Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘David Miliband’

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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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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Is There No Limit to Labour’s Hypocrisy?

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 29th August, 2010

According to an exclusive article in the Independent on Sunday, former Foreign Secretary David Miliband says that his conscience is clear over alleged UK government complicity in extraordinary rendition and other instances of the Bush administration’s use of torture in the US ‘war on terror’. He seems to be trying to push some of the blame for tolerating or remaining silent about inhumane practices onto his predecessor Jack Straw, who held the ministerial post in 2001, after 9/11. But as the eminent QC and human rights campaigner Philippe Sands rightly tells the Independent, David Miliband seems to be ‘burying his head in the sand’ over this. I would go further: what he is trying to do is to wriggle out of both the collective responsibility for the Labour government’s acquiescence to disgusting behaviour by US forces and agencies — not to mention the illegal Iraq War! — and his personal responsibility, given what he must have known at the time he was at the FCO. It is just not good enough for him to try and wash his hands of it all now and pretend that somehow New Labour is or was squeaky clean over the matter. This is rank hypocrisy. But then hypocrisy has become the theme tune of Labour’s public campaigning and utterances since the party lost the general election, whether it is attacking the Coalition government for doing things that it intended to do had it been re-elected, or denouncing plans for AV electoral reform, even though that was in the Labour manifesto. Perhaps Labour hopes that if it shouts loud enough and tries to rewrite history to a positively Stalinist degree then somehow the British electorate will believe it is the sweetness-and-light party. But the record of 13 years of New Labour is there and it stinks — as does the hypcorisy of those of the party’s leadership contenders who want to portray themselves as unsullied by what has gone before.

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David Miliband Is Right to Berate William Hague

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 11th October, 2009

David Miliband 2British Foreign Secretary David Miliband has a right old go in The Observer today at the Tories — and especially his shadow opposite number, William Hague — for their alliance with Michal Kominski, of Poland’s innocuous-sounding Law and Justice Party (PiS) and Robert Zile of the Latvian For Fatherland and Freedom party, both of which have dodgy records on issues such as anti-semitism and homophobia, not to mention a general far-right past. Quite right too. Far from beng party political point scoring, this is a necessary move to show just what disgusting people the Conservatives have got into bed with in the European Parliament. They were even parading them at their party conference in Manchester the other day. It was depressing to see Stephen Pollard of the Jewish Chronicle coming out in Kaminski’s defence earlier this week. Zionists often accuse those who defend Palestinian rights as being ‘self-hating Jews’, but how self-hating can you get when you stand up and defend someone who refuses to apologise for the massacre of Jews at Jedwabne in Poland in 1941, as Kominski has refused to do?

Michal KominskiBut William Hague, far from admitting that the Conservatives have made a huge tactical error in their leaving the mainstream European People’s Party (EPP) to join up with these East European fruitcakes in the new  ‘European Conservatives and Reformists’ Group (ECR), has been stubbornly arguing that right is on the Tories’ side. Just look what happened to former Tory MEP Edward McMillan-Scott. He revolted at the prospect of supporting Michal Kominski as a Vice-President of the European Parliament, because of the Pole’s ‘anti-semitic, homophobic and racist past’ — and not only stood against him, but won. His punishment for this principled stand was to have the Tory whip wirthdrawn, then to be expelled from the Conservative Party, despite his long years of services to the cause, because — as William Hague explained it — he had made his allegations ‘against an individual who is a good friend of the Conservative Party and against a party (the PiS) allied to the Conservative Party in the European Parliament.’  By your friends you will be known, William. As a consolation prize, Kaminski was given the leadership of the ECR group in the Parliament. Pass the sick bag, Alice.

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Chris Huhne’s Crystal Ball

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 1st July, 2009

Chris Huhne 3Labour could be heading for its worst general election defeat since 1931, according to Eastleigh MP and Liberal Democrat Shadow Home Secretary Chris Huhne, who was speaking at the annual dinner of Barnet LibDems at the National Liberal Club this evening. That election took place during the worst economic crisis previous to the one we are now in. Ramsay MacDonald’s government had proved unable to agree on how to get Britain out of the Great Depression, with a result that on Tuesday (sic) 27 October, 1931, the British electorate not only threw out Labour; it reduced the party to just 52 seats in the House of Commons — fewer than the Liberal Democrats have today. The Conservatives under Stanley Baldwin won by a landslide in seats, if not exactly in voters, though this was, interestingly, the last British general election at which the winning party garnered more than 50 per cent of the votes.

