cross next to the Liberal Democrat box and sent off their ballot paper (which is longer than any laundry list, but figures several distinctly soiled items). I will be putting mine in the postbox on my way to a TV studio to do a live programme this evening.

This afternoon, between doing a Hackney against the BNP ‘speed-candidating’ session in Stoke Newington — in which voters were able to spend a couple of minutes one-to-one with eight different candidates — and canvassing in Walthamstow, I popped in to the LibDem HQ at Cowley Street to see how the phone bank operation is going there: all through the Bank Holiday weekend, a dedicated team of volunteers is phoning round our supporters with postal votes in strong areas to make sure they get their votes sent off. This is really an election in which every vote will count. Anyone who would like to help can email for details.

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