Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Camden Liberal Democrats’

Norman Lamb Goes to Church

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 23rd October, 2013

Norman LambSt Stephen's NW3So much vitriol is thrown at Liberal Democrats in government by the opposition Labour Party that it was appropriate and helpful to have the LibDem Social Care Minister in the Department of Health, Norman Lamb, as guest speaker at Camden Liberal Democrats’ fundraising reception this evening at the magnificently restored (deconsecrated) St Stephen’s Church in Hampstead, to remind us that the LibDems are the caring side to the Coalition. The Norfolk MP is so transparently decent and honest — in contrast to the caricature of MPs in the tabloid Press — and he has picked up Paul Burstow’s mantel and worn it effectively, homing in particularly on care for the elderly — a hugely growing issue in Britain as elsewhere in the “developed” world — and mental health, the Cinderella of the NHS. Norman batted away the suggestion from one questioner that the NHS is under threat (by privatisation, if one believes Labour propaganda), despite the fact that Tony Blair’s government instigated many of the current reforms;  the Coalition government wants to see the NHS function well. In a short warm-up speech, I noted that tomorrow, 23 October, is a significant date for LibDem activists in Camden and across London, as seven months hence will be the day when  it is too late to say “I may lose”, in local or European elections, as the polling booths will have closed at 10pm the previous evening. It is essential that in the interim LibDems campaign not only to hold what they have got (in London boroughs and the European Parliament) but also to champion the European ideal. The electorate in the UK knows that the Liberal Democrats are the only major party in Britain that “gets” Europe; it’s our USP, and we should not try to hide that European light under a bushel. Mercifully, Nick Clegg is the first party leader who has dared to proclaim the European love that dare not speak its name: i.e., the EU is good for Britain, and Britain is good for the EU. To leave would be, in Nick’s words, a disaster. Of course, the EU needs reform, but you reform from inside, not from throwing stones from outside — UKIP and Tory Euro-sceptics please note.



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David Laws Passes the Test

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 25th January, 2013

David LawsDavid Laws is so much associated in the political class’s minds with economic issues that there were eyebrows raised in some quarters when his governmental comeback from the wilderness proved to be in Sarah Teather’s old job at Education. But any doubts about his passion for his new brief were dispelled last night when he addressed a wine and canapĂ© reception put on by Camden Liberal Democrats at Swiss Cottage School. It was hardly his fault that he arrived an hour late; he had been stuck on a train coming down from North East England where he had been visiting some turn-around schools that have benefitted from the Pupil Premium. The Pupil Premium is one of the most successful innovations of the Coalition government — and the result of Liberal Democrat pressure — with the transformational ability to help children from disadvantaged backgrounds or with other problems that might formerly have condemned them to failure. It deserves to be better known; in my home borough of Tower Hamlets it has made a huge difference. So much for the Opposition’s fatuous claim that this government only cares for the rich. It is also thanks to the LibDems, of course, that lowest earners in our society are being taken out of income tax altogether. But back to David Laws, who sometimes gets tarred with the accusation from social Liberals that he is a pseudo-Tory. It’s true that he is probably the Conservatives’ favourite LibDem Minister, but that is in recognition of his undoubted intelligence and capability. What came over clearly in Swiss Cottage last night was that he is a man of compassion and radical zeal as well.

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Sue Garden on Constitutional Reform

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 21st August, 2012

The mainstream media in Britain like to poke fun at the Liberal Democrats, saying they are obsessive about constitutional reform. This is meant to be an insult, but should be regarded as a compliment; the other two main parties are happy to live with the corrupt old system we have at present in England as well as in the UK Parliament, because each of them will normally come out a winner every few years almost by Buggins’ turn. The Liberal Democrats — and Liberals before them — have indeed been dogged in trying to drag our political system into the 20th, let alone the 21st, century; for over 100 years they have been trying to reform the House of Lords. Tory backwoodsmen killed that off recently (though Labour didn’t exactly rally round strongly to say they would work hard to get it through in a tripartite agreement between LibDems, Labour and progressive Tories). And of course the AV referendum was a catastrophe. Nonetheless, it is a tribute to the LibDems’ genuine attachment to the issue that the Camden local party was able to attract an impressive turnout on a balmy summer’s evening like this evening for a discussion on constitutional reform led by their local life peer, Baroness (Sue) Garden of Frognal. Sue is now a government whip, but nonetheless recognises that the current situation with the Lords is a total anomaly. Alas, it is unlikely that any significant change in that Chamber will come for some considerable time. However, I, along with some others, stressed how the LibDems really ought to be pressing for fairer votes at the local level — something already enjoyed by the people of Scotland and Northern Ireland, notably. It is grotesque that we have such a warped first-the-post voting system that we can end up with local authorities that are one party states, like North Korea. There are two in East London where I live: Newham and Barking & Dagenham; both 100% Labour. No wonder few people in those boroughs bother to vote. This is something the Party should consider pressing as part of its next election manifesto. And unlike AV for Westminster, which was a real dogs’ dinner anyway, STV for local elections is something everyone can understand. And it would mean that everyone should get at least one local representative who is not beholden to the ruling group’s line.

