Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Barking and Dagenham’

Flying the Flag, Politically

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 11th June, 2017

IMG_2486Last year, London Liberal Democrats took the sensible decision to get snap election candidates in place in all the seats that were not targets in the party’s overall strategy. Thus it was that I agreed to fight a seat that had the dubious distinction of being the least Liberal Democrat of all London seats: Dagenham &  Rainham, in East London/ Essex, straddling the boroughs of Barking & Dagenham and Havering. This was not unknown territory for me, as I had covered Havering in particular during various Euro-elections, which were fought on a London-wide basis, and had helped in by-elections in Barking & Dagenham, one of which we actually won. Moreover, my lecture circuit to women’s clubs and professional associations has often taken me to Rainham and other parts of Havering. Like most snap-election candidates, by the time April came, I assumed there was not going to be an election, but then Theresa May surprised us all, to what must now be her lasting regret. Rather to my relief, I enjoyed the campaign, which from my point of view was almost entirely media-focussed, and even if the constituency once again won the booby prize as far as LibDem votes were concerned, it was good to feel a sense of determination among both the Havering and the Newham, Barking & Dagenham local parties; both have, like their counterparts up and down the country, enjoyed a surge in LibDem membership over the past 12 months, so there is base on which to build for the 2018 London borough local elections, or even (Heaven forfend!) for another general election later this year. In the meantime, the flag was flown, and for those who rallied to it, both in Dagenham & Rainham and in the neighbouring seat of Barking, a huge thank you!

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Liberalising Barking and Dagenham

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 6th September, 2010

The good news in the London borough of Barking and Dagenham in May was that the BNP got wiped out. They lost every single councillor they had and party leader, Nick Griffin MEP, failed miserably in his attempt to seize the parliamentary seat of Barking from Margaret Hodge. But the bad news was that the borough became a one-party state, sharing with neighbouring Newham the ignominy of having a 100% Labour Council. That’s right, not a single opposition member. That can’t be good for democracy and it certainly isn’t good for the people of Barking & Dagenham. So it was with great pleasure that several members of the London Liberal Democrats’ regional executive joined local LibDem campaigners to launch a rejuvenated local party in the borough this evening. It’s not all that long ago that Eastbury ward in Barking was LibDem held, but unfortunately one of the councillors died and two moved away. However, the fightback starts here. And there will be plenty for local members and new recruits to do before the next round of local elections in 2014, given the likely AV referendum in May next year and the London Mayoral and London Assembly elections in 2012.

[photo courtesy of Mark Pack]

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We Don’t Want Nick Griffin in East London

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 17th November, 2009

The deluded voters of North West England who sent BNP leader Nick Griffin to Brussels as one of their MEPs in June must be disappointed that he has chosen to express his deep commitment to the area by putting forward his candidacy for the Westminister parliamentary seat of Barking in East London just five months later. Talk about carpet-bagging. The absurd thing is that the BNP is the official opposition to Labour on Barking and Dagenham borough council. They got in there not just because they capitalised on Labour’s failure to tackle some of the real problems in the area, but also because they shamelessly borrowed Liberal Democrat tactics of presenting themselves as community politicians, knocking on doors, seemingly caring about bread-and-butter issues, while keeping some of their more scary members and supporters of the streets. Could they really not find someone local to fight this parliamentary seat for them? Instead, they are going to parachute in their Great Leader, presumably in the hope that they will get lots of media attention. Probably they will, though it may not be helpful to their cause. Along with millions of other people, I watched Nick Griffin on Question Time the other week and was surprised, not by his deviousness and inconsistency, but that he came across as such a plonker.

When Oswald Mosley tried to woo the East End for his crypto-fascists he got the rough reception he deserved, and Nick Griffin deserves the same. It is also essential that all of the other parties, including the Liberal Democrats, choose strong candidates to fight this seat, not just to show the BNP leader up in hustings but also to give the disillusioned voters of Barking someone worthwhile to support.

 

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London’s European Election Results

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 9th June, 2009

London City HallNow that the dust has settled, one can take a rational view of the outcome of the European elections in London. The most striking thing for me is the way that Labour’s vote in the capital proved remarkably resilient, compared with the party’s performance in most of the rest of the country. Though they did lose one seat (almost inevitable with the reduction in the number of London seats from nine to eight), Labour retained a very strong second place. Moreover, they held on to a local council seat in a concurrent by-election in Prince’s ward, Lambeth, despite a swing there to the Liberal Democrats.

European flagsThe Conservatives proved once again that they are good at getting their vote out. They were obviously well organised, not only in strongholds such as Barnet and Bromley, but also in target boroughs such as Tower Hamlets. The Tories may not have much time for the European Union, but they certainly took these election seriously, treating them as a dry-run for the forthcoming general election and building up in areas in which they hope to make gains in the London local council elections next year.

In principle, the Liberal Democrats were doing the same. And indeed, this strategy worked well in held and target seats, which got plenty of literature and had concerted campaigns, including telephone knocking-up of postal voters and on polling day. The LibDems therefore performed strongly in the south-western ‘golden triangle’ of Richmond, Kingston and Sutton, excellently in Haringey, well in Camden, Lambeth (Streatham), Brent, Southwark, Islington etc, though apparently haemorrhaging some votes to the Greens. Up-and-coming boroughs like Waltham Forest did well in parts. But the black holes — mainly in the east and south east — fared poorly. An unavoidable challenge for the party in dealing with future London-wide PR election will be to build support and accurate data in boroughs such as Barking and Dagenham, Havering and Bexley. Interestingly, the BNP did best in those three boroughs, though overall the BNP vote was slightly down on its GLA percentage last year and the party came nowhere near winning a seat.

European parliament logoUKIP sank to fifth place, behind the Greens, though still hanging on to one MP. The Greens were justifiably pleased with their performance, though they still only got a little over 10 per cent, well below what some of the opinion polls were suggesting. London voters were spoilt for choice when it came to parties and independents to whom they could allocate a protest vote. Amongst the ragbag of little parties and independents, the one that stands out most is the Tamil independent, Jan Jananayagam, who garnered over 50,000 votes in a ballot-box extension of the Parliament Square demonstrations. It is interesting (though futile!) to speculate how the results might have been different in places with large Tamil communities, such as Sutton and Brent, had she not stood.

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