Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Kettner Lunch’

Nigel Jones at the NLC

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 15th April, 2014

Nigel JonesTo most Liberal Democrats the name Nigel Jones means the former LibDem MP for Cheltenham and latterly Peer. But this lunchtime, thanks to the Kettner lunch club, another Nigel Jones spoke in the David Lloyd George room: the writer, broadcaster and historian Nigel Jones, who came to talk about his latest book: Peace and War – Britain in 1914 (which I hope to review shortly). The setting was appropriate, as Lloyd George figures prominently in the narrative of the run-up to and beginning of the so-called Great War, even though for a long time he thought war was unlikely, unlike some of his colleagues who had a dimmer view of the Kaiser’s intentions. Nigel Jones — who has recently been honing his performing techniques at literary festivals in Oxford and elsewhere — gave such a polished performance that the professor in the audience who asked the first question declared that it was quite the best lunchtime speech he had heard at the Kettner lunch. As someone who has spoken there myself, I am happy to agree. Nigel and I — who, we realised over lunch, had met previously at a Biographers’ Club event years ago — have largely produced works of biography (including literary biography) and history, both being fascinated by the real world, which can itself be subject to endless interpretations. I thoroughly enjoyed his “Through a Glass Darkly: A Life of Patrick Hamilton” some years ago. He tells me that whle living in Vienna he got the idea of writing a life of the painter Lucian Freud, but as with so many who have contemplated this task came up against something of a brick wall. I count myself lucky that in my case the prickly and litigious Freud merely demanded the withdrawal of the first edition of my book on Soho in the Fifties and Sixties because of an incorrect caption. His brother Clement (a one-time Liberal MP) wouldn’t speak to him, but I never got the chance to check the artist out at first hand.



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Alex Carlile on Counter-Terrorism

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 22nd June, 2012

Baron Carlile of Berriew — the former Liberal MP for Montgomery, Alex Carlile — is one of  the LibDems’ most distinguished but also controversial Members of the House of Lords, which is one reason why he attracted a particularly large attendance at the Kettner Lunch at the National Liberal Club today. Another reason is that Kettner Lunch regulars have enjoyed his performances three times in the past and were therefore keen to experience another one. The reason for Alex’s ‘controversy’ — as well as a major element of his distinction — is that after 9/11 and up until early last year, he was the Government’s Independent Reviewer of the UK’s anti-terrorism laws, thereby effectively advising Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and David Cameron in turn on the sensitive issue of national security. This sometimes put him at odds with LibDem Leader Nick Clegg and other parliamentary colleagues who have taken what they consider to be a more ‘liberal’ line in relation to matters such as the rights of terror suspects, privacy and data retention. To an extent those disagreements are ongoing, given the legislation now before Parliament relating to communication data and so-called Closed Material Procedures, included within the Justice and Security Bill. Alex believes, on the basis of his experience at the Bar, as well as his inside knowledge of issues relating to counter-terrorism, that it is important for the defence of a liberal society that the intelligence services and the Police, where appropriate, can have access to certain information — for example, relating to a suspect’s location at a particular moment, which  these days can be discovered from retrieved mobile phone ‘cell site’ records. Similarly, he argues that there are instances when the prosecution of alleged terrorists or other people trying to undermine society can be jeopardised if all information is made available to the people concerned. I trust I am not bowdlerising what is quite a complex position, eloquently expressed at the lunch by Alex himself. Anyway, this is a story that is going to run and run, not least as, so Alex believes, networks such as Al Qaeda are gowing in some areas of the world, including Yemen and northern Nigeria, posing a real thraat to the UK’s security. ‘Debate about terrorism has been characterised by ignorance,’ he declared at one point. Clearly, he will continue to take his stand, even when other elements in the party raise what for them are valid concerns about the infringement of civil liberties.

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The Kettner Lunch AGM

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 18th August, 2011

For 38 years, the Kettner Lunch has been attracting guest speakers from politics, industry and the Arts on an almost monthly basis, originally under the sponsorship of Peter Boizot, founder of Pizza Express and then owner of Kettner’s restaurant in Soho. These days, the Club meets in the National Liberal Club in Whitehall Place, Westminster, under the chairmanship of retired probation officer, Peter Whyte. Memorable lunches so far this year have included an address by the pollster Sir Robert Worcester, the author Colin Dexter and junior Transport Minister Norman Baker. Coming up are the Vice President of the European Parliament, Edward Macmillan-Scott (22 September), the eminent legal authority Lord Carlile of Berriew (18 October), a speaker from the Dollis Hill House Trust (16 November) and the Chairman of the Royal Mail, Donald Boydon (5 December). Membership of the Club is open to people sympathetic to its liberal educational aims at a very modest cost. It was moreover decided at the AGM at the NLC today that the Kettner Lunch club will apply for charitable status in the near future.


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Susan Kramer’s Devotion to Duty

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 16th October, 2008

  There is no greater sacrifice that a politician can make than to speak at a lunch, yet not have time to eat even a mouthful herself. OK, I exaggerate. But that is exactly what Susan Kramer, LibDem MP for Richmond Park, had to do today when she came to talk to the Kettner Lunch at the National Liberal Club. The Chairman, Peter Whyte, had told her that she could talk about anything she liked, so given her background and current events, she homed in on the financial situation. Although her neighbouring MP (for Twickenham), Vince Cable, tends to get all the limelight on such matters (and has been performing brilliantly in it), Susan was herself a banker before she went into politics. As she joked at lunch, she had never thought politics would prove to be the more secure profession!

Of course, her parliamentary seat is not that secure, as it is high on the list of Tory targets and the Conservative candidate, Zac Goldsmith, and his backers have been pouring tens of thousands of pounds into the constituency in order to try to unseat Susan at the next general election. That would be a great shame, to put it mildly, as she works phenomenally hard. The reason she had to leave the NLC without even a taste of the food this lunchtime was because she had to go to Ham in her constituency to open a children’s centre.

Moreover, she demonstrated a far greater understanding of the current economic situation than the Tories’ putative Shadow Chancellor, George Osborne, who looks more than ever like a frightened rabbit, with not the foggiest clue about what is going on. I almost feel sorry for him. But I am angry at David Cameron for showing such contempt for the British electorate that he should hand the most significant political portfolio to a young chum who is probably charming but unqualified.

Susan highlighted a number of vital issues as well as giving her own, experienced take on things. She echoed Vince Cable’s remarks (which I reported on recently) that the Bank of England needs to revise its inflation target. Interestingly, she called for a sharp decrease in interest rates, as she said what happened in Japan in the 1990s showed that a series of gradual cuts do not do the trick. She also chimed in with what Chris Huhne has been saying with regard to the cash-rich energy companies, namely that the sector should be shifting its focus towards being paid to save energy rather than being paid to sell energy. On this, as on many other points, the LibDems are ahead on the green agenda — and no amount or huffing and puffing by Zack Goldsmith will persuade me otherwise.

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