Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Gavin Esler’

Brexit without the Bullshit

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 23rd September, 2019

Gavin EslerThe day after Britain’s EU Referendum in June 2016 the most common google search term in the UK reportedly was “What is the EU?” Of course, many of those asking the question would not have voted in the Referendum and just wanted to know what all the fuss was about when the shock result (52:48 in favour of leaving) was announced. But the searchers would also have included people who did vote without really knowing what the EU is or does, or what Britain gets out of membership. No recent British government, including that of Europhile Tony Blair, ever bothered to explain to the public why we were members of the EU, preferring to bash Brussels when anything unpopular was happening or claiming all the credit for themselves when there were positive developments. For ordinary citizens the positive aspects included the right to travel, live, work and retire in any of the other now 27 EU member states, an end to mobile phone roaming charges and the EHIC card, guaranteeing free health cover on a reciprocal basis throughout the EU, to mention but three.

Brexit without the BullshitAll those, and many more, are now at risk as Boris Johnson determinedly presses on with his plan to take Britain out of the EU on 31 October. Parliament may have succeeded in postponing such an exit — the next few weeks should clarify that situation — but meanwhile the country is bitterly divided between Leavers and Remainers. Those wishing to stay in the EU claim with justification that the Vote Leave side lied shamelessly during the Referendum campaign (for example, that the NHS would benefit to the tune of £350 million a week when we left or that Turkey was about to join the EU, meaning Turks could flood into the UK), but they also have to admit hat the Remain campaign was lousy. The dire warnings of the economic cost of leaving were branded Project Fear by the Leave side and backfired badly. Three years on, the Government’s own warnings about the implications of crashing out on 31 October without a deal with the EU (outlined in the Operation Yellowhammer report that 10 Downing Street tried to suppress) are pretty disturbing, notably with regard to the continuity of medicine and food supplies. And the political debate rages on within an increasingly polarised electorate.

Cue the arrival of a sober, sane analysis of what Brexit is all about and what the likely consequences will be, namely Gavin Esler’s handy paperback, Brexit without the Bullshit (Canbury Press, £8.99). Many readers will know Mr Esler from the time he presented BBC 2’s Newsnight, but he also stood (unsuccessfully) as the lead candidate in London for ChangeUK in this May’s European elections. So there is no surprise about where his sympathies lie. However, his account of the EU and matters relating to Brexit is factual and buttressed by interviews he carried out with people up and down the country. The style and tone remind me of the 1980 Brandt Report of the Independent Commission into International Development: outlining the challenges and the dangers in clear terms without indulging in polemic. It is a reasonable book for reasonable people and therefore will be welcomed by many Remainers as a useful tool to help frame their own arguments. But in the heated atmosphere of today I fear other people may not be in the mood to listen to clearly articulated, reasonable arguments but will prefer to stick to their emotion-based discourse of alternative facts and fake news.

 

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Gavin Esler’s Lessons from the Top

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 20th September, 2012

The writer and broadcaster Gavin Esler — perhaps best known as one of BBC Newsnight’s presenters — has met a great many leaders but not many great leaders, as he told a literary lunch at the Oxford and Cambridge Club in Pall Mall today. His musing was linked to his latest book, Lessons from the Top (Profile Books, £12.99), which looks at how successful leaders tell stories to get ahead — and stay there. His thesis is that the best political leaders (as well as top entrepreneurs) are strong story-tellers, with the basic elements of  ‘who am I, who are we, and where am I going to take us?’ Margaret Thatcher had a brilliantly pithy line which had a whole back-story to itself: ‘I am a grocer’s daughter from Grantham’, for example. But Gavin lamented the fact that over the past 25 to 30 years, basically since the end of the Cold War, the name of the game has changed, as we have become a confessional culture. The public has been taught to expect personal details about even the loftiest figures, and scandals are daily laid bare — what one might call the globalisation of gossip. Of course, journalists, and through them the public, don’t always get the right first impressions. When Gavin went to interview Angelina Jolie, for example, he expected to meet an airhead, whereas actually she proved to be a highly intelligent woman who has adapted well to her role as a UN goodwill ambassador. Some politicians, alas, tell false stories; Tony Blair didn’t earn the sobriquet ‘Bliar’ for nothing. But the message of today’s talk was clear: if you want to succeed in life, tell a good story, and keep it simple.

Link: www.profilebooks.com

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Tony Blair Is a Disaster as Middle East Envoy

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 9th January, 2009

tony-blair    When Tony Blair was appointed the Madrid Quartet’s Middle East Envoy 18 months ago, there was a certain amount of incredulity in the Muslim world. Here was the man who had swallowed the mendacious US line on Iraq and taken British troops into a war that was opposed by huge swaths of the British public. I, too, was critical of the decision, but once he was in post (operating out of a comfortable suite in the American Colony Hotel in Jerusalem), I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt and see what, if anything, he could come up wth.

Well, tonight, in an extensive interview with Gavin Esler on BBC2’s ‘Newsnight’, Blair confirmed my worst suspicions. Commenting on the current Gazan situation, the former Prime Minister made not one word of criticism, let alone condemnation, of  the bloody Israeli assault on Gaza. He parroted the line out of Tel Aviv that all the blame should be placed on Hamas’s shoulders, and argued that only Hamas can extricate the people of Gaza from the current situation, essentially by capitulating. Despite being one of the architects of the Northern Ireland peace agreement, in which negotiation with the IRA/Sinn Fein was a key element, he rejected even the idea that Western countries should talk to Hamas.

I have no truck for the rocket attacks on Israel by Hamas and other radical Islamic groups based in Gaza. I have consistently denounced them and continue to do so. However, to peddle the Israeli myth that the root of the current crisis is the Hama rockets, as Tony Blair is doing, is an obscene distortion of reality. What about the Israeli blockade, which has been turning the Gaza Strip into what the Vatican has now referred to as a giant concentration camp? And what about the 40 years of illegal occupation of the West Bank and its ongoing settlement by Israelis, in total violation of international law?

The extremely effective Israeli PR machine is yet again trying to portray Israelis as the victims. But this just will not wash. Listen to the UN officials, one after another, being driven in their anguish to state openly that Israeli actions in Gaza — including the bombing of schools and the slaughter of civilians — may now prove to be war crimes.

Tony Blair must know this. He is not stupid or ill-informed. But he is the wrong man for the job as Middle East peace envoy. One of the first things Barack Obama should do when he takes office as US President in a fortnight’s time is to move to get him replaced.

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