Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Facebook’

The Zoom Generation

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 4th May, 2020

ZoomTo be honest, I had never heard of Zoom until the London lockdown began six weeks ago. But now I wonder how I would have got by without it. The university course I teach (at SOAS) moved entirely online for the summer term and Zoom is brilliant for class discussions. For lectures, I use Panopto. Similarly, I sit on a number of political committees, including the Liberal Democrats’ Federal International Relations Committee, which I chair, and Zoom is great at not only showing everyone who is there but in prominently focussing on the person actually speaking. As a “host” with Zoom Pro I can arrange as many meetings as I want, for an unlimited period of time, and control who enters the meeting. Chats and questions can take place in a sidebar. So what’s not to like?

facebookOf course, this is only the latest in a series of technological advances that have become “however did I manage without?” items. Social media is another one, especially twitter, not only as a platform on which to air one’s opinions but also as a prime source of news and commentary. I am a great supporter of the usefulness of Facebook, too, though doubtless Instagram-using younger people would say that just shows my age. Similarly, how did we live without SmartPhones, or before that basic mobile phones? It’s a salutary lesson to go back in time in one’s mind to think about the impact new inventions had on people’s lives, not just in our current postmodern age but during the process of modernisation itself: railways, telephone, electricity. You get my drift. However, people did have fulfilling lives before all this technology and I get a sense of that when I have my daily statutory walk in the woods just behind the house, listening to the birdsong and watching the flowers change as spring edges towards summer. Perhaps this COVID-19 experience will make us all realise more profoundly the beauty of simple things. But in the meantime, hooray for Zoom! May the 4th. be with you!

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ALDE Congress in Madrid

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 10th November, 2018

DD89ADA8-523D-4525-8A5D-316420AD1B73For the latter half of this week I have been in Madrid for the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) Congress. Our hosts were Cuidadanos, the still relatively new kid on the block in Spanish politics, yet according to an opinion poll published today, they are level-pegging with the conservative Partido Popular (PP), on 22%. Only a fortnight ago, ALDE had to hold an emergency Council meeting in Brussels, to refuse membership to a Catalan party, PdeCAT, for reasons too complicated to go into here, but surprisingly there was no fallout from that at the Congress. This was mainly because the central focus of the Madrid gathering was the ALDE manifesto* for next May’s European elections, which was duly passed this lunchtime. But there was a plethora of other issues discussed over the three days of the Congress. I successfully moved, on behalf of the UK Liberal Democrats, an emergency motion on Saudi Arabia, which I will post on this blog on Monday, when I shall return to London and have access to a desktop computer.

9291698F-7F08-4996-8D94-E3006FA5A636There were fringe sessions on various aspects of campaigning, including social media, and it was good to have one panel that brought together not only MEPs from several EU member states but also senior executives from Facebook, Google and Microsoft. The UK Liberal Democrat Leader, Sir Vince Cable,  came over for the day yesterday, to reinforce the message that Brexit is not a “done deal” and that the LibDems are at the forefront of the campaign for a People’s Vote on any Brexit deal, with an option to remain. The resignation of Orpington MP Jo Johnson from his junior ministerial position over this very issue could not have been better timed. For the first time, the LibDems, Fianna Fáil from Ireland and the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland worked as a coherent bloc in the Congress, which should be a good model to follow in future. Brexit, of course, hung like a big black cloud over the whole event, but at least we Brits left our continental colleagues in no doubt that we are doing everything we can to encourage the British people to stop it,

*The manifesto can be found on the ALDE website:

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Engaging with Readers

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 23rd January, 2018

Eccles Cakes Eccles LibraryYesterday, together with several other Memoir Writers, I took part in my first Facebook event, which was an opportunity for us to talk about our books and for people to ask questions. Each of us who had signed up to the event had an average of an hour to be the focus of attention, while Brenda Mohammed (a prolific autobiographer living in Trinidad and Tobago) moderated. You can catch up with the discussion here:

Writing can be a lonely business, as by necessity one needs to spend large amounts of time undisturbed at one’s desk (or wherever one writes most fluently) day after day for months or even years on end. When I first started publishing books, the only contact I had with readers was the occasional letter that someone would write, sent to me via the publisher. Book signings — which I did for three of my books: George Fox and the Children of the Light Soho in the Fifties and Sixties and my childhood memoir Eccles Cakes — were an opportunity to meet some readers face-to-face, though inevitably those encounters were brief and superficial. However, with the development of new communication tools and people’s changing expectations, readers are often no longer satisfied just to be passive consumers, but instead want to engage more meaningfully with authors.

JF writing FortalezaThe proliferation of literary festivals in Britain is one manifestation of this. Festivals have sprung up like mushrooms across the country and some of the most established, such as Hay and Cheltenham, attract capacity audiences. Often these events give readers the opportunity to ask writers searching questions, and from the author’s point of view, they can boost sales. Thanks partly to pressure from the Society of Authors (the UK writers’ union), writers at festivals are increasingly paid a fee, as we should be. People are paying to hear us, after all, and time away from actually writing is something of a sacrifice.

