Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Islington’

Previewing the LibDems’ Spring Conference

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 5th March, 2012

Islington Liberal Democrats have a tradition of letting members chew over what upcoming federal conferences are going to discuss and this evening those of us who attended a Pizza and Politics in Barnsbury had the opportunity to talk through the agenda with the Chair of Federal Conference Committee, Andrew Wiseman, who now lives in the borough. There is no motion at conference about the controversial NHS Reforms (though that doesn’t mean someone won’t dream up a credible emergency motion, and the subject is bound to be hotly debated on the fringe). But the very first item on Andrew’s list of conference topics sparked maybe more emotions than he had imagined: the government’s proposed ‘mansion tax’ of an annual levy of 1% on properties worth over £2million pounds. This was an idea originally launched by Vince Cable (though at the £1million level), but many people in London were quick to point out that this would be a form of taxation that would essentially clobber the residents of central London and parts of the South East, many of whom may well not enjoy the sort of income necessary to pay the mansion tax. I have certainly never been persuaded by the idea, especially if, as some Tories argue, it would be introduced at the same time as reducing the 50p top rate of tax. Anyway, that was not the only issue discussed in Islington this evening. Our host Jeremy Hargreaves has originated a motion on Islinton’s behalf (and with the backing of the Liberal Democrat European Group — LDEG — and some MEPs) which would essentially reaffirm the Party’s belief in the necessity for Britain to be at the heart of the EU, even if that institution required certain reforms. As I commented, I feel the Liberal Democrats now have a golden opportunity to prove our credentials as the pro-European party in Britain, with the Tories seemingly ever more hostile and Labour being ambiguous in a most opportunistic fashion — as Labour is about so much these days, of course.

 

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London Liberal Democrats’ Autumn Conference

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 22nd October, 2011

From 1979 onwards, Britain endured 31 years of centralising government, but since May 2010 a new doctrine has been in place, as yet little referenced by the political commentariat, bedazzled as they are by distractions such as the putative EU referendum. With Eric Pickles, no less, the Minister in charge, the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition government has espoused the philosophy of Localism: bringing decision-making down to an appropriately lower level (something the EU’s principle of subsidiarity also promotes). This was the key theme of today’s London Liberal Democrats’ Autumn Conference, held at the University of West London in Brentford. Former local councillor Andrew Dakers reminded those of us who were present of some of the ideology and analysis behind Gordon Lishman and Tony Greaves’s mantra for Community Politics a generation ago. And a session moderated by Terry Stacy, Leader of the Opposition on Islington Borough Council, provided us with some examples of best practice from places such as Sutton (Ruth Dombey) and Liverpool (Richard Kemp). Dr Mark Pack also added his weight and experience to the subject. Listening to speeches about both localism and the London Mayoral and Assembly elections brought to my mind Chairman Mao’s dictum about walking on two legs — in this case one local, one regional. Team London, the concept that London Liberal Democrats successfully launched last year and is now integral to regional activity, understands the wisdom of that two-legged strategy — and also manages to keep one eye firmly focussed on May 2012 and the other on the borough council elections in 2014.

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The London Mayoral Merry-go-round

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 24th July, 2011

Voting has now started in the Liberal Democrats’ selection of a Mayoral candidate to fight next May’s London elections. Ballot papers have gone out to all London party members of more than one year’s standing and they have until 31 August to return them to Electoral Reform Services. There are four candidates in the field: Brian Haley, Lembit Opik, Brian Paddick and Mike Tuffrey — four very diferent characters with diverse experience. There will be one official hustings, which I will be chairing, on 27 July at 7pm at Hamilton House in Camden. But with the contest occurring during summer, there is a whole range of local party events for the four men to parade their policies and meet with the selectorate. On Friday Julie Horton and Phil Middleton of Islington LibDems hosted a particularly well-attended garden party at their home in Highbury Hill, with all four candidates present — and I suspect I will be running across most of them again this afternoon at the Croydon Libdems’ annual garden party near Sanderstead. I trust that all will also put in time at the St Peter’s ward local by-election in Islington — a seat held by LibDems until 2006.

 

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Looking Forward to the Liverpool Conference

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 9th September, 2010

For the first time for many years I won’t be at the LibDem Autumn Conference next week, which might seem perverse, given that this is the first time in my lifetime that my party has been in government. However, I was offered a lecturing tour of the Arab world (including a part of Sudan that I have never been to), starting next Wednesday, which was just too good to turn down. So I shall be following and enjoying Conference vicariously. And, in fact, I have been previewing it quite a lot these past few days, first at an interesting Pizza and Politics put on by Chingford & Woodford Green (a constituency that straddles the boundaries of Watham Forest and Redbridge), at which Dr Mark Pack spoke, then this evening at one of Islington’s famous Pizza and Politics, at which the speaker/facilitator was local member Andrew Wiseman, recently elevated to Chair of the Federal Conference Committee following his predecessor Duncan Brack’s being appointed a government special advisor (SPAD). Interestingly, at both events, the issue which caused the most debate was how the party can or should address the problem of under-representation of ethnic minosirites (BME) in the parlimaentary, Euro-parliamentary and London Assembly parties, and to a lesser degree among the party’s membership. Actually, Islington has a rather good record at embracing and engaging people of different cultures, so there is much ‘best practice’ that can be shared, London-wide and maybe beyond. The other contentious issue related to Free Schools, though actually the motion before conference is rather critical of Michael Gove’s policy, so it will be interesting to see what transpires in Liverpool. I’m sad to be missing the real thing, but doubtless even in Arabia Deserta, I’ll be able to keep in touch.

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London Region LibDem Conference

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 14th November, 2009

City UniversityLondon Liberal Democras gathered at City University in Islington today for the last autumn regional conference before next year’s elections. Most pundits believe that the general and local polls will be held on the same day (first Thursday in May, 2010), which is something much of the rest of the country often has to cope with but is a distinct rarity in the capital. The prospect is viewed with mixed feelings, as was clear from contributions from several speakers at the conference, including councillors who may have to garner twice as many votes (on an increased turnout) this time round than they did last time, in order to to retain their seats. However, the mood was nonetheless upbeat. True, few shared Simon Hughes’s rosy forecast that the LibDems might almost double their number of London MPs — from eight to 15 — next year. But even the most theoretically vulnerable sitting MP — Susan Kramer in Richmond Park — was surprisingly confident because of positive feedback she’s been getting on the doorsteps. Ed Fordham (Hampstead and Kilburn) spoke on behalf of target seat candidates who are increasingly making their voices heard among the electorate. And both Ashley Lumsden (Lambeth) and John Macklin (Waltham Forest) were hopeful that there could be strong gains in several London borough councils as well. I am looking forward to being part of the regional support team for all this forthcming activity, having today been elected to be the next Chairman of London Region LibDems (taking office on 1 January), as well as working with colleagues to improve dramatically the party’s performance in London list elections.

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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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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.

Link: http://www.JonathanFryer4Europe.com

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