Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘John Bercow’

The People’s Vote March

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 19th October, 2019

Peoples Vote March 19 October 2019The sun was shining on the People’s Vote March in London today as several hundred thousand demonstrators manifested their wish to stay in the EU. As ever at such events, the mood was like a carnival and a cheer arose when it became known that the House of Commons — sitting on a Saturday for the first time since the Falklands War — had thwarted Boris Johnson’s attempt to get his Brexit deal passed today. Instead, an amendment by Oliver Letwin basically kicked the matter into next week, declaring that the deal cannot go through before all the necessary legislation is in place — and effectively obliging the Prime Minister to send a letter to the EU before midnight tonight requesting an extension to Article 50. Johnson was defiant in the House, insisting that he is still going to get Brexit done and dusted by 31 October but that is looking increasingly unlikely. If the EU has any sense it will provide a long extension which would enable the UK to sort out the current impasse through a confirmatory referendum on Boris’s deal or through a general election. Whatever happens the next few days are likely to be extremely fractious, which why it was so nice to have such a warm atmosphere on the march today. It was literally a gathering of all the generations and people from different political parties mingled convivially — a contrast to the raucous tensions in the House. There, the Speaker, John Bercow, had to limit speakers to three minutes each after a while, which graphically illustrated how outrageous the Prime Minister was in trying to get the deal with all its ramifications through in a single sitting.Many people may be heartily sick of Brexit by now, but the saga is far from over.

Posted in Brexit, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Truly Supreme Court

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 25th September, 2019

Baroness-HaleThe UK’s Supreme Court may only be a decade old but it represents centuries of judicial independence. Yesterday, it delivered an historic decision when it declared unanimously that Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s advice to the Queen which led to the prorogation of Parliament was “unlawful, void and of no effect”. The five week closure, effectively preventing MPs from debating Brexit until mid-October — only two weeks before Mr Johnson wishes to take the country out of the EU — was therefore deemed illicit. The Speaker, John Bercow, grinning like a Cheshire cat on College Green, was swift to announce that the House of Commons would therefore reconvene at 1130 this morning and the Prime Minister had to cut short his visit to New York where he was speaking at the United Nations General Assembly. What happens now, as with so much regarding the Brexit chaos, is anyone’s guess. In normal circumstances one would have expected the Prime Minister to resign, but these are not circumstances and Boris Johnson is not a normal Prime Minister. He is likely to try to hang on and the Labour Opposition is reluctant to call for a vote of no confidence as there is no guarantee it would be won. However, the Government is in principle bound to ask for an extension to Article 50 because of a move by MPs before the prorogation and Mr Johnson might be loathe yo try to circumvent that illegally despite his bluster. Meanwhile, the President of the Supreme Court, Lady Hale, delivering the Court’s verdict while dressed in black with a large silver spider brooch on her chest, has become on overnight heroine to Remainers and a demon to Hard Brexiteers. But the important thing is that the Rule of Law has been defended and the principle upheld that no-one is above it, not even Boris.

Posted in Brexit, UK politics, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

A Constitutional Outrage

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 28th August, 2019

Boris Johnson 7Queen Elizabeth this afternoon acceded to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s request that Parliament should  be prorogued for about five weeks starting in the first half of September. The Prime Minister argued that this is necessary so that a new session of Parliament can begin following a Queen’s Speech in mid-October, but critics — including many within the governing Conservative Party — believe that the real reason is to limit the time MPs will have to challenge Mr Johnson’s plan for a No Deal exit from the European Union on 31 October (assuming in the meantime he is unable to produce a new Deal with the EU like a rabbit out of a hat). The House of Commons Speaker, John Bercow, has denounced the government’s move as a “constitutional outrage”, a phrase echoed by Opposition parliamentarians, including the Labour Leader, Jeremy Corbyn. I suspect the Queen was none too pleased either, but the terms of the unwritten British constitution are such that the monarch is effectively forced to act on the advice of the Prime Minister. However, the ructions are starting to be felt up and down the country. The Leader of the Scottish Conservatives, Ruth Davidson, is reportedly on the verge of resigning and several senior former Ministers, including the ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, have protested loudly. Half a million people signed a petition against the proroguing of Parliament within a matter of hours and thousands descended on Westminster this evening in a spontaneous demonstration against what many are calling “the coup”. Other gatherings are taking places in different parts of the country and social media are fizzing. Boris Johnson may think he has been extremely clever, but this could all lead to his having the shortest term of office of any British Prime Minister, or the break up of the United Kingdom, or both.

Posted in Brexit, UK politics, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Yes, I am a “Collaborator”!

