Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Cambridge’

The Theory of Everything

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 8th February, 2015

The Theory of EverythingWhen a film is tipped for the Oscars I often go to see it with a sense of dread that it won’t be as good as the critics say. And I confess that theoretical physics is about as far away from my comfort zone of interests as anything could be. So I was braced for disappointment, even boredom, when a friend persuaded me to accompany him to The Theory of Everything yesterday. But how wrong could I be! The true-life story of Stephen Hawking, his ground-breaking academic work, the physical effects of his motor neurone disease and the complex relationship that he had with his wife, make a compelling cocktail that is likely to lift any viewer through the whole gamut of emotions from tearful empathy to belly laughs. The setting of Cambridge University (even if a few liberties are taken by mixing views of different colleges) adds to the romanticism of the film, against which the physical deterioration of Dr Hawking is shockingly stark. James Marsh’s direction is masterful; I can think of few contemporary films that are so carefully measured and executed. The actors are remarkable, and none more so than Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Hawking. His performance is a tour de force. The film should sweep the BAFTAs and the Oscars, but even if it doesn’t, all those in involved in it can pride themselves on knowing they have produced an amazing movie that will linger in people’#s minds for a long time.

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Liberalism in an Era of International Terrorism

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 21st January, 2014

Julian HuppertWhen people don’t have existential worries, it is easy to be a Liberal, Cambridge MP Julian Huppert declared at a Kensington & Chelsea LibDem “Food for Thought” this evening, but it is much more challenging to remain so in an era of international terrorism. But as Julian’s many fans in the the Party and its constituent organisations are aware, he is one parliamentarian who has continued to champion civil liberties through thick and thin, and to keep Home Secretary Theresa May on her toes. That is in complete contrast to Labour’s supine submission to the demands of the security establishment post 9/11; Jack Straw’s role during that period was particularly nauseating. And although the Coalition government replaced the hated Control Orders with a watered-down version (TPIMs), it was thanks to Liberal Democrat pressure that these new measures were softened to take into account genuine civil liberties concerns. Forced internal exile within the UK– which was often a part of Control Orders — may not have been as harsh as Soviet-style banishment to Siberia, but it still uprooted people from their communities. However, as some of today’s newspapers pointed out, because the TPIMs were introduced in January 2012 and last for a maximum of two years, a few hardened individuals will be let back into society this week. Julian opined that even if there is a certain element of risk in that — though those people will be under close surveillance — the alternative of a Labour-style suspension of important human rights would be far worse. Julian also said that the Guardian’s publication of just a tiny percentage of Edward Snowden’s revelations about the level of surveillance by the UK and US security services was for many people a wake-up call to the scale of the problem. None the less, he paid tribute to the people who work at GCHQ in Cheltenham monitoring suspect communication traffic, declaring that the majority of the staff there remain scrupulously within the Law and some of their work does indeed make Britain a safer place.

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Andrew Duff on Britain’s Future in Europe

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 7th January, 2012

Twelfth Night is usually the time I take down the Christmas cards, but last evening I went instead to Cambridge, to hear the East of England LibDem MEP Andrew Duff give his verdict on the situation regarding Britain’s relationship with the rest of the EU following David Cameron’s disconcerting performance at the Brussels Summit last month. A convinced federalist and constitutional supergeek, Andrew has been issuing doom-laden pronouncements about the current state of European affairs for several months, so it was a relief at last night’s Policy Forum of Cambridge Liberal Democrats (chaired by Julian Huppert, MP) to find him less morose, but nonetheless highly critical of the place the Prime Minister has landed Britain in. The PM’s refusal to endorse measures designed to introduce more financial discipline within the eurozone came as quite a shock to Andrew, as he had been phoned erlier in the day by 10 Downing Street assuring him that Cameron was not going to do anything dramatic — a message Andrew then duly passed on to the Brussels press corps. Maybe not surprisingly,  Andrew did not sleep that night after the reality became clear and like many of us in the LibDems, he was unhappy about the way the reaction to Cameron’s position from the Liberal Democrats gave very mixed messages over the weekend after the Brussels Summit. But the important thing is to look forward not back, and to see how much Nick Clegg and the LibDems can help row the Coalition government back from the position it now finds itself in regarding the EU. The next few months will be crucial as the other 26 — or 25, if Hungary distances itself further from the European mainstream — will have to work on a new Treaty relating to closer financial arrangements within the eurozone, but minus Britain’s signature. Denmark, which assumed the rotating EU presidency this week, has an unenviable task head, and Andrew Duff doesn’t believe Copenhagen is really up to it. But things could be even more difficult after 1 July, when Cyprus is due to take over the helm.

Links: http://andrewduff.eu and http://cambridgelibdems.org.uk

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Europe in 2061

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 9th July, 2011

I’m spending the weekend at Robinson College, Cambridge, at my first ever Federal Studies Conference, courtesy of the James Madison Trust. The theme is Europe in 2061: How will the European Union develop in the next 50 years? Proceedings began challengingly with the local LibDem MEP, my old chum Andrew Duff, giving an uncharacteristically downbeat appraisal of the mess he thinks the EU is now in, his own federalist dreams going up in a puff of smoke. I put his melancholy down to the fact that he has just returned from Cyprus, which remains an intractable problem both internally and with regard to Turkey’s aspirations to join the Union. But today’s sessions were much more optimistic, with contributions from former Tory MEP and climate change specialist Tom Spencer and Professor David Coombes. The dinner this evening will be preceded with Pimms in the College garden (glad to see that Cambridge shares this habit with my alma mater, Oxford) and an after dinner speech by the Hon Christopher Layton, lifelong Liberal and European.

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