Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Brighton’

LibDems and the Creative Industries

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 16th September, 2018

Nik PowellThe LibDem Creative Network held an excellent event on the fringes of the Brighton autumn party conference last night, in an upstairs room at the Bar Broadway in Kemptown. There were two great speeches by producer Nik Powell, former Director of the National Film and Television School, and drummer Bob Henrit, who used to play with The Kinks. They both underlined what a disaster Brexit will be for the sector if it means a return to the bad old days of intrusive customs searches, carnets for instruments and other red tape. The creative industries contribute well over £70billion each year to the UK economy and the sector is growing faster than most others. But all that could be brought to a shuddering stop, before going into reverse, if there isn’t the free flow of actors, musicians and other artists between Britain and the Continent. No wonder there was such a sea of blue-and-yellow EU flags and 12-Star berets at the Last night of the Proms. To undermine the sector really would kill the goose that has been laying the golden eggs as well as enriching our cultural lives.

Bob KinksI reprised the theme in a speech I gave in the Britain and the World debate in the main auditorium at conference this afternoon, calling for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to be actively involved in Britain’s “soft power” through cultural diplomacy, and to report regularly to Parliament about the international aspects of our creative industries. It’s not just institutions such as the British Council and the BBC World Service that are important, but the hundreds of thousands of individual creators who make an enormous contribution. I recalled the wonderful spirit that there had been at the time of the London Olympics in 2012, while lamenting how that has evaporated in the two years since the EU Referendum. But as the clamour for a People’s Vote on whatever “deal” the Government comes up with grows, we must be hopeful that a cliff edge can be avoided. Remaining in the Single Market and Customs Union would certainly facilitate matters, but if we are going to do that, then we might as well stay in the EU, full stop.

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The Challenge for the Liberal Democrats

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 16th September, 2016

tim-farronAs Liberal Democrats gather in Brighton this weekend for Autumn Conference, it’s a timely moment to consider the challenges facing the party. Despite the turmoil within Britain’s official opposition party, Labour (graphically illustrated on BBC’s Question Time last night by a cat fight between John McDonnell MP and Alastair Campbell), the LibDems seem stuck in the national opinion polls in the range 6-8%. Pretty pathetic for a party that was in government (albeit in Coalition) between 2010 and 2015. Yet the position is nowhere near as bleak as that headline figure might imply. There has been a whole series of very strong LibDem gains in local council by-elections over the past few months; there was another one yesterday, in Derbyshire. These suggest that the party has bottomed out electorally and is now on the road to recovery (as Paddy Ashdown argues in today’s Guardian). Moreover, there is what I see as a golden opportunity in the parliamentary by-election due to be held in Witney on 20 October. Witney was of course David Cameron’s seat. Just a year after winning an unexpected overall majority in the last general election, David Cameron’s fall from grace has been spectacular. In the wake of June’s Brexit vote, he resigned as Prime Minister and then on the eve of a highly critical Foreign Affairs Committee report on his handling of the Libyan crisis, he resigned his seat. Interestingly, in West Oxfordshire (in which Witney is the seat of local government) Remain triumphed in the EU Referendum, which means that there must be many thousands of disgruntled voters there who in a by-election situation might be persuaded to vote for an explicitly pro-European party. That certainly won’t be Labour, given Jeremy Corbyn’s self-evident ambivalence about the EU. But it could be the Liberal Democrats, if the party seizes the opportunity, selects a brilliant by-election candidate with the right credentials and pours members and supporters into the constituency for an intense month-long campaign. Tim Farron is expected to make the clarion call for pro-Europeans at Brighton this week. Let that also be the trumpet sound for Witney, which, if handled well, could be a milestone in the LibDem Fight Back!

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Brighton Rock and a Hard Place

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 21st September, 2012

Britain’s Liberal Democrats start gathering for their autumn conference in Brighton tomorrow in what could prove to be a far livelier — in both the good and bad senses of that word — gathering than the somewhat pedestrian official agenda suggests. It is hardly good news to go into a conference with the latest opinion poll putting the LibDems on 8%, level-pegging with UKIP, though that is nearly twice what the party achieved in the London Mayoral and GLA elections in May. Of course, much of the media pack will be asking just one question: will the party dump Nick Clegg as leader, as it did Charles Kennedy and Ming Campbell? I can answer that one immediately, to save them the trouble asking: no. I say that not because I think Nick has ‘saved’ himself with his tuition fees apology video (considerably jollier in its sung version. by the way) but rather because this is absolutely not the moment for a leadership challenge. Nick can be proud of the fact that he took the party into government and there have been some (not many) important LibDem wins. What is absolutely not in doubt is that the Conservatives on their own would have been far worse, though that is not a particularly easy message to sell on the doorstep. Being in coalition is not easy, however, as both partners have been discovering. And certainly there is going to be a lot of pressure from activists at Brighton for the LibDems to differentiate ourselves from the Tories. But here the party is caught between a rock and hard place. It can’t undermine the coalition too much by criticising Cameron and other Conservative Ministers harshly, and yet it can’t seem to be propping the Conservatives up (a phraseology now being pushed by the Labour opposition). Well, I will opt for the rock in Brighton, appropriately, by which I mean we have to be proud of what we have achieved but also we must push for a mid-term review which gives more clarity to our different principles and priorities. This is a working partnership, not a political marriage (though right at the beginning, in the Rose Garden at No 10, it did seem a bit like the latter). Perhaps the most urgent task is for LibDems to explain to the British electorate what coalition government is all about and to show how and why we will be fgihting on different issues from those of our current partners in 2015, and even more so in the European elections in 2014.

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Remembering Peter Burton

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 17th November, 2011

The writer, editor and publisher Peter Burton, who died suddenly of a heart attack. aged 66, on 7 November, made an enormous contribution to the promotion and then mainstreaming of LGBT literature in the UK. He was also an extremely kind friend, a generous host at his ramshackle little house in Brighton and a mentor for many young writers trying to find their own voice and forge a literary career. I first met him about 40 years ago, while I was still a student, but it was only after I moved back to England in 1981, after seven years in Brussels, that I began to see him regularly, often in the company of our mutual friend Francis King (at whose Memorial Service on 2 November I last saw Peter, looking hale and hearty, although he only had five more days to live). When Liberal Democrat conferences took place in Brighton, I always enjoyed taking one extended lunchtime off to go to Peter’s for a boozy, wholesome lunch, at which there would usually be one or two of his latest protégés present. The house itself was extraordinary, seemingly held up by the enormous mountains of books, which covered not only all the walls, but every flat surface (other than the kitchen table) and most of the stairs, so that navigating oneself around them was quite a challenge. Peter simply adored books, which was perhaps remarkable for someone who had grown up in a working-class home in East London. Friends (including me) were worried that the house would literally fall down, as it had had no maintenance for decades and there were holes where there shouldn’t have been; mercifully, it was patched up successfully before disaster occured, I think with the help of the Council. Following a mugging, Peter rarely came up to London; at least that was his excuse, but I think he was essentially the sort of bird who feels uncomfortable away from its nest. This afternoon I will go down to Brighton for his funeral and for the subsequent wake. He may be physically present at the former, but spiritually it will be the latter that he relishes.

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