Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Haringey’

Bollocks to Brexit!

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 9th October, 2018

Bollocks to BrexitThe founder of Pimlico Plumbers, Charlie Mullins, is to be congratulated for not submitting to pressure from (Labour) Lambeth Council to remove the giant sign over his company HQ saying Bollocks to Brexit! He has argued persuasively that Britain’s leaving the European Union — which it is scheduled to do on 29 March next year) will be bad for his customers and bad for his workforce, which has benefited from the Freedom of Movement that is part and parcel of the European Single Market. Rather than take down the sign he has instead invested in many more advertisements with the slogan posted near stations and other prominent places around London. After all, the Leave campaign was allowed during the EU Referendum campaign in 2016 to get away with driving a bus round with the lying slogan that the money the UK sends to the EU (itself a dodgy statistic) could be spent on the National Health Service instead. No surprise to learn now that that is not going to happen. In fact, Brexit is already costing this country hundred of million of pounds each week, and it hasn’t even occurred yet. And any increase in NHS funding (indeed needed) will probably have to come from higher taxation instead.

Brexit's Barking MadCharlie Mullins isn’t the author of the catchy Bollocks to Brexit! slogan, but it has gone viral, not only on social media, but also through sticky labels that have been appearing all over the place. On Sunday, I attended the Wooferendum march of Remainers and their dogs in Westminster, and many of the pooches were festooned with it as well. Over the coming weeks, in the run-up to a parliamentary vote on whatever Brexit deal is or is not agreed with Brussels, we can expect more campaigning activity, with a massive march in London on 20 October calling for a People’s Vote — i.e. a referendum on the deal, with an option to Remain — with support from people from every political party (except UKIP, probably) and none. Meanwhile, several local councils have been debating motions about whether to support a People’s Vote. I took part in a LibDem-led demonstration outside Camden’s temporary council offices last night, urging councillors to back such a motion, though sadly time ran out at the Full Council meeting before that part of the agenda was reached. I hope to attend a similar gathering outside Haringey Town Hall on Thursday. Both Camden and Haringey voted heavily Remain in 2016, yet the ruling Labour Party in both cases is divided on the issue. Conservative Brexiteers such as Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg have received massive media attention, but the Labour Party is home to “Lexiteers” as well, not just on the right (such as Kate Hoey) but also the left, including among some supporters of Momentum. Party leader Jeremy Corbyn was a Euro-sceptic for most of his 30-odd years in parliament, campaigned very quietly for Remain in 2016, but then called for Article 50 to be invoked immediately afterwards. He is still sitting on the fence over Brexit, though the Opposition Brexit spokesperson, Keir Starmer, did say clearly at the Labour conference in Liverpool that a People’s Vote should be on the table, including an option to Remain. He looked rather startled when this provoked a standing ovation, but it is not really surprising, as over 80% of Labour members reportedly support staying in the EU. Moreover, according to a poll-of-polls in the London Evening Standard last night, a large majority of the 150 recent opinion polls on the Brexit issue have shown a majority for Remain if a new referendum is held. In a democracy, it is a fundamental right for people to change their mind and maybe that is indeed happening as the complexity and cost of disentangling ourselves from the EU become clearer. So, yes, let’s have a People’s Vote. And let Bollocks to Brexit be our proud Remainer chant!

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A Day for Celebration

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 29th March, 2014

Harimgey equal marriage wedding partyequal marriageAt one minute past midnight last night the first same-sex marriages took place in England and Wales and today the sun is shining on many such ceremonies. What a long way this country has come since 1967, when Home Secretary Roy Jenkins oversaw the decriminalisation of consensual homosexual relations between adult men, helping end nearly a century of persecution, prosecution, imprisonment and blackmail, not to mention countless suicides. It is to the credit of the Coalition government — not least the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, David Cameron and Nick Clegg, for pressing ahead with legislation on equal marriage despite opposition from traditionalists and some religious groups. There have been heroes in all the political parties in this struggle, both inside and outside the Houses of Parliament, including men such as Peter Tatchell, who was vilified when he first championed the cause. Special mention should go to LibDems Lynne Featherstone in the Commons and Liz Barker in the Lords, who did so much to further the legislative process. This morning, Lynne was a guest at a same sex wedding party (see picture) in Haringey, which for me sums up the brilliance of Britain’s modern diversity. Brilliant, too, has been the wave of enthusiasm and congratulation from heterosexual, as well as bi and gay, Britons. There is a festive air in England and Wales today, and surely it can’t be long before Scotland and maybe even Northern Ireland follow suit. As a teenager I lived in dread of being a “criminal” in the eyes of English law. But today I can truly say how proud I am to be British.