Does Gordon Brown have nighmares about being MacDonald Mark II, one wonders? Or is he too thick-skinned for that? From the bags under his eyes it would appear that he isn’t getting enough sleep, poor man, whatever the reason. But of course, Gordon Brown’s big worry is that Labour MPs will have another go at trying to get him out, possibly around the autumn party conference, in the hope that any other leader would lessen the number of likely losses next year. Chris believes — as I do — that Alan Johnson is the most likely victor in such a situation (David Miliband having funked it, not once but twice). The good thing about that is that Johnson favours a half-way decent form of proportional representation. Actually leading the Labour Party to victory in 2010 might be beyond the capabilities of any man (or woman), however. But David Cameron is not convincing enough to do a Stanley Baldwin and too many of his closest colleagues have emerged really badly from the Daily Telegraph expenses exposés. So, Labour is indeed likely to slump badly at the general election — but the beneficiaries won’t just be the Tories. LibDems can expect to pick up seats from Labour, not least in the North of England and probably a few in London too.


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Kurdistan: The Other Iraq

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 29th June, 2009

Kurdistan regional logoThis evening, David Anderson MP hosted a reception on the terrace of the House of Commons in honour of the High Representative of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in the United Kingdom, Bayan Rahman (who worked formerly for the Financial Times, before assuming her diplomatic function). There was a good turnout by members of both Houses of Parliament, including several with longstanding connections with Iraq and the neigbouring region, such as (Baroness) Emma Nicholson and Anne Clwyd MP. But the star turn was the Minister for Natural Resources in the KRG, Dr Ashti Hawrami, who had two good items of news for those present. First, as Kurdistan is now responsible for producing approximately half of Iraq’s oil, it is a key component in the country’s security and prosperity. Second, despite the ongoing ‘Kurdish question’ in Turkey, the KRG has maintained rather good relations with Turkey — which is extremely important for regional stability.

Kurdistan likes to present itself as ‘the other Iraq’, and with some justification. A tremendous amount of economic and social development has been taking place in the region and it has its doors open for foreign investment. Indeed, a two-day trade and investment summit on the Kurdistan region is scheduled to be held in London on 9 and 10 September, at which Dr Hawrami will be joined by several of his ministerial coleagues, as well as high level speakers from the British side, including (in principle) the Foreign Secretary, David Miliband.

Links: and

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Polly Toynbee Urges LibDem Vote in Thursday’s Euros

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 1st June, 2009

Polly ToynbeeGuardian star columnist and earstwhile backer of Labour Foreign Secretary David Miliband, Polly Toynbee, has called on readers to vote LibDem in the European elections on Thursday. Following a similar recommendation in The Observer yesterday, is this indicative of a radical shift in the Liberal Democrats’ fortunes?


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Why Sri Lanka’s Tamils Have Occupied Parliament Square

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 20th April, 2009

tamils-in-sri-lankaThousands of Sri Lankan Tamils converged spontaneously on Parliament Square in Westminster today, to swell the ongoing demonstration of several hundred, as news came in of Sri Lankan government forces breaking through earth defences to the last stronghold of separatist rebels, the Tamil Tigers, amid fears of massive civilian casualties. As it is, tens of thousands of Tamil civilians have been living (or in many cases dying) in a humanitarian catastrophe that much of the outside world has ignored. Hence the demonstrations in Parliament Square . This situation is particularly relevant to the UK, given Britain’s colonial legacy and its role in creating a unitary state of Ceylon, with an inbuilt Tamil minority, and the presence of a large number of Tamils living in the UK, not least in London.

 One of the hunger strikers, Subramanyam Parameswaran, most of whose immediate family has perished in the recent troubles on the island, is continuing without food, and he lies motionless in a tent in the square, though receiving regular medical attention from sympatisers. A high percentage of Sri Lankan Tamils in the UK are doctors and other professional people.

