Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Hazel Blears’

Peter Brookes: The Best of Times

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 21st August, 2011

There are many good reasons not to read the Times, Rupert Murdoch being the most obvious. But one of that newspaper’s best features for some years now has been the output of political cartoonist Peter Brookes. Like all the best of his breed, he is topical, irreverent and puts the boot in where it’s needed. Unlike some cartoonists, however, he draws charicatures that are clearly identifiable, no matter how far-fetched the distortion. I think particularly of his Nature Notes, which have, for example, featured Harriet Harman as a praying mantis, Nicolas Sarkozy as a cockerel on stilts and Hazel Blears as a snail. No-one of any political party or natonality is free from his humorous barbs. Fortunately, every so often his very best cartoons appear in beautifully reproduced full-colour collections such as the one I have been savouring this afternoon: The Best of Times… (JR Books, London, 2009; £15.99). Peter Brookes holds no-one sacred, be it the Pope, the Queen or Barack Obama. Moreover, his willingness to get right to the bone prompts outright guffaws, such as his drawing of a very smug Bill Clinton declaring: ‘Fellow Democrats, trust me! Would I ever leave a sour taste in you mouth?!’ Because the volume covers the final years of the last Labour government, both Tony Blair (over Iraq) and Gordon Brown (portrayed naked on a sofa, in a pastiche of Lucian Freud’s ‘Benefit Supervisor Sleeping’) get it in the neck. I particularly love the image of a manic Cherie Blair, with terrifying grin, typing her autobiography on an old-fashioned cash register. And there is an unfogettable image of John Prescott impaled by a croquet hoop on a croquet lawn while Peter Mandelson aims a ball straight between his legs. As Liberal Democrats were not yet in government, they don’t fgure very much in this collection, apart from poor old Ming Campbell drawn alongside a Thora Hird-style stair-lift and Nick Clegg as a bird called the Great Shag. But I am sure there will be lots for LibDems to groan and giggle over by the time the next collection of Peter Brookes’s work comes out.

Link: www.jrbooks.com

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Labour Needs to Purge Itself

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 6th November, 2010

Watching former Labour Immigration Minister Phil Woolas announcing that he is seeking a judicial review, following the High Court decision to declare his election in May null and void because of his dirty tactics against his LibDem opponent, brought back many memories of the arrogant and often corrupt Labour politics of the Lancashire in which I grew up. I spent the first 17 years of my life in Eccles (now part of the irrepressible and unrepentant — over parliamentary expenses — Hazel Blears’s constituency) and although I could never have been a Conservative (unlike the household in which I was brought up), I similarly couldn’t touch the Labour Party with a barge-pole, because of the way they had made the town a rotten borough and their vicious hatred of anyone who wasn’t ‘working class’. So I joined the Young Liberals, even though the Liberal Party was almost non-existent in the area (apart from two councillors, whose seats they held only because of a pact with the Tories!). The then Liberal leader, Jo Grimond, clinched it when he came to my school during the 1964 general election and genuinely inspired my young self. Anyway, Phil Woolas, in all his unpleasantness, has reawakened all those memories of the unprincipled nature of the Labour Party Up North (and doubtless in some places Down South, too, though in many of the shires, Labour Party activists tend to be very decent, principled people, CND members and the like). I feel this situation now presents two challenges. The first is to Ed Miliband, to accept that what Phil Woolas did in the May general elections was morally as well as legally wrong, and to purge the Labour Party of such pratices. The second challenge is to my fellow Liberal Democrats: to go to Oldham East and Saddleworth asap — or to telephone canvass from wherever they are — to make sure we win the by-election convincingly!

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The Man Who Can’t Say Sorry

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 14th April, 2009

gordon-brownThe Labour Party has found itself in a hole with the McBride affair, the dastardly plan to slander leading Conservative politicians with fabricated scandalous stories and sexual innuendo. So what does Gordon Brown, master of 10 Downing Street do? Dig deeper!  An unequivocal and sincere apology would have drawn a line under the affair, as the justly aggrieved Tory MP,  Nadine Dorries, has pointed out. But the dour Scottish premier cannot bring himself to say sorry, instead expressing a mealy-mouthed ‘regret’. Regret at his team being found out, one assumes. As the affair drags on, Brown sends out into public his henchmen, Alan Johnson and Hazel Blears, to face the media and the public. But they are not allowed to say sorry, either. The order not to show genuine remorse has clearly come from the top, and the British voters will draw their own, appropriate conclusions about the true nature of the Brown government.

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Salford, Give Aung San Suu Kyi Her Freedom!

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 30th September, 2008

  I spent the first 17 years of my life in Salford (though I was born in the Manchester Royal Infirmary, on the Protestant side of the River Irwell). I remember the council knocking down the magnificent Victorian mansions of ‘Millionaires Row’ and the tram lines being ripped up. The city’s only claim to fame at the time was ‘Coronation Street’; as a schoolboy in short trousers, I got a hair-netted Violet Carson’s autograph when I visited the Granada filming lot. These days, of course, it has all gone terribly up-market, what with the Lowry Museum and the BBC.

Now, thanks to Unison, the trade union, a new spotlight has fallen on Salford, as the debate rages as to whether the Freedom of the City should be given to the Burmese democratic leader Aung San Suu Kyi — who has been under house arrest in Rangoon for yonks — or the Manchester United left-winger and occasional forward, Ryan Giggs. Well, I was almost brought up with a red scraf round my neck, but I hope Ryan Giggs is enough of a gentleman to recognise that Suu Kyi deserves it more than he does. Some people will complain that she has no real link to Salford, but then neither did Nelson Mandela, who was previously made a Freeman.

Aung San Suu Kyi has received numerous awards for her brave and dignifed struggle in opposition to Burma’s hideous junta. These include the Nobel Peace Prize, the Sakharov prize and Liberal International’s Prize for Freedom (which I was pleased to see acknowledged in today’s ‘Guardian’). But as a Salford lad, albeit now a London immigrant, I would be thrilled if the city gave her its plaudits as well. I’ll even be writing to the MP for my own home seat (Eccles) about it, none other than Labour’s Red Squirrel, Hazel Blears.

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