Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘George Galloway’

Has Boris Blown It for Brexit?

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 15th April, 2016

Boris JohnsonA distinctly underwhelming crowd of Vote Leave supporters gathered in Manchester today to hear some of the campaign’s supposedly leading lights, including Mayor of London, Boris Johnson. Having kept people guessing for months about which side of the argument he would come down on (typically contradicting himself in the process), Boris finally decided that it was in his own personal interest to campaign for Leave in the UK’s EU Referendum, which will take place on 23 June. For those of us who were familiar with his cavalier attitude to news stories when he was a foreign correspondent based in Brussels, inventing stuff when it allowed him to take a swipe at Europe, this did not come as a great surprise, but the vitriol the Mayor is now pouring out a against those campaigning to Remain in the EU is pungent, even by his standards. Today he accused Prime Minister David Cameron & Co of being the Gerald Ratners of the EU campaign, implying that they know that the EU is crap. That is so far from the truth as to be derisory. Moreover, does Boris not realise how oafish he looks beside Nigel Farage, George Galloway and other poster-boys of the Leave campaign? I believe he has called this whole thing wrongly, which will mean not only will the UK stay in the European Union but also his chances of ever becoming Conservative Prime Minister diminish daily.

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Respect Funks It

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 15th September, 2010

The Rise and Fall of the Respect Party will make an interesting book one day and one key chapter will doubtless focus on the party’s failure to stand a candidate in the Tower Hamlets Mayoral election, for which polling is on 21 October. It was Respect which organised sufficient signatures from the borough’s electors to ensure that there was a referendum on whether to move to a directly-elected mayoral system in Tower Hamlets. Sure enough, in May — on the same day as the general and local elections — Tower Hamlets voted by a comfortable margin to do so. But Respect fared disastrously in the elections, losing the Bethnal Green & Bow seat to Labour and coming third, while in Poplar & Limehouse (which I fought for the LibDems) George Galloway did so badly he didn’t even turn up for the count. Respect also also lost all but one of its councillors. There had been speculation that George would stand as Respect’s candidate in the Mayoral election, but it has now been announced they won’t fight it at all. Instead, Respect will endorse Labour’s controversial candidate, former Council leader Lutfur Rahman — which says almost as much about him as it does about Respect’s terminal state.

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Dorothy Thornhill in Tower Hamlets

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 5th August, 2010

Watford’s Liberal Democrat Mayor, Dorothy Thornhill, was the guest speaker at a Tower Hamlets Liberal Democrat social event this evening at the Pride of Asia restaurant in Stepney Green. On the same day as the general and local elections three months ago, the voters of Tower Hamlets voted ‘yes’ in a referendum about whether to have a directly elected Mayor in the borough. Nationally, the LibDems have been lukewarm at best to the idea of directly-elected mayors and indeed the Tower Hamlets local party was pretty divided on the issue. However, once the electorate had decided that was what it wanted then the party obviously had to move ahead with selecting a candidate and organising a campaign. The timetable is short, as the first Tower Hamlets mayoral election has been scheduled for 21 October. The Conservatives already have their candidate in place, but Labour is having real problems about agreeing who should stand for them. It still remains a mystery as to what Respect may or may not do; it is by no means sure that George Galloway would be in the running. The LibDem selection process is currently underway, and this will culminate in a hustings of local party members on 21 August, out of which a victorious candidate should emerge. Dorothy Thornhill had excellent advice about how to run the local campaign, and indeed the sort of person who might be suitable for the job. As she has been successfully elected three times in Watford (despite campaigning for a ‘no’ vote in their referendum) she had much wisdom to share. The fact that she is such a forceful personality — though not in an overbearing way — has undoubtedly helped her reach a situation in which not only almost three quarters of Watford’s residents know who their Mayor is (which Council leader could claim the same?) but she is to Watford’s local residents simply ‘Mayor Dorothy’ as she goes out and about on her rounds as someone very much in her community.

