Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Evan Harris’

Future Directions of Liberalism

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 19th July, 2015

Hackney LD garden partyThere is a certain satisfaction, not necessarily smug, among Liberal Democrats that we have got our leadership election over while the Labour Party is still facing a summer of grueling conflict between their various contenders. Actually, there was very little ‘conflict’ or indeed major difference between Tim Farron and Norman Lamb, despite their varying experience and style, as they are both Liberals to their core, so although I put Norman first on my ballot paper I am very happy to campaign with Tim, who is a brilliant communicator. Anyway, now the Leader is in place, what do the LibDems actually stand for? This is an important question for the electorate, given that the identity of the Party got blurred within the Coalition. And as a result, as Lynne Featherstone, formerly MP for Hornsey & Wood Green and Minister at DFID (and the Home Office) said at a garden party discussion put on by Hackney LibDems this afternoon on the theme ‘Future Directions for the Liberal Demorats’, the LibDems got toxified by the Tories while the Tories got semi-detoxified by us. Hence, in part, our electoral disaster, which saw Lynne and so many superb colleagues swept away. But as she pointed out, we did get through key LibDem policies while she was in office, such as Equal Marriage and the campaign against FGM. For such things we can be truly proud. Evan Harris, who unexpectedly got narrowly booted out of Oxford West & Abingdon in 2010 and was also a guest speaker at today’s Hackney event, issues of civil liberties were at the fore. After all, he has been at the forefront of the Hacked Off campaign since he lost his seat. Interestingly, the members present (who included several newbies from the post-election influx) highlighted the issue of BaME under-representation in the Party, something I wrote about after the recent Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats (EMLD) leadership hustings a while back. There is no denying the fact that we now have just eight MPs, all of whom are straight white males, though in fairness the candidates standing in many held and target seats this May were far more diverse than that. In London, especially, this is a major issue we have to face, perhaps the biggest issue of all; if we do not look like the city we aspire to represent, how can we expect people to vote for us? Knowing the candidates in the running for the London elections next year (Mayor and GLA members) I am confident that we are going to be putting forward a wonderfully diverse list, whoever finally gets selected. But can we then persuade the voters of London to back them? That is the question we need to ask if we are going to chart the direction of the Party henceforth.

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British Media and the EU

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 7th September, 2013

David AaronovitchCatherine BearderCitizens of other European countries who come to live in England are often perplexed by the hysterically anti-EU tone of much of the tabloid Press. It’s been going on for years and continues unabated, lately supplemented by the propaganda drive for a “Brexit”: leaving the European Union as a result of what proponents hope would be a decisive vote in an In-Out referendum, currently envisaged by Mr Cameron’s Conservatives as taking place in 2017 (on the assumption that they will still be in power). This is not the most helpful atmosphere in which to run up to the 2014 European elections, which will take place in the UK on 22 May, the same day as the London borough council elections and many other local contests. So it was timely of Europe House — headquarters of the European Commission Representation and European Parliament London office — to host an event yesterday on the British Media and the EU. Interestingly, though there is no lack of journalists paid by their newspapers to write negative stories about the EU — not least for the Daily Express and Daily Mail — none of them had been able or willing to take part in the event’s two panels, chaired by David Aaronvitch of The Times. So there was a bias in favour of the shocked and dismayed that was equally evident in the large audience. We heard from members of the French and Dutch Press, as well as the Economist, with more political speeches from Catherine Bearder (LibDem MEP for South East England) and Evan Harris (former LibDem MP, representing Hacked Off). I suggested that some of the anti-EU bile produced by the British tabloids was attributable to xenophobia: the insular Little Englander’s contempt for The Other, “them” rather than “us”, Brussels being the ultimate “them”. A young man from YouGov polling agency made the sensible point that whereas a sizable proportion of the British electorate says it does want a referendum and the Outs currently outpoll the Ins, unless there is some sort of renegotiation/reform, Europe is way down the public’s list of priorities. Jobs, the economy, public services etc are much more of concern, and even if the EU is indeed related to the former, the public does not necessarily make the connection.

