Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Chris Davies’

Boris Bounces but LibDem Trounces

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 2nd August, 2019

Brecon by-electionIn the 10 days or so since Boris Johnson became Prime Minister, the Conservatives have risen in the opinion polls. This is almost entirely because some traditional Tory voters who had defected to the Brexit Party have drifted back because of Johnson’s Brexit pledge — though Jeremy Corbyn’s terminal uselessness as Leader of the Labour Opposition has also played a part. Nonetheless, yesterday the Liberal Democrats were able to seize the parliamentary seat of Brecon and Radnorshire in a by-election, with the Welsh LibDem Leader, Jane Dodds, achieving a majority of over 1,000. Inevitably some Conservatives are now wondering whether it was wise to readopt Chris Davies as their candidate in the by-election, as he had been the subject of a successful recall petition  because of dodgy expense returns. But the real problem for Boris Johnson is that his technical parliamentary majority (even with DUP support) is now down to just one. And several pro-Remain Conservative MPs who are horrified by the prospect of a No Deal Brexit on 31 October, as the Prime Minister has threatened, are poised to defect or else maybe even to bring the government down. Today the psephological guru, Sir John Curtice, was predicting that the LibDems could win as many as 50 seats if there were a snap general election this autumn or next spring, which would bring the party back to the sort of level it was at under Charles Kennedy and Nick Clegg. A heady prospect for new Leader, Jo Swinson. It will be interesting to watch the national opinion polls following the Brecon and Radnorshire by-election. Those of us with long enough political memories will recall that on several occasions in the past by-election triumphs led to a period of resurgence for the LibDems (and previously, the Liberals). So whereas Boris may indeed be enjoying a bounce in the polls, the Liberal Democrats could end up bouncing higher, especially if the Remain Alliance that worked so well in Brecon is maintained.

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The UK’s Future in the EU

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 18th September, 2013

At the LibDem Conference in Glasgow this week, Ben Jones, Chair of the Party’s Europe Working Group successfully proposed a motion on the EU. Here is his text, first published in a blog piece for the European Movement (UK) euroblog:

The UK’s future is in a prosperous, sustainable and secure European Union.

Ben JonesNext year marks the centenary of the First World War: that cataclysm that opened up the darkest decades in European history. We should be grateful that – for all our concerns – the Europe of today enjoys an unprecedented peace: its peoples among the most free and prosperous on earth.

Without the sacrifice of our ancestors we would not have that freedom.

But neither must we forget that the peace and prosperity we enjoy today did not glide effortlessly out of post-war Europe. Nor was it underpinned by the military might of NATO alone.

