Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Jean Lambert’

Cross-Party Campaigning against Brexit

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 26th January, 2018

European Movement Question TimeAn impressive line-up of London MEPs and other senior politicians gathered at the Irish Culture Centre in Hammersmith last night at an event organised by the Hammersmith & Fulham and Kensington & Chelsea branch of the European Movement. Charles Tannock MEP (Conservative), Mary Honeyball MEP (Labour) and Jean Lambert MEP (Green) were joined by former LibDem MP for Richmond Park and North Kingston, Sarah Olney (standing in for Catherine Bearder MEP, who was in Ireland), at a packed Question Time event moderated by former Labour MP and Europhile, Denis MacShane. Dr Tannock is one of a number of Conservative MEPs who disagree fundamentally with the British government’s policy of pursuing a so-called Hard Brexit, leaving both the European Single Market and the Customs Union. He would prefer Britain to stay within the EU but doesn’t believe Brexit can be stopped, so argues for a Soft Brexit instead. The other speakers were more focussed on how the UK can reverse the outcome of the 2016 EU Referendum; Sarah Olney set out the LibDems’ official line that there would need to be a new referendum when the details of the proposed new EU-UK deal are known, with an option to remain in the EU. Mary Honeyball expressed frustration at the Labour leadership for not campaigning hard enough for Remain in 2016, as well as for its current Hard Brexit stance. Jean Lambert said that whereas the Greens had reservations about some aspects of EU policy, she hoped the European Parliament could play its part in preventing a Hard Brexit. In theory, the Parliament could veto the deal, though that is probably not likely. There were far more questions from the audience than could possibly be addressed, but several people made the point that despite the large turnout — mainly middle-aged, middle-class and overwhelmingly white — the exercise was largely a matter of preaching to the converted. But everyone was urged to go out and campaign, on a cross-party basis and in particular to get the message out to younger people, including through social media. The Leader of Hammersmith and Fulham Council, Stephen Cowan, who was in the audience along with local MP Andy Slaughter, got a warm round of applause when he announced that his Council had declared itself pro-Remain — an initiative that some other London boroughs could perhaps be encouraged to follow.

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Brexit and the Ibero-American Community

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 23rd July, 2016

Many immigrant communities in Britain are worried about the possible consequences of Brexit, including the hundreds of thousands who belong to what is sometimes referred to as the “silent community” of several hundred thousand Spanish, Portuguese, Brazilian, Latin American and Lusophone Africans in the UK. This morning, along with Simon Hughes (former UK Minister of Justice), Jean Lambert MEP, Andrew Boff AM and others, I spoke to a gathering of Ibero-Americans at the Catedral Internacional in West Norwood, London. Below is an English translation of my speech, delivered half in Spanish, half in Portuguese:

JF and Lorraine ZuletaDear Friends,

One month ago, after the Referendum, I just wanted to hide under the duvet on my bed and die. It seemed to me that the 51 per cent of voters who voted for Britain to leave the European Union had made a terrible mistake. Indeed, I still believe that to be the case. Despite its faults, the EU has helped to bring peace and posterity to this country over the past four decades and already we are beginning to feel the negative effects of just saying we are going to leave. But one of the things that upset me most about the result is the message that it sent to, as Spanish and Portuguese and Latin Americans living and working here in London. Some people have said to me, “I don’t feel welcome here anymore. Should I leave? Will I be forced to leave?”

The good news is that London voted overwhelmingly to stay in the European Union, and we Londoners are proud of the cosmopolitan and multicultural nature of our city. Yet even here some people who do not look typically white British have reported verbal abuse over the past four weeks, as the vote for Brexit gave encouragement to the minority of racists and xenophobes in our midst. That is an intolerable situation and every decent person must stand up against such behaviour.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Even if Prime Minister Theresa May invokes Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty at the end of this year, Britain will still be a member of the EU until at least the end of 2018. All of you who have Spanish, Portuguese or other EU citizenship will continue to enjoy your full rights under the principle of free movement enshrined in the European Single Market. Moreover, my party, the Liberal Democrats, will work hard to ensure that you will continue to enjoy those rights even after Brexit. However, we are campaigning for more than that. We still believe that Britain is better off in the EU. Of course, we cannot ignore the result of the referendum vote. But I suspect that very soon many of those who voted for Leave will realise that they made a terrible mistake, as the British economy takes a hammering.

Already the pound sterling has fallen sharply in value and the Bank of England has had to intervene to bolster business confidence. We cannot just have a second referendum, asking the same question as the first. But we certainly could have another referendum after the terms of the Brexit deal with our EU partners are available. It is certain that that deal will be worse than what we have already, which would give the British electorate the opportunity to reject it and therefore stay in the EU. I hope that is indeed what will happen.

