A referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union isn’t expected until 2017, and may not happen then, but the arguments for both In and Out are getting more insistent. This evening, the magnificent Great Hall at the Guildhall in the City of London hosted a capacity crowd to hear a debate on the question “The City in Europe: Will the Square Mile Prosper if Britain Leaves the EU?”, organised by the Evening Standard newspaper and moderated by Jon Sopel of the BBC. The Lord Mayor of London, Roger Gifford, left no doubts as to where his sympathies lay when in his introductory remarks he stressed London’s importance as a centre for financial and other services and how some banks and firms in the City would pack up and leave if the UK withdrew from the EU. The Business Secretary, Vince Cable, pursued the same theme in one of the most pro-EU speeches I have heard him make; unlike many Liberal Democrats Vince does not have a particularly strong emotional attachment to anywhere on the continent; if any one country is close to his heart it is India. Nonetheless, he argued that EU membership is crucial for Britain’s economy and jobs. The UK is the third largest recipient of direct foreign investment (after China and the USA) and many of those investments are linked to Britain’s position in the EU. Gisela Stuart is unusual in being a Labour Eurosceptic (and MP for Birmingham Edgbaston), despite being born in what was then West Germany; but her line was indeed Eurosceptic rather than Europhobe. She felt that if some powers were repatriated (as David Cameron hopes) and the Eurozone’s economy picked up well then the British public might be likely to vote to stay in the EU. Jesse Norman, the Conservative MP for Hereford and South Herefordshire (just sacked by David Cameron for voting against the recent Government motion on Syria) took a different approach, answering the question of the debate directly by asserting that the City was strong enough to withstand the effects of Britain joining the EU. He was coy about whether he would vote Out now, but mildly optimistic that the Government will win some concessions in a renegotiation. Vicky Pryce, the Greek economist (and LibDem member) also thought that there might be some repatriation of powers, mainly because several other member states were thinking along similar lines. But she, of course, believes strongly Britain should stay a member. Had I had the opportunity to put a question to the panel, I would have reminded them of Herman Van Rompuy’s remark about people not winning arguments in a meeting if they have their coat on and one hand on the door — and I would have asked them whether the City might not benefit if David Cameron heeded that advice.
Posts Tagged ‘Evening Standard’
Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 9th September, 2013
Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 8th January, 2013
The Evening Standard’s freelance art critic, Brian Sewell, has established himself as something of a national treasure, even if some of his colleagues in the art world have a tendency to kick him in the shins. He is often acerbic, indeed can be curmudgeonly, and is widely believed to be fonder of dogs than of humans. That not withstanding, he has had an eclectic cricle of professional acquaintances and friends; though I have never met him, I used to hear about him from his close pal the Kensington Liberal, Colin Darracott, before the latter moved down to Bath. I have entered Sewell’s world backwards, so to speak, by reading the second volume of his memoirs, Outsider II*, before acquiring the first, so have savoured the flavours of an octogenarian looking back on the second part of his life, when his work as an art dealer and expert consultant was largely replaced by his activities as a critic — an ucompomising one, which is why his long essays in the Standard are often such fun, as well as informative. I don’t always agree with his critical judgments, but then why should I necessarily? What he has to say about painters is always worthwhile reading, and in this book one has the added delights of artistic gossip, from his appropriately surreal encounters with Salvador Dali in Spain to his loyal friendship with Anthony Blunt in London and his love-hate relationship with his live-in mother in her final decrepitude. As those who have read extracts of either volume of his memoirs will already know there is plenty of graphic descripion of casual homosexual encounters, from the old guards barracks at Hyde Park to the village boys of Turkey. But if Sewell, like Oscar Wilde, had his feet firmly in gutter he also has his eyes on the stars.
Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 4th March, 2010
London Liberal Democrats rallied for success in the forthcoming general and local elections at our Spring Conference this evening. As I stated in my Chair’s remarks from the platform, we would hope to move into double figures for the number of London MPs we will have after the election, as well as gaining control of several new councils. The fight will be on two fronts, in a context in which neither of the larger parties is on a great roll, whatever David Cameron and his colleagues may claim. As Chris Huhne MP said in his opening address, the three-way TV debates are going to be crucial in determining the outcome of the parliamentary elections. Tom Brake MP emphasized how sitting LibDem MPs in London should benefit from the fact that (a) they came out smelling of roses in the MPs’ expenses affair (as testified by the Daily Telegraph, and (b) they work harder than most other London MPs (as testified by the Evening Standard). Party President (Baroness) Ros Scott said that she had found the party in good heart during her tours around the country. And in London we can celebrate having the fastest rising LibDem memership of any English region. But the star of the evening was undoubtedly Floella Benjamin, whose keynote speech revved up the delegates to go forth and win.
Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 12th May, 2008
London Mayor Boris Johnson’s love affair with the Evening Standard has taken its first hard knock. In this evening’s edition of the paper, there are several photos of BoJo on his cycle (without a helmet), going through red traffic lights, failing to stop at a pedestrian crossing and cycling along a pavement area. As a Standard editorial piously, but correctly, intones: ‘Boris Johnson’s behaviour as a cyclist will […] have to change. […] In the interests of setting a good example, not to mention keeping within the law, the Mayor should mend his ways.’ Send that boy to the headmaster’s office, for six of the best. Ouch! Oh cripes!
At least BoJo didn’t have a limo following behind, carrying his briefcase and a pair of clean shoes. So he is not an environmental hypocrite, unlike someone who shall remain nameless (because toffs don’t sneak on each other, do they?). Crikey, no.
Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 29th April, 2008
Earlier this evening, Nick Clegg and Brian Paddick did a double act at a meet-the-people event at London Metropolitan University in the Holloway Road, chaired by the LibDem PPC for Islington South and Finsbury, Bridget Fox. Nick has been shuttling round the country recently, making himself accessible, while Brian is looking remarkably perky in the final straight for the London mayorals. It must have been all that training for the London Marathon.
Nick reached out to those people who are turned off by politics, acknowledging the high level of cynicism that exists among the British electorate, which largely explains the low turnout in recent elections. And he bluntly set out the real challenge facing him as leader of Britain’s third party: ‘How do you turn being right into being popular?’ For too long, the LibDems (and the Liberals before them) have waited like surfers for the wave of disaffection with either Labour or Conservatives to sweep them high up the beach (my analogy, not his!). The crucial test will be to build a sufficient swell of people who vote for LibDems for positive, not negative, reasons.
Brian (who has an op-ed in tonight’s Evening Standard) reiterated his message of persuading people to use the opportunity of the two-vote system in the London mayoral election to give him first preference, and then to give their second preference to whichever of Ken and Boris they dislike less. Journalist Pippa Crerar of the Evening Standard tried to pin him down as to which of the two he personally preferred, but he wisely said that on his own postal voting paper he had chosen someone who was neither Ken nor Boris (though he wouldn’t say who) for his second vote, thereby neatly avoiding what both the other leading candidates have been salivating for: his endorsement.