In fact it was a soldier – the great American General, George Marshall – who surveyed a broken post-war Europe, and saw that without common endeavour, there would be no prosperity and therefore no security to speak of. He, like Churchill, Schuman and others, understood that old Europe had failed – and, unchanged, would fail again. The mould had to be broken.
So, when that centenary comes next year, let’s not be complacent about what we have today. Let’s be glad that Europe was re-founded on common endeavour – on democracy, human rights and the rule of international law. Glad that Britain supported and became a part of it. And glad, that we Liberal Democrats have never wavered from that vision – always the party of In. The EU has faced big tests in its history and yet the challenges of the future will be – in many ways  – just as formidable as those of the past. The world is changing rapidly – a global shift in economic power the like of which has not been seen for centuries. Globalisation gathers pace – across trade, new technologies, people and ideas. We should welcome the opportunities this new world offers. But neither can we ignore the tests it will bring: tougher competition, cross-border crime, fragile states, instability on European borders, and unprecedented environmental challenges, not least climate change.
Certainly, no nation today can tackle all this alone. But the question for the EU remains – can it meet the challenge and continue its historic purpose of prosperity, sustainability and security? Our firm view is that it can. But as reformers and critical friends of the EU, we believe that only by focusing ruthlessly on those areas where it can really make a difference will the EU win back the trust of all its citizens. So in our motion:
First, if the EU does not stand for prosperity and jobs, it stands for nothing. In the wake of the Eurozone crisis, getting the single currency on to a firm footing will be a long and difficult process, but it remains as vital for the UK economy as any other, and we must support it. But setbacks must not blind us to the opportunities of the single market. The world’s biggest marketplace – Britain’s biggest market. An 11 trillion pound economy linked to millions of British jobs, and a pre-requisite for billions of pounds of inward investment into our country. Without it, we would be poorer. And we still need to unlock that market on our doorstep – in services, digital and green technology. We need to work hard for EU trade deals with the US and others to unlock billions in GDP and deliver more jobs. But only as part of the world’s biggest single market can the UK hope to get the best deal from tough negotiations with trading giants. And, let’s be absolutely clear, the only way to influence and determine the rules of the single market is through EU membership – the Norwegian and Swiss models are either undemocratic, ineffective or both and none cut it for the UK.
LibDem ConbferenceSecond, sustainability – we want ambitious new EU targets to reduce greenhouse gases. We want continued radical reform of fisheries and agricultural policies including a complete end to wasteful fish discards.
Third, a more secure Europe. Police and prosecutors must have the tools they need to catch the criminals who slip across borders. But we want a fair Europe too – ensuring common-sense use of the European Arrest Warrant and levelling the rights of suspects up – not down – across Europe.
And it is vital that the EU speaks with a more coherent voice in the world – combining diplomacy, trade and development more effectively, and pooling and sharing military capability to get value for money and meet our commitments. Deeper Eurozone integration is a necessity. But it must not compromise the coherence of the single market. Future treaty change should guarantee equal voice for euro ins and euro outs in single market rules. And, if the EU is to win back the trust of its publics, it needs to work harder to demonstrate accountability, efficiency and transparency in all that it does. That means more effective scrutiny from national parliaments on subsidiarity. And it means greater transparency – secret ballots on budget and policy in the European Parliament are unacceptable. But when it comes to reform – let’s be clear. Tory hopes for a swag-bag of unilaterally repatriated powers are an illusion – a huge waste of diplomatic capital. Yes the EU needs renewal and reform – but you only do that by leading and building alliances for change with like-minded countries. And – as we have argued consistently – the next time the UK signs up for a significant transfer of powers, triggering the EU Act, we should have an In Out referendum, giving the public a say on the whole relationship.
Sceptics will say this agenda is too ambitious. But our record shows it can be done: Chris Davies MEP leading a historic reform of EU fisheries policy. Ed Davey MP working with like-minded states to win an opt-out from regulations for small businesses. Sharon Bowles MEP negotiating hard to ensure non-euro states like the UK have a strong voice in future decisions on financial services. This is the winning approach. Getting stuck in, leading the agenda, building coalitions for change. Renewing and reforming the EU for the 21st Century. No surprises then that a recent survey found Lib Dem MEPs to be the hardest working. And no prizes for guessing who are the laziest… There’s a wonderful double meaning in the name UKIP. It’s not just what’s written on the ballot, it’s their daily approach to politics: You get up. You get your expenses. You kip.
With the right attitude, we can ensure a reformed EU delivers – on jobs, on crime and the environment. But we have a fight on our hands. There is a new isolationism creeping into our politics – a delusion that Britain can simply pull up the drawbridge and escape all the demands of the modern world. It is hurting our influence in Brussels. The fact is without EU membership we can’t have a stronger economy and a fairer society. This country would matter less in the world. That’s why President Obama – like each president before him for sixty years – insists that we walk taller in Washington when we count for something in Europe. No offence Geneva – but I don’t want the UK to be a big Switzerland. I’m proud that this country fought for freedom in Europe, drafted the European Convention on Human Rights, pioneered the biggest single market in the world, is a UN Security Council member – a country that wants a say on our children’s future in this world, and – when push comes to shove – will stand up and be counted.
Does anyone really believe that we can be that same country if we leave the European Union?

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Rebecca Taylor to Be New LibDem MEP

