Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Birmingham Ladywood’

Why Lewisham East Matters

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 28th May, 2018

Lewisham EastParliamentary by-elections are the cup-cakes of political nerds and I have followed them closely since my early teens. I cut my political teeth as an 18-year-old sub-agent in the Birmingham Ladywood by-election in 1969 (which Wallace Lawler won for the then Liberal Party) and I have lost count of all the by-election campaigns I’ve helped in since. So naturally I’ve been heading down to Lewisham East ever since a by-election was called there, following the resignation of Labour MP Heidi Alexander to take up a job as a Deputy Mayor for London. Based on the 2017 figures one might imagine that Labour will walk it in the by-election, though the Liberal Democrats came a very strong second in 2010. But this is no normal by-election. As Leaving the EU Day (March 2019) looms, this is being seen as a Brexit litmus test, with the LibDems rallying Remainers behind the talented local candidate, Lucy Salek, in what was an overwhelmingly Remain constituency in the 2016 EU Referendum. More specifically, it is an opportunity for voters in Lewisham East to pass their verdict on Labour’s policy on Brexit. Despite repeated opinion polls showing that a majority of Labour members believe leaving the EU is a mistake, Jeremy Corbyn stubbornly persists in underwriting the Conservative government’s Brexit. Ideally there will be a People’s Vote on the final deal Mrs May and her team reach with Brussels, but in the meantime the Lewisham East by-election is the best opportunity to send a message to Mr Corbyn, as well as to the Prime Minister. That’s why so many of us, including party leader, Vince Cable, have been heading there often. Labour called the by-election quickly, with polling on 14 June; the Brent East by-election 15 years ago showed them that having a long campaign allows the LibDems to build up steam. They lost Brent East and if enough of a momentum builds up over the next fortnight in Lewisham East, they could get a shock there too.

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Posted in Brexit, Liberal Democrats, UK politics, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

The Liberal Democrats’ Special Conference

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 16th May, 2010

The Liberal Democrats’ historic special conference, to endorse the coalition government deal, had an added twist for me, as it was held in Birmingham (well, at the National Exhibition Centre on the outskirts of the city, to be precise). Although I was born a Mancunian and have long been a Londoner by adoption, I cut my political teeth in Birmingham, as a very young sub-agent in the Birmingham Ladywood by-election in the Spring of 1969. To most people’s surprise, we won, though as I have discovered since, not least in my repeated attempts to get into the European Parliament, winning elections as a Liberal/Liberal Demcrat is not always easy. So why am I still active four decades later? The answer was in the NEC hall today: not just one government Minister but a whole charabanc full, who wil be responsible for ensuring that the Liberal-Conservative coalition lives up to its promises. Already, several LibDem manifesto pledges have been implemented: cancelling ID cards and the associated National Identity Register, ending the incarceration of the children of asylum seekers, and scrapping the third Heathrow runway, to name but three, With Lynne Featherstone at the Home Office (Equalities) and Norman Baker at Transport, for example, we can expect the Liberal influence in policy to be strong.

What was particularly interesting about today’s special conference was that people from across the party spectrum spoke — often movingly (Simon Hughes got a standing ovation) — of why and how they had realised that going into an arrangement with the Conservatives was the best thing both for the party and for the country. Only about half a dozen conference reps voted against the motion endorsing the deal. There is a determination, shared by David Cameron and his more moderate MPs, to make this a truly progressive, reforming government. And that, will of course, include movement on electoral reform, with a largely or wholly-elected House of Lords (using PR), and a referendum on AV for House of Commons elections, with Nick Clegg personally spearheading the ‘yes’ campaign.

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