Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Alan Paton’

David Steel’s Golden Orpington Dinner

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 11th March, 2015

Each year the National Liberal Club in Westminster hosts a fundraising dinner for Liberal Democrat by-elections, named after one of the most famous of all: Orpington, seized from the Conservatives by the then Eric Lubbock in 1962. But last night’s over-subscribed David SteelOrpington dinner had a special slant as it marked the 50th anniversary of David Steel’s victory at a by-election in Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles. Steel went on to become Leader of the Liberal Party, a presiding officer of the Scottish Parliament and an active member of the House of Lords. But in the tributes to him in speeches from such luminaries as (Baroness) Shirley Williams and (Lord) Jim Wallace, it was David’s internationalism that was highlighted, including his role in the anti-apartheid struggle. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg used the opportunity to make the most political speech of all, rallying support for the current general election campaign, while stressing the need for Liberalism in a worryingly illiberal world. When David Steel first told the then Liberal Party to “prepare for government” he was much mocked, but Nick was able to say realistically last night “prepare for government — again!”. But for many at the dinner, the most stirring quotation was from the late Alan Paton’s classic South African novel Cry, the Beloved Country: “By Liberalism, I don;t mean the creed of any country. I mean a generosity of spirit, a tolerance of others, an attempt to comprehend otherness, a commitment to the rule of law, a high ideal of the dignity and worth of man, a repugnance of authoritarianism and a love of freedom.”

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South Africa’s Democratic Alliance

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 15th November, 2010

The Liberal International Executive Committee that has ended in Cape Town was hosted by South Africa’s Democratic Alliance — the country’s Liberal force that has had even more transmutations and name changes than Britain’s Liberal Democrats. I’ve been following the South African Liberals’ fortunes since the days of Alan Paton and the termination of the old Liberal Party because it was multiracial. For years, the late Helen Suzman was the sole voice of reason in the apartheid era’s whites-only parliament and I was pleased to meet her when I was a young man (before one of my own books was banned and it was deemed wiser I stay out of the country). At the LI Executive at the weekend, it was good to see Colin Eglin — a former party leader, now quite advanced in years — chairing an excellent session in the Old Parliament Chamber, at which some of the Democratc Alliance’s bright talents (of all racial groups) spoke about their role both in government (in the Western Cape Province, which the DA controls, as well as the city of Cape Town) and in opposition in the federal parliament. These days, though, the party has 67 members of parliament, making it the official opposition to the ANC-led government and it is keeping up the good fight in favour of human rights, genuine democracy and against coruption. Its impressive leader is former journalist Helen Zille, who is Premier of the Western Cape. She hosted a reception for the LI Executive and African Liberal Network delegates in the grounds of her official residence on Saturday evening — a delightful occasion, despite the chilly weather that had even our hostess sniffling.


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