Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘King’s College London’

Youth and the European Elections

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 30th January, 2014

Yvote 2014Last evening I took part in a panel debate at King’s College London on what political parties are offering young people in May’s European elections. The event was part of KCL’s Europe Society’s European week, and attracted more than 50 students of diverse nationalities. UKIP had failed to nominate a spokesman, but the EPP (from which David Cameron withdrew the British Conservatives) was represented by the Finnish Chair of its youth wing. Labour and the Greens both sent Euro-candidates, but the Conservatives were represented by someone from the Beau Group. My message that the Liberal Democrats are the only party of IN regarding the UK and the EU went down well — and was unchallenged, even by Labour, who frankly don’t seem to have made their minds up about how they will play the European elections. I concentrated on the three key themes of the Liberal Democrat campaign — jobs, the environment and combating crime, but also highlighted the paradox that whereas young voters in Britain are the most supportive of the European project (and Britain’s rightful place in it), their voting participation is lower than older age groups. It is therefore crucial for a successful LibDem Euro-campaign that we motivate young people, first to register to vote and most importantly to go and vote, or agree to have a postal vote. As well over half of the audience were citizens of other EU member states I emphasized the fact that they can vote in the UK if they get on the register and sign a form saying they will not vote in their country of origin as well. I got the impression I was speaking to the converted as far as Britain and the EU was concerned, which is as it should be. But the message needs to be got out that this year’s Euro-elections are going to be rather like a mini-IN/OUT Referendum and the forces of youth, as well as of common sense, need to be mobilised to make their voices heard.

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Lobbying the EU

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 5th February, 2009

This evening I was one of two speakers at the European Society at King’s College, London, on the theme of lobbying the European Union. My co-panelist, David Coen, of University College London (UCL), presented an excellent academic framework to and analysis of the current state of the lobbying operation in Brussels, notably by the commercial sector, whereas I concentrated more on the political principles involved and the work of NGOs. About 2,600 organisations and groups of various kinds have a permanent base in Brussels, from which they can establish a close working relationship with officials in the European Commission and — increasingly — members of the European Parliament, as the latter institution increases its powers.

I used illustrations from the work that I did after I left Reuters in Brussels, as the first Executive Secretary of the NGO Liaison Committee to the European Communities — which brought together European-based Third World charities such as Oxfam (UK) and Trocaire (Ireland), which were conduits for European funds for development and development education — as well as the founding Secretary of the Quaker Council for European Affairs (QCEA), which has for the past three decades monitored EU matters of interest to the Religious Society of Friends and other sections of the peace movement, for example on the right to concientious objection and the treatment of refugees and asylum seekers.

Using a template devised by Wilhelm Lehmann and others six years ago, I spoke of the four main functions of lobbying in Brussels: (1) a service function in researching and providing information to one’s client base or special interest group, (2) a lobbying function of influencing decision-making by contact with the appropriate authorities, (3) a decision-making function, in which special interest groups are consulted and involved in drafting  directives and other measures, and (4) an implementation function, putting European policies into practice (for example, NGOs working with the elderly, helping to implement anti-age discrimination policies).

Lobbying sometimes has a bad name in the popular imagination or the tabloid press. But in a modern democracy, the powers that be should consult widely with a wide range of interested sectors in society. When done well, this means that European legislation is better than it might have been, and is closer to the citizens of Europe.

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Mario Vargas Llosa at King’s College London

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 14th October, 2008

  After I finished giving classes at SOAS this afternoon, I wandered down to King’s College to attend a lecture in Spanish on ‘History and Literature in Latin America’ by the Peruvian novelist and former politician Mario Vargas Llosa. A very sprightly 72-year-old, who looks more like a retired banker than a literary lion, Vargas Llosa is a Fellow of King’s College and used to be on the teaching staff of the Spanish and Spanish American department there, which doubtless contributed to the fact that all the seats in the college’s Great Hall were taken, and a couple of hundred extra people were sitting on the floor or standing. His lecture was a real tour d’horizon of the relationship between European colonialism, indigenous cultures, political radicalisation and the creation of a distinct Latin American take on the world.

I first became aware of him when I read with excitement and enjoyment his novel Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter , but later our paths crossed in political circles when he stood as a liberal — or perhaps one should say neo-liberal — candidate for the presidency in Peru in 1990. Originally a leftist, who supported Fidel Castro’s revolution in Cuba, he drifted ever rightwards, way past me and most members of the Liberal International. Perhaps it is as well that he didn’t get elected, as he has subsequently continued to contribute to literary life in a way that will certainly go down in history.  


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