Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Camden’

Bollocks to Brexit!

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 9th October, 2018

Bollocks to BrexitThe founder of Pimlico Plumbers, Charlie Mullins, is to be congratulated for not submitting to pressure from (Labour) Lambeth Council to remove the giant sign over his company HQ saying Bollocks to Brexit! He has argued persuasively that Britain’s leaving the European Union — which it is scheduled to do on 29 March next year) will be bad for his customers and bad for his workforce, which has benefited from the Freedom of Movement that is part and parcel of the European Single Market. Rather than take down the sign he has instead invested in many more advertisements with the slogan posted near stations and other prominent places around London. After all, the Leave campaign was allowed during the EU Referendum campaign in 2016 to get away with driving a bus round with the lying slogan that the money the UK sends to the EU (itself a dodgy statistic) could be spent on the National Health Service instead. No surprise to learn now that that is not going to happen. In fact, Brexit is already costing this country hundred of million of pounds each week, and it hasn’t even occurred yet. And any increase in NHS funding (indeed needed) will probably have to come from higher taxation instead.

Brexit's Barking MadCharlie Mullins isn’t the author of the catchy Bollocks to Brexit! slogan, but it has gone viral, not only on social media, but also through sticky labels that have been appearing all over the place. On Sunday, I attended the Wooferendum march of Remainers and their dogs in Westminster, and many of the pooches were festooned with it as well. Over the coming weeks, in the run-up to a parliamentary vote on whatever Brexit deal is or is not agreed with Brussels, we can expect more campaigning activity, with a massive march in London on 20 October calling for a People’s Vote — i.e. a referendum on the deal, with an option to Remain — with support from people from every political party (except UKIP, probably) and none. Meanwhile, several local councils have been debating motions about whether to support a People’s Vote. I took part in a LibDem-led demonstration outside Camden’s temporary council offices last night, urging councillors to back such a motion, though sadly time ran out at the Full Council meeting before that part of the agenda was reached. I hope to attend a similar gathering outside Haringey Town Hall on Thursday. Both Camden and Haringey voted heavily Remain in 2016, yet the ruling Labour Party in both cases is divided on the issue. Conservative Brexiteers such as Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg have received massive media attention, but the Labour Party is home to “Lexiteers” as well, not just on the right (such as Kate Hoey) but also the left, including among some supporters of Momentum. Party leader Jeremy Corbyn was a Euro-sceptic for most of his 30-odd years in parliament, campaigned very quietly for Remain in 2016, but then called for Article 50 to be invoked immediately afterwards. He is still sitting on the fence over Brexit, though the Opposition Brexit spokesperson, Keir Starmer, did say clearly at the Labour conference in Liverpool that a People’s Vote should be on the table, including an option to Remain. He looked rather startled when this provoked a standing ovation, but it is not really surprising, as over 80% of Labour members reportedly support staying in the EU. Moreover, according to a poll-of-polls in the London Evening Standard last night, a large majority of the 150 recent opinion polls on the Brexit issue have shown a majority for Remain if a new referendum is held. In a democracy, it is a fundamental right for people to change their mind and maybe that is indeed happening as the complexity and cost of disentangling ourselves from the EU become clearer. So, yes, let’s have a People’s Vote. And let Bollocks to Brexit be our proud Remainer chant!

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Celebrating Esperanto at the Irish Centre

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 16th November, 2012

One of the joys of Europe is the continent’s linguistic and cultural diversity, and that goes far beyond the 23 official and working languages of the European Union. There are a plethora of minority tongues which are now standing tall and proud, from Catalan to Guernsey Norman, which just happen to be two of the languages featured by the independent publisher Francis Boutle, who over the last few years have brought out a series of books that aim to bring marginal language literature into the mainstream. This evening, at the Irish Centre in Camden Square, Esperantists gathered for the launch of Star in a Night Sky, a bilingual anthology of Esperanto literature edited by Paul Gubbins for Francis Boutle. Both Clive Boutle from the publishers (in English) and Paul Gubbins (in Esperanto) spoke and I was gratified to see how much of the latter I understood. I briefly studied the language while I was reading Chinese and Japanese at Oxford, and indeed I was President of the Oxford University Esperanto Society, though I haven’t been involved in “green star” circles for a long time. Detractors like to claim that no-one speaks the lamguage, which is manifestly untrue; there were people from Sweden, Slovakia and Slovenia, amongst others, happily chatting away in Esperanto with Brits at this evening’s event and I have met keen Esperantists in Poland and Japan. Of course, Esperanto is a language of idealism, as its name implies. But the new anthology is a salutory reminder that over the past 125 years since the Polish Jewish doctor Ludwig Zamanhof invented the idiom, some interesting and sometimes moving creative literature has been crafted in it.


