Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Labour Party’

Corbyn Slides off the Brexit Fence

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 22nd December, 2018

D36324D0-9152-474E-A3BC-BAB6AFD2BF61For months senior Labour politicians have been telling us that “all options remain on the table” regarding the Party’s policy on Brexit. In other words, Labour could possibly back a People’s Vote and campaign for Remain, which opinion polls tell us is what a significant majority of Labour members want. But the Party leadership clearly thinks otherwise. Jeremy Corbyn — probably encouraged by his two left-hand men, Seamus Milne and Len McCluskey — has made clear in an interview with the Guardian that if Labour wins a hypothetical election next year, Brexit would still go ahead. This is a clear betrayal not only of the millions of Remain-supporting electors who voted Labour in the 2017 general election in protest at Theresa May’s Brexit plans but also of the Labour Party’s autumn conference this year, which adopted a nuanced stance leaving various options open. Recently, both Jeremy Corbyn and Diane Abbott have been making disgraceful, unsubstantiated comments about EU migrants pushing down wages, while attacking the principle of Freedom of Movement. Of course, no-one should be surprised that Jeremy Corbyn is at heart a Brexiteer, despite campaigning half-heartedly for Remain in 2016. The day after the EU Referendum, he called for Article 50 to be invoked immediately. Ideologically locked into 1970s socialism, he sees the EU as an impediment to his dream of a Utopian Britain, in which he could just dole out state money to support or create industries irrespective of economic viability. But with only three months to go before Britain’s scheduled departure from the EU it is now crunch time. Labour Remainers need to stop rabbiting on about having a general election (which the Conservative and DUP MPs won’t vote for anyway). Instead, the focus should be on getting a People’s Vote, with an option to remain, which would have wide cross-Party support in the House of Commons. If necessary, Labour MPs need to have the courage to sideline Mr Corbyn. The future of Britain is at stake.

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Brexit Is Destroying the UK

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 4th September, 2018

9F5643AB-A044-4E79-BF70-920A16E1D475With only a little over six months to go before Britain is due to leave the EU it is becoming increasingly obvious that Brexit will not only weaken the country severely (both economically and politically) but also may break up the United Kingdom. Recent opinion polls suggest that over half the population of Northern Ireland would be in favour of a United Ireland if Brexit goes ahead, especially if a “hard border” is likely between Northern Ireland the Republic, while in Scotland support for independence in the event of Brexit is similarly rising. So there is a real risk that if the Brexiteers get their way, the country will shrink to just England and Wales, with seriously diminished international clout.

43919D28-617B-4946-AC96-7BB88F4CD9F5But these are not the only reasons to be dismayed at the way things are going. The aftermath of the 2016 EU Referendum has been a devaluation of the body politic in Britain, a coarsening of its discourse and the ascendancy of intolerant nationalism and xenophobia. The Prime Minister, Theresa May, is held hostage by a sizeable group of quite nasty arch-Brexiteers within the Conservative Party who have adopted wholesale the agenda and language of UKIP (the United Kingdom Independence Party).  Boris Johnson did immense damage to Britain’s reputation abroad when he was Foreign Secretary, and he is now reeking havoc domestically, grotesquely subsidised by the Daily Telegraph, which pays him thousands of pounds for each article he writes in his shameless campaign of self promotion.

No wonder our 27 EU partners think we have gone mad. But all is not yet lost. Opinion polls suggest that there is now a majority in favour of remaining in the EU, a trend which will accelerate as more teenagers get on the electoral register. Mrs May insists there will be no new vote on Brexit — and she would probably have to resign if the Government or Parliament decided otherwise — but the clamour for what has been rightly dubbed a People’s Vote on whatever deal is agreed later this year (assuming one can be) is growing. MPs from all parties need to rally round to support this, and Jeremy Corbyn needs to put his traditional distrust of the EU to one side, get off the fence and throw the Labour Party behind the People’s Vote and a campaign to remain in the EU. It’s what most Labour voters want and it is what the United Kingdom needs, before it is too late. And if you haven’t put 20 October in your diary yet, please do so, as we need to get at least a million people onto the streets that day to March for the Future and Stop Brexit!

