Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Hackney’

Two Feisty LibDem Women for Tower Hamlets!

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 5th February, 2015

Elaine BagshawTeena LashmoreThis evening Tower Hamlets Liberal Democrat members gathered at Oxford House in Bethnal Green to choose our two candidates for the general election in May, for the constituencies of Poplar & Limehouse (which I fought in 2010) and Bethnal Green & Bow (where Ajmal Masroor lifted the LibDems to second place last time). I’m pleased to say that both constituencies have chosen feisty women for May 2015, who will be able to strike a different note above the noise of the macho slug-fest in the borough between Labour and Mayor Lutfur Rahman’s “Tower Hamlets First”: Elaine Bahsaw (Poplar & Limehouse) and Teena Lashmore (Bethnal Green & Bow). Elaine both lives and works in Poplar & Limehouse and is well known within the Liberal Democrat party as a former Chair of Liberal Youth. Teena Lashmore works in Tower Hamlets and lives in the neighbouring inner London borough of Hackney, where she has been very active in the anti-racist group Hackney United. That has been a role model for community interaction in Britain, not least for the cooperation between the Jewish and Muslim communities (Hackney’s Cazenove ward notably has two Jewish councillors and one Muslim, all LibDems) and so her experience will be very useful in multicultural Tower Hamlets. Choosing two women candidates, including one from an ethnic minority, also means that London Liberal Democrats are starting to look more like the city where the party operates, which was an ambition I tried to promote when I was Chair of the region from 2010-2012.

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Hackney Stunelled

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 18th January, 2012

Though Europe is often cited as the most contentious issue between the Conservative and Liberal Democrat Coalition Government partners, another important area of divergence is multiculturalism. David Cameron famously used a speech in Germany to suggest that multiculturalism in Britain has failed, by stressing people’s differences rather than what unites them. But that prompted Nick Clegg to speak up for multiculturalism while on a visit to Luton. One thing the two governing parties are agreed on, however, is that the previous Labour administration’s ‘Prevent’ programme was deeply flawed. I said as much when it was introduced; not just because the name was itself was so negative, but also because it risked stigmatising the entire Muslim community in Britain by false association, i.e. the most likely sources of terrorism in Britain are those communities with the highest proportions of Muslim population. Andrew Stunell, junior Minister within the Department of Local Government and Communities, with special responsiblity for race relations and community cohesion, helpfully defined his own views on the matter at a Pizza and Politics event put on by Hackney Liberal Democrats in Shoreditch this evening. He acknowledged that his own home area of Stockport in Greater Manchester — one of the least racially diverse areas of the North West — had received a grant under Prevent, but the money was usefully spent on an adventure playground. Far more diverse Bradford, over the Pennines, interestingly refused to have anything to do with the programme. Anyway, under the new government, matters have been finessed and it was very helpful to have additional insights from local Hackney Councillor Dawood Akhoon (a Muslim who represents his LibDem ward alongside two Orthodox Jews), Akeela Ahmed, who has been involved with a helpline for young Muslims having diffiulties dealing with personal issues within their own community, and Jamie Bartlett from Demos. The danger was acknowledged of blithely referring to ‘Islamic terrorism’ (as so often is the case in the media), but a valid point was also made by Councillor Farooq Qureshi from Waltham Forest that it is wrong to denounce all Wahabis as extremists. I know that peronally, having encountered all types of Wahabis, from the most conservative in Saudi Arabia to distinctly open-minded in Qatar. The evening’s discussion was rich, including far more than can be encompassed in a short blog post. So I was really pleased to see that the whole event was being live-streamed by video so that people who were not physically present could actually follow the discussion — an example which could usefully be followed by other LibDem Pizza and Politics evenings and their equivalents.

