Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Archive for February 17th, 2012

St Matthew’s Epistle on the Economy

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 17th February, 2012

Since Matthew Oakeshott stood down as the Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman in the House of Lords — almost exactly a year ago — he has enjoyed the luxury of saying exactly what he thinks about the way the Coalition government is approaching the ongoing financial and economic crisis, not least regarding the shortcomings of the Project Merlin approach to banks which have not been lending enough to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which would be a key element in any sustainable recovery. He has thus attracted a great deal of media attention. In fact, it has been rather useful for the LibDems to have Matthew as an ‘insider-outsider’, with a proven track record in investment management in the City (particularly relating to property), as he is able to speak out about issues in a way that no LibDem Minister could. Matthew comes from the Social Democrat branch of the Liberal Democrat family and still holds his one-time boss and mentor, the late Roy Jenkins, in high regard. He is an enthusiastic supporter of Vince Cable’s proposed ‘mansion tax’ (a tax on homes worth more than £2 million pounds) as a step in the direction of moving taxation away solely from earned income towards wealth. Indeed, a substantial chunk of his speech at tonight’s dinner of the Gladstone Club, at the National Liberal Club, was about taxation, as well as broader financial and economic issues. He said he was a supporter of the Coalition Agreement, but he does not think it has been totally adhered to. And he was very pleased about the work of the Vickers Commission on Banking, but obviously feels more needs to be implemented. Matthew is an ardent European, but interestingly told the Gladstone Club dinner that he thought that Greece ought to be allowed to leave the eurozone and then devalue.


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Kosovo, the Precocious 4-year-old

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 17th February, 2012

The Corinthia Hotel off Whitehall this lunchtime hosted a reception in honour of the 4th anniversary of independence of the Republic of Kosovo, the state that seceded from Serbia after a bitter conflict in which NATO convinced Belgrade by military means to release its iron grip. Many Serbs are still bitter about this, but the predominantly ethnic Albanian Kosovans are jubiliant, and as far as the latter are concerned, the ‘war of liberation’ and the NATO action against Serbia was one of the high points of British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s tenure in office. In case anyone had forgotten the human misery of the conflict — and the related issues of ethnic cleansing — there were powerful images on show at the Kosovan National Day celebrations. I had forgotten just how prominent the Independent newspaper had been in highlighting what was going on then, not least through its correspondent Robert Fisk — better know for his coverage of the Middle East. Anyway, there was a large and distinguished turnout today at the reception, at which both the Ambassador, Muhamet Hamiti, and the British academic and writer Noel Malcolm, spoke, and it was pointed out that now just over half of the member countries of the United Nations now recognise Kosovo as an independent state, despite Serbia’s virulent object. It was interesting talking to some of the ethnic Albanian Kosovans present to hear that they (representative or not) would like Kosovo eventually to merge with Albania, but as I pointed out, if the European Union expands further to take in the Western Balkans, perhaps such a union would not be necessary? Anyway, it is not for a Brit to determine the future of the people of the region. But it would be useful if they could all agree on what the path ahead should be.


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