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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.


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The LibDems’ New Generation

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 25th January, 2010

The boardroom at the Liberal Democrats’ headquarters in Cowley Street, Westminster, was packed this evening for a New Year reception for the New Generation intitiative, which seeks to make the party more representative of the communities that it serves, notably in the fields of ethnic diversity, LGBT sectors and disability. Since New Generation was first launched six months ago, the number of people directly involved has tripled. But as Nick Clegg — the keynote speaker at this evening’s event — stressed, the LibDems as a party still have quite a hill to climb in making the party’s elected representaties more diverse. There are currently only two LibDem ethnic minority members of the House of Lords, none in the Commons (following Parmijit Gill’s defeat in Leicester South at the last General Election), nor in the European Parliament, following N.W. England MEP, Sajjad Karim’s defection to the Conservatives. However, in recent months, the LibDems have not only selected a number of excellent BME PPCs to fight parliamentary seats, but also many BME Council candidates. Present at this evening’s gathering was the latest addition to the LibDem BME Councillor fold, Brian Haley, formerly a senior Labour representative on Haringey Council who had become disillusioned by that low-performing borough’s Labour administration. Nick Clegg is right: the necessary change won’t happen overnight, but things are moving in the right direction, especially in London — and quite right too, as the capital is Britain’s most diverse society. 

Photo: Cllr Brian Haley is welcomed by Lynne Featherstone MP (Hornsey & Wood Green) and Haringey Council LibDem Group Leader Robert Gorrie

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Labour Haemorrhaging in Waltham Forest

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 27th July, 2009

Milton MartinLabour woes in the London borough of Waltham Forest continue unabated. Not long ago, Harry Cohen, MP for Leyton and Wanstead (against whom I stood in the 1992 general election) bowed to pressure and declared he was standing down at the forthcoming general election, having been the centre of unfavourable media attention about his claims for a second home outside London. The last Borough Council leader, Clyde Loakes, meanwhile, had relinquished his post in order to fight a parliamentary seat in the Midlands; how he must now wish he had stayed in situ! But to cap it all, Labour Councillor Milton Martin (Catthall ward, photo right) recently defected from Labour to the LibDems, bringing the LibDem group up to 21 members and in with a serious chance of becoming the largest party, if not taking control, in Waltham Forest next year. Two other Labour councillors, Shameen Highfield (also Cathall) and Faiz Yunis (Forest, where the other two sitting councillors are LibDems) have reportedly also informed the Council’s Chief Executive that they wish to leave the Labour group, though it is not yet certain what their future affiliation will be. I remember a time when the Liberals won their first council seat in Waltham Forest and they have certainly come a long way since then. This makes Waltham Forest a borough to watch next year, along with Haringey.

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Filling in the LibDem Black Holes

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 25th June, 2009

Lynne FeatherstoneIf Enfield Liberal Democrats can fill a French restaurant in Palmers Green for their annual dinner, how come they can’t win a single council seat? That was the core message — though not in quite such blunt terms — from this evening’s after-dinner speaker, Lynne Featherstone, MP for nearby Hornsey and Wood Green. Of course, Enfield is not alone among the LibDems’ ‘nuls points’ London boroughs to nonetheless put on brilliant and enjoyable social events — and in some cases, even to have quite sizable memberships — yet not manage to make a political breakthrough in recent times. The key to success, Lynne argued from her own experience in Haringey, is to target one ward, as she and her colleagues did in Muswell Hill, then move forward step by step. In Haringey’s case this has meant that the party has come from nowhere to being in spitting distance of taking control of the council next year, having already catapulted Lynne into Parliament in 2005.

How many of the local parties in the LibDems’ London black holes can seize this challenge and run with it? Kensington and Chelsea is having a good crack at it with the current council by-election campaign in Colville ward. And one of the secondary aims of the European election campaign in London earlier this month was to enable the weaker local parties to build up target wards. Breakthroughs in 2010 would not just be a cause of celebration for Liberal Democrats in the boroughs concerned. They would also strengthen the chances of the party in city-wide elections that are carried out under proportional representation. That should mean a rise in 2012 from the current three list members on the GLA and, with sufficient effort, seizing in 2014 the so-far elusive second London LibDem Euro-seat.