Each day I hope I will wake up from the nightmare of Brexit, but of course that has not happened. But we must not lose hope. And in the meantime, London is open for business and you are all most welcome.

Thank you.


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Electoral Reform Society Conference

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 28th June, 2010

The political highlight of my weekend was down in the basement of the Mother’s Union in Westminster, alas hidden from the glorious summer weather, attending the annual conference of the Electoral Reform Society (ERS). The dedicated and indefatigable outgoing Chief Executive Ken Ritchie — who has given 13 years of sterling service to the organisation, though he will now probably be replaced by a more charismatic media performer — gave an excellent account of what ERS has been up to over the past 12 months, including some jolly japes on the Thames outside the Houses of Parliament, highlighting some of the many shortcomings of the UK political system. There was then a panel discussion on electoral reform — specifically referring to the referendum on the Alternative Vote (AV), which is expected in 2011. This panel brought together former Home Secretary Alan Johnson (the man I think ought to have been running for Labour leader at this time), the LibDems’ Deputy Leader Simon Hughes,  the London Green MEP Jean Lambert and a charming young man, Ryan Shorthouse (who really ought to be a LibDem) from the progressive Tory thinktank Bright Blue. No sign of Energy Secretary Chris Huhne (who had been earlier billed) or his new partner and ERS staff member Carina Trimingham. The central message from the panel was that however imperfect many of us may feel AV to be (in contrast to a more proportional system, such as STV), we have to campaign for it enthusiastically in the forthcoming referendum, otherwise the momentum for electoral reform will be lost for another generation.


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The Last Furlong

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 31st May, 2009

LibDem vote on 4 JuneThis lunchtime I addressed about a thousand Spanish-speaking Latin Americans at the Fusion leisure centre in Elephant and Castle in South London, alongside Jean Lambert (the current Green MEP) and a Filipino independent. Interesting how both the Tories and Labour seem to have given up on the European elections. This is the fourth hustings in a row at which the Tories have failed to field a candidate, and the third at which there has been a Labour no-show. What are they afraid of?

Meanwhile, it was good to see The Observer coming out clearly in an editorial today, advising people to vote LibDem on 4 June. That recommendation is both because the party has the only credible agenda for real engagement with our partners in the European Union, but also because Nick Clegg has set out a plausible schema for the sort of radical reform that the British political system needs. Politics in this country is indeed broken, as Nick has been arguing for ages, long before all the expenses sleaze stuff oozed out. Roy Jenkins must be chuckling in his grave now that the public realises that it really is time to break the mould.


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Red and Green Woes in Euro-poll

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 10th May, 2009

Euro-election posterThe first opinion poll relating to the European elections since nominations closed appeared in today’s Sunday Times. It makes interesting reading, though depressing for Labour and the Greens. In response to the question ‘How will you vote in the June 4 European elections?’, 37% said Conservative, 22% Labour, 19% Liberal Democrat and 7% UKIP. All the other parties registered 5% or less. If such a pattern were reflected in London, Labour would lose one of their three MEPs, the Greens’ Jean Lambert would be out, and I would come in as a second LibDem MEP. Intriguingly, this mirrors almost exactly the predictive poll calculated by Marsh and Hix a few weeks ago. The proof of the pudding will be in the eating, however — though this poll should encourage LibDem activists to go out and campaign. Today I was out and about with local teams in Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest and the mood was certainly upbeat.

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Euro-hustings at the London Press Club

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 27th March, 2009

The London Press Club, at the St Bride’s Institute off Fleet Street, hosted a well-attended European elections hustings this evening, at which I was the LibDem representative, alongside fellow London candidates Jean Lambert MEP (Green), Gerard Batten MEP (UKIP), Jean-Paul Floru (Conservative) and Kevin McGrath (Labour). I was pleased to be called (alphabetically) after Gerard and Jean-Paul, as the audience was ready by then to hear some positive news about Europe after the two previous speakers’ attacks on how the EU has taken over our country. In contrast, Kevin McGrath was far more outspokenly pro-European than most Labour politicians, in the sense of stressing the good things that have come from European cooperation, rather than portraying European politics as a boxing match between Britain and the rest. Jean Lambert I have known for many years and we are regular cross-party panel fixtures. The LibDems and the Greens have many common environmental concerns, but the British Greens’ dogmatic rejection of economic growth, the euro and the leading role of the market economy, not to mention the anti-liberal views of some of their number, have always left me feeling uneasy.


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