Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Havering’

Flying the Flag, Politically

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 11th June, 2017

IMG_2486Last year, London Liberal Democrats took the sensible decision to get snap election candidates in place in all the seats that were not targets in the party’s overall strategy. Thus it was that I agreed to fight a seat that had the dubious distinction of being the least Liberal Democrat of all London seats: Dagenham &  Rainham, in East London/ Essex, straddling the boroughs of Barking & Dagenham and Havering. This was not unknown territory for me, as I had covered Havering in particular during various Euro-elections, which were fought on a London-wide basis, and had helped in by-elections in Barking & Dagenham, one of which we actually won. Moreover, my lecture circuit to women’s clubs and professional associations has often taken me to Rainham and other parts of Havering. Like most snap-election candidates, by the time April came, I assumed there was not going to be an election, but then Theresa May surprised us all, to what must now be her lasting regret. Rather to my relief, I enjoyed the campaign, which from my point of view was almost entirely media-focussed, and even if the constituency once again won the booby prize as far as LibDem votes were concerned, it was good to feel a sense of determination among both the Havering and the Newham, Barking & Dagenham local parties; both have, like their counterparts up and down the country, enjoyed a surge in LibDem membership over the past 12 months, so there is base on which to build for the 2018 London borough local elections, or even (Heaven forfend!) for another general election later this year. In the meantime, the flag was flown, and for those who rallied to it, both in Dagenham & Rainham and in the neighbouring seat of Barking, a huge thank you!

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Standing up for Dagenham & Rainham

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 4th May, 2017

JF wityh Afzal Sayed MunnaLast night in Havering I was adopted as the Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for the constituency of Dagenham & Rainham, in East London/Essex. Apart from the fact that I have for years had dealings with local LibDems there while I was campaigning to be elected to the European Parliament (just missing out in 2004 and 2009!), I also give talks regularly to women’s clubs, Rotary clubs etc across Havering. The constituency straddles the boroughs of Havering and Barking & Dagenham and is remarkably diverse. Dagenham was of course best known as the major centre for car production in southern England, though more recently the Ford factory was widely-publicised as the setting for Nigel Cole’s endearing true-life story film, Made in Dagenham, about women who struck for better pay and working conditions. The borough is busy rebranding itself as an area for regeneration in which the authorities hope the film industry will have an important role to play — something I strongly support. Rainham, on the other hand, is celebrated for Rainham Marshes, a site of special scientific interest loved by migratory birds. The last time I went there I ended up rescuing a stray dog that someone had apparently just dumped. The parish of Rainham is quite ancient. There’s a nature park (Chase) in east Dagenham as well, in Eastbrook ward. So plenty of green spaces to stretch one’s legs between campaigning sessions!

[photo with Dagenham LibDem activist Afzal Sayed Munna and son]

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Bye Bye BNP?

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 5th January, 2014

Nick GriffinNick Griffin, Leader of the British National Party and MEP for the North West of England, was declared bankrupt at his home town of Welshpool this week, but he announced that he will still be standing for re-election at the European elections on 22 May. He is legally entitled to do so, as bankruptcy is no longer a barrier to candidature and he will be entitled to a better redundancy package when he loses his seat in the polls, which I hope and believe he will. The BNP is a stain on multicultural Britain, but fortunately like most far-right groups it has been a hotbed of factionalism and personal rivalries. The other BNP elected as an MEP in 2009, for Yorkshire and the Humber, Andrew Brons — previously Chairman of the National Front — withdrew from the BNP and now sits under the label British Democratic Party. I suspect he will lose his seat as well, if he stands again. That is not just wishful thinking. Though far right fringe parties come and go in Britain, they are always a flash in the pan. The BNP had 12 councillors in the London borough of Barking & Dagenham, as well as a few in neighbouring Havering and Redbridge, for example, but subsequently lost the lot. It’s been a similar picture in the rest of the country, so that at the moment there are just three BNP councillors left in the whole of the UK. Given the way the party has imploded, how soon will be able to say farewell to them as well?


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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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BNP Surge in London

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 4th July, 2008

There were three council by-elections in London yesterday, in the boroughs of Barking & Dagenham, Bexley and Havering. The most striking aspect of all three results was the BNP vote. Having not stood in any of the three wards concerned in 2006, the BNP polled 25.1%, 17.3% and 21.3% respectively, coming second in the Havering contest. Of course, East London and Bexley are two areas of unusual BNP strength, but even so the results should serve as a wake-up call to the mainstream parties.

Significantly, the LibDems only fought one of these seats: in Bexley. There was a vigorous LibDem campaign there, the party’s vote share went up and its candidate came ahead of the BNP. The LibDems are very weak in Havering and almost non-existent in Barking & Dagenham, but as has often been noted, the absence of a LibDem candidate can often indirectly help the BNP. As I know from my own canvassing in London by-elections in recent years, especially in Barking & Dagenham, it is not uncommon to be told on the doorstep ‘well, it will be either you or the BNP!’ That does not mean that voters think the two parties have similar policies. But it does reflect the fact that in some parts of London and other areas in the country, the BNP has learnt from the LibDems in its campaigning style and literature, portraying itself as the party that is really rooted in local communities and is focussing on issues that local residents care deeply about. By targeting its resources at by-elections, wherever they occur, the BNP is also asserting its claim to be a mainstream party itself, as LibDems did in the past. Interestingly, the BNP candidate in Havering beat both the Conservatives and Labour, only being prevented from winning the seat by an Independent.

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