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London’s European Election Results

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 9th June, 2009

London City HallNow that the dust has settled, one can take a rational view of the outcome of the European elections in London. The most striking thing for me is the way that Labour’s vote in the capital proved remarkably resilient, compared with the party’s performance in most of the rest of the country. Though they did lose one seat (almost inevitable with the reduction in the number of London seats from nine to eight), Labour retained a very strong second place. Moreover, they held on to a local council seat in a concurrent by-election in Prince’s ward, Lambeth, despite a swing there to the Liberal Democrats.

European flagsThe Conservatives proved once again that they are good at getting their vote out. They were obviously well organised, not only in strongholds such as Barnet and Bromley, but also in target boroughs such as Tower Hamlets. The Tories may not have much time for the European Union, but they certainly took these election seriously, treating them as a dry-run for the forthcoming general election and building up in areas in which they hope to make gains in the London local council elections next year.

In principle, the Liberal Democrats were doing the same. And indeed, this strategy worked well in held and target seats, which got plenty of literature and had concerted campaigns, including telephone knocking-up of postal voters and on polling day. The LibDems therefore performed strongly in the south-western ‘golden triangle’ of Richmond, Kingston and Sutton, excellently in Haringey, well in Camden, Lambeth (Streatham), Brent, Southwark, Islington etc, though apparently haemorrhaging some votes to the Greens. Up-and-coming boroughs like Waltham Forest did well in parts. But the black holes — mainly in the east and south east — fared poorly. An unavoidable challenge for the party in dealing with future London-wide PR election will be to build support and accurate data in boroughs such as Barking and Dagenham, Havering and Bexley. Interestingly, the BNP did best in those three boroughs, though overall the BNP vote was slightly down on its GLA percentage last year and the party came nowhere near winning a seat.

European parliament logoUKIP sank to fifth place, behind the Greens, though still hanging on to one MP. The Greens were justifiably pleased with their performance, though they still only got a little over 10 per cent, well below what some of the opinion polls were suggesting. London voters were spoilt for choice when it came to parties and independents to whom they could allocate a protest vote. Amongst the ragbag of little parties and independents, the one that stands out most is the Tamil independent, Jan Jananayagam, who garnered over 50,000 votes in a ballot-box extension of the Parliament Square demonstrations. It is interesting (though futile!) to speculate how the results might have been different in places with large Tamil communities, such as Sutton and Brent, had she not stood.

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The Cutting Edge in Finchley and Golders Green

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 18th January, 2009

Hampstead Garden Suburb Liberal Democrats’ annual winter party this evening provided a timely opportunity to entertain and introduce the new prospective parliamentary candidate for Finchley and Golders Green, Laura Edge. A councillor in Haringey since her dramatic by-election win in Stroud Green ward five years ago, Laura joins the fray at a time when the three former LibDem constituency parties in Barnet have merged into one borough organisation — geographically the largest in London. Barnet is the land of Brian Coleman, the pantomime villain of North London politics, as well as a Tory Council that seems to enjoy setting itself up as an Aunt Sally.  For Cockneys, of course, ‘barnet’ means ‘hair’ — from the rhyming slang derived from Barnet Fair, a horse fair dating back to Queen Elizabeth I.


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Linda Chung, Hampstead Town and Ethnic Diversity

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 31st August, 2008

 The council by-election campaign in Hampstead Town, Camden, is in full swing. Yesterday several of us were out making good use of the one day of real summer this month, manning a survey stall in the High Street, canvassing voters and delivering leaflets. The choice of candidate is often key to winning such contests and the LibDems are fortunate in this case in having Linda Chung to fly the flag, which she is doing with characteristic panache. She is a true live wire, who has lived in Hampstead for the past 30 years and founded Hampstead NW3, the local organisation for traders and busineses. Linda also has been one of the lead figures in the new Chinese Liberal Democrats group, which aims not just to bring together ethnic Chinese LibDems, but also to encourage more people within Britain’s Chinese community to get involved in the political process.

In recent years there has been a lot of (necessary) navel-gazing within the party about the low level of ethnic minority representation, especially in our cosmopolitan capital city. But it is gratifying that over the past year there have been several important local by-election wins with ethnic minority candidates, with origins as varied as Zimbabwe and Pakistan — and that a majority of them have been women. After my stint in Hampstead Town yesterday, I went to the thank-you party for the Forest ward by-election in Waltham Forest, to help celebrate Samina Safdar’s win there with an excellent lamb biryani. In London boroughs such as Waltham Forest, Camden, Brent and Haringey, our council groups increasingly reflect the diverse communities they represent, as they should. The next challenge is to make sure that local parties’ representatives to party conferences do as well.

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