Simon Hughes, MP for North Southwark and Bermondsey, has been working tirelessly on the issue and is due in New York this week, to help present the Tamils’ case to the United Nations. The Prime Minister’s Special Representative, Des Browne MP, has already gone there. Even the Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, has declared that he is ‘gravely concerned’ about the situation in Sri Lanka. And yet the Sri Lankan government has turned a deaf ear to pleas from the international media for access to the affected region, to report honestly what is happening, and from humanitarian agencies who rightly fear for the safety and health of the civilian Tamil population effectively caught in a trap. Even more important, there needs to be an immediate and permanent ceasefire and a political, not a military, appoach to the fundamental issues.

tamils-demonstrating-in-london1The Sri Lankan government believes ‘victory’ is in sight over the Tamil Tigers. As an objective commentator with a first-hand knowledge of the region, I do not endorse violence. But I recognise that the armed struggle in Sri Lanka (as in so many other parts of the world) grew out of generations of frustration among Tamils in Sri Lanka at being treated as second-class citizens. After the 1983 anti-Tamil riots in Colombo (which I witnessed with my own eyes, seeing people being hacked with knives and other makeshift weapons), the situation went from bad to worse. As one Tamil doctor from Bexley told me in Parliament Square this evening, ‘We should have made this demonstration 30 years ago. We were too quiet. We are a reasonable, educated community. Now the young people have shown us how to make our voice heard!’


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David Miliband’s Road to Damascus

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 16th January, 2009

david-miliband     The British Foreign Secretary (Minister), David Miliband, has at last admitted what the majority of the British public has known for several years: that the so-called ‘War on Terror’ was wrong. As he wrote in an article in the ‘Guardian’ yesterday, ‘Since 9/11, the notion of a “war on terror” has defined the terrain. The phrase had some merit: it captured the gravity of the threats, the need for solidarity, and the need to respond urgently — where necessary with force. But ultimately the notion is misleading and mistaken.’

What a shame it has taken over seven years for the penny to drop. I remember saying that the term ‘War on Terror’ was misguided and mistaken in a speech I made to the Liberal Democrat Conference only days after the attacks on New York and Washington. Other speakers, including the party leadership, echoed that sentiment. But both Labour and Tory MPs howled down LibDems when they said such things in the chamber of the House of Commons, and subequently spoke out against the looming war in Iraq.

Well, better late than never, I suppose. But how pathetic that David Miliband should wait until just one week before George W Bush leaves the White House to declare that the US President’s ‘War on Terror’ rhetoric and actions were misguided.  It would have done so much good for Britain’s standing in the world if he had come clean months or even years ago. But, no, even when Tony Blair stood down, New Labour had to keep on sucking up to the Bush administration, including its seemingly evil Vice President, Dick Cheney, and its practitioners of torture.

David Miliband continues, ‘We must respond to terrorism by championing the rule of law, not subordinating it, for it is the cornerstone of the democratic society. We must uphold our commitments to human rights and civil liberties at home and abroad.’ Quite right, Foreign Secretary. This is what the Liberal Democrats have been saying consistently all this time. Glad you got there in the end. But isn’t it a bit late now to try and claim the moral high ground?

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David Miliband Ducks the Issue

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 28th October, 2008

The Syrian Foreign Minister, Walid al-Muallem, has been visiting London, which made yesterday’s US helicopter assault on an alleged senior al-Qaida operative inside Syria unfortunately timed for Britain’s and Europe’s efforts to bring Syria in from the diplomatic cold. Mr al-Muallem and his British counterpart, David Miliband, were due to hold a joint press conference following their talks, but this was cancelled, as our Foreign Secretary repotedly did not wish to answer questions about the US attack. I bet he didn’t.

Meanwhile, the Syrians —  who say the fatalities were all local civilians — are screaming justifiably but impotently and both Iran and Russia have joined in the condemnation of what Mr al-Muallem described as Washington’s ‘cowboy politics’. The British government is keeping schtum. That is inevitably being interpreted across the Middle East as tacit approval for what the Americans have done.

One would have thought that during the twilight weeks of the Bush presisidency, the Bush Doctrine would have been quietly laid to rest. But not a bit of it. Pre-emptive strikes and raids into sovereign territory — recently in Pakistan too — continue, with apparently not a care about ‘collateral damage’. The families of the deceased are naturally grieving. But the wider Islamic world is angry. And David Miliband’s silence looks miserably like complicity.

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