Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Alan Johnson’

UK Should Not Be a Hostile Environment

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 22nd April, 2018

Home Office billboardsIt’s hard to be optimistic about the state of Britain these days, not just because the country’s economic growth rate has sunk from the top of the OECD countries to the bottom as Brexit looms but also because of the tensions now evident in society. The EU Referendum result left the UK deeply divided, and those divisions have got worse, not better, as the months have gone by. Moreover, there has been a surge in xenophobic and racist incidents as an unpleasant minority within the British public has felt emboldened by the Brexit vote to tell foreigners to “go home” or to stop speaking languages other than English. Such actions should be recognised as hate crimes and dealt with accordingly.

May RuddBut what I find even more disturbing is the way that the Conservative government has encouraged such attitudes — cheered on by the more obnoxious elements of the mainstream Press. The latest shocking revelations about the way some members of the so-called Windrush Generation and their children (immigrants who were invited to come to Britain after the Second World War, to help rebuild the country and run essential services) have had their right to remain questioned by the Home Office, leading to some losing their jobs or their homes and being denied free medical care, while others have been put in detention centres or been deported, after living here for half a century. It is now clear that much of the blame for this rests on the shoulders of Theresa May, currently Prime Minister but previously Home Secretary. It was under her watch that the infamous vans went round telling “illegal” immigrants to go home, before they were withdrawn after a public outcry. And it is both Mrs May and the current Home Secretary Amber Rudd who have pursued a policy of promoting a “hostile environment” to people who allegedly should not be here.

Even some Labour Home Secretaries, such as the jovial Alan Johnson, used that terrible phrase sometimes. And it is hardly surprising that it has been embraced by those who dislike the multicultural reality of much of Britain today. But it is not only people of colour who are feeling the impact. Even EU citizens have been the brunt of attacks and nasty comments. No wonder some have left and that many others (some married to UK partners) are worried about their future. Mrs May and her ghastly government have failed to tackle this problem head on. Indeed, both by their words and their actions, they have encouraged it. That is why on 3 May those who live in an area holding elections use their vote to send a clear message to 10 Downing Street: this is not the Britain we believe in.

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Electoral Reform Society Conference

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 28th June, 2010

The political highlight of my weekend was down in the basement of the Mother’s Union in Westminster, alas hidden from the glorious summer weather, attending the annual conference of the Electoral Reform Society (ERS). The dedicated and indefatigable outgoing Chief Executive Ken Ritchie — who has given 13 years of sterling service to the organisation, though he will now probably be replaced by a more charismatic media performer — gave an excellent account of what ERS has been up to over the past 12 months, including some jolly japes on the Thames outside the Houses of Parliament, highlighting some of the many shortcomings of the UK political system. There was then a panel discussion on electoral reform — specifically referring to the referendum on the Alternative Vote (AV), which is expected in 2011. This panel brought together former Home Secretary Alan Johnson (the man I think ought to have been running for Labour leader at this time), the LibDems’ Deputy Leader Simon Hughes,  the London Green MEP Jean Lambert and a charming young man, Ryan Shorthouse (who really ought to be a LibDem) from the progressive Tory thinktank Bright Blue. No sign of Energy Secretary Chris Huhne (who had been earlier billed) or his new partner and ERS staff member Carina Trimingham. The central message from the panel was that however imperfect many of us may feel AV to be (in contrast to a more proportional system, such as STV), we have to campaign for it enthusiastically in the forthcoming referendum, otherwise the momentum for electoral reform will be lost for another generation.


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Chris Huhne’s Crystal Ball

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 1st July, 2009

Chris Huhne 3Labour could be heading for its worst general election defeat since 1931, according to Eastleigh MP and Liberal Democrat Shadow Home Secretary Chris Huhne, who was speaking at the annual dinner of Barnet LibDems at the National Liberal Club this evening. That election took place during the worst economic crisis previous to the one we are now in. Ramsay MacDonald’s government had proved unable to agree on how to get Britain out of the Great Depression, with a result that on Tuesday (sic) 27 October, 1931, the British electorate not only threw out Labour; it reduced the party to just 52 seats in the House of Commons — fewer than the Liberal Democrats have today. The Conservatives under Stanley Baldwin won by a landslide in seats, if not exactly in voters, though this was, interestingly, the last British general election at which the winning party garnered more than 50 per cent of the votes.

Does Gordon Brown have nighmares about being MacDonald Mark II, one wonders? Or is he too thick-skinned for that? From the bags under his eyes it would appear that he isn’t getting enough sleep, poor man, whatever the reason. But of course, Gordon Brown’s big worry is that Labour MPs will have another go at trying to get him out, possibly around the autumn party conference, in the hope that any other leader would lessen the number of likely losses next year. Chris believes — as I do — that Alan Johnson is the most likely victor in such a situation (David Miliband having funked it, not once but twice). The good thing about that is that Johnson favours a half-way decent form of proportional representation. Actually leading the Labour Party to victory in 2010 might be beyond the capabilities of any man (or woman), however. But David Cameron is not convincing enough to do a Stanley Baldwin and too many of his closest colleagues have emerged really badly from the Daily Telegraph expenses exposés. So, Labour is indeed likely to slump badly at the general election — but the beneficiaries won’t just be the Tories. LibDems can expect to pick up seats from Labour, not least in the North of England and probably a few in London too.


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The Man Who Can’t Say Sorry

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 14th April, 2009

gordon-brownThe Labour Party has found itself in a hole with the McBride affair, the dastardly plan to slander leading Conservative politicians with fabricated scandalous stories and sexual innuendo. So what does Gordon Brown, master of 10 Downing Street do? Dig deeper!  An unequivocal and sincere apology would have drawn a line under the affair, as the justly aggrieved Tory MP,  Nadine Dorries, has pointed out. But the dour Scottish premier cannot bring himself to say sorry, instead expressing a mealy-mouthed ‘regret’. Regret at his team being found out, one assumes. As the affair drags on, Brown sends out into public his henchmen, Alan Johnson and Hazel Blears, to face the media and the public. But they are not allowed to say sorry, either. The order not to show genuine remorse has clearly come from the top, and the British voters will draw their own, appropriate conclusions about the true nature of the Brown government.

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