Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Michael Cashman at the NLC

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 31st July, 2020

Michael Cashman at the NLCThe National Liberal Club held its first post-lockdown event in situ last night, chaired by Val Stansfield, when actor and Crossbench peer Michael Cashman came to speak about his life and his recently published memoir One of Them (which I will soon be reviewing). A small group of us sat with him socially distanced in the Dadabhai Naoroji Room while others joined the event via Zoom. Lord Cashman — who is almost my exact contemporary — grew up in Limehouse near the River Thames in a working class family and never got any O-levels. Instead, he became a child actor, notably as one of Fagin’s Boys in Lionel Bart’s musical Oliver! He realised at an early age that he was gay and was introduced to the underground club scene in Soho when homosexuality was still illegal. A sense of outrage at the injustice of such discrimination, especially over the Thatcher government’s notorious Section 28 in 1988 banning local authorities from “intentionally promoting” homosexuality, fired him into political action. He was one of the founders of the campaign group Stonewall the following year. He played one of the characters in the BBC’s popular soap opera Eastenders, sending the right wing homophobe Press into overdrive by giving the show’s first ever gay kiss — actually, just a peck on the forehead. He became increasingly involved in Labour Party politics and was successfully elected as an MEP for the West Midlands (1999-2014) being a spokesman on human rights and working on the Cotonou Agreement between the EU and countries of Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific. In 2014 he was made a life peer, but he later left Labour over Jeremy Corbyn. He is now living back in Limehouse, though that is a very different place today from what it was half a century ago. After the talk and Q&A some of us were able to eat a delicious summer salmon supper on the NLC’s magnificent terrace overlooking the Thames, savouring the balmy evening.

One Response to “Michael Cashman at the NLC”

  1. Interesting that he has not gone back to Labour after Keir Starmer’s election. Did he say anything about why he is still a crossbencher?

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