Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘LDEG’

Remembering George Dunk

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 27th April, 2018

7492AFE3-A1C8-478F-B94B-952DD4262BA5It was perhaps fitting that the news of George Dunk’s death came through while we European Liberal Democrats (ALDE, previously ELDR) were gathering for tomorrow’s Council meeting in Sofia, Bulgaria, as George devoted so much of his time and energy to causes European. A former Chair of the Liberal Democrat European Group (LDEG), he was hugely supportive of my efforts to get into the European Parliament  (I twice almost made it!) but he was also a genuine internationalist. South Africa was a country of particular concern and he had a wonderfully close marriage with his South African spouse, Sandra, who worked for years in party HQ, and who died far too young. George also mucked in with the Southwark Liberal Democrats, not only in supporting Simon Hughes, election after election, but also in his home Rotherhithe ward. He was the ultimate backroom boy, working hard to get other people elected, while staying out of the limelight himself. He must have loved the fact that if you google his name the only photos that come up are of lithe black American basketball players. Inevitably, because George was so physically huge (he would laugh at my choice of that term), he had mobility problems, especially in recent years, when he walked with a stick, though that did not prevent him attending many ALDE Councils all over Europe. Many of us worried about the strain that all that extra weight must be putting on his heart, let alone his knees. And there is a certain irony in the fact that he reportedly lost 30kg while in hospital during his recent incapacitation. That still did not save him. But George was one of those people who was very philosophical about life. He did so much for the Party, as well as for the European project, that one cannot grieve his passing but rather should celebrate what he achieved and the steadfastness of his belief. Yes, he was larger than life. And yes, sometimes he put people’s backs up with his forthright views about how things should be done. But he now deserves the most almighty of wakes. He won’t rest in peace, however, because he will be urging those angels to get off their backsides and fly off to deliver a few thousand leaflets.

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Yes to Europe, Great for Britain!

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 21st September, 2015

imageimageTim Farron positioned the Liberal Demcrats firmly at the fore of the campaign for Britain to remain a member of the European Union in a rousing speech to a packed fringe meeting at the Party’s Bournemouth conference today. He described himself as a patriot who loves his neighbours and said that the forthcoming EU referendum was the most important challenge that Liberals in this country face. About a third of the population is resolutely anti-EU and a third is keenly aware of the benefits of EU membership. That means that victory or defeat depends on persuading the other third, who are not sure either way — and getting them out to vote. Nick Hopkinson, Chair of the Liberal Democrat European Group (LDEG), opened the meeting by recalling his own childhood in Canada, at a time when Quebec separatists were effectively forcing anglophones like his family out of the province. Laura Sandys, a former Conservative MP and Chair of the cross-party European Movement, produced a resounding rallying call of “Yes to Europe, Great for Britain!”, while Catherine Bearder wrapped herself in a Union flag shawl to emphasize that staying in the EU is the most patriotic thing Brits can do. While UKIP seeks to take Brutain back to an England of the 1950s, the LibDems are now committed to moving the country forward with Europe, but no-one should under-estimate the challenges of the political battle ahead, with a Tory Prime Minister who seems to be sleep-walking towards the Brexit door and a new leader of the Opposition who is Luke-warm on his support for the EU at best.

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Britain, the EU and the World

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 26th September, 2012

The Liberal Democrat European Group (LDEG) and Liberal International British Group (LIBG) joined forces last night at a fringe meeting at the LibDems’ autumn conference on the place of Britain in the European Union and Europe’s place in the world. I was the first speaker, stressing how important it is that the Party continues to publicise its commitment to internationalism and to the UK’s European future (as Nick Clegg had indeed done just minutes before in a speech to diplomats at the International Reception). I was dismayed that there was virtually no mention of international or European issues in the main agenda of the Brighton conference, though there have been several related fringe meetings. The Coalition government as such is hampered in its championing of the importance of Britain’s EU membership by David Cameron’s perceived need to appease his eurosceptic backbenchers. I fear that in the 2014 European elections the Tories will be tempted to try to out-UKIP UKIP, too, in an attempt to staunch the haemorrhaging of votes. And Labour is too split on the issue of Europe to be a reliable advocate. The City of London and business in general seems too nervous to stick its head above the parapet, although most businesses recognise the vital importance of EU membership. So it is going to be up to the Liberal Democrats to make the case. A few, very simple messages need to be honed, to be used on the doorstep, of which perhaps the most important is the fact that in an increasingly regionalised, globalised world, in which big new players such as China, India and Brazil are making their presence felt, Europe needs to be more united in order to be a powerful force. Britain on its own in the 21st Century never could be, despite what the Little Englanders think.

