Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Chatham House’

Ming Campbell’s View of Britain and Europe

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 6th June, 2014

Ming CampbellNeither hard nor soft power by NATO and the EU can be as effective as when carried out in tandem, the Liberal Democrat MP Sir Menzies Campbell declared in his Tim Garden Memorial Lecture at Chatham House last night. He stressed that there are no plans to create a European army, despite claims to the contrary, but said there is much to be gained from European military cooperation, not least in cost effectiveness. Most of Ming Campbell’s text was about the political benefits of British membership of the EU (as one might expect from one of the grandees of the Party of IN), and included a mea culpa that he and his parliamentary colleagues had not done enough over the past four decades at promoting those benefit to the British public. If people had listened to the Liberal Party in the 1950s and enabled Britain to join what evolved into the EU at the beginning, we would have had more chance to shape it, Ming said. He was scathing about the Conservative obsession with an EU Referendum, declaring this is not the time to be scaring away foreign investment from those for whom Britain’s place in the EU is considered value added. However, Ming will have disappointed the federalists in the audience (of whom there were undoubtedly some, as the event was organised by Liberal International British Group) by stating flatly that Jean-Claude Juncker (the European People’s Party candidate for President of the European Commission) would be completely the wrong choice at the moment, as he is a man from another time, when ever closer political union was a driving force within the EU. Stephen Sacker, the presenter of BBC World’s Hard Talk, who was moderating the event, asked some probing questions of the speaker, but I for one was disappointed that Ming did not go into greater detail about what sort of reforms the Liberal Democrats would like to see happening in the EU. I am happy to be in the Party of IN, but one of the reasons we did so poorly in the recent European elections was because we did not explain that we are the Party of  IN because we are “in it to reform it” — and how.

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George Mitchell and David Miliband on the Middle East

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 17th October, 2011

Chatham House this afternoon hosted a ‘conversation’ with former US Senator George Mitchell and former Labour Foreign Secretary David Miliband on the theme ‘The Middle East in the 21st Century’. It was striking that the focus of the discussion was almost entirely about that most 20th Century of questions: the Arab-Israeli conflict and the related ongoing occupation of the Palestinian West Bank. George Mitchell — who was President Obama’s Envoy to the region for a period — believes there will be a two-state solution one day, but stuck to Washington’s line that this can only come about through negotiation. I made the point that so long as settlement expansion continues, in East Jerusalem as well as in the West Bank, there can be no negotiated settlement and indeed a Palestinian state is looking increasingly unviable. The US is the only country that can put sufficient pressure on the Israeli government to halt settlements, but it has shown its unwillingness to back calls for a halt with any action (such as cutting aid to Israel). Moreover, George Mitchell — charming and drily witty as he is — also endorsed the US line on voting against the Palestinian Authority’s current attempt to get statehood recognised at the United Nations. David Miliband, interestingly, said he thought that President Abbas had used brilliant tactics in making this move, in that it thrust the issue of Palestine into the limelight when it was running the risk of being overshadowed by the so-called Arab Spring. David Miliband also wished to see the peace efforts further internationalised, with Arab states having a more direct input and Europe making its voice heard more strongly.

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Ashdown’s Law

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 30th June, 2009

Paddy Ashdown 1Sweltering temperatures did not deter the expectant crowd that attended the second Tim Garden memorial lecture, delivered this evening at Chatham House by Lord (Paddy) Ashdown, following wine and twiglets in the RIIA’s St James’s town house. The basement lecture hall itself — though windowless — is actually one of the few places in the capital that has functioning air-conditioning, so those who had survived the reception were given a chance to recover and be entertained at the same time. Paddy was on fine form, declaring that three factors have fundamentally altered the world we live in today: (1) the pattern of world power has shifted, from a monopolar, US-dominated reality to a multipolar situation in which new superpowers such as China, India and Brazil are rightly asserting their importance; (2) there has been a horizontal shift of power away from nation states and their governments to non-state actors, NGOs, communities and individuals; and (3) globalisation means everything connects with everything else. He also propounded an Ashdown’s Law: that one can only achieve results if you work with other people. None of this may sound very profound, perhaps, but he expressed it beautifully and the gist was all very sound.

However, Baroness (Shirley) Williams stumped Paddy with a two-pronged question — the latter part about global elites — during the question time, prompting him to suggest that she should be invited to give the Tim Garden lecture next year. Liberal International British Group, which sponsors the event, could certainly do worse, though there is no reason now that the event seems to have become an instant institution why LIBG shouldn’t look abroad for future speakers as well.

Link: www.libg.org.uk  and www.chathamhouse.org.uk

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An Evening with Peter Mandelson

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 3rd December, 2008

‘Are you happy, Peter?’ Gordon Brown asked Lord Mandelson the other day. ‘If you are happy, then I am happy,’ the Prince of Darkness replied. Rather an odd exchange, one might think. But even odder was the fact that Peter Mandelson began his Hugo Young Lecture at Chatham House this evening with this anecdote. Some politicians effectively do self-deprecation. But Peter Mandelson flirts with an audience. Some of the ladies present, their heads perhaps lightened by a quickly-downed glass of wine at the pre-lecture reception, purred appreciatively. Several of the gentlemen scowled.

Mandelson’s subject was ‘Globalisation and the Crunch: What Lessons for Politics in Europe?’, a title that reflected not only the financial concerns of the day, but also the fact that the speaker was still European Commissioner for Trade when he was invited. One might have imagined that he would give a speech worthy of a European Commisioner, but not a bit of it. It was New Labour this and New Labour that; the Spin-meister is back with a vengeance. New Labour is not in favour of big government or small government (unlike the wicked Tories), the gist of what he said went. Instead, it is promoting ‘smart government’. He obviously cherishes this term — indeed, he may well have invented it himself — as he repeated it several times. ‘Smart government means using our existing resources better,’ he intoned.

Things perked up at question time. He was asked if EU Commission President José Manuel Barroso was correct when he declared the other day that several senior people in the British government were starting to think about euro membership once again. Out came the pat response that the government is still in favour of joining the euro at some stage, ‘but it’s not on the radar screen, and the radar screen is very crowded at present’. When my old Brussels colleague John Palmer pressed him on whether he thought that Gordon Brown’s famous five tests for Britain’s joining the euro had been met, Mandelson flatly refused to reply. Typical New Labour, unwilling to nail its Euro-colours to the mast.

Peter Preston, who was chairing, was obliged to gush the meeting’s thanks, and he said that Hugo Young would have savoured the presentation. I doubt it. It was so partisan that frankly, it stank.

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