Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘DFID’

Lynne Featherstone’s African Remit

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 13th November, 2012

During her two years at the Home Office, Lynne Featherstone did great things to promote the equalities agenda, even if she and Theresa May did not always see eye to eye. The Equal Marriage consultation was a real win for the LibDems within the Coalition, and to his credit David Cameron “got” the issue, even if some of his backbench headbangers didn’t. So there was initially some disquiet among LibDems when Lynne was moved in the ministerial reshuffle earier this year to the Department for International Development (DfID). However, as Lynne made clear at an informal briefing to the International Relations Committee (IRC) of the Liberal Democrat Party in Westminster this evening, she has taken equality issues along with her (with the PM’s blessing), and it is especially important that she is able to champion the central role of women in development. She has just returned from a mission to South Sudan, which was rather jumping in at the deep end, though other states she has visited this year include Kenya and Uganda, and Africa is now central to her remit. DfID has of course been directed to phase down its involvement in India (now one of the BRICs) but Africa remains a main area of concern, not only for the traditional problems of famine and disease (including HIV/AIDS) but also for the way that women are excluded and often oppressed within many African societies, including through the persistence of female genital mutilation (FGM). It was interesting that FGM was a major topic in the discussion after Lynne’s presentation at the IRC, but then it is a quintissentially Liberal issue, relating to human rights and gender matters as well as to health. Lynne was a shadow International Development Minister some years ago, so she is not entirely fresh to the field. But it is clear that Africa is offering her a steep learning curve, from which both she and Africa’s development should ultimately benefit.



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The Highs and Lows of Malcolm Bruce

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 21st May, 2008

In a fortnight’s time, Malcolm Bruce, MP, will be celebrating 25 years as the Member for Gordon, but earlier this evening, he was the guest speaker at the National Liberal Club’s annual Chairman’s Dinner. That in itself was something of an innovation, as often these dinners have just been an occasion for socialising after the Club’s AGM. But the current NLC Chair, Paul Hunt, has taken the admirable decision to raise the level of political debate within the Club, and Malcolm was an inspired choice. Having not prepared a speech (as he endearingly admitted), he spoke off the cuff about the Highs and Lows of his parliamentary career, which was far more entertaining than most set speeches.

Among the lows (putting aside his failed bid for the party leadership) was the occasion when he and Paddy Ashdown had virtually to rugby-tackle Bob Maclennan to stop him storming out of a House of Commons committee room into a corridor full of journalists when the ‘Dead Parrot’ document was roundly rejected by his colleagues. Fortunately, time is a great healer, and we can now laugh about such things.

Amongst the high points has been Malcolm’s current position as Chairman of the (cross-party) Committee on International Development, which has taken him to many obscure corners of the world (and deeply enhanced his role as President of Liberal International British Group). Malcolm paid tribute to much of what the current government (and the Department for International Development, DFID) has been doing. And he contrasted the way that China has responded to the recent earthquake (with appeals and appreciation for outside help), with the monstruous policies of the Burmese junta, who appear not only indifferent to their own people’s suffering, but are actively making it worse.


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