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Previewing the LibDems’ Spring Conference

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 5th March, 2012

Islington Liberal Democrats have a tradition of letting members chew over what upcoming federal conferences are going to discuss and this evening those of us who attended a Pizza and Politics in Barnsbury had the opportunity to talk through the agenda with the Chair of Federal Conference Committee, Andrew Wiseman, who now lives in the borough. There is no motion at conference about the controversial NHS Reforms (though that doesn’t mean someone won’t dream up a credible emergency motion, and the subject is bound to be hotly debated on the fringe). But the very first item on Andrew’s list of conference topics sparked maybe more emotions than he had imagined: the government’s proposed ‘mansion tax’ of an annual levy of 1% on properties worth over £2million pounds. This was an idea originally launched by Vince Cable (though at the £1million level), but many people in London were quick to point out that this would be a form of taxation that would essentially clobber the residents of central London and parts of the South East, many of whom may well not enjoy the sort of income necessary to pay the mansion tax. I have certainly never been persuaded by the idea, especially if, as some Tories argue, it would be introduced at the same time as reducing the 50p top rate of tax. Anyway, that was not the only issue discussed in Islington this evening. Our host Jeremy Hargreaves has originated a motion on Islinton’s behalf (and with the backing of the Liberal Democrat European Group — LDEG — and some MEPs) which would essentially reaffirm the Party’s belief in the necessity for Britain to be at the heart of the EU, even if that institution required certain reforms. As I commented, I feel the Liberal Democrats now have a golden opportunity to prove our credentials as the pro-European party in Britain, with the Tories seemingly ever more hostile and Labour being ambiguous in a most opportunistic fashion — as Labour is about so much these days, of course.

 

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The Sheffield LibDem Conference

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 13th March, 2011

The Liberal Democrats’ Spring Conference this year was on Nick Clegg’s home territory of Sheffield, which was partly why there was such tight security — the so-called ring of steel — round the City Hall, to fend off protestors who accuse him of ‘selling out’ to the Conservatives. Actually, there were nowhere near the expected number of demonstrators, even if some were the predictably nasty Trots with their unsubtle chants of ‘Scum! Scum! Scum!’ and even ‘Nazis!’ Others were much more reasonable, including a number of students understandably aggrieved that the LibDem policy against university tuition fees fell by the wayside during the course of the Coalition Agreement negotiations. One small group, bizarrely, were Libyans praising Muammar Gaddafi. Party President Tim Farron, who was omnipresent, fuelling press speculation that he already has his eyes on the leadership, insisted the LibDem policy on this hasn’t changed, but I don’t think the electorate would put much credence in such a pledge second time round. As several speakers in this morning’s excellent debate on party’s principles pointed out, we must avoid such ‘train crashes’ as the tuition fees disaster in the future. The mood was distinctly upbeat, nonetheless, even before Nick Clegg’s speech. Government Ministers and party managers might be unhappy about the conference’s rejection of the government’s planned NHS reforms, but most rank-and-file members were not. Shirley Williams and Evan Harris were amongst those leading the charge on that issue and the outcome certainly makes the statement that the LibDems have retained their distinct identity more credible. My own activities this time were limited to the fringe, outlining some of the work I have been doing with the Westminster Foundation for Democracy in eastern Europe and the Arab world at a meeting organised by LDEG (Liberal Democrat European Group) and speaking briefly from the audience at a LDFP (Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine) discussion on the question ‘Should we speak to Hamas?’  O’ll be filing a piece on the Bankers’ Bonuses emergency motion for the next issue of Liberal Democrat News

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