Link: www.hackneylibdems.org.uk

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London Riots

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 9th August, 2011

As I write this, the Prime Minister David Cameron is chairing the civil contingencies committee, COBRA, summoned to discuss what to do about the three days of rioting in London (and some elsewhere) that have shocked the nation. Though unrest began in Tottenham, following a police shooting, yesterday it spread across much of the city in copycat outbursts, with some agitators reportedly egging people on via their Blackberries. Croydon, of all places, was the worst hit. A furniture store was set alight there and the blaze soon spread to surrounding buildings. The tramlink was seriously damaged and some cars and buses torched, as has happened in several other places. Here in Tower Hamlets, where I live, violence was limited to the western Whitechapel/Bethnal Green end, with many Asian youths reportedly repelling the rioters. Similarly, in parts of Hackney, Turkish and Kurdish shopowners and their families fiercely defended their properties and livelihoods. The police were clearly overstretched, leading to calls from some quarters for the army to be sent in. Let us hope it does not have to come to that. The Government, stupidly, failed to field anyone on BBC2’s ‘Newsnght’, thus allowing Labour’s Mayoral hopeful Ken Livingstone free rein to blame it for the turmoil (though his performance was so opportunistic that he might have lost, rather than won, support for himself). UKIP leader Nigel Farage stoked the embers by declaring that the riots were the outcome of multiculturalism, thereby playing into the hads of the EDL and other racist groups. Actually, the events of the past few days have given some credence to David Cameron’s mantra about ‘Broken Britain’, though whether his Big Society concept can mend it is another matter. Confronted with the damage and the thuggery, I suspect that most of the public will be in the mood for a crackdown, including heavy penalties for looters and arsonists. It will be the political Right that ultimately benefits from all this, not the Left, as some Leftists hope.

 

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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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Telgraf’s 5th Anniversary

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 24th May, 2011

The Turkish and Kurdish communities together form one of the UK’s largest ethnic minority groups — some 400,000 people, by some counts, a high percentage of them concentrated in North London boroughs such as Enfield, Hackney and Haringey. For the past five years, they have had a free bilingual Turkish/Kurdish newspaper ‘Telgraf’ to serve them, covering both UK and international news and encouraging Turks and Kurds to get more involved in British society. In particular, Telgraf has urged British Turks and Kurds to engage in the UK democratic procwess, registering for elections, voting and even standing for public office themselves, as well as promoting positive community actions such as recycling. The key person behind much of this is Ibrahm Dogus, an indefatigable young restaurateur, entrepreneur and community activist, who attracted a good crowd to Telgraf’s 5th anniversary celebrations this evening at Portcullis House, Westminster. There was a galaxy of MPs and Peers from all three main UK political parties — including, of course, the country’s first Turkish-speaking parliamentarian, (Baroness) Meral Ece — as well as the Labour and Green London Mayoral candidates, Ken Livingstone and Jenny Jones. We can be sure that in the run-up to the 2012 London elections, this is a community that will be making its voice heard.

Link: www.telgraf.co.uk

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Paul Burstow and Health Integration

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 8th May, 2011

The mood as well as the weather was sunny in Victoria Lubbock’s garden in Hackney this afternoon. After all, that London borough produced the highest vote in favour of AV of anywhere in the country on Thursday. Moreover, in London there were no local elections, so Liberal Democrats in the capital aren’t feeling quite as wounded as in some other parts of the UK, though frustrated at the results. Besides, the Hackney local party had organised a splendid debate on the NHS reforms between Health Minister Paul Burstow and Prateek Buch of the Social Liberal Forum, the still relatiuvely new group within the Party that is pushing for a more assertive social liberal approach to the Party’s involvement in the government. In fact, at the Sheffield LibDem Spring Conference, key figures from the Social Liberal Forum were at the forefront of the debate that resulted in substantial amendments to the NHS Bill currently under consideration. The movers of that motion accepted the amendments and again today there was considerable room for agreement and negotiation between the positions set out by the two speakers. Paul particularly stressed his key concern of the integration of the NHS and social care; mental health in particular has not always received the attention it merits. I am sure there will be some quite vigorous arguments when the Social Liberal Forum holds its conference at City University in London on 18 June.

Link: http://socialliberal.net

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