Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Hornsey and Wood Green’

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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Featherstone Flies the Flag for Equality

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 25th March, 2011

There have been many surprises since Britain last May got its first Coalition government since the Second World War. Who would have thought that the Conservative David Cameron would be standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Nicolas Sarkozy in leading the international acceptance of the Responsibility to Protect vis-a-vis Libya? But there have also been big wins in the more personal arena, too, largely thanks to the Liberal Democrat influence in government. This is particularly visible in the field of LGBT rights. Britain has been leading the way on marriage equality, for example, as well as on the recognition of the rights and contribution of transgender/inter-sex people — with the feisty LibDem MP for Hornsey and Wood Green, Lynne Featherstone, flying the flag for equality in diversity. This innovation is being followed with interest on both sides of the Atlantic, as became clear in discussion at the annual dinner of Bermondsey and Old Southwark Liberal Democrats at the Yellow House in Surrey Quays last night. It was encouraging to see how many young atendees there were. Where the party is active, young people are rallying round, despite the rumpus over tuition fees.


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Lynne Featherstone on Being a Minister

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 10th July, 2010

Lynne Featherstone, LibDem MP for Hornsey and Wood Green and now the Minister of State for Equalities and Criminal Information (sic), was the guest of honour at Sutton Liberal Democrats’ annual garden party this afternoon, in the spacious garden of perennial host Jayanta Chatterjee. In keeping with the Coalition Government’s new age of austerity, she arrived not in a chauffeur-driven limousine, but by train, like me. And from her description of life in the Home Office (up at 5.30am and only to bed at midnight, day after day) her tasks are demanding, despite the assiduousness of her civil servants. Far from being under the kitten heels of Home Secretary Theresa May, Lynne has been doing her best to stamp a LibDem tinge on her department’s policies; bilateral relations with her boss are in fact very cordial. Lynne was suitably prominent in last Saturday’s Gay Pride March — seemingly part of a new girl band, half-dancing alongside London Assembly Member Caroline Pidgeon, Party President Ros Scott and London’s LibDem MEP Sarah Ludford. Lynne said that the only thing that impressed her children about her new status in life was the arrival of the first lead-lined wooden red ministerial box. The civil servants will be making sure those ministerial papers keep coming.

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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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Pidgeon Takes Pot-Shots at Boris

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 22nd June, 2009

Caroline Pidgeon 2Holding the Mayor to account is about all that members of the Great London Assembly (GLA) can do, but that role is itself essential in a system in which the anointed one (Boris Johnson for the moment) has a great deal of power and an ability to accrue even more. Assiduous Assembly members can indeed take the Mayor to task if they work at it. And just as Lynne Featherstone (now LibDem MP for Hornsey and Wood Green) got her teeth into Ken Livingstone on transport issues when she was on the GLA, so now Caroline Pidgeon, holding the same brief for the party, is scoring hit after hit on BoJo. In a speech to the lively Lewisham LibDem supper club at a Turkish restaurant in Lewisham Way this evening, Caroline highlighted how the Mayor has been slashing transport infrastructure projects across the capital — such as the cross-river tram and the further extension of the DLR — while demanding that local councils in boroughs badly affected by these cuts still meet targets for affordable house-builds. Presumably he expects the prospective inhabitants to cycle everywhere. Meanwhile he has trumpeted his desire to dispose of bendy buses (at vast cost), even though that will be contractually impossible in the short-term and they are the most practical form of public transport on long, straight routes. Cuts will be the leitmotif of Boris’s second year in office, Caroline warned — maybe a taste of what is to come if people are foolish enough to vote a Conservative government into power with an outright majority at the general election.

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It’s a Stick-up!

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 3rd May, 2009

I have spent an inordinate amount of time this Bank Holiday weekend at various London Liberal Democrat offices, church halls and community centres, from Hornsey and Wood Green to Richmond and beyond, via Camden, Islington and goodness knows how many other London boroughs, moving around on trains and tubes and buses, as the massive operation got underway to ensure that every household will get LibDem literature for the European elections on 4 June — or several pieces, in some cases. Lacking major trade union support or noteworthy big business donations, the party relies heavily on small donations and voluntary help from members and supporters, but it is great to see everyone pulling together (while Labour, bizarrely, is pulling itself apart). All the target (UK parliamentary) constituencies are getting very smart, multi-coloured leaflets, to which addressed labels merely have to be stuck. But sticking labels on hundreds of thousands of leaflets, and bundling them properly, takes a daunting number of people-hours!

This evening, I’ll be addressing Streatham LibDems at a pasta and politics, on Europe, of course. London has so much to gain by being placed at the a heart of Europe, as Britain as a whole should be. Tony Blair said he’d do it, but he flunked it. Gordon Brown never had the real will to do it, and now he has his drawbridge up, in his own personal battlements, seemingly out of touch with what the electorate wants, let alone what Britain in Europe needs.


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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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Winning Hampstead and Kilburn

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 21st June, 2008

A general election may be almost two years away, but in target parliamentary seats, preparations are underway in earnest. In London nowhere is that more the case than in the new seat of Hampstead and Kilburn, which is made up of most of the current seat of Hampstead and Highgate — held by the Brownite Labour MP, Glenda Jackson — and a slice of Sarah Teather’s Brent East. In the new seat, there are notionally only 474 votes between Labour and the LibDems, but when one looks at the local election picture, it is much more stark for the government: 20 LibDem councillors, 9 Tories and a sole Labour one. This all means a fierce fight to come.

Today, the constituency LibDems held an ‘Away-day’ at the friendly and tasty food-wise William IV gastropub in Kensal Green (right opposite the cemetery where Oscar Wilde’s mother, the Irish nationalist Speranza, is buried), at which the briefings included a presentation by Mark Pack, who was Lynne Featherstone’s field commander in the successful campaign to win Horney and Wood Green in 2005. If Ed Fordham and his team fail to emulate that success in 2010 (or whenever), it won’t be through lack of trying.  

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