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Tim Clement-Jones and Social Angst

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 24th August, 2011

If you have a social event lined up with a top rank political speaker and then suddenly a council by-election is called, what should you do? Camden LibDems provided the answer this evening when they moved the speaker event with Lord Clement-Jones from its original venue to the house of the candidate in the said  by-election, Martin Hay, so at least some of the guests could come on after campaigning. The by-election is in Highgate and Martin is the only candidate standing who actually lives in the ward. He and his wife put on a wonderful spread of smoked salmon, French cheeses and extremely good wine, while Tim regaled us with tales of being a backbench member of the House of Lords. Of course he does not agree with everything the Government is doing — no Liberal Democrat does — but that is life within a Coalition, where you only get some of what you want. Interestingly, Tim said that he thought students would come to realise that they are actually going to better off under the new system of post-graduation payments than they are under the one set up by Labour. But there is no denying it was a mistake to persuade PPCs to make the pledge to scrap tuition fees, which Vince Cable, for one, had declared unsustainable. Tim understands some of what he called ths social angst at present, and he is not alone amongst LibDem peers in feeling the current cuts are maybe too much too fast. In good LibDem fashion he would have preferred something somewhere between what George Osborne has demanded and what Labour would have done had they been returned to power. But he was buoyed by the latest ICM poll just out which puts the party up at 17% (Tories 37%, Labour 36%), which is a much rosier picture thn YouGov and others have been painting.

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Camden: The LibDem Fight-Back

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 26th May, 2010

The recent general election was a bitter disappointment for the Liberal Democrats in the London borough of Camden. The party’s Ed Fordham didn’t seize the parliamentary seat of Hampstead & Kilburn as had been widely expected, let alone Jo Shaw in Holborn & St Pancras, which looked like an outside chance when opinion polls were suggesting a great ‘Clegg surge’. Moreover, far from taking outright control of Camden Council — which the party had run in coalition with the Conservatives since 2006 — the LibDems lost a significant number of seats in the local elections that took place on the same day. Higher turnout resulted in some of the local party’s most prominent figures being ousted from the Town Hall, though actually the LibDems’ overall share of the vote was much higher than one might think from the results delivered under the first-past-the-post electoral system. Three Council seats were not contested on 6 May, however, as one of the LibDem Councillors in Haverstock ward, Syed Hoque, who had earlier defected from Labour, died after nominations closed, so the election was postponed until yesterday. The result declared late last night was three magnificent LibDem holds for Jill Fraser, Matt Sanders and newcomer Rahel Bokth. This means that the LibDems now become the official opposition. Labour reportedly had over one hundred people helping yesterday to get their vote out, but the result showed that on a ‘normal’ local election turnout, the LibDems still can win in Camden and that their fightback in the borough is well and truly on.


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Getting the Message across and the Money in

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 5th April, 2009

This evening, there was a highly successful and enjoyable fundraising buffet dinner at the home of Wimbledon Liberal Democrat PPC, Shas Sheehan, to ensure that Merton borough will be able to play its full part in the Euro-election campaign ahead — though as I said in my speech, the campaign is actually already upon us: two months tonight, on Sunday 7 June, we will know the result. It needs just a tiny swing to the LibDems to pick up a second seat in London this time and one by one, the local parties have been coming on board, buying into the centrally-prepared London Euro-literature and in many cases producing their own on top — often with considerable ingenuity and local relevance.

This morning, I was at a seminar addressed by the Party’s outgoing Director of Innovation, Mark Pack, in Swiss Cottage, for key activists in the Hampstead and Kilburn parliamentary seat, on how to make the European elections work for them: in other words, not just getting me elected as the second MEP (with all that that implies), but also using the campaign to push key local messages, which will help get Ed Fordham elected as the new MP for the redrawn parlimentary constituency and enable the Liberal Democrats to strengthen their (already dominant) position on Camden Council.

Links:, and

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