Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Linda Chung’

Motivating London’s Chinese to Vote

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 25th April, 2012

Among London’s various ethnic groups, British Chinese have tended to steer clear of politics in the past, though that is beginning to change. Much of the credit for that must go to the BC (British Chinese) Project and its indefatigable activist Joseph Wu, who uses every opportunity to encourage Chinese in Britain to register to vote, to go out and vote and indeed stand for election. There have been some notable successes, such as Councillor Linda Chung (LibDem) in Hampstead and the former Mayor of Redbridge, Thomas Chan (Conservative). In Northern Ireland, the Alliance Party (a sister party of the LibDems) succeeded in getting Anna Lo elected as the Stormont member for South Belfast. And now for the first time, an ethnic Chinese candidate is standing for the London Assembly (GLA): the LibDem Merlene Emerson, originally from Singapore. She is Number 5 on the LibDem proportional list, so her getting in is entirely dependent on the percentage of LibDem votes City-wide. The LibDems had five GLA members back in 2000, though there are currently only three, so it is not an impossible target. And with the help of the BC Project, Merlene’s candidature has been promoted amongst the capital’s Chinese community, which is far more extensive than just the habitués of the tourist-drawing Chinatown near Leicester Square. Merlene has also been actively courting other groups in multicultural London and even got her efforts to persuade older Chinese to go out and vote for the first time written up in French! The Chinese media — mainland and otherwise — has naturally homed in on her campaign. Whatever one’s political affiliations, having a Chinese member of the GLA would certainly make the body more representative of London than it is at present. So from my (admittedly biased) position I can only say to her: 祝你好运!

Link: www.bcproject.org.uk

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Chinese Liberal Democrat Dragons

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 2nd February, 2012

Chinese New Year, like Christmas, is an extendable feast, so there was still a vibrant celebratory spirit when Chinese Liberal Democrats (CLD) filled the whole of the large Tuli Chinese Restaurant by London Bridge station in Southwark this evening. There was a serious fundraising side to the affair, for the May London Mayoral and GLA elections, so the LibDems’ Mayoral candidate, Brian Paddick, was much in evidence, alongside a number of the party’s impressive and very multicultural GLA candidates, including Merlene Emerson, the Singapore-born Chair of CLD. She had put a huge amount of effort into organising the event and co-presented it along with the irrepressible Joseph Wu, formerly of Spectrum Radio but now working mainly (on a non-party political basis)  to encourage British Chinese to register to vote and to use their vote in all elections. It was pointed out that the LibDems have more ethnic Chinese councillors than any other party, and of course our sister party, the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland, has a Chinese member of Stormont too. Guest speakers at the 12-course banquet were Sir Graham Watson, President of the European Liberal Democrats (ELDR) — who used to work for the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank and still keeps a keen interest in EU-China affairs — and Lord (Tim) Clement-Jones, long-time party grandee, whose main claim to fame this evening he declared was having a Chinese mother-in-law. The food was remarkably authentic, unlike that in most Chinese restaurants in London, and we were entertained between courses by a very flirtatious dancing lion and an exhibition of Chinese martial arts. This New Year, as everyone should know by now, is the Year of the Dragon and it was underlined that in China dragons are far friendlier creatures than those of Western legends. So perhaps Merlene Emerson and her predecessor as Chair of CLD, Cllr Linda Chung of Hampstead (who was of course also present tonight), won’t mind my calling them the two Dragon Empresses of London Liberal Democrats, whose work promoting the values of liberal democracy within the Chinese community has been exemplary.

Link: http://chineselibdems.org.uk

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Chinese Liberal Democrats

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 8th December, 2010

Last night I attended the AGM of Chinese Liberal Democrats in Camden Town Hall, hosted by Hampstead Councillor Linda Chung. The group has been active in fund-raising, as well as organising excellent events at LibDem Conferences, but it is also increasingly addressing political issues of relevance to Britain’s Chinese community. That community is itself quite diverse, including not only people whose origins are from different regions of mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, as well as Overseas Chinese, but different professional and student categories too. Nikki Lee, from London Citizens, was the guest speaker at the AGM; I have been involved with her group in the ‘Strangers into Citizens’ campaign, urging the regularisation of many people working in the catering industry in particular. She especially highlighted issues relating to gambling — including consequent domestic violence — and concerns over the burgeoning numbers of betting shops, particularly in the London borough of Westminister, around Chinatown. I also suggested at the meeting that perhaps we ought to look into the effects of European legislation regarding alternative and complementary medicines, some of whose Chinese practitioners are undoubtedly worthwhile even if others might be bogus. At the meeting, Merlene Toh Emerson was re-elected as Chair.