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Oona King Enlivens Mayoral Race

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 24th May, 2010

The contest to become next Mayor of London has suddenly become a lot more interesting with Oona King’s announcement that she intends to run for the Labour nomination. The former MP for Bethnal Green & Bow — famously ousted by George Galloway at the 2005 General Election — has obviously decided that she misses frontline politics after all, having previously seemed to rather enjoy being out of it. She’s developed something of a media presence over the past five years and generally seems far more comfortable in her political skin than she did while she was an MP. It’s about time there was a BME candidate for the London Mayoralty (two of the three LibDem contenders for the nomination in 2008 were Asian, but ex-policeman Brian Paddick won it easily). Of course, there is one big obstacle to Oona King’s getting the Labour nomination an the chance to fight against the Tory incumbent Boris Johnson: Ken Livingstone, who has made it abundantly clear that he wants to get back in charge at City Hall. Ken does have a vociferous fan-base, even if many within the Labour Party think he’s last year’s goods. Others may, of course, throw their hats in the ring imminently. The actual nomination election will run parallel to the election of the new Labour Party leader, so there’ll be a result in the autumn.

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Respect’s Burst Balloon

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 8th May, 2010

One of the stories of the general election that has got somewhat lost under the radar in all the speculation about post-election deals is the collapse of the Respect party. My earstwhile opponent in Poplar & Limehouse, George Galloway, was confidently predicting that Respect would come out of the elections with three MPs. But the actual result was zero. Zilch. Even the rather impressive Salma Yaqoob failed to make a breakthough in Birmingham. George himself came third and bottled out of coming to the election declaration. So much for all the pizazz and bombast of the Respect bus that blasted the street of our bprough for days on end. His counterpart in Bethnal Green & Bow (George’s old seat) also came third, behind the Liberal Democrats. Most striking of all, Respect managed to elect just one councillor in Tower Hamlets (the Council George said they were going to seize from Labour). Not one got elected in Newham (which is now a truly One Party State; every single councillor is Labour). Respect was behind the petition to get a directly-elected Mayor in Tower Hamlets, which will reportedly trigger an election in October this year. Will they put up George, or is he soiled goods? Will they put up a candidate at all, now their balloon has been burst?

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The TELCO Hustings at St Paul’s Shadwell

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 16th April, 2010

Last night, more than 300 people gathered at the 350-year-old St Paul’s Church in Shadwell, in my constituency of Poplar & Limehouse, for an election hustings with a difference. Faith and community groups which are members of TELCO — the East London Community Organisation that was really the progenitor of London Citizens — raised their particular concerns regarding such issues as the Living Wage, CitySafe Havens and Community Land Trusts and then got the leaders of the different political groups on Tower Hamlets Council to endorse them. Afterwards came two sets of parliamentary hustings for the candidates of the three main parties plus Respect, for both the constituencies of Bethnal Green & Bow and Poplar & Limehouse. We parliamentary candidates were given just one minute each to expound our beliefs and policies, so I concentrated on our common goal of building a community in which all people can live with dignity and give each other respect. I also referred to the Strangers into Citizens campaign, for regularising longterm paperless migrants, at whose rally I spoke in Trafalgar Square last summer. At the St Paul’s hustings, George Galloway, alas, broke the spirit of consensus and sharing by launching a one-minute attack on the outgoing Labour MP for Poplar & Canning Town (the constituency boundaries have been changed), Jim Fitzpatrick, accusing him of being an Islamophobe (which I am sure Jim isn’t, despite recent gaffes) and saying (incorrectly) that all of the rest of us support the ‘colonial’ war in Afghanistan. This all brought predictable cheers from the Respect claque present, but almost everybody else visibly winced. Afterwards, I was interviewed by the Bengali TV station Channel S and stressed the need to work together for community cohesion in our borough and not to let divisive elements worsen tensions.

Link: www.telcocitizens.org.uk

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BBC Question Time Losing Its Grip?

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 5th February, 2010

Twitter was buzzing — and rightly so — last evening when there was no LibDem on the panel on Question Time on an occasion where the Iraq War — inevitably — was a major topic of discussion. Instead, the producers invited rent-a-gob George Galloway, who was in no way an appropriate substitute. Has the BBC forgotten that it was Charles Kennedy and the LibDem members of parliament (without exception ) who opposed the Iraq War, and who received much abuse in the House of Commons and some of the media because of this principled stand? George Galloway´s paradoxically-named ‘Respect’ Party did not even have a single MP at the time and ´Gorgeous´himself was spinning madly that those old videos of him with Saddam Hussein really didn’t mean in any way that he had been endorsing the hideous dictator. Oh dear. BBC Question Time used really to be a flagship political programme, but increasingly it is opting for celebrities and loud-mouths. I guess the powers that be think this will boost ratings. But what it will certainly do is drive people who really care about British politics away.

