Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Canary Wharf’

ALDE Congress Opens in Good Heart

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 29th November, 2013

Guy VerhofstadtNick CleggThe fight against British Euro-scepticism is on! At the opening session of the London Congress of the ALDE (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe) Howard Dawber of the Canary Wharf Group (our hosts, as the plenaries are taking place in Canary Wharf’s East Wintergarden) stressed that business and the financial sector strongly support Britain’s membership of the European Union and before handing over to ALDE President Sir Graham Watson underlined the area’s link to Liberalism and Liberal Democracy (William Beveridge did much of his investigation into poverty in the East End, and the Limehouse Declaration establishing the SDP was drawn up at David Owen’s house just up the road), which was noble, given Howard’s political affiliations elsewhere. Graham was in fine rhetorical form, the metaphors rolling off his tongue like the morning mist down the side of a mountain in the Scottish Highlands. He urged everyone to remember as we emerge from a deep recession the core values of social liberalism. Nick Clegg, of course, did not disappoint, speaking without notes about his own by now familiar mixed European heritage and his determination that the European elections will be fought by the Liberal Democrats as the unequivocal party of IN. He argued that the big division in Europe now is not so much between left and right but between those whose minds are closed and those whose minds are open (reflected in politician’s attitudes on such thing as freedom of movement within the European single market and towards others beyond Europe’s frontiers. EU Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom picked up the issue of Europe’s responsibility towards refugees and asylum seekers, as well as to economic migrants driven by despair to try risky passage across the Mediterranean from Africa to Europe. The appalling loss of life off the Italian Lampedusa is only the most striking example of an ongoing humanitarian tragedy. The finale of the opening session was a rousing speech by the (Flemish) President of the ALDE Group in the European Parliament, Guy Verhofstadt. He is an unashamed federalist, but he made clear that he understands the true meaning of federalism, not centralisation, as Euro-sceptics often misrepresent, but empowering downwards. That should mean that there is less but better EU-level regulation. For although the ALDE Party is the most pro-European of all the transnational groups in the European Parliament it is also the party of constructive reform.

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ALDE Comes to London

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 28th November, 2013

East WintergardenALDE logoIf anyone doubted that only the Liberal Democrats are the true party of IN when it comes to the European Union the opening reception of the ALDE (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe) Party Congress at the East Wintergarden in Canary Wharf this evening would have persuaded them. It’s the biggest ever event of its kind and the turnout of members of the 12 governments in which Liberal Democrats are in power (alone or in coalition) was particularly impressive. The UK Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, was of course present and gave a brief speech, as did Sir Graham Watson, President of ALDE (and LibDem MEP for South West England). The working sesssions of the Congress will take place over the next two days, including discussion of the ALDE Manifesto for the May 2014 Euro-elections. All 28 EU member states will be voting then, and all EU citizens who are registered to vote in the UK — and sign a declaration that they will not vote in their country of origin as well — are entitled to vote here. That’s especially important in a global city like London, in which there are an estimated 300,000 French residents and countless other EU migrants. Most of them are the people who are helping London surge out of the economic doldrums (rather than being benefit scroungers, as the Daily Express and other posonous rags would have people believe). Obviously, the LibDems will be targetting them in the run up to May, being the only genuinely pro-European Party, as well as pro-Europeans who normally vote Tory, but who can;t stomach the party’s drift to Euro-phobia. Of course, we in the Liberal Democrats want to see reforms that will make the EU leaner and meaner (in a positive sense). But if you don’t succumb to the siren voices of UKIP and the Tory right, if you’re pro-Britain in the EU then LibDems are the place to be! Many thanks to the Canary Wharf Group for providing the venue, as they have for the London Liberal Democrat spring conference in recent years.