All authors, whether self-published or not, are encouraged to do their own promotion these days, by going on book tours and badgering local or even national media to cover one’s new book. And growing numbers of us have blogs (like this one) or Facebook pages. In fact, I have several Facebook pages: a more personal one, for friends and followers, a political one, a writer’s one and most recently one for Eccles Cakes. I was a bit sceptical about creating a page for a specific book, but in fact it makes a lot of sense. People who like that page get updates whenever I post anything on it relating (however tangentially) to the book. They can ask questions or make comments, and of course there is a button enabling people to buy the book if they don’t already have it. Take a look, and see what you think! —

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Richard Allan Woos Notting Hill

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 17th July, 2012

Richard Allan, Nick Clegg’s predecessor as MP for Sheffield Hallam and since 2010 a member of the House of Lords, was the guest speaker at Kensington and Chelsea Liberal Democrats’ summer garden party in Notting Hill this evening and delivered an astute analysis of the present state of the Party after two years in government. One would not expect anything less from someone who is now Director for Europe for Facebook and who introduced a whole new style of parliamentary campaigning in Sheffield. Most normal people are turned off by conventional politics, he suggested, but could be attracted into joining activities by stressing the social side, not just through expert use of social media but also through innovative techniques. In Sheffield Hallam, for example, he and his team reached out to students by leaving yellow helium balloons outside nightclubs at two-o’clock in the morning, with Liberal Democrat messages attached. Sure enough, students took them with them as they staggered home. Richard shared with us the saying of Dutch D66 colleagues who had referred to going into coalition government as “halving”, i.e. a minority party in a coalition government loses half its seats at the following general election. The good news, according to the Dutch formula, is that during the subsequent period of opposition, the party bounces back into people’s favour. We shall see. Richard was unusual in that he decided after two terms in the House of Commons that he had had enough and wanted to get on with other things, and he has been extremely successful with that. He moved into Kensington from Lambeth last year and could give a useful fillip to the local party, which has itself suprised evrybody — not least the Royal Borough’s Conservatives — in recent years by winning three council seats, in two separate wards.

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Dr Pack’s Instant Remedy

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 4th September, 2011

Hackney Liberal Democrats must be unique in London in having organised four garden parties this summer. The latest, this afternoon, was a bit unusual, in that both the host, Dave Raval, and the booked speaker, Andy May, were unable to attend because of pressing family concerns. But the show must go on and organiser Geoff Payne had quickly found a replacement attraction in the new media guru Dr Mark Pack, who gave an interesting, discursive presentation taking as its starting point the Guardian correspondent Nick Davies’s book Flat Earth News, about media distortion and malpractice. There was a lot of discussion about where ultimate responsibility lies: the journalist, the editor, senior management or the owner? Media ownership has shrunk in this country, in the sense that independent newspaper companies (often run by families) have almost all been bought out by great enterprises, like Archant vis-a-vis local newspapers. But Mark raised the interesting point that many ordinary people, including LibDem voters, without realising it often have a stake in newspapers or broadcasting outfits through direct or indirect shareholding. A third of us, he estimated, probably have a stake in the Daily Mail, if only through the holdings of pension funds etc. One area in which I dd disagree somewhat with him was over the effect of modern media diversity and new media on the variety of people’s sources of information. I tend to think that as more and more specialised TV channels and websites get created, people narrow down their range of input, for example relating to political bias, whereas Mark believes that through Twitter, Facebook etc one gets to interact with a cross-section of viewpoints. While this may be true of people like him and me, who deliberately find out about what others think, and have ‘friends’ and ‘followers’ from all political parties, I’m not persuaded that this is the case for most people, who tend to keep linked in with people with views like their own. Anyway, this afternoon’s event was a provocative introduction to a massive subject that is currently going through a state of flux.

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Tweet If You Want STV!

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 20th February, 2010

This morning I was the guest speaker at the AGM of DAGGER, the pressure group within the Liberal Democrats that campaigns for electoral reform, and specifically for the the adoption of the single transferable vote (STV) in multi-member constituencies. It’s interesting how what used to be considered a fringe issue of interest only to a few hardy souls like the late Enid Lakeman has now become maintream in the British political debate. And quite right too. The political system in Britain is ‘broken’ and electoral reform is an essential part of the repair kit. Alas, Gordon Brown has decided that any change should be to the far less proportional Alternative Vote (AV) system in single member constituencies, which is not even as much of a change as the Jenkins Commission recommended back in 1998. However, as I said in my presentation this morning, reformers should take advantage of the debate in the run-up to the proposed referendum to promote the other options, notably STV. But much of my speech concentrated on urging electoral reformers both within the LibDems and beyond to go viral — in other words, to get out there on Twitter and Facebook, and to post comments on political blogs. That is also an excellent way of getting more younger people involved in the campaign.


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Facebook, Reinstate Tom Brake!

