Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Channel S’

Devaluation of Political Discourse

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 25th July, 2018

Donald Trump 5Last night I did one of my occasional slots on the one-and-a-half hour (Bangladeshi) Channel S TV current affairs show, Let’s Talk. It was sweltering in the studio — the air conditioning was too noisy to be left on during live transmission — and all three of us (me, the host and another studio guest) were roasting in suits and ties. Moreover, the topic for discussion was a heated one: reactions to Donald Trump’s recent visit to the UK and the effect of Trumpism on politics globally. A caller for Oxford bemoaned the fact that Trump has encouraged people to follow his example to use coarse words (as well as bending the truth, of course), which enabled me to talk about what I see as the davaluation of political discourse. Rational debate has often given way to shouty confrontation, and “alternative facts” are seen as equally valid as the truth, providing you believe in them. I am all in favour of satire at appropriate moments — and indeed quite often poke fun at the more absurd arguments of Brexiteers on twitter. But it is clear that social media have encouraged the decline in respect for logic and evidence-based judgments. Mr Trump is partly to blame for this, as some people, on both sides of the Atlantic, feel that if the Tweeter-in-Chief can blast off like an angry child in a playground, so can they. The mainstream media has aided and abetted this lowering of standards. As I said on the programme last night, it was disgraceful that a newspaper such as the Daily Telegraph should pose the question whether Theresa May is a “traitor” because of her Chequers Soft Brexit plan. The gutter Press, not least the Express and the Mail, have continued their obnoxious Brexiteer tirades; do you remember that awful headline about Supreme Court judges being “enemies of the people”? Brexit and Trump are two sides of the same coin, and just as Trump’s rhetoric encourages white Americans to turn against immigrants, Muslims and Mexicans, so the Brexiteer narrative, personified by Nigel Farage, has turned a section of the British public against East Europeans, other ethnic minorities and Islam — fuelling support for anti-hero “Tommy Robinson” and the English Defence League. The BBC, for which I worked almost full-time for 20 years, is itself guilty in giving undue oxygen to extremists; Farage has appeared on Question Time more than any other guest. Meanwhile, both in the United States and here in Britain, society is polarising to such a degree that it is no longer fanciful to draw parallels with the 1930s. We all know what the devaluation of political discourse led to then. It is in everyone’s true interest to ensure that doesn’t happen again.

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Talking about the NHS

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 15th November, 2017

NHS Channel S debateLast night I was on Channel S TV’s “Let’s Talk” live debate show, hosted by my old friend Ajmal Masroor, discussing the state of Britain’s National Health Service (NHS). The NHS will celebrate the 70th anniversary of its foundation next year, but there is a widespread belief that it is showing its age, not in a complimentary way. The peg for the show was a BBC report suggesting that 280,000 more routine operations could be carried out in NHS hospitals each year if the theatres were managed more efficiently. The way that Croydon has improved its performance was cited as a template which others might follow. Of course, all sorts of factors come into play in efficiency in operatingtheatres, not just timetabling. A percentage of patients cancel, sometimes at the last moment, or even without informing the hospital. And a shortage of beds can aggravate the situation. But of course the TV debate — whose other participants were a retired GP from Newham, a solicitor specialising in clinical negligence cases and a Labour Party politician — ranged more widely over the state of the NHS. Everyone agreed that there is a funding shortfall; the Liberal Democrats, of course, included in our manifesto for June’s general election a pledge to inject a further £6bn into the NHS, paid for by raising income tax by 1p in the pound. A great idea which was theoretically popular, but did not actually encourage many voters to back LibDem candidates. In my remarks during the one-and-a-half hour programme, I highlighted the way that Brexit is hitting the NHS. In the UK we rely quite heavily on medical staff from other EU member states, but since last year’s EU Referendum, applications for nursing jobs from other EU states has fallen by 96%. To respond to that shortfall, nurses and being recruited from outside the EU, not least Asia, but the NHS has to pay £1000 each for their working visa, therefore costing the cash-strapped service many millions of pounds it can ill afford. There is also uncertainty over how tightly the UK’s research facilities will be able to stay plugged into EU-wide endeavours if we leave not only the EU but also Euratom. However, I did point out that not all is gloomy about the NHS. Technology continues to advance (though it is ever more costly) and mental health now receives much more serious attention (thanks largely to the work of Norman Lamb and other Liberal Democrat Ministers and MPs during the 2010-2015 Coalition government). Similarly, there is a greater awareness of the need to integrate the health and social care services. So, as the NHS prepares to turn 70, there is still much to praise, not least the dedication and quality of so many NHS staff, at all levels.