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Vince Cable Mentors in Primrose Hill

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 27th April, 2012

A while back, the Liberal Democrats established a mentoring scheme to help develop promising potential young politicians, especially from black and minority ethnicities and it was good to see that in action today when the Business Secretary, Vince Cable, came to Primrose Hill in Camden to speak in support of a young man he has been mentoring, Chris Richards, who is both the LibDem GLA candidate for the constituency of Barnet & Camden and on the city-wide list, as well as fighting the marginal Primrose Hill ward seat in a Camden Council by-election. Vince also took questions from an audience made up of party activists, business people and lobbyists and representatives of both the main local newspapers. Not surprisingly, there was quite a lot of focus on the High Speed rail-link proposals, as many Camden residents are concerned about the likely impact of current plans on the area around Euston. But Vince spoke well in favour of the principle of High Speed rail as a key element in spreading prosperity round the country; it’s the nitty-gritty of the routes that has to be sorted out, listening carefully to residents’ concerns. Most of the rest of the discussion was about financial and other help for small and medium-sized businesses, especially in start-ups. Chris Richards himself, through his work with the Institute of Engineering and Technology, is no slouch on such issues and of course Vince is a star. He is the party’s greatest public asset and it is commendable that he is managing to squeeze in campaigning activities in the run-up to the 3 May election, not only for his mentoree but for other candidates and councils around the UK in parallel with his busy government portfolio.

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Thanking Flick Rea

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 8th September, 2011

The National Liberal Club was awash with LibDems this evening, some for the Haringey local party’s annual dinner (at whose pre-dinner drinks Nick Clegg appeared and answered questions), others for the Thank You party for London Region’s longstanding Administrator, Flick Rea, who retired at the end of June — and a few, like myself, who were there for both. I hosted Flick’s ‘do’, at which former London Chair Brian Orrell (who hired her) and current regional President, (Baroness) Sally Hamwee, spoke and of course Flick herself contributed in her own inimitable way. We weren’t treated to a fair dose of her legendary Mrs Thatcher impression, but she did give us a nice taste of her irreverent but dedicated, even loving, attitude to the regional party. As I said in my own brief remarks, we are not saying farewell to her, for although she may no longer be working for the party, she is still a Councillor in Camden and will doubtless continue supporting its development, fortified with liberal helpings of her justly infamous port wine jelly.


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No Rest for London LibDems

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 3rd October, 2010

Rather like buses, special elections have the unfortunate habit of arriving in pairs. That situation is occuring again in London this month, with the (first ever) Tower Hamlets Mayoral election on 21 October and a Kentish Town, Camden, council by-election one week later. There was an action weekend in Bethnal Green this weekend, with a steady stream of helpers both from within the borough and from afar — including former Richmond Park MP and candidate for Party presidency, Susan Kramer, and her near neighbour, Merlene Emerson, Chair of Chinese Liberal Democrats (both pictured) — to boost the Tower Hamlets campaign. The LibDem mayoral candidate, John Griffiths (‘JohnG4Mayor’) is getting good media coverage, including on ethnic minority TV channels, and tomorrow morning will be welcoming the party’s leader on the London Assembly (GLA), Caroline Pidgeon, to Whitechapel. Meanwhile, Camden LibDems — who have far more than their fair share of council by-elections in recent years (fortunately winning most of them) — are fielding Nick Russell as their candidate in Kentish Town ward, which he represented until this May (having won it in an earlier by-election) and which the local team are fighting hard to retake. So that means London party activists have a busy few weeks ahead, to help the pary grow city-wide.


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Memories of Beryl Bainbridge

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 2nd July, 2010

Beryl Bainbridge was one of life’s performers, not just at literary festivals or soirées, but in her daily life. Visitors to her house in Camden were startled to be greeted by Eric the water-buffalo and to find a model of Nevlle Chamberlain seated at her table. But she was on show whenever she went out. I vividly remember her stretched out under the grand piano at Bernice Reubens’s duplex off the Finchley Road, a glass of whiskey in one hand, a ciggie in the other. ‘Fancy joining me under here?’ she asked cheekily. ‘Too many people out there!’ Always a drink, always a cigarette. It was inevitable she would die riddled with cancer the way she treated her body, though the Grim Reaper kept away until she was 75 (or maybe 76, by some accounts). It was hilarious that she was made a Dame for her services to literature, as anyone less like a dame it was hard to imagine. But Beryl was a fine writer and she did do a lot for literature, as well as being a good though sometimes exasperating friend to many of us in London literary circles. She could be stubborn but also kind, loving and yet also distant. Maybe most writers need to be. She deserves a riotous wake.

