Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Haringey Liberal Democrats’

Pre-empting Rabbie Burns

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 22nd January, 2012

Burns Night has become an even more quintessentially Scottish celebration than Hogmanay (New Year’s Eve). It is normally celebrated on the 25th of January up and down the country with haggis, tatties (potatos) and neeps (swede), usually washed down with great quantities of alcohol, not least the whisky used in toasts. Apart from the wonderfully theatrical address to the haggis and its belabouring with a dagger, the toasts to the lassies (girls) and the lads (boys) are a great opportunity for a fine mixture of gallantry and sexist jokes. Burns himself was, of course, a great ladies’ man, a seducer with his poetic words as well as with his looks, though as fickle as a bumble bee flitting from one ripe blossom to the next. Given the migration of Scots worldwide over the centuries, it is not surprising that Burns Night is celebrated almost everywhere, from Buenos Aires to Dubai, but what is maybe astonishing is the relish with which Sassenachs (English) have taken the ceremony and the celebration to their hearts. It is not only in the grand London Clubs, such  the Caledonian (predictably) and the National Liberal Club, that Burns Night features in the annual calendar with due pomp. Even local Liberal Democrat parties have got in on the act. Merton LibDems’ Burns Night is famous for its authentic food and traditions and they usually get a Scottish MP to make one of the speeches. Haringey LibDems are also starting to make a reputation for themselves in similar vein. But Lewisham LibDems’ Burns Night, which I joined (for at least the third time) last evening, is unique. Apart from the fact that it occurs on a convenient Saturday, rather than on the day itself, it is a totally English (or at least, Scots-free) affair, albeit with the requisite food and drink. Local activists and visitors (me included) act out the toasts and readings of poems by the Master in accents that would make any true Scotsman weep, but a great time is had by all. And if by any chance Alex Salmond does hoodwink the Scots into opting for independence, I trust the English Burns Nights will continue to flourish.


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Tim Farron, Hornsey and Europe

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 26th October, 2011

It’s rare to hear a Westminster MP talk enthusiastically about Europe, but this evening Liberal Democrat Party President Tim Farron launched into a spirited defence of the EU at a Haringey local party event in Hornsey. Clearly the adrenalin was still flowing from last night’s Commons debate on a putative EU Referendum, during which Tim had the dubious pleasure of finding himself sitting next to John Redwood, arch-Eurosceptic. Tim confessed he was only five when the last EU Referendum was held, but neither he nor the parliamentary party at large were in any hurry to see another one. As Prime Minister David Cameron had declared, the time was not right, while the eurozone, and interested countries outside it, including Britain, are trying to face up to a very serious debt crisis. Moreover, Tim believes if a Referendum were held in the near future it would likely be lost, with catastrophic consequences for the UK economy if this led to withdrawal. Too large a proportion of the electorate is still feeling sore about the Coalition government’s austerity measures, but even more important much of the Press in Britain has poisoned the debate over Europe. Rupert Murdoch and Co have been violently, vehemently anti-Europe, Tim said; if one considers their particular brand of free market global capitalism it is not hard to understand why. I am not quite so pessimistic about the outcome of any EU Referendum, if the case of EU membership were argued eloquently as it was in 1975. But I agree with the Government that at the moment it would be an unhelpful distraction, when all of Europe — including Britain — needs to be putting its shoulder to the wheel of economic recovery.

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Thanking Flick Rea

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 8th September, 2011

The National Liberal Club was awash with LibDems this evening, some for the Haringey local party’s annual dinner (at whose pre-dinner drinks Nick Clegg appeared and answered questions), others for the Thank You party for London Region’s longstanding Administrator, Flick Rea, who retired at the end of June — and a few, like myself, who were there for both. I hosted Flick’s ‘do’, at which former London Chair Brian Orrell (who hired her) and current regional President, (Baroness) Sally Hamwee, spoke and of course Flick herself contributed in her own inimitable way. We weren’t treated to a fair dose of her legendary Mrs Thatcher impression, but she did give us a nice taste of her irreverent but dedicated, even loving, attitude to the regional party. As I said in my own brief remarks, we are not saying farewell to her, for although she may no longer be working for the party, she is still a Councillor in Camden and will doubtless continue supporting its development, fortified with liberal helpings of her justly infamous port wine jelly.


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Ros Scott on the Rubber Chicken Circuit

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 4th September, 2008

 Baroness Scott was sharing pizza with members of Haringey Liberal Democrats near Alexandra Palace last night, on the latest stop of her whirlwind tour of local parties. Although nominations for the party presidency don’t close until after the Bournemouth Conference, Ros has already notched up over 100 visits, from the north of Scotland down to Cornwall, not just making her pitch but also listening to what activists have to say. As she told us last night, the message up and down the country is usually the same: give us an exciting radical edge which we can get enthusiastic about, and which will attract the voters, particularly now that Labour and Conservatives are back in Tweedlum and Tweedledee mode.

The  call for radicalism was endorsed by Hornsey and Wood Green MP Lynne Featherstone who was also present. She has been urging since the last general election that the LibDems should be targetting Labour-held seats and packaging our message in a way that particularly appeals to people there — a line I have too long espoused. One problem, though, is that some current LibDem MPs in areas where the Tories are breathing down their necks are worried that being radical may alienate their electors. But if we are not radical and markedly different, why should Liberally-minded people vote for us?

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