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Debating the Labour Leadership

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 6th October, 2010

Last night, I spent an intensive but enjoyable hour-and-a-half on a live TV programme on the Bengali Channel S moderated by Ajmal Masroor debating the future of the Labour Party with Camden Council leader Nasim (Nash) Ali and two East London Labour activists. Interestingly, all three had backed Ed Miliband for national party leader, but a majority of the viewers who called in to the inter-active programme supported my line that Labour chose the wrong Miliband brother. Whatever legitimate criticisms may be made of David Miliband (re extraordinary rendition etc), he is the weightier political figure and would have made a more persuasive potential Prime Minister. Ed Miliband will really have his work cut out putting himself over to the British public — many of whom have only a rather marginal interest in politics, if any. There was some good cut and thrust in our TV debate, but not for the first time, I was astonished by the degree to which Labour activists are in a state of denial, deluding themselves that the Coalition is going to collapse at any moment and that the country will welcome Labour back with open arms. At one stage, Sonia Klein (who fought Ilford North for Labour in May) asserted that the Liberal Democrats are ‘imploding’. Dream on, Sonia! Some former LibDems who enjoy the comfort zone of Opposition may have defected to Labour, but the party in London has grown in size by over 20 per cent over the past few months and the recent LibDem Conference in Liverpool was the biggest and one of the best ever.

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The TELCO Hustings at St Paul’s Shadwell

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 16th April, 2010

Last night, more than 300 people gathered at the 350-year-old St Paul’s Church in Shadwell, in my constituency of Poplar & Limehouse, for an election hustings with a difference. Faith and community groups which are members of TELCO — the East London Community Organisation that was really the progenitor of London Citizens — raised their particular concerns regarding such issues as the Living Wage, CitySafe Havens and Community Land Trusts and then got the leaders of the different political groups on Tower Hamlets Council to endorse them. Afterwards came two sets of parliamentary hustings for the candidates of the three main parties plus Respect, for both the constituencies of Bethnal Green & Bow and Poplar & Limehouse. We parliamentary candidates were given just one minute each to expound our beliefs and policies, so I concentrated on our common goal of building a community in which all people can live with dignity and give each other respect. I also referred to the Strangers into Citizens campaign, for regularising longterm paperless migrants, at whose rally I spoke in Trafalgar Square last summer. At the St Paul’s hustings, George Galloway, alas, broke the spirit of consensus and sharing by launching a one-minute attack on the outgoing Labour MP for Poplar & Canning Town (the constituency boundaries have been changed), Jim Fitzpatrick, accusing him of being an Islamophobe (which I am sure Jim isn’t, despite recent gaffes) and saying (incorrectly) that all of the rest of us support the ‘colonial’ war in Afghanistan. This all brought predictable cheers from the Respect claque present, but almost everybody else visibly winced. Afterwards, I was interviewed by the Bengali TV station Channel S and stressed the need to work together for community cohesion in our borough and not to let divisive elements worsen tensions.

Link: www.telcocitizens.org.uk

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Iftar in Brick Lane

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 28th September, 2008

 Last night I joined Simon Hughes and the new Liberal Democrat PPC for Bethnal Green and Bow, Ajmal Masroor, to break the Ramadan fast with an iftar meal with Tower Hamlets local party stalwarts and some leading members of the Banglatown community in one of the biggest restaurants in Brick Lane. The place was heaving, and as ever during Ramadan there was a joyful atmosphere of friendship and community, as well as the physical relief for devout Muslims present of eating and drinking after a day of abstinence.

Ajmal is unusual in several ways, in being both an imam — though you wouldn’t know by looking at him! — and a presenter on the popular Bengali language TV station, Channel S. He’s young, articulate and full of energy — just what Bethnal Green and Bow LibDems need to revitalise the party locally and put it back where it used to be as the only credible alternative to Labour.

The constituency will be closely watched by the national media when the general election comes round, as it is currently held by ‘Gorgeous’ George Galloway of Respect, but since 2005, Respect has split in two and George is leaving Bethnal Green and Bow and is going to try for the adjoining seat of Poplar and Limehouse, where I live. The only thing I welcome about Galloway bringing his inflated ego to my home patch is the opportunity it will give me and my neighbours to blow a giant raspberry at him through the ballot box.

Link: www.tower-hamlets-libdems.org.uk

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