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Why Jeremy Is Top and Liz Is Bottom

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 12th August, 2015

imageI hadn’t expected the Labour leadership election to be quite so engrossing, but it really is riveting. As Labour is currently Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition, this is all far more important than just jousting among lefties. In fact, it isn’t about jousting among lefties at all. Only my old friend Jeremy Corbyn would place himself well left of centre (though whether such political geography is relevant in the 21st century is a different matter). The other three are in the crowded middle ground, with Liz Kendall positioning herself as the safe, sane candidate. So why is Jeremy stomping ahead while Liz is trailing last, with less than 10% in the internal party polls?

imageI have to say, as a media man, I though her video message was dire; set in a featureless modern office space (presumably hired for the occasion) it showed not a single ounce of personal character or affection. It was identikit New Labour at its worst, and had it not been for Liz’s voice-over I would have thought it was an advert for Apple, as their computers were the real star of the show. In contrast, Jeremy is wonderfully human, real, even shambolic, which is why people are warming to him. I have campaigned with him over the years on issues we both support, just as I have found myself on the opposite side of the politcal divide from him on other occasions. Do I think he is the best person to lead the Labour Party? Not necessarily. But given the dire alternatives and his own sincerity, he deserves to win.

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Labour Lurches Left

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 25th September, 2010

Hot on the heels of Ken “let’s raise the top level of income tax to 80 per cent” Livingstone being chosen as Labour’s London Mayoral candidate (again!), the party has elected union-backed Ed Miliband — already dubbed ‘Red Ed’ by the more conservative tabloids — to be its new leader. This will doubtless warm the cockles of the Left and the Miriam Karlin “everybody out!” branch of trade unionism, but it is a disaster for Labour in its hopes of forming the next government. In his acceptance speech in Manchester this afternoon, Ed Miliband said that he will oppose the Coalition when he needs to but he will support it when he arees with it. But I don’t think those who backed him will let him. Meanwhile, it was interesting to see how many people in the hall at the Labour Party conference sat on their hands at key points in his speech, not just because they believe that the wrong Miliband won, but more importantly because they know that actually the party has fatally gone into the comfort zone of longterm opposition. Moreover, some of the more militant trade unions — such as Bob Crow’s RMT — will be calling for mass strike action — not something that is likely to endear Labour to the general public in the prevailing political climate of 2010.

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Jon Cruddas is Labour’s Greek Chorus

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 6th September, 2009

Jon CruddasAccording to The Observer, Dagenham MP Jon Cruddas will give a blistering speech to the Labour pressure group Compass on Tuesday, castigating the Labour leadership for failing to capitalise on the Conservatives’ difficulties over the summer. Remember Daniel Hannan MEP’s rubbishing of the NHS? And the Tories’ leaving the biggest grouping in the European Parliament, the EPP, to start a new entity with the flotsam and jetsam of central and eastern European fringe politics? And just how many Tory MPs had their snouts in the troughs/moats/duck islands in the expenses scandal? This all gave the perfect opportunity for Gordon Brown to strike back, Cruddas argues. But did he? Oh no.

‘Presented with this golden opportunity to galvanise ourselves and unite behind a clear anti-Tory message we seem paralysed; afraid of using our Labour principles as the basis to lay bare the shallowness of Cameron’s project,’ he is reported to be going to say. ‘We seem to be meekly accepting defeat, unable to show what we believe in.’

Jon Cruddas did very well in the last Labout deputy leadership election; had I been a Labour Party member (a difficult hypothesis to sustain, I agree), I would have voted for him. He had fire and principles. But the Labour Party at the moment appears to be a lost cause. So it is now up to the Liberal Democrats to expose the shallowness of the Cameron project and the bankruptcy of New Labour.

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Jim Fitzpatrick’s Wedding Gaffe

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 21st August, 2009

Jim FitzpatrickMy local MP, Jim Fitzpatrick, is in the doghouse in the eyes of many of my Muslim neighbours, having walked out of a wedding reception at the London Muslim Centre in Whitechapel Road, because he was told that the event was segregated by gender, which meant that his wife would have to go to the women’s room. Doubtless he just left in a huff, without thinking through the consequences, but when questioned later he said he did not think that gender segregation was appropriate in the modern age and that it damages community cohesion in Britain. But the affair has blown up into a major scandal. The bridegroom, Bodrul Islam, who had invited the Fitzpatricks, has reportedly demanded that the MP apologise for ‘politically hijacking’ his wedding, and Hanif Osmani of the Council of Mosques in Tower Hamlets told the East London Advertiser, ‘Mr Fitzpatrick’s own actions have undoubtedly caused more harm to local and national community cohesion than any such wedding ever could.’ The Advertiser is having a field day, of course; right in the middle of the summer silly season, here is a really meaty local issue!

