Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Elton John’

Europe Gets Centre-stage with London LibDems

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 15th November, 2008

jf-with-sl-and-dinti-battone

The European elections may still be a little over six months away, but they were very much the main focus of attention at the Liberal Democrats’ London Regional conference in Camden today. In the morning there was a session at which both the sitting MEP Sarah Ludford and myself (as No. 2 on the LibDem list) made presentations, as did Victoria Marsom and Chris Leaman from the party’s campaign department. I focussed on policy issues for next year’s campaign, highlighting the environment, the economy and security/civil liberties. The core message was that the party can indeed win two seats for London next time — as, frankly, it should have done in 2004 — while at the same time, local parties can use the Euro-elections to help them realise their Westminster parliamentary and borough council ambitions.

In the afternoon, Chris Huhne MP made a speech on putting Europe across on the doorstep. The LibDems are a party campaigning for reform of the EU to make it work better, but starting from the premise that European cooperation is a good thing and that many of the major challenges of our age need to be tackled regionally, if not globally. Dinti Batstone (No. 3 on the London list) gave an excellent and motivating presentation on targeting EU voters in 2009 — in other words, citizens of other EU member states who are resident in London and therefore should be encouraged to vote here. Simon Hughes MP, the outgoing party president, underlined the importance of European and international issues and the party’s commitment to them.

At different times during the day, both Sarah Ludford and I were able to slip out to talk to the annual LGBT Conference organised by the University and College Union (UCU), conveniently being held just three tube-stops away. Sarah was able to report on the excellent work that she and some of her colleagues in the European Parliament have been doing, such as putting pressure on the Labour government not to deport LGBT asylum seekers to countries where they might be executed or suffer persecution; extending civil partnership recognition EU-wide; and ending the US ban on inward travel/immigration by people living with HIV/AIDS. My brief was to cover the role of the British Press on related issues. Whereas there has been a welcome shift in the approach of some tabloids (notably The Sun, following Sir Elton John’s and David Furnish’s civil partnership and Pater Tatchell’s confronting Robert Mugabe) there is still a lot of subcutaneous homophobia amongst journalists on newspapers such as the Daily Mail and the News of the World, which erupts to the surface from time to time.

Links: www.libdems4london.org.uk and www.ucu.org.uk

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Brian Paddick in the Line of Fire

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 12th May, 2008

Now the London elections are safely out of the way, I’ve at last had time to read Brian Paddick’s autobiography, Line of Fire. This was published during the late stages of the London Mayoral campaign, I suspect more with an eye to boosting sales than to boosting his electoral chances. Disappointingly for politicos, there is almost no political content to the book (although Brian did a PPE degree at Queen’s College, Oxford, on sabbatical from the Met). Apart from a passing reference to the late Harriet Smith, the Liberal Democrats don’t get a look-in until right at the end of he book — and then only cursorily, with no real explanation as to why he decided to run in a race which nobody seriously thought he could win.

His account of life inside the Metropolitan Police does contain revealing material, though the gist of his falling out with Sir Ian Blair over the Jean Charles de Menezes affair was already widely known. ‘Britain’s most controversial policeman’ has also outed himself sexually repeatedly, so there are few surprises about his private life, other than the rather touching portrait of his (now divorced wife) Mary as a real brick. Given his lifestyle, however, it did come as something of a revelation to learn of Brian’s Masonic and Baptist affiliations.

In his book, he gets as excited as any teenager when finding himself surrounded (thanks to David Funish) by Elton John, George Michael, Lulu, Sharon Osbourne et al. In fact, there is something Peter-Panish about him, despite his intelligence and the important policing roles he had over 20 years. I can’t think of many other men who have just turned 50 who list their hobbies as ‘the gym’ and ‘clubbing’. There’s a well-known saying that ‘Life Begins at Forty’, but maybe in Brian’s case, it will be ‘Life Begins at Fifty’: a political campaign under his belt, a civil partnership on the way, and maybe even a media career. Having successfully sued the Mail newspapers in the past, he’s now getting money out of them by writing for them instead — with a piece in yesterday’s Mail on Sunday that was infinitely more revealing and amusing than his (partly ghost-written) book, I have to say.

 

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