Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘D66’

An Alternative Liberal Narrative on Immigration?

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 12th May, 2013

immigrationAfter the ALDE (European Liberal Democrats) Council in Pula, Croatia, the Ralf Dahrendorf Roundtables held a seminar on “Illegal Immigration: The Crossing Point” with a thought-provoking initial presentation by Felicita Medved, the (Slovene) President of the European Liberal Forum. Although the main purpose of the ensuing debate was to focus on illegal — or, as Commissioner Cecilia Malstrom has rightly encouraged people to rename it, “irregular” — immigration, in fact the whole issue of immigration in general got debated, with a sharp division emerging between more left-leaning Liberal parties including the UK Liberal Democrats, D66 from the Netherlands and the Swedish Centre Party on the one hand and more right-wing Liberal parties, notably the VVD from the Netherlands and Venstre from Denmark. I was so alarmed by the degree to which one VVD speaker, Mark Verheijen MP, seemed to have wandered on to the territory of Geert Wilders (just as a depressingly large number of British Conservatives have lurched into the openly xenophobic, even racist, anti-immigrant domain of UKIP’s Nigel Farage) that I argued passionately for the urgent need for a new alternative Liberal narrative and vocabulary on immigration. Of course levels of immigration have to be managed, but the positive side to immigration needs to be championed and due recognition given to how it has helped the economies of many EU member states, including Britain. Indeed, thanks to our greying population continued immigration is going to be a necessity if Europe is going to play a significant economic role in the globalised world of the future. The ensuing debate in Pula was so lively that it was fortuitous that the UK LibDems had already suggested the issue could be the subject of another session, associated with the ALDE Congress in London this November. I believe immigration will be the top issue in the European elections next May, thanks to UKIP, and it is essential we LibDems have a persuasive counter-narrative in place by then.

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Richard Allan Woos Notting Hill

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 17th July, 2012

Richard Allan, Nick Clegg’s predecessor as MP for Sheffield Hallam and since 2010 a member of the House of Lords, was the guest speaker at Kensington and Chelsea Liberal Democrats’ summer garden party in Notting Hill this evening and delivered an astute analysis of the present state of the Party after two years in government. One would not expect anything less from someone who is now Director for Europe for Facebook and who introduced a whole new style of parliamentary campaigning in Sheffield. Most normal people are turned off by conventional politics, he suggested, but could be attracted into joining activities by stressing the social side, not just through expert use of social media but also through innovative techniques. In Sheffield Hallam, for example, he and his team reached out to students by leaving yellow helium balloons outside nightclubs at two-o’clock in the morning, with Liberal Democrat messages attached. Sure enough, students took them with them as they staggered home. Richard shared with us the saying of Dutch D66 colleagues who had referred to going into coalition government as “halving”, i.e. a minority party in a coalition government loses half its seats at the following general election. The good news, according to the Dutch formula, is that during the subsequent period of opposition, the party bounces back into people’s favour. We shall see. Richard was unusual in that he decided after two terms in the House of Commons that he had had enough and wanted to get on with other things, and he has been extremely successful with that. He moved into Kensington from Lambeth last year and could give a useful fillip to the local party, which has itself suprised evrybody — not least the Royal Borough’s Conservatives — in recent years by winning three council seats, in two separate wards.

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European Liberal Democrats in the Caucasus

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 13th May, 2012

It was daring — even brave — of the Armenian National Movement to invite the European Liberal Democrats (ELDR) to convene a Council meeting in Yerevan this week, only days after general elections were held in Armenia, about which they have cried foul. ELDR has never had a meeting on such a scale in the Caucasus before, but it was doubly valuable for European Liberal Democrat Council members as the Liberal International organised a side-trip fact-finding mission to Georgia beforehand. I was involved in both, as the (UK) Liberal Democrats’ representative on the Executive of Liberal International and an elected member of the ELDR Council. I was in Armenia six years ago, travelling widely around the country, so it was fascinating to see how the capital Yerevan has been rapidly modernising, though the countryside has changed little and indeed gives the feeling of still being back in the Soviet era, only friendlier. But there was also a big contrast between Georgia (a first for me) and Armenia. In Tbilisi, our Georgian hosts — the Georgia Dream coalition — gave a very critical appraisal of how they see democracy fumctioning in their homeland, whereas the government — who looked after us for half a day — put a different spin on the state of affairs. But whoever was right about whichever issues there is no denying that Georgia is a place willing itself onto an upward trajectory, much aided by the abolition of widespread earlier corruption and personal insecurity. Most Georgians are anxious to get into NATO and one day into the EU as well; the 12-Star flag of Europe is prominant everywhere alongside the Georgian red cross. We were taken to the Line of Occupation on the edge of South Ossetia to remind us of just how close and real the Russian occupational presence is. In Armenia, in contrast, there is more of a Russian flavour to the capital, but of course there is also a big influence of the Armenian expatriate community from France and the United States, some of whom are presumably financing the massive amount of reconstruction going on. In the ELDR Council and contiguous special sessions we heard a lot from NGOs and others about alleged irregularities in last Sunday’s poll. But there was also, among other things, a fascinating session on LGBT Rights in the South Caucasus, organised in conjunction with the two Dutch Liberal parties (the VVD and D66) as well as International Liberal Youth (IFLRY). Just days ago a gay-friendly bar in Yerevan was set alight by far right activists, but nonetheless there is a lot of positive conscious-raising on equality issues (even in Georgia, where over 90% of the population say they disapprove of LGBT activism). The black hole as far as the Armenians are concerned seems to be Azerbaijan, but as I know from a visit there not all that long ago, things are modernising apace in Baku, financed by oil money, even if the regime is pretty authoritarian. All in all, the Caucasus is a region with huge political and economic potential, desperate to be seen as European, while at the same time retaining its diverse specificities.

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International Day against Homophobia

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 17th May, 2008

Liberal International marked the International Day against Homophobia today with a speech by Boris Dittrich, Advocacy Director on LGTB issues at Human Rights Watch in New York. Boris (who used to be the leader of the Dutch social liberal party, D66) pointed out that homosexuality is a capital offence in seven countries in the world and a criminal offence in 77. Simon Hughes, MP, President of the UK Liberal Democrats, spoke about the case of the young Iranian gay man in his constituency who was at risk of being deported back to Iran where he could have faced execution — a process halted because of the international outcry by LGBT and human rights organisations.

International lawyers met in Jogjakarta, Indonesia, a while back to draw up a set of principles aimed at achieving worldwide recognition of equal treatment in law for everyone, whatever their sexual orientation or gender identity. In order to avert accusations that European countries were trying to impose their views and customs on the world, Boris Dittrich got Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay to present the Jogjakarta Principles to the United Nations last year. Today, at the LI Congress in Belfast, a strong motion was passed urging political action in defence of these principles. As an interesting reflection of the universality of human rights values among Liberals worldwide, not a single person voted against the motion, even though there were representatives from many African and Arab countries whose governments or religious authorities have institutionalised homophobia. 

Link: www.idahomophobia.org

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