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Why Tower Hamlets Needs Active Involvement in the EU

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 6th September, 2013

Brief YouTube clip of JF:
Canary Wharf

Brick Lane

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London’s 2nd City

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 3rd July, 2012

From my front room window I can see Canary Wharf, which is how most of us East Enders refer (incorrectly) to Canada Tower on the Isle of Dogs, constructed to be the symbol of London’s second City or financial centre, but with a nod to the Elizabeth Tower of the Houses of Parliament (equally incorrectly generally known as Big Ben). Canary Wharf is actually the central ensemble of the audacious development in the old Docklands. This is now the subject of a short but insightful volume by Bow writer and journalist Kevin d’Arcy, London’s 2nd City*. In brief, snappy chapters Kevin introduces many of the main characters in the drama of the Canary Wharf area’s conception and birth, from Michael Heseltine and the megarich Reichmann brothers to the Liberal duo Eric Flounders and Brian Williams, who gave local leadership and vision in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Even as someone who has been around the wholetime, I learnt a lot from this book, including the reason (or at least, a reason) why the shoppping arcades at Canary Wharf are underground: the developers cut their teeth in Toronto, Canada, where such tunneled emporia are a haven in bitter mid-winter. The whole enterprise had its ups and downs and all these are charted, but in a way that steers clear of libelling anybody. It’s an attractive little book, written very much in journalistic not academic style, though alas, as so often with self-published works, there are some glaring errors; the Coalition Government was elected in 2010, not 2009, and there could not possibly have been 3.5 million homes destroyed in London during the War, as none would have been left. Such gripes aside, a worthwhile read.

£9.99 from Rajah Books, 40 Bruce Road, London E3 3HL

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London Liberal Democrats’ Spring Conference

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 1st April, 2012

With just over a month to go to the London Mayoral and GLA elections, London Liberal Democrats had their minds firmly focussed on campaigning when we gathered in the East Wintergarden at Canary Wharf yesterday, chaired by (Baroness) Susan Kramer. The mayoral candidate Brian Paddick alongside Caroline Pidgeon, head of the GLA list, presented a summary of their manifesto, which had largely been drawn up my outgoing GLA member Mike Tuffrey, who also gave a presentation on housing. There were several innovations at the conference, including a speech on Extremism by Maajid Nawaz of the Quilliam Foundation and some stunning unaccompanied singing by Pauline Pearce, the “heroine of Hackney” who is the Party’s candidate in the Hackney Central council by-election that will take place on the same day as the main London poll, 3 May. There was also a “trialogue” question time which I chaired with a panel comprising London MEP (Baroness) Sarah Ludford, (Baroness) Sally Hamwee and Caroline Pidgeon. Ed Davey, the Secretary of State of Energy and Climate Change, spoke about his role in government and MPs Tom Brake and Simon Hughes shared their views on the current state of play. A central message was that Liberal Democrats should be proud of what we have achieved as the junior partner in Government but we will be campaigning in these elections on a purely Liberal Democrat platform, even if that sometimes diverges from Coalition policy. At the drinks reception at the end of the busy day several participants said it was the best London Liberal Democrat ever, for which thanks must go to Conference Committee Chair Jill Fraser and her team, including Pete Dollimore, who facilitated the training sessions going on in parallel with the plenary.

(photo by Merlene Emerson)

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Egypt’s Tahrir Revolution and the New Media