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 14th August, 2019

Brexit march March 2019In the latest grotesque twist in the Alice in Wonderland alternative reality of Boris Johnson’s Brexit Britain, the Prime Minister has denounced as “collaborators” those who wish to prevent a No Deal crash-out of the EU on 31 October. That presumably includes noble souls such as the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, and the 70 MPs and members of the House of Lords who have taken legal steps to try to stop a No Deal Brexit (to be heard in the Courts during the first week of September) as well as the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, who has become a knight in shining armour defending British democracy. I suspect the choice of the word “collaborator” is the work of Dominic Cummings, the unelected demon “genius” at the heart of 10 Downing Street’s operations. And of course it comes hard on the heels of the dismissal of the independent judiciary as “traitors”, in the words of headline writers of some of Britain’s more disgusting Press, including the Daily Mail, the Sun and of course the Daily Telegraph, which until recently was paying Boris Johnson a reported quarter of a million pounds a year to spew out his own anti-EU poison. This is all part of a calculated campaign to whip up anger and possible violence among the arch-Brexiteer public (who are not a majority). No wonder some pro-Remain MPs have had to call  on police protection or even move home. As an arch-Remainer myself — who doesn’t want any sort of Brexit, let alone a No Deal Brexit, because of the harm this will do to the country — I believe we must stand up to this vilification and the slew of lies being put out by Number 10 and the Brexit camp. Moreover, I shall embrace warmly the pejoratively-intended term “collaborator” — rather as the Religious Society of Friends in the 17th century embraced the mocking word “Quaker” employed by their detractors. I am proud of being a Collaborator with our 27 fellow EU member states, who have been working together to make Europe and the world a better, safer and more prosperous place. I am proud to be a Collaborator with all those millions of people who have rallied to the anti-Brexit cause and who are increasingly organising themselves in a Remain Alliance. It is is the Boris Johnsons and Jacob Rees-Moggs of this world who are undermining Britain and its global standing. History will condemn them for it, but we must try to stop them first.

Posted in Brexit, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

High Noon for Brexit?

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 27th March, 2019

House of Commons 1Today the British Parliament will demonstrate how focused it is having seized control of the House of Commons agenda from the Executive. The Speaker, John Bercow, has to choose between 16 separate propositions that have been put forward on how to extract Brexit from its parliamentary impasse. He’ll probably select only half, at most, for a collective series of “indicative votes”, the idea being that this will give some idea where the mood of the House is at present — whether it is, for example, for a Norway-style future relationship with the EU, or for a new referendum or whatever. The feeling in the Westminster bubble is that it is unlikely that any one proposition will get majority support, which means that there may be a run-off between the two most favoured options (perhaps) on Monday.

Barry Gardiner 1In the meantime, Parliament has to pass a statutory instrument moving Brexit Day from 29 March to 12 April, otherwise the UK could just crash out of the EU at 11pm this Friday, as some of the hard Brexiteers would like. Meanwhile, the waters are muddied by contradictory signals from within the two main parties. Jacob Rees-Mogg and some of his European Reform Group chums have been hinting they could support Mrs May’s deal (Withdrawal Agreement) if the DUP from Northern Ireland does too, but that is far from certain. On the Labour side, Barry Gardiner has stuck his oar in, not for the first time, insisting that Labour does not wish to thwart Brexit, even though that is clearly what a majority of Labour members want. Over the channel, EU Council President Donald Tusk has asked the European Parliament to be prepared to give Brits a longer period to reflect on the future, which would mean the UK taking part in the European elections in May. And back in London, the Prime Minister still hopes that if she chooses her moment well (not something she has shown a great ability for so far) she will be able to get her deal through, as Brexiteers hold their nose at backing a deal they dislike in order to avoid having no Brexit at all. So, in a nutshell, today will be an action-packed one in the House of Commons. And with everything still to play for, no-one can claim to know exactly what is going to happen to Brexit now.

Posted in Brexit, UK politics, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Why John Bercow Is a Hero

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 19th December, 2017

449177D3-C066-4CA9-943B-07239321330CThe Speaker of Britain’s House of Commons, John Bercow, has come in for a lot of flack over the years, mainly from his fellow Conservatives. But he has proved himself to be a hero in the way that he maintains debating standards in the chamber and is unafraid to stand up to bullies. We saw that brilliantly this week when he defended MPs who have received death threats and other abuse because of their opposition to Brexit. Speaker Bercow not only stressed that these MPs were doing their duty by speaking up for what they believe in but also took a swipe at newspapers such as the Sun, the Daily Mail and the Daily Express and even the Daily Telegraph for publishing headlines and articles that have accused critics of Brexit of being traitors and “Enemies of the People”. It’s worth pointing out that few Conservative politicians dare take on the right-wing rags head-on out of fear of becoming targets themselves. Theresa May is just the latest in a line of British Prime Ministers who have kowtowed to Rupert Murdoch and Paul Dacre. But refusing to stand up to bullies — and that is what these men are — only encourages them. Though he knows he will be the subject of yet more unflattering stories and epithets, John Bercow has not been afraid to do so and deserves praise for it. It’s just a pity that most of the Conservative Cabinet are more spineless.