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Gaza, Giza and the Gorgeous Geezer

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 8th January, 2010

George Galloway, ‘Respect’ MP for Bethnal Greeen and Bow, has got himself into the news again by being thrown out of Egypt. Things are never dull where the former Big Brother spectacle is concerned. Predictably, news of his expulsion (for trying to return to Gaza, to which he had earlier been with an Palestinian solidarity aid convoy) has provoked a welter of reactions, from the adulatory to the damning. Just take a look at the comments after the relevant news article in today’s Guardian online (www.guardian.co.uk) to get a flavour. I am sure that when he next visits Tower Hamlets he will give a stirring speech full of righteous outrage.

The sad thing is that, not for the first time, the personality and performance of Mr Galloway is actually detracting from the cause which he genuinely supports. The aid convoys to Gaza have been a very worthy endeavour, bringing practical relief to a population which has suffered a prolonged blockade and military assault (including another air attack today). There are some very fine people involved in the current convoy, including some of my friends from Waltham Forest Palestine Solidarity Committee.

The Egyptians have behaved badly by making the convoy go through geographical contortions to get to Gaza at all. But what is needed is strong diplomatic pressure from Britain on Cairo to be more sympathetic to the plight of the Palestinians. Annoying them so much that they expel you from the country is not helpful, alas, George. But of course it is all good publibity for the man who now hopes to bring his political show to my home constituency of Poplar and Limehouse.

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What Is Respect up to in Tower Hamlets?

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 8th December, 2009

Since the heyday of Respect, when it got George Galloway elected as MP for Bethnal Green and Bow in 2005 and became the official opposition on Tower Hamlets council one year later, the party has been in the doldrums. Mr Galloway’s reputation took a nosedive as he donned a red leotard and pretended to be a cat in the Big Brother house, and a whole raft of Respect councillors later defected to Labour and the Conservatives (sic). Indeed, rather like the rival Palestinian factions in the classic movie, ‘The Life of Brian’, the party then split into two pieces, each claiming to be the keeper of the true flame, which has left all but those at the centre of things at a loss to know what Respect really is these days and what it stands for. But now the party has a new rallying point, which it hopes will help it rise like a phoenix from the ashes: a referendum for a directly elected mayor in Tower Hamlets. There already is one in neighbouring Newham, Labour’s Sir Robin Wales, but presumably Respect is hoping that it could win a mayoral contest in our scandal-torn borough. And who would be their candidate? Everyone is assuming it would be George Galloway. ‘Gorgeous’ George is standing down from Bethnal Green and Bow at the forthcoming general election and moving over to my home seat of Poplar and Canning Town. But assuming he doesn’t win here, a mayoral contest a few months later would suit the party nicely, to have him bear its standard. So the party has been collecting signatures on a petition to move to a mayoral system. As 7,000 of the 17,000 signatures collected were reportedly inelligible, because the people did not fill in their full names or else did not live in the borough, one hopes that Respect will be a little more careful when it comes to filling in George’s nomination papers. It’s all a bit of a fiasco, but at least he adds to the gaiety of the nation.

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Taking on Poplar and Limehouse

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 26th November, 2009

This evening, at a packed AGM of Tower Hamlets Liberal Democrats at Oxford House in Bethnal Green, I was adopted as the LibDem PPC for my home constituency of Poplar and Limehouse (new boundaries, having lost all the bits in Newham). It’s an extraodinary seat, illustrating both the huge diversity of London and also the yawning gap between rich and poor. It also looks like being a right royal battleground at the forthcoming general election, not only because the sitting Labour MP, Farming and Food Minister Jim Fitzpatrick, annoyed the large local Muslim community a while back by walking out of a Muslim wedding because he couldn’t sit next to his wife, but also because ‘Gorgeous’ George Galloway (Respect) is trying to move over from his current perch in neighbouring Bethnal Green and Bow. So we can expect some vigorous campaigning and lots of media attention. Having first moved into the area in 1985, I have seen huge changes — some good, some bad — and whatever the result at the end of it, I am determined to enjoy the next six months or so and to be part of a LibDem renaissance in Tower Hamlets.

Link: http://tower-hamlets-libdems.org.uk

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