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 8th June, 2011

There’s been a tendency to label the momentous changes that have taken place in Egypt over the past five months as the Facebook Revolution, but as was stressed by the panelists at an excellent seminar hosted by ThomsonReuters at their Canary Wharf HQ this evening, although new media helped, the real victors were the Egyptian people, who overcame their fear of the Mubarak regime and its state security services and held out in Cairo’s Tahrir Square until the regime fell. Former Google rep Wael Ghonim, who was one of the Revolution’s stars, joined us all on video link from Dubai, where he is busy writing a book about the whole experience. Dr Sally Moore, a British Egyptian psychiatrist who was in the thick of things in January/February, reminded us how many women were involved in the popular uprising and emphasized how important it is that their voices are not lost. Srdja Popovic, Executive Director of the Centre for Applied Non-Violent Action and Strategies (CANVAS) brought an interesting Serbian perspective from someone who had been at the heart of the action that brought down Milosevic. He argued that the three essential components for any such exercise of People Power are unity, planning and non-violent discipline — all of which the Egyptian revolution had (though sadly not the Saffron Revolution in Burma, for example). The panelists were not worried about the fact that the Egyptian Revolution was leaderless, though now it is important that strong political figures emerge who can appeal to the electorate in September. Sally, for one, thought the elections ought to be postponed, as there is no way that the scores of new political parties, groups and coalitions can get their act together in time, especially as life as normal will shut down during August because of Ramadan. But the likelihood is that the elections will indeed take place as planned and it must not only be the Muslim Brotherhood that has the organisation to succeed.


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World Press Freedom Day and the Arab Spring

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 3rd May, 2011

The Thomson Reuters headquarters in Canary Wharf hosted this year’s World Press Freedom Day event this evening (co-sponsored by UNESCO UK) to mark the dangers and threats to media worldwide, but this time with a difference, as the focus was on events around the Arab Spring, notably in Egypt, Libya, Bahrain and Syria. It was particularly good to hear from Shahira Amin, the former Nile TV presenter who resigned from her job at the Egyptian channel in order to join the protestors in Cairo’s Tahrir Square in January. Alanoud Al Sharekh, a Kuwaiti resarcher at the IISS, spoke movingly about the sitution in Bahrain and the former BBC Middle East commentator Magdi Abdelhadi gave some insightful observations about the problems of reporting from Syria (where foreign journalists are currently barred). A common thread was how social networking, new media and citizen journalism have revolutionised the situation across the Middle East and North Africa, but no less important was the recognition that there is a new generation of young people in the region who won’t take the bullshit from their tyrranical leaders any more and who are prepared to stand up and be counted, even if as yet they are unclear about what future they want to see. We live in stirring times, exciting times for a journalist and broadcaster such as myself with a special interest in the region. But also an increasingly dangerous time for journalists, scores of whom have been killed while trying to do their job over the past 12 months, not just in war situations such as Libya but also in criminal environments and areas of social breakdown such as Pakistan, Mexico and the Philippines. Jeremy Browne, the LibDem Foreign Office Minister with special responsibility for human rights, sent an excellent video message to the event underlining the current British government’s commitment to media freedom as a key element in foreign policy — something many of us would like to see more evidence of on the ground!


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London Liberal Democrat Conference

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 9th April, 2011

The regional conference that took place in the East Wintergarden in Canary Wharf today was confirmation that London Liberal Democrats have made a big step change — now a party in government, more professional, still signing up new members and bullish in the run-up to the Fairer Votes referendum in May. There was a stellar line-up of speakers, including the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, who strssed that the 5 May vote is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to change our anachronistic electoral system and that the result in London (where there are no simultaneous local elections, unlike in most of the rest of the UK) could make the difference. The Business Secretary, Vince Cable, admitted it isn’t always easy being in government, but for all the difficulties, it was far less frustrating than being in the permanent comfort zone of opposition. Vince had for so long been the lone voice warning the trouble Britain under Labour was sailing into with its over-spending and over-light regulation of the banks. I suspect he is rather rubbing his hands in glee at Rupert Murdoch’s News International’s woes at the moment, though he was careful not to say so overtly. Lynne Featherstone, Equalities Minister at the Home Office, was able to reel off a whole list of Liberal Democrat ‘wins’ within her area of responsibility, including equal marriage and civil partnership rights. And Simon Hughes, Deputy Leader of the party, struck out a clear LibDem line on a number of issues, from nuclear energy to targetted assistance for pupils and students from poorer backgrounds. All in all, a great morale-booster for the approximately 200 delegates present.

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