Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Anthony Lester’

Julia Neuberger Champions Volunteering

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 28th January, 2010

The Liberal Democrat peer, Rabbi Julia Neuberger, was the guest speaker at Islington LibDems’ pizza and politics last night. The original idea had been that she would be interviewed by the Leader of Islington Council, Terry Stacy, but he was bedridden with flu. In the discussion, Baroness Neuberger was asked how she got on as an advisor to the Labour government a while back, when Gordon Brown was trying to assemble a government of all the talents, or GOATs (as opposed to the sheep that make up most of his Cabinet). She said that her personal relationship with the Prime Minister was good, having worked with him professionally on various issues when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer, and her experience as an advisor was happier than that of her fellow LibDem peer Anthony Lester, QC. Perhaps, she surmised, this was largely because there was much greater consensus on the topic of her consultancy: volunteering. She is a strong advocate of the value of volunteering, not last within the National Health Service, and she believes that it will inevitably take on a more important role as our population ages, meaning more frail elderly in need of personal care, but also more fit older people with time on their hands. She also underlined the success of one project she had been involved in, which was to encourage government departments to allow their civil servants to volunteer in working time. This had greatly improved their job satisfaction and performance, she said.


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Tesco’s Public Relations Disaster

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 30th April, 2008

Tesco’s has a love-hate relationship with the Liberal Democrats that is symptomatic of the ambiguous intercourse the company enjoys with both the public and the media. On several occasions, Tesco’s has generously sponsored receptions at LibDem Party conferences, a gesture much appreciated by those attending. And I’m sure I am only one of hundreds of thousands of LibDem members and supporters who have a Tesco ClubCard and regularly shop in its stores. So I am paticularly dismayed that at times the company pursues a line of action that offends my Liberal principles.

Domestically, that is sometimes related to the systematic acquisition of land, partly to keep it out of the hands of competitors. At other times, it is the stifling effect Tesco super-stores have on neighbourhood shops. Moreover, Tesco’s offshore tax structures have raised some LibDem eyebrows — and landed the Guardian with a libel suit for alleged false reporting of the situation.

But the reason I am moved to blog about a company that I otherwise value is its lunatic decision to sue three of its critics in Thailand for grossly disproportionate amounts of money. I cannot comment on the accuracy of the newspaper columns which provoked Tesco’s ire, and I understand the wish of any enterprise to defend its reputation, but I concur absolutely with the decision of leading fellow members of the writers’ organisation, English PEN, that Tesco’s response to the criticism is more than taking a sledgehammer to crack a nut: it is an assault on freedom of speech. If the defendants in the Thai libel cases are found guilty (under a pretty draconian law, which probably itself needs revising), they risk prison or massive fines, which will bankrupt them. The President and Director of English PEN, Lisa Appignanesi and Jonathan Heawood, as well as the LibDem peer Anthony Lester and leading authors Mark Haddon, Nick Hornby, Marina Lewycka and Deborah Moggach, have written an eloquent letter of concern to Tesco’s CEO, Sir Terry Leahy, urging the company to drop these actions. I like Sir Terry and in general I like Tesco’s, so I hope they will take heed. Surely they can see that this is a public relations disaster? You can read further details in today’s Guardian, or in Lisa Appignanesi’s piece on Comment Is Free.


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