Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Archive for March, 2017

Standing up to Terrorism

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 24th March, 2017

Westminster Bridge attackAs the Metropolitan Police had been warning for months that there would almost certainly be a terrorist attack in a London, following those in Paris and Brussels, the Westminster outrage should not have been a shock, but of course it was. Nothing can truly prepare one for the random carnage caused by pure hate. For everyone directly or indirectly affected by the assault its repercussions are bound to be traumatic, and even though the death toll was mercifully lower than in incidents in France, Belgium and Germany, every life lost or person seriously injured is one too many. There were three aspects to the Westminster attack that seemed destined to inflict the maximum psychological damage. Firstly, the random nature of running into pedestrians (including young tourists) on Westminster Bridge, the symbolic heart of London as a visitor destination. Secondly, the fatal stabbing of a policeman, someone serving in the line of duty to protect the public. And thirdly the targeting of Parliament itself, the centre point of British democracy. Whoever planned the outrage (on the first anniversary of the Brussels attacks) has clearly thought it through. But that should not make us panic, or indeed make us cowed. For years Londoners got on with their lives when the IRA bombing campaign was happening; every waste bin was suspect and many were sealed as a defensive measure. The best response to the latest threat is to keep calm and carry on, while championing the values that underpin our society. That means eschewing ethnic or religious profiling in our daily lives; the idiot who posted “Kill All Muslims!” as a reaction on his Facebook page has been promptly un-friended. On Saturday, a big March for Europe is planned for people who believe Britain is better off inside the European Union. I think the Westminster attack makes it all the more important for that message of solidarity among Europeans (of whatever ethnicity) to be heard loud and clear.

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Thank God for Angela Merkel

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 18th March, 2017

Angela Merkel 1The photos of German Chancellor Angela Merkel with Donald Trump at the White House are priceless, her quizzical frown communicating more than any words, “What a chump!” And what a contrast with Theresa May, who rushed off to Washington in unseemly haste, ending up in an embarrassing hand-holding with the President. Not that that has done the British Prime Minister much good, as Mr Trump has since made clear that after Brexit the United States will be putting greater emphasis on Ireland as the anglophone doorway into the European Union. But the contrast between Frau Merkel and Mr Trump is at least as stark, as she can really claim to be the face of Western leadership, whereas he is a clown, so unaware of diplomatic procedures that he placed his designer daughter Ivanka next to Angela Merkel at the official bilateral talks. I am not of the same political family as Frau Merkel but as a true European I am glad she is where she is, offering a beacon of good sense in a world that otherwise seems to have gone mad.

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Literature in Britain Today

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 5th March, 2017

j-k-rowlingrsl-logoLiterature does not enjoy the same status in Britain as it does just over the Channel in France, for example. Maybe that partly explains why politicians are far more eager to talk about football in public than about books. Yet a new survey published by the Royal Society for Literature (RSL) this week suggests that three quarters of the British public does read literature (they were allowed to define for themselves what is meant by “literature”) and a significant proportion would like to be able to read more. More women than men consume literature, as apparently do white British rather than ethnic minorities; the fact that more highly educated Brits read more than those with minimal qualifications is hardly surprising. The most common reason given for not reading more is lack of time, though some people said they wished books were cheaper — a problematic response for the RSL as writers need to be able to make a decent living if literature is going to continue to be produced. In reality, according to an earlier survey carried out for the Authors Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS) writers’ annual incomes have fallen in recent years, to an average of just £11,000. The general public is more aware that a few authors such as J.K.Rowling earn millions, which is the exception rather than the rule. Interestingly, Harry Potter’s creator figured third behind Shakespeare and Dickens in the list of authors cited by respondents to the RSL survey as being “literature”. Otherwise that list of writers was encouraging eclectic, including a sizable proportion of foreign writers. But for me the single most encouraging thing about the RSL survey’s findings was that far from reducing people’s interest in reading literature, using the Internet seems to stimulate it.

 

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