Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Archive for December 8th, 2009

In the Bowels of the National Liberal Club

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 8th December, 2009

I have been a member of the National Liberal Club for over 25 years, but I never realised that underneath the cavernous basement reception rooms there is another subterranean layer which has recently been turned into an upmarket, ultramodern (if narrow) entertainment suite: the wine cellar. The Biographers Club (which likes to try fresh venues each year) held its Christmas party there tonight, bringing together writers, publishers and agents not just to bemoan the state of the biography book market (other than celebrity stuff, of course), but also to rejoice in the fact that a literary culture still exists in London nonetheless. Indeed, Britain produces more books each year than any other country on earth; no wonder most of them sell so few copies. But it’s true that most biographers are dedicated, even obsessive, creatures, who spend most of their time in reference libraries or at home in front of their computers, rarely socialising except at events such as this. I guess I am something of an exception, juggling the biographer’s craft with an active politico-social life. But I am Gemini, after all. At least, that’s my excuse.


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What Is Respect up to in Tower Hamlets?

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 8th December, 2009

Since the heyday of Respect, when it got George Galloway elected as MP for Bethnal Green and Bow in 2005 and became the official opposition on Tower Hamlets council one year later, the party has been in the doldrums. Mr Galloway’s reputation took a nosedive as he donned a red leotard and pretended to be a cat in the Big Brother house, and a whole raft of Respect councillors later defected to Labour and the Conservatives (sic). Indeed, rather like the rival Palestinian factions in the classic movie, ‘The Life of Brian’, the party then split into two pieces, each claiming to be the keeper of the true flame, which has left all but those at the centre of things at a loss to know what Respect really is these days and what it stands for. But now the party has a new rallying point, which it hopes will help it rise like a phoenix from the ashes: a referendum for a directly elected mayor in Tower Hamlets. There already is one in neighbouring Newham, Labour’s Sir Robin Wales, but presumably Respect is hoping that it could win a mayoral contest in our scandal-torn borough. And who would be their candidate? Everyone is assuming it would be George Galloway. ‘Gorgeous’ George is standing down from Bethnal Green and Bow at the forthcoming general election and moving over to my home seat of Poplar and Canning Town. But assuming he doesn’t win here, a mayoral contest a few months later would suit the party nicely, to have him bear its standard. So the party has been collecting signatures on a petition to move to a mayoral system. As 7,000 of the 17,000 signatures collected were reportedly inelligible, because the people did not fill in their full names or else did not live in the borough, one hopes that Respect will be a little more careful when it comes to filling in George’s nomination papers. It’s all a bit of a fiasco, but at least he adds to the gaiety of the nation.

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