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Norman Lamb in Frognal

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 13th January, 2010

The Liberal Democrat health spokesman, Norman Lamb, MP, was guest of honour at this evening’s Hampstead Liberal Democrats’ New Year Party at the home of Andreas and Claudia Utermann in Frognal. The man who easily saw off a challenge from Tory blogger and parliamentary hopeful Iain Dale in North Norfolk at the last election had a sobering message about the levels of savings that will have to be made in the National Health Service if it is to avoid bankruptcy. Some of the fat that could painlessly go would be a proportion of the many thousands of people employed in health quangos of various kinds, he argued. Norman was introduced by Councillor Linda Chung who won Hampstead Town ward in a by-election in September 2008, shaking the local Conservatives to the core. And the new parliamentary seat of Hampstead and Kilburn is a top LibDem target in the forthcoming general election. Candidate Ed Fordham could not be at the social event this evening, as he is on a fact-finding mission to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. But he did send a video message to us all from a rooftop in the Old City of Jerusalem. How smart is that?

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Getting the Chinese in Britain to Vote

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 13th April, 2009

chinese-voting-initiative-chinatownYesterday afternoon — between a Liberal Democrat Friends of Turkey social in Hackney and meeting up with the Tamil demonstrators in Parliament Square — I took part in a Chinese community event in Gerard Street, Chinatown, Westminster, to urge ethnic Chinese in Britain to play a fuller part in public life in this country. The first step is to get thousands of them to register to vote. Hence the ‘Get Active Get Voting Campaign 2009’ , which will try to maximise enrolment in the run-up to June’s Euro-elections. As Leslie Ng, President of London Chinatown Chinese Association, commented, ‘A lot of Chinese did not vote partly because of the language difficulties and partly because they didn’t know how or who they should vote for. ‘ Leslie and several colleagues kept up a lively running comentary over a sound-system as volunteers handed out leaflets from a colourful stall. The organisers even inveigled me into speaking a few phrases in my (now rusty) Mandarin. And the event was covered by the People’s Daily in Beijing!

The tide is beginning to turn, from apathy to participation. Liberal Democrats in London had a welcome boost to ethnic Chinese representation in London local politics when Linda Chung won the Hampstead Town by-election a few months ago, while in Northern Ireland, Anna Lo won a seat on the Northern Ireland Assembly in Belfast for the Alliance Party at the last assembly elections.

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LibDems Strengthen Hold on Camden

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 2nd April, 2009

tom-simonThe Liberal Democrats have continued their winning streak in the London borough of Camden, comfortably holding onto Belsize ward in a by-election caused by the sad resignation of one of their councillors due to ill-health. The Conservatives threw everything they had into this contest, still smarting about losing all three seats in Belsize in 2006 by a narrow margin — including the Tory group leader. And the result of this mega-effort by David Cameron’s lads and lasses this time? The LibDems increased their majority, and have a bright new young councillor in the form of Tom Simon. Result: LibDem 1136, Conservative 952, Labour270, Green 109.  In a recent by-election next door in Hampstead Town ward, the Tories lost a seat to the LibDems, sending the equally bright and energetic Linda Chung to the Town Hall. This all bodes well for the European and general elections in that part of the capital.

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LibDems Seize Hampstead from Tories

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 25th September, 2008

Hampstead local campaigner Linda Chung has won the Hampstead Town by-election today, gaining the seat from the Conservatives. So much for the Cameron steamroller! She was a brilliant candidate and the Camden LibDems have a formidable election team. For those who don’t know (or have forgotten), they surged in the 2006 local elections to become the largest party on the Council, entering a joint administration with the Tories, and they have been winning by-elections since, one after another. This all bodes well for Ed Fordham, PPC for the new parliamentary seat of Hampstead and Kilburn. And the result will throw a well-deserved bucket of cold water over the Conservatives before their conference in Birmingham!