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474 to Win!

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 19th April, 2010

About a hundred enthusiastic people from Camden and Brent gathered at the Hampstead synagogue in Dennington Park Road, West Hampstead, last night, formally to adopt Ed Fordham as the Liberal Democrat candidate for the Hampstead and Kilburn constituency. These are heady days to be a LibDem, not least in a marginal seat such as Ed’s. There have been significant boundary changes since 2005, making Hampstead and Kilburn a far more attractive prospect; indeed, the mainstream media are agreed that Ed just has a notional Labour majority of 474 votes to overturn. Many local residents were surprised that the veteran actress Glenda Jackson decided to stand again as prospective MP for the area. And the fact that the new constituency takes in a big chunk of LibDem Sarah Teather’s old seat of Brent East is not likely to help Labour. Chirpy Tory Councillor Chris Philp is bravely maintaining he can win, but what is more likely is a squeeze on the Conservative vote. Besides, the Tory party’s recent statements on immigration and their ugly partnerships in the European Parliament are unappealing to an electorate, so many of whom have found sanctuary here in London from religious or political persecution in their places of origin. Navnit (Lord) Dholakia spoke movingly at Ed’s adoption meeting of his own 55 years in the Liberals/Liberal Democrats and the event was chaired by the neighbourhood peer, Sue, Baroness Garden of Frognal. Cleverly, the local association has capitalised on the 474 figure by asking people to donate £4.74 to the campaign (or £47.40, or £474 and so on, of course!).


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Paul Burstow Whips up Support

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 28th June, 2009

Paul BurstowThe LibDem Chief Whip and and MP for Sutton and Cheam, Paul Burstow, was in upbeat mood at the annual summer party of Holborn and St Pancras Liberal Democrats this afternoon, saying that although we had failed to gain the second Euro-seat in London, the party’s performance in target and held Westminster parliamentary seats at the European elections had been encouraging. In Sutton borough there was actually a small swing from the Tories to the LibDems, which bodes well in the super-marginal Nonsuch ward by-election this coming Thursday, in which Gerry Jerome is the candidate. Obviously, when the general election comes round, the LibDems will be fighting hard to hold on to seats where Tories are the main challengers — in London’s case, basically in the ‘golden croissant’ of the boroughs of Kingston, Richmond and Sutton — while hoping to make some gains from Labour, including in Camden. By then the message might have got across to the electorate that in the recent (indeed, ongoing) expenses revelations, LibDems have fared pretty well. As Paul pointed out, not a single London LibDem MP has claimed a second home allowance, and none has been guilty of ‘flipping’ homes or claiming for phantom mortgages. The Conservatives, in contrast, might well find themselves hard pushed to justify their record. Over half of all Tory MPs have so far had to ‘own up’ to some excess or misdemeanour and pay some money back.


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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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It’s a Stick-up!

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 3rd May, 2009

I have spent an inordinate amount of time this Bank Holiday weekend at various London Liberal Democrat offices, church halls and community centres, from Hornsey and Wood Green to Richmond and beyond, via Camden, Islington and goodness knows how many other London boroughs, moving around on trains and tubes and buses, as the massive operation got underway to ensure that every household will get LibDem literature for the European elections on 4 June — or several pieces, in some cases. Lacking major trade union support or noteworthy big business donations, the party relies heavily on small donations and voluntary help from members and supporters, but it is great to see everyone pulling together (while Labour, bizarrely, is pulling itself apart). All the target (UK parliamentary) constituencies are getting very smart, multi-coloured leaflets, to which addressed labels merely have to be stuck. But sticking labels on hundreds of thousands of leaflets, and bundling them properly, takes a daunting number of people-hours!

This evening, I’ll be addressing Streatham LibDems at a pasta and politics, on Europe, of course. London has so much to gain by being placed at the a heart of Europe, as Britain as a whole should be. Tony Blair said he’d do it, but he flunked it. Gordon Brown never had the real will to do it, and now he has his drawbridge up, in his own personal battlements, seemingly out of touch with what the electorate wants, let alone what Britain in Europe needs.


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