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 10th July, 2009

Tom Brake 2Tom Brake, Liberal Democrat MP for Carshalton and Wallington, was dismayed this morning to discover that his Facebook account has been disabled and that he has been removed as administrator of a number of Facebook campaign groups, without any explanation or warning. This move is perverse and should be reversed. Tom has been a model among London MPs in employing Facebook to engage with his constituents through electronic media and to reach out successfully to younger voters who tend to by-pass more traditional ways of campaigning. An excellent example of the effective use Tom and his team have made of the site was last night’s rally in Wallington to save the N213 night bus. As Tom rightly commented this morning, ‘Much of my casework comes through Facebook. The bizarre and heavy-handed decision to disable my account only hours after a protest organised through the socil networking site severrely disadvantages my constituents, who rely on the net to contact me.’

Tom Brake 3Tom had over 3,000 Friends on Facebook. I hope many of them will complain to the site managers at Facebook about this totally arbitrary decision, but so should other people who value Tom’s work and who also appreciate Facebook’s genuine contribution to social networking in its widest sense. A full explanation is needed. Did the exclusion come about after some sort of dirty tricks complaint from political opposition? Or because Tom acquired too many Friends too quickly (which is reportedly why the publisher Gary Pulsifer was kicked out of Facebook some time ago)? Whatever the reason, Tom should be informed and Facebook should acknowledge that they have made a mistake and immediately reinistate him.

[Postscript on Saturday: Facebook has now reinstated Tom, thanks. Apparently they were concerned that as he was sending regular messages to so many people in his network he must be a spammer. There’s a differece between political campaigning and spamming, guys, just as there is a difference between a Focus newsletter and a pizza flyer! Anyway, it’s good that the problem has been resolved.] 


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Twitter and the Political Process

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 13th June, 2009

TwitterWhereas the Obama campaign last year thrust Facebook into the limelight as the social networking tool of preference for politicans who are cool — or a least care about connecting with the younger generation — Twitter has now vaulted into prime position as the instrument for quick and snappy communication, particularly in the love-hate interface between politics and the media. Though a comparatively late convert to the practice (despite the proselytising of my friend, Stephen Fry), I’ve been finding it hugely useful in recent weeks and have noted how one can enter into dialogue with politicians of other parties as well as with journalists and bloggers of all persuasions, who are quite happy to ‘follow’ one on Twitter, but who might not wish to ask or accept to be one’s Facebook ‘friend’, in case that were seen to be some kind of endorsement. And the same is true in the other direction! Moreover, the 140-character limit, while being constraining, is actually a very useful discipline, and when well-handled, can be as communicative as a Japanese haiku. As a means of posting a news ‘headline’ or a succinct political point, it is matchless.

Putting my journalist’s hat on for a moment, I suppose the event which really awakened me to Twitter’s impact and potential was the popular political movement in Moldova a few months back, when suddenly one could follow what was going on in the streets, as it happened, from among the people taking part. Something very similar has been occuring in Iran over the past couple of days, albeit often from a more partisan standpoint. God knows what the next great communicative breakthrough will be (thought transfer?), but for the time being, Twitter is a wonderful thing!


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Tom Brake, Facebook and the Snoopers’ Charter

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 25th March, 2009

The Labour government is making plans to monitor people’s Facebook traffic, in its latest move to turn Britain into an Orwellian society. The Home Office has told the BBC this surveillance is necessary to tackle criminal gangs and terrorists who might use Facebook and other social networking sites for their own nefarious ends. Our phone calls, emails and details of the Internet sites we visit are already deemed by Labour to be of legitimate government interest, in the name of national security. But as Tom Brake, Liberal Democrat MP for Carshalton and Wallington, rightly points out, ‘it is deeply worrying that they now intend to monitor social networking sites which contain very sensitive data like sexual orientation, religious beliefs and political views.’  Thank God the Liberal Democrats are there in the Houses of Parliament to protest each time Labour chips away at our civil liberties. Public opinion now needs to be mobilised, before we are led blindfold by Gordon Brown and Jacqui Smith into a police state.

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Using Facebook in Campaigning

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 30th November, 2008

One of the most significant transatlantic lessons from the successful Obama presidential campaign has been maximising Internet use in political work, not least social networking sites, including Facebook. Facebook is particularly important in Britain, as such a high percentage of the population has signed up, including a majority of young people. Apart from the obvious advantages of keeping in touch with one’s friends through one’s personal page, all the special interest groups that have sprung up have been a communications godsend in keeping up with developments in areas of particular concern, as well as networking with like-minded people. And as the Obama campaign showed, through Facebook and other sites, a popular political campaign can snowball.

That’s why earlier this month, as part of the ‘Make it 2!’ LibDem Euro-campaign in London, James Lillis launched a ‘Jonathan Fryer 4 Europe’ Facebook group, which has already garnered nearly 250 members in a fortnight. Anyone can join — you don’t even have to be a Liberal Democrat! — and invite others. Through the group there will be occasional updates on how the campaign is going, policy issues and details of related events. In 2004, the LibDems missed electing a second MEP by 0.6% — fewer than 250 votes per parliamentary constituency. So, if you would like to see greater Liberal Democrat representation in the European Parliament, why not sign up for the ‘Jonathan Fryer 4 Europe’ Facebook group, if you haven’t done so already (a big thank-you to those who have)? Let’s ‘Make it 2!’ in 2009!


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