Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Dominic Grieve’

Grief for Grieve

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 30th March, 2019

Dominic Grieve 4Last night, Beaconsfield Conservative Association passed a vote of no confidence in their MP, Dominic Grieve, former Attorney General and articulate proponent of a new referendum to extract Britain from its Brexit impasse. A video secretly filmed at the meeting and publicised in tomorrow’s Sunday Times shows Mr Grieve patiently explaining why No Deal would be a disaster, as members of the audience heckled him with shouts of “Lies!” and “Traitor!” It transpires that the main architect of this move to remove Dominic Grieve — deselection being a common consequence of such a vote of no confidence — was a former UKIP political opponent of his who has now joined the Conservatives. This sort of thing has reportedly been going on in various parts of the country as Hard Brexiteers have effectively infiltrated ageing and weakened Conservative associations in an attempt to influence their direction, rather as the far left has infiltrated some constituency Labour parties and pushed for the deselection of moderate Labour MPs.

Dominic Grieve 5Some of the victims of these tactics have quit their traditional party to join the Independent Group, now rebranded as Change UK, including Anna Soubry from the Conservatives and Mike Gapes from Labour. And Dominic Grieve must be tempted by the comparative safe haven such a route would offer if he echoes Ms Soubry’s view that she didn’t leave the Conservative Party but rather the Conservative Party left her. It is clear that the two main parties have polarised, making them uncomfortable homes for MPs who are more centrist. Interestingly, George Osborne — former Chancellor of the Exchequer and currently Editor of London’s Evening Standard — commented with a tweet today saying that when he was a Minister the party hierarchy intervened to stop some local associations deselecting their MPs, implying that that is what the Tory leadership should do in the case of Dominic Grieve, if indeed a deselection process is followed through. But it is hard to see Theresa May doing that to save an arch-Remainer when her survival game plan rests on appeasing Hard Brexiteers. Meanwhile, Mr Grieve is a valued and lucid commentator on the current Brexit mess, notably on BBC2’s Newsnight. He maintains that he is unfussed about what has happened, but I hope that he knows that millions of Brits deplore the way he is now under fire and that we share his grief.

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Simon Hughes and Magna Carta

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 25th September, 2015

imageSimon Hughes was Justice Minister in the tail-end of the Coalition government and already we are missing his Liberal voice in that department. Today, however, at the National Liberal Club, members of the Kettner Society and their guests were treated to a fascinating exposition by him on the legacy of the Magna Carta. He wisely avoided dwelling too much on the history of the document itself, apart from enunciating clearly the three elements of it that remain a part of the British constitutional landscape: freedoms for the Church, freedoms for the City of London and boroughs, and, most important, what these days we would call civil liberties, not least the right of people to be tried by their peers (juries). Simon then set out the major milestones of the intervening 800 years, including the Speaker of the House of Commons standing up to Charles I, the Great Reform Act of 1832, the extension of suffrage in the 20th century and the important incorporation of the principles of the European Convention on Human Rights and the Human Rights Act. These latter instruments the Conservatives would, of course, like to replace with a British Bill of Rights, despite the fact that much of the ECHR was largely framed by British jurists and leaving the convention would put the UK in a position not dissimilar to that of Belarus (as indeed the then Attorney General, Dominic Grieve, pointed out three years ago). Simon is nonetheless satisfied with most of the ways Britain’s constitutional framework and civil liberties have developed through history, though he thinks it would be useful to have a written constitution, if only so that schoolchildren would be able to learn the values and principles at the foundation of British society, as their counterparts in France and the United States do.

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Europe and the UK Election

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 25th April, 2015

imageOne of the striking characteristics of Britain’s current general election has been how very domestic the agenda has been: the NHS, job creation, the cost of living and so forth. Perhaps it is because I live in London, one of the world’s truly global cities, and write and broadcast about international affairs that I find so much of what the politicians are saying or putting in their leaflets dreadfully parochial. Of course local issues matter, but they need to be discussed in the wider context of what is happening globally, not just in economics but regarding the environment, migration, demographic trends and so forth. Moreover, despite UKIP’s higher profile than ever before in a British General election there has been remarkably little discussion about Britain’s role in the SU and the EU’s role in the world either, other than some very basic UKIP’s “we want to leave” and Labour and the Liberal Democrats saying “we should stay” (what the Tories say on the issue depends on which Conservative candidate you speak to). So it was a very welcome initiative on the part of the London branch of the European Movement, London4Europe, the other evening to put on a hustings for candidates from the five main parties at Europe House in Westminster. Interestingly, Mike Gapes for Labour and Dominic Grieve for the Conservatives were both more enthusiastically pro-EU and better informed than their national parties appear on the matter. Anuja Prashar for the Liberal Democrats (incidentally the only woman and only BAME candidate on the panel) not only stood up for the LibDems’ championing of our EU membership but was the only person really to contextualise the debate in 21st century global trends, not least the rise of the BRICS. Hugh Small spoke very competently from the Greens, whereas poor Robert Stephenson for UKIP was very much a fish out of water in this essentially pro-EU environment.

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Tories Still Stand for Hereditary Privilege

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 23rd January, 2010

David Cameron likes to make out that the Conservative Party has changed, thazt it is no longer the party of wealth and privilege (despite the social and educational background and financial status of so many of its MPs and key parliamentary candidates). But now the cat is out of the bag. As reported in the current issue of the Sunday Times newspaper, the Conservatives are trying to scupper government plans to phase out the 90 or so remaining hereditary members of the House of Lords — peers who have a say in shaping UK legislation for no other reason than their ancestry. It is, of course, mere coincidence that most of the remaining hereditaries are Conservatives. Dominic Grieve, the Shadow Justice Secretary, bleats that the hereditaries play ‘an important role’ in the work of the House of Lords. Some of them doubtless do, but that’s not the point. Britain is meant to be a democracy, but the continued presence of so many hereditaries — and the system by which they are replaced when they die off  — are more appropriate for the 18th rather than the 21st century.

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