Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘John Stevens’

The Conservative Party and Europe

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 7th December, 2011

Ben Patterson, former Tory MEP and EU Parliament official, this evening at Europe House, Westminster, launched his new book, The Conservative Party and Europe (John Harper Publishing, £20), which I will be reviewing elsewhere. The timing could not have been more perfect, nor the author more qualified to remind us all that it was the Conservatives (under Ted Heath) who took Britain into the EU, who under Lord Cockfield’s brilliant guidance helped fashion the Single Market (endorsed by Margaret Thatcher) and who may — yes indeed, may — help take us forward into the next stage of necessary European integration, despite the huffing and puffing of Bill Cash, Daniel Hannon et al. Ken Clarke, who wrote a foreword to Ben’s book, was with us at the launch in spirit, if not in body, as probably would have been Michael Heseltine. Tory Peers who did show their faces (and pinned their Euro-colours to the mast) were Lords (Leon) Brittan and (Richard) Inglewood, the latter giving a short address. Otherwise, the room was filled with numerous LibDems (several of whom had moved from the Conservatives or the SDP, because of their Europhilia). Chatting with Graham Bishop, John Stevens, Stephen Haseler and others, I was delighted to find support for my contention that far from making those in favour of Europe despondent, the current critical situation in the eurozone gives us the ideal opportunity to rally the force of Euro-realism. David Cameron needs to be able to show how many pro-Europeans there are in Britain, so he can be confident enough to tame his Euro-sceptic head-bangers. And Nick Clegg, whose Euro-credentials are impeccable, needs to have the courage to stand up and champion the message from the front. History will bless him if he does.

Link: www.johnharperpublishing.co.uk

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First of the Euro-hustings

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 12th March, 2009

Last night I took part in what looks as if it will be a whole series of European election hustings meetings across London, in this instance hosted by the Politics Society of Queen Mary, University of London, just down the road from where I live. The Labour candidate had unfortunately to drop out because of illness, which meant that I was the one and only positive voice on the panel. The Conservative candidate, Warwick Lightfoot (a personable councillor from Kensington and Chelsea, who threw his hat unsuccessfully into the ring to be the Tories’ London mayoral candidate last year) and his UKIP counterpart vied with each other in their Euro-scepticism. I’d been wondering just how negative the Conservative European campaign was going to be and if Warwick’s contribution was anything to go by, the answer is: very!

Yesterday also saw William Hague, the Conservative Party’s shadow Foreign Secretary, in Brussels preparing the ground for the Tories’ exit from the European People’s Party (EPP), underlining their isolation from the European mainstream. Not that long ago, the Liberal Democrats welcomed into their ranks the former Chairman of the London Conservatives, Dirk Hazell, who was disgusted at the anti-European turn the Tories had taken. He followed in the footsteps of former Tory MEPs John Stevens and Bill Newton-Dunn (the latter safely re-elected to the European Parlaiment, but as a Liberal Democrat). It woud be surprising if there are not others to come.

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10 Years of the Euro

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 11th January, 2009

1-euro     The European Movement held a day conference on 10 Years of the Euro at University College London yesterday, though any sense of celebration was overshadowed by a deep feeling of frustration that Britain has failed to ‘opt in’ to the single currency, and that the mood of such a large proportion of the British public remains Euro-sceptic. The media were mainly blamed for that, though there was a ray of hope on that front offered by one of the keynote speakers, Graham Bishop, when he pointed out that increasingly people get their news and views from the Internet, rather than from newspapers, so the Rupert Murdochs of this world are losing influence.

However, national governments are as much to blame as the media for giving a distorted view of what the EU is all about. As the former Conservative MEP Ben Patterson said — in a paper ‘The Euro: Success or Failure’, tabled at the conference — ‘All EU governments are tempted to blame “Europe” for difficulties of their own making. Electorates generally have little idea how EU decisions are taken, and are only too willing to believe that there is  vast, unelected Eurocracy in Brussels, imposing absurd regulations out of the blue.’ In other words, if in a pickle, blame Brussels.

The second keynote speaker, another former Conservative MEP (and now active Liberal Democrat) John Stevens asserted that that the Eurozone is not going to collapse, nor will any country leave it. On the contrary, it has just acquired its 16th. member, Slovakia, and others are in transition. The Danish Prime Minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, told me a few months ago that he was going to do what he could to persuade the Danish public to join the euro, and similar moves are afoot in Sweden. Which just leaves Britain as the last bastion of euro-scepticism. But as John Stevens said yesterday, ‘If Britain were to join the euro, the euro would be made.’  The EU is proving that it is possible to have an international currency, which can be a model for other parts of the world and help ensure that European political values have clout in changing global geopolitics.

Link: www.euromove.org.uk

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