Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Andrew Stunell’

Hackney Stunelled

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 18th January, 2012

Though Europe is often cited as the most contentious issue between the Conservative and Liberal Democrat Coalition Government partners, another important area of divergence is multiculturalism. David Cameron famously used a speech in Germany to suggest that multiculturalism in Britain has failed, by stressing people’s differences rather than what unites them. But that prompted Nick Clegg to speak up for multiculturalism while on a visit to Luton. One thing the two governing parties are agreed on, however, is that the previous Labour administration’s ‘Prevent’ programme was deeply flawed. I said as much when it was introduced; not just because the name was itself was so negative, but also because it risked stigmatising the entire Muslim community in Britain by false association, i.e. the most likely sources of terrorism in Britain are those communities with the highest proportions of Muslim population. Andrew Stunell, junior Minister within the Department of Local Government and Communities, with special responsiblity for race relations and community cohesion, helpfully defined his own views on the matter at a Pizza and Politics event put on by Hackney Liberal Democrats in Shoreditch this evening. He acknowledged that his own home area of Stockport in Greater Manchester — one of the least racially diverse areas of the North West — had received a grant under Prevent, but the money was usefully spent on an adventure playground. Far more diverse Bradford, over the Pennines, interestingly refused to have anything to do with the programme. Anyway, under the new government, matters have been finessed and it was very helpful to have additional insights from local Hackney Councillor Dawood Akhoon (a Muslim who represents his LibDem ward alongside two Orthodox Jews), Akeela Ahmed, who has been involved with a helpline for young Muslims having diffiulties dealing with personal issues within their own community, and Jamie Bartlett from Demos. The danger was acknowledged of blithely referring to ‘Islamic terrorism’ (as so often is the case in the media), but a valid point was also made by Councillor Farooq Qureshi from Waltham Forest that it is wrong to denounce all Wahabis as extremists. I know that peronally, having encountered all types of Wahabis, from the most conservative in Saudi Arabia to distinctly open-minded in Qatar. The evening’s discussion was rich, including far more than can be encompassed in a short blog post. So I was really pleased to see that the whole event was being live-streamed by video so that people who were not physically present could actually follow the discussion — an example which could usefully be followed by other LibDem Pizza and Politics evenings and their equivalents.


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Andrew Stunell’s Hot Potato

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 19th January, 2011

Andrew Stunell, Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (and LibDem MP for Hazel Grove), returned to his South-West London roots this evening when he spoke to a Richmond Liberal Democrats Potato and Politics in the Vestry Hall in Paradise Road. He laid out the achievements that the Liberal Democrat partners in the Coaliti0n Government had scored, but this did not stop the audience of local party members putting some pretty tough questions to him, particularly relating to social housing, planning, benefits and health. Andrew stressed repeatedly that the government had to tackle the appalling financial situation it inherited from Labour. We are still having to borrow £400 million a day to close the gap between spending and revenue, he said, which helps put the cuts into perspective. He felt bitter about the way the Guardian in particular has really gone for the jugular in its reporting of the Coalition, and especially the LibDems, which I felt was fair comment, even though I sometimes write for that august organ! He pointed out that 200-odd points out of 300-odd points in the last Liberal Democrat manifesto had made it into the Coalition Agreement. Almost evey week there is a ‘win’, even if some of the Labour-leaning Press concentrates on the negatives. I cheekily asked him how he got on with his Minister, Eric Pickles, but apparently another Guardian journalist had asked him the same question over lunch and his answer to me was distinctly coy. All in all a robust performance, nonetheless, even if no everyone in the room left totally mollified.

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