George Galloway, Respect MP for neighbouring Bethnal Green and Bow, who is planning to hop over into Poplar and Limehouse constituency to challenge Jim Fitzpatrick at the next general election, has gone typically overboard, calling on Gordon Brown to sack Fitzpatrick as Minister of Food and Farming. That would of course be quite absurd, as the MP’s gaffe has no bearing on his abilities as a government Minister. However, the affair does reflect badly on his ability to represent half of a borough in which there are an estimated 70,000 Muslims, many of whom are outraged at what they see as a slur on their cultural practices. Some of the readers’ letters in this week’s Advertiser are vitriolic about the MP and the Labour Party is taking flak as a consequence. ‘The local Labour ship is sinking and it is sinking fast,’ one correspondent writes. ‘His ignorance and rudeness are symptomatic of the desperate state of the Labour party, which is haemorrhaging past supporters to the extremes of politics,’ says another. A third notes pertinently that Orthodox Jews have gender-segregated religious events, too.

Meanwhile around the taxi rank and newstand at Mile End station, some of the old East End white working class is mutttering loudly about how ‘these Muslims are not like us’ and making similar disparaging remarks. Jim Fitzpatrick might be encouraged to know that he has some local supporters for his stance, but the whole affair has dealt a blow to multiculturalism in Tower Hamlets. Coming on the eve of Ramadan, it could hardly have been worse-timed.

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How Low Can Labour Go?

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 6th June, 2009

CAMBODIA-ELECTION-EUThe past week has been like watching a slow-motion car-crash, involving the Labour Gordon Brown 2automobile driven by Gordon Brown, skidding off the road and heading straight for a huge bollard. Bringing Glenys Kinnock on board as Europe Minister yesterday (yet another unelected person in a position of authority in government) was just the latest indication that Brown has lost not just the way but the plot. No wonder several members of his Cabinet have been jumping out of the doors before the fatal impact.

It now seems certain that the European election results — due out about 9pm tomorrow evening — will be yet more bad news for the Labour Party, though as they were conducted on a proportional representation system, rather than first-past-the-post, they won’t look quite as distorted as the county council results, which turned almost the whole country blue. If the Euro-vote were today, rather than two days ago, I suspect the Labour result would have been even worse than it is going to be. How low do Labour’s fortunes have to go before Gordon Brown realises he is leading it towards catastrophe?

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Dark Deeds in Erith and Thamesmead

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 17th April, 2009

Today’s (Saturday’s) hustings to choose the prospective Labour Party candidate for the London parliamentary constituency of Erith and Thamesmead has been postponed, after it was discovered that the seal on the ballot box containing postal ballots received from constituency party members had apparently been tampered with. The sitting Labour MP, John Austin. who is standing down at the next election, had already complained formally to the Labour Party’s national General Secretary, Ray Collins, over alleged breaches of the rules concerning the signing up of people for postal votes in the hotly-contested selection. Supporters of 22-year-old Georgia Gould — daughter of Lord (Philip) Gould, a pollster and key aide to Tony Blair when he was Prime Minister — are said to have been going round persuading members to vote by post. Several powerful figures within the Labour Party, even at Cabinet level, have made it clear that they favour Miss Gould’s selection. But Westminister is awash with rumours that while the Blairites are rooting for her, some of the Brownites are opposed. 

The seven other hopefuls on the shortlist for Erith and Thamesmead, which includes present or former councillors from Bexley, Greenwich and Kensington & Chelsea, as well as an official from the union Unite, are understandably annoyed at what they consider to be improper interference in the selection process. One has to ask: what on earth is happening to the Labour Party, at both the national and local level? Dirty tricks and apparent underhand tactics seem to have become par for the course, doing inestimable damage amongst rank-and-file Labour members and voters. With this latest suspicion of chicanery, one doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

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