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Dr Harris’s Prescription for the LibDems

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 5th June, 2011

The second year of Britain’s Lib-Con Coalition government is going to be a tough one, especially in the wake of last month’s local election results, which seemed to reward (slightly) the Tories for what the government is doing and punish (heavily) the Liberal Democrats for everything that is deemed unsatisfactory. Of course, the reality is much less straightforward than that. And as Dr Evan Harris — former MP for Oxford West and Abingdon and now a leading voice in the Social Liberal Forum — pointed out this afternoon in a speech at a Hackney LibDems’garden party, there is much to trumpet about what LibDems have achieved since May last year. Unfortunately, the media, Labour and to some degree the general public focus instead on the ‘car crash’ of the tuition fees débacle and a level of public spending cuts which before the election the Party was claiming would be too far, too fast. More significantly, Evan said that maybe the chumminess of the Cameron-Clegg relationship had been allowed to go on for too long. It has to turn into a more realistic presentation and understanding of what a Coalition between two parties with different ideologies actually means. That is not something that can wait until a month or so before the 2015 General Election, when Liberal Democrats and Conservatives will be fighting each other. In a deligtfuol mixed metaphor, Evan also said that we had to learn to see ‘elephant traps hurtling towards us’, in order to lessen their impact. In London, of course, we have the urgent task of running an effective 2012 campaign, in which Mayor Boris Johnson will be an obvious target — and it was good to see Mike Tuffrey, London Assembly member, at the Hackney event, to remind us of this. All help and advice from beyond the M25 will, of course, also be welcome!

Links: www.hackneylibdems.org.uk http://socialliberal.net

 

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The Sheffield LibDem Conference

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 13th March, 2011

The Liberal Democrats’ Spring Conference this year was on Nick Clegg’s home territory of Sheffield, which was partly why there was such tight security — the so-called ring of steel — round the City Hall, to fend off protestors who accuse him of ‘selling out’ to the Conservatives. Actually, there were nowhere near the expected number of demonstrators, even if some were the predictably nasty Trots with their unsubtle chants of ‘Scum! Scum! Scum!’ and even ‘Nazis!’ Others were much more reasonable, including a number of students understandably aggrieved that the LibDem policy against university tuition fees fell by the wayside during the course of the Coalition Agreement negotiations. One small group, bizarrely, were Libyans praising Muammar Gaddafi. Party President Tim Farron, who was omnipresent, fuelling press speculation that he already has his eyes on the leadership, insisted the LibDem policy on this hasn’t changed, but I don’t think the electorate would put much credence in such a pledge second time round. As several speakers in this morning’s excellent debate on party’s principles pointed out, we must avoid such ‘train crashes’ as the tuition fees disaster in the future. The mood was distinctly upbeat, nonetheless, even before Nick Clegg’s speech. Government Ministers and party managers might be unhappy about the conference’s rejection of the government’s planned NHS reforms, but most rank-and-file members were not. Shirley Williams and Evan Harris were amongst those leading the charge on that issue and the outcome certainly makes the statement that the LibDems have retained their distinct identity more credible. My own activities this time were limited to the fringe, outlining some of the work I have been doing with the Westminster Foundation for Democracy in eastern Europe and the Arab world at a meeting organised by LDEG (Liberal Democrat European Group) and speaking briefly from the audience at a LDFP (Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine) discussion on the question ‘Should we speak to Hamas?’  O’ll be filing a piece on the Bankers’ Bonuses emergency motion for the next issue of Liberal Democrat News

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IDAHO

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 17th May, 2009

IDAHOToday is the International Day against Homophobia (IDAHO). Some people in Britain and other parts of Western Europe might think such an event is unnecessary, as great advances have been made here in countering discrimination against peope on grounds of their sexual orientation. But the rough handling of Gay Pride activists in Moscow only hours before yesterday’s Eurovision Song Contest was a timely but unpleasant reminder of the prejudice and injustice that still exists in parts of eastern Europe, let alone beyond.

Liberal Democrats, such as Evan Harris MP and the MEPs Sarah Ludford and Sharon Bowles, have been in the forefront of action in both the House of Commons and the European Parliament to get proper legislation guaranteeing equal rights for sexual minorities, as well as countering homophobia. I have pledged that if I am elected on 4 June, I will press for European legislation to ensure the mutual recognition of civil partnerships between EU member states that have them, as this is not the case at present. Liberal Youth and DELGA (the LibDems’ LGBT group) have also been particularly strong in raising awareness and campaigning about homophobic bullying in schools.

In some countries of the the Middle East, the situation  for LGBT people has seriously deteriorated, not least in Iraq, where killings are now common — yet another negative consequence of the US-led illegal war. So, IDAHO is important, to remind us all of human rights abuses targeted at people solely on the grounds of their sexuality. 

Links: www.homophobiaday.org and www.idaho.org.uk

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