Posted in UK politics, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Sod the Lot!

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 11th April, 2010

Tory blogger Iain Dale has given his readers a sneak preview of UKIP’s election poster, which, one has to admit, cheekily captures the mood of disenchantment with politicians that can be found amongst voters (and non voters) of every social stratum in Britain. It also has the merit of being funny, which most political propaganda doesn’t. However, Sod the Lot’s appeal is superficial and hides UKIP’s less attractive reality, most eloquently displayed by the party’s leader, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, who has been issuing dire warnings about how, over the next five years, the ‘Brussels octopus’ will tighten its tentacles round Britain and suck us all into its bowels. Does an octopus have bowels, I wonder?  But let’s not digress. UKIP represents the worst form of Little Englanderism, at times bordering on hooliganism. The behaviour of some of UKIP’s MEPs (including Barbara Cartland’s grandson, the Earl of Dartmouth) when (Baroness) Cathy Ashton appeared before the European Parliament recently was nothing short of disgraceful. Moreover, last year UKIP wrongly benefited during the European elections from public anger over MPs’ expenses — despite the fact that a couple of its own MEPs had been the suject of criminal charges. The party’s most high-profile figure — and former leader — Nigel Farage has abandoned his duties as an MEP to try to oust the House of Commons Speaker, John Bercow, in Buckingham at the forthcoming general election. People who are tempted to vote UKIP bcause of its apparent anti-establishment nature should examine the nature of its policies and the behaviour of its representatives carefully, then maybe they will decide that they should ‘sod’ UKIP even more than the rest!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Are the Tories Falling Apart?

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 7th March, 2010

The British general election campaign hasn’t even started yet, but already the wheels seem to be coming off the Conservative campaign. They’d hoped to swing voters in marginal seats by pouring in lots of money, much of it donated by Lord Ashcroft. But the protracted revelations about the peer’s nom-dom tax status and his relations with Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague have now made him more of a liability than an asset. The party has also got unwisely close to the Young Britons’ Foundation, whose head espouses US neo-con views about the ‘disaster’ of the NHS and people’s right to carry a gun. Meanwhile, Lord Tebbit has said that Tory activists should be free to vote and even campaign for UKIP’s Nigel Farage, who is standing against the Speaker, John Bercow. And one of David Cameron’s neighbouring MPs has made the claim (now furiously denied) that Samantha Cameron may have voted for Tony Blair. Any one of these things might not be too damaging, but as the gaffes and indiscretions come thick and fast, the party is being made to look undisciplined and foolish. And we still don’t know what David Cameron stands for, other than vague ‘change’.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Jeremy Thorpe Unveiled

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 15th July, 2009

Avril Vellacott and Jeremy Thorpe's bustThe great, the good and the sometimes naughty of the old Liberal Party were out en masse in the Attlee Suite of Portcullis House at Westminster this evening, for the unveiling of a portrait bust of former party leader Jeremy Thorpe, as well as a preview of the three latest (and final) acquisitions of busts of 20th century Prime Ministers intended for the Commons lobby: Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, Andrew Bonar Law and Neville Chamberlain (the most stunning portrayal being that of Neville Chamberlain, apparently only on loan from Birmingham, but hey). The evening was introduced by Hugo Swire, MP, Chairman of the Speaker’s Advisory Committee on Works of Art. Nick Clegg, Liberal Democrat leader — barely old enough to remember Jeremy’s halcyon days as a politician — gave an amusing and  nicely-balanced speech,  while his predecessors Ming Campbell, Charles Kennedy and David Steel brushed shoulders with various Grimonds and Bonham-Carters. The Thorpe bust will be displayed in the Grimond Room in Parliament.

John Bercow, the new Mr Speaker, was both gracious and genuinely enthusiastic in his lauding of JT as one of the political stars of the 1960s and 1970s. Mr Bercow unveiled the bust — a cast from an original by sculptor and Twickenham Rugby Club enthusiast, Avril Vellacott, which she made shortly before JT’s first marriage to Caroline Allpass (who was tragically killed in a car accident) and which still graces the Thorpe home in Orme Square — by pulling on one tassled cord while Jeremy, in a wheelchair, tugged gently on another. Jeremy, despite long years of crippling Parkinson’s disease, then astonished everyone by giving a 10-minute speech, via a lapel mike. He paid particular tribute to his second wife and loyal companion, Marion (who was sitting slightly tearfully in another wheelchair beside him) and declared firmly that he intended to campaign vigorously for the LibDems in the run-up to the forthcoming general election. Indomitable, or what?

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »