Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Jim Fitzpatrick’

Mulling over Cameron’s Misguided Move

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 11th December, 2011

This Sunday is traditionally the time when Liberal Democrats in London stop writing Focus leaflets and do a bit of festive socialising as a reward for working hard all year round. And today the parties did indeed take place — I attended a lunch put on in Barnes by the local branch, then a mulled wine and mince party in Hornsey — but the conversation at both was highly political. This is not just because two elections are due to take place next Thursday: the parliamentary contest in Feltham and Heston (where I ran into Ken Livingstone and a posse of Labour MPs, including my local MP Jim Fitzpatrick, while I was out delivering yesterday) and a double local council by-election in the Coombe Vale ward of Kingston borough. Most LibDem members, including me, are furious at the way David Cameron mishandled the Brussels EU Summit, pandering to his Eurosceptics but marginalising Britain in the process. The Tory Little Emglanders will doubtless cheer him to the rafters when he addresses the House of Commons tomorrow, but I hope LibDem MPs will blow him a giant raspberry. Certainly the comments from Nick Clegg, Vince Cable, Lord (Paddy) Ashdown and others have been pretty strong, as have the criticisms from the UK LibDem MEPs, most significantly Sharon Bowles. At the Barnes event this lunchtime, Susan Kramer — until 2010 the local MP and now a highly valued member of the House of Lords (as well as being President-elect of London Liberal Democrats) — gave an excellent short summary of what happened at the summit and its possible consequences. In Hornsey, local MP and Home Office junior Minister Lynne Featherstone preferred to concentrate more on the very real ‘wins’ on equality issues which the LibDems have managed to obtain since going into government. But most of us will be going to bed tonight thinking more of the big losses to Britain’s standing in the world that our misguided Conservative Prime Minister has inflicted on us.

[Photo shows blogger Mark Pack, Lynne Featherstone MP, Enfeld and Haringey GLA candidate Dawn Barnes and JF]

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Ian Spratt’s How Lucky We Are

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 25th February, 2011

The Royal Commonwealth Club in London’s Northumberland Avenue this evening launched an impressive exhibition of black-and-white images from Bangladesh by award-winning photographer Ian Spratt, in the presence of guest of honour, my local MP (and former political opponent) Jim Fitzpatrick. Ian Spratt first established links with the country back in 1985. The following year, he photographed infants at an orphanage in Bangladesh, where British air hostess Pat Kerr discovered a new vocation in life as fundraiser and consciousness-raiser to meet the needs of the most marginalised children, who were then raised in Sreepur Village. Ten years later, Ian Spratt — who had been named Photographer of the Year in 1986 for his images of Bangladeshi children — returned, found his previous subjects and re-photographed them. On seeing the earlier images, his daughter had commented ‘How lucky we are!’ in comparison. But the second visit prompted Ian Spratt to reflect on how lucky the young Bangladeshi adults he was photographing in 1996 were, having been given a second chance in life. To complete the story, he has now made a new set of images of the same people, a quarter of a century after the first. Each portrait is therefore part of a trio of powerful, even life-enhancing snapshots. The exhibition will run until 28 March and prints are for sale.

Link: www.sreepurvillage.org and www.ianspratt.com

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The TELCO Hustings at St Paul’s Shadwell

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 16th April, 2010

Last night, more than 300 people gathered at the 350-year-old St Paul’s Church in Shadwell, in my constituency of Poplar & Limehouse, for an election hustings with a difference. Faith and community groups which are members of TELCO — the East London Community Organisation that was really the progenitor of London Citizens — raised their particular concerns regarding such issues as the Living Wage, CitySafe Havens and Community Land Trusts and then got the leaders of the different political groups on Tower Hamlets Council to endorse them. Afterwards came two sets of parliamentary hustings for the candidates of the three main parties plus Respect, for both the constituencies of Bethnal Green & Bow and Poplar & Limehouse. We parliamentary candidates were given just one minute each to expound our beliefs and policies, so I concentrated on our common goal of building a community in which all people can live with dignity and give each other respect. I also referred to the Strangers into Citizens campaign, for regularising longterm paperless migrants, at whose rally I spoke in Trafalgar Square last summer. At the St Paul’s hustings, George Galloway, alas, broke the spirit of consensus and sharing by launching a one-minute attack on the outgoing Labour MP for Poplar & Canning Town (the constituency boundaries have been changed), Jim Fitzpatrick, accusing him of being an Islamophobe (which I am sure Jim isn’t, despite recent gaffes) and saying (incorrectly) that all of the rest of us support the ‘colonial’ war in Afghanistan. This all brought predictable cheers from the Respect claque present, but almost everybody else visibly winced. Afterwards, I was interviewed by the Bengali TV station Channel S and stressed the need to work together for community cohesion in our borough and not to let divisive elements worsen tensions.

Link: www.telcocitizens.org.uk

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Taking on Poplar and Limehouse

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 26th November, 2009

This evening, at a packed AGM of Tower Hamlets Liberal Democrats at Oxford House in Bethnal Green, I was adopted as the LibDem PPC for my home constituency of Poplar and Limehouse (new boundaries, having lost all the bits in Newham). It’s an extraodinary seat, illustrating both the huge diversity of London and also the yawning gap between rich and poor. It also looks like being a right royal battleground at the forthcoming general election, not only because the sitting Labour MP, Farming and Food Minister Jim Fitzpatrick, annoyed the large local Muslim community a while back by walking out of a Muslim wedding because he couldn’t sit next to his wife, but also because ‘Gorgeous’ George Galloway (Respect) is trying to move over from his current perch in neighbouring Bethnal Green and Bow. So we can expect some vigorous campaigning and lots of media attention. Having first moved into the area in 1985, I have seen huge changes — some good, some bad — and whatever the result at the end of it, I am determined to enjoy the next six months or so and to be part of a LibDem renaissance in Tower Hamlets.

Link: http://tower-hamlets-libdems.org.uk

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Jim Fitzpatrick’s Wedding Gaffe

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 21st August, 2009

Jim FitzpatrickMy local MP, Jim Fitzpatrick, is in the doghouse in the eyes of many of my Muslim neighbours, having walked out of a wedding reception at the London Muslim Centre in Whitechapel Road, because he was told that the event was segregated by gender, which meant that his wife would have to go to the women’s room. Doubtless he just left in a huff, without thinking through the consequences, but when questioned later he said he did not think that gender segregation was appropriate in the modern age and that it damages community cohesion in Britain. But the affair has blown up into a major scandal. The bridegroom, Bodrul Islam, who had invited the Fitzpatricks, has reportedly demanded that the MP apologise for ‘politically hijacking’ his wedding, and Hanif Osmani of the Council of Mosques in Tower Hamlets told the East London Advertiser, ‘Mr Fitzpatrick’s own actions have undoubtedly caused more harm to local and national community cohesion than any such wedding ever could.’ The Advertiser is having a field day, of course; right in the middle of the summer silly season, here is a really meaty local issue!

George Galloway, Respect MP for neighbouring Bethnal Green and Bow, who is planning to hop over into Poplar and Limehouse constituency to challenge Jim Fitzpatrick at the next general election, has gone typically overboard, calling on Gordon Brown to sack Fitzpatrick as Minister of Food and Farming. That would of course be quite absurd, as the MP’s gaffe has no bearing on his abilities as a government Minister. However, the affair does reflect badly on his ability to represent half of a borough in which there are an estimated 70,000 Muslims, many of whom are outraged at what they see as a slur on their cultural practices. Some of the readers’ letters in this week’s Advertiser are vitriolic about the MP and the Labour Party is taking flak as a consequence. ‘The local Labour ship is sinking and it is sinking fast,’ one correspondent writes. ‘His ignorance and rudeness are symptomatic of the desperate state of the Labour party, which is haemorrhaging past supporters to the extremes of politics,’ says another. A third notes pertinently that Orthodox Jews have gender-segregated religious events, too.

Meanwhile around the taxi rank and newstand at Mile End station, some of the old East End white working class is mutttering loudly about how ‘these Muslims are not like us’ and making similar disparaging remarks. Jim Fitzpatrick might be encouraged to know that he has some local supporters for his stance, but the whole affair has dealt a blow to multiculturalism in Tower Hamlets. Coming on the eve of Ramadan, it could hardly have been worse-timed.

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