Full result: Linda Chung 1242, Conservative 1114, Labour 289, Green 140, BNP 29; LibDem gain from Conservatives

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US Democrats Abroad, Please Register to Vote!

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 21st September, 2008

On my way to help Linda Chung’s campaign in the Hamsptead Town ward local by-election this morning, I was delighted to be accosted — in the friendliest way possible — by two activists from Democrats Abroad, who were encouraging US citizens resident in the area or merely passing through to register to vote in November’s presidential elections. The deadline for registering is near and there are large numbers of US citizens in this country — most of whom pay American taxes. A high percentage of those are potential Democrat voters. They understand that George W Bush has done immense harm to America’s reputation overseas over the past eight years, and alas John McCain and Sarah Palin would be likely to do the same. Three quarters of the European population is rooting for Barack Obama, so anyone who knows an American citizen here who is not yet signed up to vote, please get them to log on to www.votefromabroad.org .

Similarly, Liberal Democrats in London and beyond are being urged by myself and other LibDem Euro-candidates to get other EU citizens in this country to register to vote in next June’s European elections (if they have not done so already) and to ensure that they vote here, rather than in their countries of origin. The LibDems are the only pro-European party in Britain and getting out the other EU citizens to vote — of whom there are a significant number in Hampstead — could make all the difference.

Links: www.votefromabroad.org and www.americansabroad.barackobama.com

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Linda Chung, Hampstead Town and Ethnic Diversity

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 31st August, 2008

 The council by-election campaign in Hampstead Town, Camden, is in full swing. Yesterday several of us were out making good use of the one day of real summer this month, manning a survey stall in the High Street, canvassing voters and delivering leaflets. The choice of candidate is often key to winning such contests and the LibDems are fortunate in this case in having Linda Chung to fly the flag, which she is doing with characteristic panache. She is a true live wire, who has lived in Hampstead for the past 30 years and founded Hampstead NW3, the local organisation for traders and busineses. Linda also has been one of the lead figures in the new Chinese Liberal Democrats group, which aims not just to bring together ethnic Chinese LibDems, but also to encourage more people within Britain’s Chinese community to get involved in the political process.

In recent years there has been a lot of (necessary) navel-gazing within the party about the low level of ethnic minority representation, especially in our cosmopolitan capital city. But it is gratifying that over the past year there have been several important local by-election wins with ethnic minority candidates, with origins as varied as Zimbabwe and Pakistan — and that a majority of them have been women. After my stint in Hampstead Town yesterday, I went to the thank-you party for the Forest ward by-election in Waltham Forest, to help celebrate Samina Safdar’s win there with an excellent lamb biryani. In London boroughs such as Waltham Forest, Camden, Brent and Haringey, our council groups increasingly reflect the diverse communities they represent, as they should. The next challenge is to make sure that local parties’ representatives to party conferences do as well.

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Hampstead Liberals Arise!

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 23rd August, 2008

The term ‘Hampstead Liberal’ has often been used by the conservative right as a term of abuse for left-leaning intellectuals who live in the north end of the London borough of Camden, including  many people who used to vote Labour before Tony Blair dragged the party towards Thatcherism. Hampstead Town ward is the natural habitat of this much-maligned species and indeed for quite a long period, the ward was represented by three Liberal or Liberal Democrat councillors. The last of these, Margaret Little, stood down in 2006 on health grounds.

On that occasion, Ed Fordham, Linda Chung and I were unable to prevent the local Conservative campaigner Mike Green succeeding in getting two colleagues in with him to represent the ward, even though we suspected that the said Mr Green would desert Hampstead in his quest for a Conservative parliamentary seat in Bournemouth before his term was up, as he has now indeed done. There is just over a month left to the resultant by-election, in which Linda Chung — a prominent ethnic Chinese local businesswoman —  will be flying the LibDem flag. Given the way David Cameron is letting slip some of his rightist tendencies, it is maybe time the good burghers of Hampstead reasserted their liberal credentials by returning Linda this time!

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