Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Kensington and Chelsea’

Alistair Carmichael’s Food for Thought

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 27th October, 2010

Keeping Liberal Democrat MPs in line is worse than herding cats, according to LibDem Chief Whip Alistair Carmichael MP, speaking only half tongue in cheek at tonight’s Food for Thought social event put on by the Kensington and Chelsea local party. As Alistair is, under the Coalition arrangements, Deputy Government Chief Whip as well, his task is not a particularly enviable one, particularly at a time of deep public spending cuts and curtailed social security benefits. He had some tough questioning from the floor about social housing policy and university tuition fees, to mention but two themes, but he dealt with these with both humour and firmness. As he reminded the audience — notably swelled byGLA list hopefuls from different parts of London — Britain does not have a LibDem government but a Coalition, in which there has had to be a degree of give and take. Despite the fact that the Conservatives have only one MP in Scotland and are still seen by many residents of Scotland’s central industrial belt as anathema, Alistair was reasonably confident that the LibDems north of the border will not get punished too much for guilt by association when the Scottish Parliament elections come round next May. If the Coalition hangs together as planned, then Westminster MPs will not have to face the electorate again until 2015. Besides, Alistair, as MP for Orkey and Shetland, has just about the safest LibDem seat in the country — Jo Grimond’s old fiefdom, that has only been held by a non-Liberal three times since 1832.

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Earl’s Court Campaign Hots Up

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 4th September, 2010

With less than a fortnight to go before the Earl’s Court ward byelection in Kensington & Chelsea, London, dozens of LibDem campaigners have been hitting the streets in support of local champion and LibDem candidate Linda Wade, who is fighting to win a seat vacated in rather unfortunate circumstances by longstanding Tory Councillor Barry Phelps. The party’s Deputy Leader, Simon Hughes MP, was in the ward this afternoon, to do a Press interview and a photocall with party activists, including Baroness Sarah Ludford MEP, Mike Tuffrey of the GLA and myself. The Liberal Democrats last summer ended decades in the political wilderness in K&C by electing Carol Caruana to represent Colville ward (around Portobello Road). In May this year, Carol was joined by new ward colleague Tim Jones. Kensington & Chelsea has tended to be seen as the bluest of blue London boroughs (it is ‘Royal’ after all!), but the days when the Conservative Party ruled the roost unchallenged, apart from a few token Labour councillors in ‘tolerated’ wards, may well be over. Certainly, if Linda Wade seizes Earl’s Court on 16 September, it will mark a sea-change.


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K&C and the Rennard Formula

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 9th March, 2010

Lord (Chris) Rennard was the ideal guest speaker at tonight’s launch for Chelsea and Fulham Liberal Democrat prospective parliamentary candidate Dirk Hazell — who was Chairman of London’s Conservatives before seeing the light. For it was the Rennard formula of targeting, choosing the right candidate and then bombarding the said ward or constituency with literature which enabled the local party to make its first breakthrough last summer, electing Carol Caruana to the borough council as the first ever elected Liberal Democrat councillor, representing Colville ward. Of course it helped that Carol (who works at the party headquarters in Cowley Street) not only lives in the ward but had already established a reputation for herself as a local champion, not least fighting to save the character of the Portobello Road. But it was the Rennard formula — implemented by agent Robin Meltzer, who is now the prospective parliamentary candidate for Kensington, and aided and abetted from helpers from all over London — that clinched it, with a very healthy majority, to boot. Now the challenge will be to elect Carol’s two running mates, Tim Jones and Peter Kosta, so that there is a Liberal Democrat group on the Council — albeit a small one — that can propose motions and start to function as a potential opposition in the otherwise largely true-blue Royal Borough. I was pleased to be at the launch event this evening, not only as part of my job as Chair of London Region LibDems to keep in touch with what is happening round the capital, but also because I fought the then Chelsea parliamentary seat in 1983. I moved the party up into second place on that occasion and I look forward to Dirk Hazell’s making greater progress under the revised boundaries.

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Trebles all Round in K&C

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 23rd July, 2009

Carol Caruana and Caroline PidgeonWorkıng currently ın Turkey, it was great to hear of Carol Caruana’s sweepıng victory ın the Kensington and Chelsea by-electıon yesterday, polling more votes than the Tories and Labour combined. Having lived ın the borough when İ first moved to London, İ know what a hard nut it is to crack! İ met some pretty aggressive Labour canvassers when I was campaigning there recently and some people were intimidated to take down LibdDem posters from their windows (though many remained up). Labour seemed to believe it was their divine right (sanctioned by the ruling Tories) to represent the ward. Well. they got their come-uppance, thanks to several years of hard work by Carol and her local colleagues Robin Meltzer and Jacob Thorne. Labour slumped to third place. Trebles all round!

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Filling in the LibDem Black Holes

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 25th June, 2009

Lynne FeatherstoneIf Enfield Liberal Democrats can fill a French restaurant in Palmers Green for their annual dinner, how come they can’t win a single council seat? That was the core message — though not in quite such blunt terms — from this evening’s after-dinner speaker, Lynne Featherstone, MP for nearby Hornsey and Wood Green. Of course, Enfield is not alone among the LibDems’ ‘nuls points’ London boroughs to nonetheless put on brilliant and enjoyable social events — and in some cases, even to have quite sizable memberships — yet not manage to make a political breakthrough in recent times. The key to success, Lynne argued from her own experience in Haringey, is to target one ward, as she and her colleagues did in Muswell Hill, then move forward step by step. In Haringey’s case this has meant that the party has come from nowhere to being in spitting distance of taking control of the council next year, having already catapulted Lynne into Parliament in 2005.

How many of the local parties in the LibDems’ London black holes can seize this challenge and run with it? Kensington and Chelsea is having a good crack at it with the current council by-election campaign in Colville ward. And one of the secondary aims of the European election campaign in London earlier this month was to enable the weaker local parties to build up target wards. Breakthroughs in 2010 would not just be a cause of celebration for Liberal Democrats in the boroughs concerned. They would also strengthen the chances of the party in city-wide elections that are carried out under proportional representation. That should mean a rise in 2012 from the current three list members on the GLA and, with sufficient effort, seizing in 2014 the so-far elusive second London LibDem Euro-seat.

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No, Elections Don’t Have to Be on a Thursday

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 16th June, 2009

votingThere is a convention that elections in Britain take place on a Thursday, but there is nothing set in stone that says this has to be the case. Like so much that has developed within the country’s unwritten constitution and political system, a habit simply became the norm. Sunday (a favoured polling day in much of continental Europe) was avoided because in places such as the Western Isles, members and supporters of the Lord’s Day Observance Society would refuse to take part. And holding the election on a Thursday means that the count can be finished by the early hours of Friday morning, or Friday afternoon in those places that only count the following day; then everyone in principle can go off and have a restful weekend. As far as British general elections go, the last non-Thursday poll was way back in 1931, when the election was held on Tuesday, 27th October. The notable post-World War I election of December 1918 was actually held on a Saturday. That was incidentally the first time women were able to exercise their vote and to stand for Parliament.

The reason for these ruminations is that the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea — which was one of the last places in London to delay its election counts until Friday — has announced that the by-election it has called in Colville ward (a Labour marginal over the Liberal Democrats) is going to be held on Wednesday 22 July. Rumour has it that the reason from this departure from custom is that someone important in the electoral process is due to go on holiday the following day. Well, it’s as good a reason as any for setting a precedent in this sometimes Alice in Wonderland political setup of ours.

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