Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Jenny Willott’

Liberal Democrat Resilience

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 12th May, 2015

LibDems join usLast week’s general election results in Britain were a shock to almost everyone — including the opinion pollsters — but the cruellest blows were for the Liberal Democrats, who lost 48 of their 56 seats. Ministers such as Simon Hughes, Ed Davey and Vince Cable were among the casualties, as well as high flyers like Julian Huppert and Jenny Willott. In London, Labour crowed, though as their party was almost wiped out in Scotland and their leader Ed Miliband fell on his sword for failing to win the election, they had little real reason to do so.  I lost count of the number of Labour supporters tweeting how the Liberal Democrats are “finished”, “destroyed”. Yet nothing could be further from the truth. Though the eight LibDem MPs are now outnumbered more than tenfold by their counterparts in the House of Lords, the party’s membership base is expanding rapidly. Over 8,000 new members have joined the LibDems so far this month, most of those following last Thursday’s election. That is a remarkable affirmation not only the party’s resilience but also of the need for a strong liberal voice now that we have a purely Conservative government which will start implementing some of the things that LibDems prevented them doing in Coalition. The LibDem bird Libby is indeed like a phoenix, rsing from the ashes of last wek’s defeat. And it is the duty of every local party to engage with the new members and to get them involved, including those who left because of the Coalition deal with the Conservatives but who are now ready to return to the fold.

To join the party go to: http://www.libdems.org.uk/join

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Matthew Oakeshott Is Right

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 24th January, 2015

Matthew OakeshottLord Oakeshott has often made himself unpopular with the Liberal Democrat leadership, not least for the way that he has criticised Nick Clegg’s handling of the Coalition with the Conservatives. While I think Matthew’s views are sometimes put across with an unhelpful stridency, I nonetheless feel he is sometimes right — as he is in his observation reflected in a piece he has written for LibDemVoice that one of the most crucial challenges of May’s general election will be how we engineer an outcome that will not lead to a Brexit from the European Union. He is fortunate to have the wealth to be able to back his analyses with cash, investing £20,000 each in a range of key seats (held and marginal, both Tory- and Labour-facing) where it is crucial that we retain sitting MPs — such as Jenny Willott and Martin Horwood — or make a good fist of electing a new one. I’m sad that sometimes what can appear to be personal animosity seems to flavour the differences of opinion between Matthew and Nick Clegg, but I hope the party is mature enough to recognise the very great assistance Matthew is offering for this election. Moreover, I agree with him that we need to ensure that a pro-EU government is in place after May. That is why, even though I think it was right to go into Coalition with the Tories in 2010 and I accept that many good things have been achieved (along with some unpleasant Tory-imposed horrors), I hope that any new Coalition in which we may be involved after May will be with Labour, who have unequivocally stated their belief that Britain must be at the heart of the European Union, in stark contrast to the Conservative position of standing with one hand firmly on the exit door, as right-wing backbenchers and UKIP supporters whisper anti-Brussels poison into their ear.

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Paul Burstow Champions Coalition Wins

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 4th February, 2012

When Nick Clegg planned a Liberal Democrat parliamentary away-day in Eastbourne this week he could hardly have known that the media hordes would descend on that seaside town, not to quiz MPs and Ministers about policy but rather about the fate of Chris Huhne. But if Plan A was to carry on as normal had the CPS decided not to prosecute Chris, Plan B quickly snapped into action when the opposite happened. Ed Davey, as widely rumoured, took over Chris’s Cabinet role as Energy Secretary, while Norman Lamb moved into Ed’s former position in the Department of Business, Industry and Skills. Norman’s slot has been filled by a goverment newcomer, Jenny Willott, MP for Cardiff Central — a welcome new female face on the front bench. Chris meanwhile left Eastbourne early to prepare his defence if that proved to be necessary. It should be stressed that he denies any wrongdoing and in keeping with the most basic principle of Britsh law, he should be presumed innocent unless proved otherwise. The Minister for Social Care, Paul Burstow, for his part, on Friday evening had a post-Eastbourne engagement to speak at Putney LibDems’ annual dinner, which he duly did after a warm-up introduction by the Merton and Wandsworth GLA constituency candidate Lisa Smart. For once Paul didn’t go into the minutiae of NHS Reforms (though this remains a hot topic), but rather stressed the messages that the Party needs to get out about LibDem wins inside the Coalition government’s programme, notably raising the tax threshold, rolling out the pupil premium and boosting apprenticeships. And of course he gave a big plug for people to go and help in the Worcester Park local council by-election in his own constituency of Sutton and Cheam; polling day 16 February. Being in government in coalition at such a difficult economic time is not easy, but I am impressed how chipper Ministers like Paul remain. As junior partners we do not get everything we would like, but it is remarkable how much has been achieved.

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Michael Crockart’s Love Story

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 26th January, 2011

Edinburgh West’s MP Michael Crockart gave an unusual spin to his Toast to the Immortal Memory at the 20th annual Burns Night Supper hosted by Merton Liberal Democrats in South West London last night when he drew on images from love poems of Robert Burns to illustrate what had happened last May following the General Election. It was not so much My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose but rather My Love is Like a Green, Green Tree, Mike declared, as the slightly reduced band of LibDem MPs were ‘love-bombed’ by the Tories. It was whirlwind romance, but the proposition was one that could not be turned down. However, as within all relationships, there has to be give and take — but also there are limits to one’s tolerance. The line that could not be crossed came as early as last month for Mike Crickart, when he felt he had to vote against the raising of university tuition fees, and therefore to resign from his government position as PPS to the Scottish Secretary, Michael Moore. He was, of course, not alone; amongst his fellow rebels was Jenny Willott, MP for Cardiff Central, whose mother, Alison — who had come up from Cardiff specially for last night’s occasion — gave the reply from the Lassies (to Councillor Iain Dysart’s Toast) at the Merton dinner, reprising a script she used at the very first dinner 20 years ago — still as fresh and witty now as then.

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