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 31st January, 2012

After several days of uncertainty, it has now been formally announced by Liberal Democrat headquarters that Rebecca Taylor will become the new LibDem MEP for Yorkshire and Humberside following Diana Wallis’s sudden resignation. Diana’s move came as a shock to friends and strangers alike, particularly as she had only just stood unsuccessfully to be President of the European Parliament, but she feels that twelve-and-a-half years of hectic Euro-political life is enough. Given the strain of all the travel and dealing with a massive Euro-constituency, one can easily understand that. It was assumed that in keeping with previous practice the seat would then pass automatically to the next person down on the LibDems’ 2009 regional list, Stewart Arnold, who happens to be Diana’s husband. Indeed, that is what was announced in last Friday’s edition of the weekly party newspaper Liberal Democrat News. But eyebrows were raised in some quarters and there were some pretty hard-hitting comments, not least from North West MEP Chris Davies, about how seemly  it was for a husband to inherit his wife’s seat (despite the fact that he was well qualified, as he had been working for her in her office). Anyway, after due consideration, Stewart Arnold declined  the seat, which meant that it was offered to the third person on the list, Rebecca Taylor, instead. Though Yorkshire born and with strong family links to the region — she also stood for Rotheram in the 2010 General Election — Rebecca has carved a career out for herself in London, so not surprisingly she had to give the matter some consideration before deciding what to do. However, she has now agreed to take on the responsibility — and brilliant opportunity, I might add. She is being thrown in the deep end at age 36, but it will do no harm to the British LibDem group in the Parliament to have an energetic new person in their ranks.


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The MEPs’ Code of Conduct

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 27th November, 2008

Today I signed and sent off the Liberal Democrat Code of Conduct for (prospective) MEPs, which has been drafted to ensure that the highest standards of public service are maintained by the LibDem Group (LDEPP) in the European Parliament. Without mentioning any names, there have been spectacular examples of the misuse of Euro-parliamentary allowances by some Conservative MEPs in particular and the general record of some of the people who got elected on the UKIP ticket is worthy of a Jeffrey Archer novel. It is essential that LibDem MEPs adhere to the stricter guidelines now being finalised by the European Parliament regarding the Payment of Expenses and Allowances to Members (PEAM), details of which will shorty be published on the European Parliament’s website.

The activities of MEPs tend to get scant coverage in the British Press, except when scandal is involved, reinforcing the distorted impression among the general public that people go into European politics to ‘join the gravy train’. Chris Davies, LibDem MEP for North West England, has done a fine job at exposing some of the worst abuses (to the annoyance of some of his colleagues in the European Parliament). And Nick Clegg, as party leader, is quite right to insist that LibDem MEPs should lead by example. 


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Tory Leader’s Whoops-a-Daisy Moment

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 5th June, 2008

The leader of the British Conservatives in the European Parliament, Giles Chichester, has resigned, after informing an alarmed Central Office that he would not be able to justify by 4pm tomorrow apparently paying nearly half a million pounds of pounds of his expenses to a company of which he is a director. The company, founded by his father, the round-the-wolrd yachtsman Sir Francis Chichester, is said to have received £445,000 from EU taxpayers’ money since 1996 ‘in connection with secretarial and assistant services for the European Parliament, constituency and committee work’ for the MEP. Mr Chichester has admitted this flaw in his financial arrangements, but has dismissed it as a ‘whoops-a-daisy moment’. The irony is that David Cameron recently gave him the job of drawing up a code of conduct for Tory MEPs’ expenses.

Once again, Chris Davies, the LibDem MEP for the North West, has been calling for a tightening up of the European Parliament’s rules, and he is understandably frustrated that many continental MEPs, not least from Italy and Greece, are determined to keep as much in the dark as possible. However, there will be changes for the better next year, in time for the 2009 Euro-parliamentary elections, thanks to new rules and I will be campaigning hard for full transparency.

One party which will be particularly pleased with today’s Tory clip-up, however, is UKIP. A little bird tells me that yet another of their MEPs will no longer be sitting with them as from today, not to follow his former colleague Ashley Mote into prison, but to join Robert Kilroy-Silk into the political wilderness. Watch this space! 

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Chris Davies and MEPs on the Fiddle

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 23rd April, 2008

Chris Davies, LibDem MEP for the North West of England, has made himself pretty unpopular amongst some of his colleagues with his campaign to open up MEPs’ expenses to greater scrutiny. But that doesn’t stop him being right. The fact that MEPs have now voted 442 to 209 against the publication of reports which uncovered widespread abuse of staff allowances can only result in greater public disdain for the European Parliament, which is anyway an institutuion of which few EU citizens know much. The cover-up is handing the issue on a platter to anti-European forces such as UKIP. But Chris Davies has rightly won the press coverage on this matter, and LibDems should champion their core belief in transparency and honesty in politics and its funding.


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