Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Liberal Democrat News’

Remembering Mike Harskin

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 25th October, 2012

A dozen or so of us gathered in the Guest Room at the House of Lords this evening, courtesy of Lord (Chris) Rennard, to celebrate the memory of Mike Harskin, former editor of Liberal Democrat News, who died at a tragically young age 20 years ago. My contact with him was that between editor and contributor, which was enough to make me realise how unconventional his approach was, sometimes concertina-ing a whole week’s production schedule into one marathon day-and-night session. Mike fought the Brent South parliamentary seat, unsuccessfully, and for a while could be found in the Liberal Whips office in the House of Commons, but he will better be remembered for being one of the key activists in what were dubbed the ‘Green Guard’ of the National League of Young Liberals who sometimes were such a headache to David Steel. These were an ecologically-minded antidote to the previous libertarian socialist Red Guards of Peter Hain & Co, who had made life hell for Jeremy Thorpe, and brought together such figures as Felix Dodds (now in the US) and a literal household of young Liberal activists including Carina Trimingham and Louise Bloom and up-and-coming political stars such as Martin Horwood MP. All of the aforementioned (except Felix) were there tonight, along with Peter Chegwyn, David Boyle and others. It was a delightfully incongruous setting for such an assemblage, but Mike would have enjoyed the irony. He didn’t live long enough to experience the full flowering of the Internet revolution and social media, alas, but I have no doubt he would have revelled in it if he had.


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Europe at the Gateshead LibDem Conference

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 10th March, 2012

The agenda of this weekend’s LibDem spring conference in Gateshead has been almost entirely devoted to domestic matters, from tax to the NHS. But this morning, Conference overwhelmingly passed an important motion reaffirming the Party’s belief in the future of the European project and how Britain needs to be right at the heart of the European Union, not on the margins to which David Cameron foolishly propelled us at the Brussels Summit last December. I’ll be writing up the debate of the motion in next Friday’s Liberal Democrat News, including the recognition of necessary reforms in the way the EU functions. But in the meantime I offer here the speech I gave in the debate this morning:

Way out in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean there is a small island, called Little Britain. A strange tribe known as the UKIP lives there, and over the last few weeks several Conservatives — notably the MEP Roger Helmer — have swum out to Little Britain, to help the UKIP repel foreign boarders. Alas, the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, seems to dream of moving there himself — or at least that’s the impression he gave our European partners at the Brussels Summit in December. He thought they would be impressed, but they weren’t. And Cameron has done a grave disservice to the British people.

Let’s be brutally honest. Britain is no longer a first rank global power. Just recently, Brazil leapfrogged Britain in terms of GDP and India won’t be far behind. The world is moving rapidly towards a multipolar reality, in which Asia, Latin America and one day even Africa will assert their economic and political might.

For Europe to survive as a potent force in the 21st Century world, the European Union has to proceed with further integration. It must increasingly speak with one voice, not only on issues such as Trade and the environment but also in areas of common foreign and security policy. Currently, despite the best efforts of Cathy Ashton, the EU is punching below its weight. That situation must not continue, otherwise Europe itself will be marginalised.

So what does all this mean for Britain? At the moment, as so often during the past 60 years, the driving forces in Europe are France and Germany. But they would like Britain also to be at the heart of the European project. Because of our rich history and experience in international relations, Britain has so much to offer Europe. But there is a real danger that that opportunity is being lost. And the longer Britain positions itself on the margins of the European Union, the less the country will matter in global affairs. David Cameron needs to stop pandering to those in the Conservative Party who look through rose-tinted spectacles at the mid-Atlantic island of Little Britain  and instead face up to the real challenges ahead.

The world is changing fast and the EU must adapt to ensure that it keeps and indeed enhances its influence globally. It would be tragic if the United Kingdom were not a full partner in that development process. I do not want to live on the island of Little Britain, Mr Cameron — and neither should you.

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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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Simon Hughes’s Notting Hill Set

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 2nd July, 2009

Simon Hughes 4Some time back someone suggested — not entirely tongue-in-cheek — that I should do the equivalent of an Egon Ronay guide to Liberal Democrat social events in London, as I go to so many. Or maybe a ‘Jonathan’s Diary’ social event review column for Lib Dem News, though the editor of that august journal (wickedly dubbed Pravda by some of its readers) correctly pointed out that this might cause mayhem amongst rival parties’ catering committees. Anyway, that is a long  preamble to a short report of this evening’s balmy annual summer party in a Notting Hill garden with a sumptuous buffet provided by members. Simon Hughes MP, who came on to the event from the 4th July (sic) reception at the American Embassy, was the entertainment between courses. Untypically, he had only three points to enumerate. First the economy (which Labour has brought into a pretty fine pickle), secondly the environment (we only six or seven years to save it) and thirdly the importance of ongoing campaigning — most pressingly in the Colville ward by-election on 22 July, in which the LibDem candidate is Carol Caruana — but also in the run-up to next May’s probably joint general and London local elections. Fundraising social events will be crucial in the interim, as the party relies so heavily on the money local associations raise for its campaigning. Which is why I spend quite a bit of time encouraging others to ‘eat for victory’!


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