Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘London Assembly’

Pidgeon Curry in Greenwich

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 3rd June, 2013

Caroline PidgeonCutty SarkTransport is the one thing that gets most Londoners hot under the collar and is probably the area in which Liberal Democrats have made most impact on the London Assembly — first through Lynne Featherstone and now Caroline Pidgeon. London is a preeminent global city — certainly Europe’s unrivaled metropolis — but it does not have a public transport system to match. This is despite constant upgrades and one of the highest fare structures in the world. Part of the problems is that the underground system is 19th century in its origins, but it also has to be said that Mayor Boris Johnson has had some pretty odd priorities since he took over the helm of the Greater London Authority from Ken Livingstone in 2004. His Routemaster+ buses are proving to be expensive disaster+ buses, with costly conductors who cannot take fares or even oversee the back door off-peak. At a curry and discussion evening in Greenwich this evening, Caroline Pidgeon, AM, regaled Liberal Democrat members from Greenwich, Lewisham and further afield with stories of her holding the Mayor to account. I picked up on a passing reference she made to his latest harebrained suggestion that commercial companies should be able to sponsor tube stations. Anyone for Starbucks Temple, or Oval MacNuggets or Winga Wembley Park, anyone?  But it’s not just Boris Johnson, and the even more out-of-touch right-wing Tory group on the GLA, that Caroline has been taking to task. She has been having a go at Greenwich’s Labour Council leader, Chris Roberts, who as a matter of principle refuses to respond to any request or approach from her, despite her London-wide role. One party Stalinism rules in Labour Greenwich, and alas not only there!

Links: http://www.carolinepidgeon.org and http://www.greenwich-libdems.org.uk

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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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Mike Tuffrey and London’s Shite Air Quality

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 19th January, 2012

During his 10 years on the London Assembly, LibDem Mike Tuffrey has made environmental issues one of his top priorities. And although he is standing down in May, he is still a man on a mission, all guns metaphorically firing, on the matter of London’s poor air quality. As he told a meeting of Merton Liberal Democrats at a policy fourm in Morden this evening, though we may not be able to see the pollution in the capital’s air these days — unlike the ghastly ‘pea-soupers’ of the 1950s — in Central London in particular the amount of harmful particulates and NO2 is often alarming. The European Union, to its credit, has set standards for air quality, to which all member stats are meant to adhere. In fact, these are only half as strict as World Health Organisation guidelines, and yet as the Mayor, Boris Johnson, admits in some respects London still falls short of what is desirable. The main victims of this are the elderly and children, as well as asthma sufferers, of course. The latter can tell when there is a particularly bad day even if the pollution monitors which boroughs are meant to instal and maintain are not functioning. Roads, or rather the traffic they carry, are the main polluters and despite all the publicity about the supposed environmental advantages of diesel fuel, diesel fumes are particularly noxious, Mike says. While some of us might hope that London could follow the example of continental cities such as Berlin and Copenhagen and make a concerted effort to turn our city more bicycle-friendly, great effort also needs to be put in to encourage the shift towards electric vehicles, especially light goods vehicles. Mike also pointed out that Heathrow is the one serious blackspot outside the centre of London, not just because of the aircraft but also because of all the vehicles that transfer the passengers to and from the airport. Tougher standards on what sort of vehicles can enter the airport would certainly help, but it is unlikely BAA would agree to such a measure. In the meantime, though, Mike stressed that although environmental issues rank relatively low in the priorities of a majority of London’s voters, health is a major concern. And poor air quality is even more of a health mattter than it is an environmental concern.

Link: www.mertonlibdems.org.uk

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London Mayoral Replay

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 2nd September, 2011

With the selection this evening of Brian Paddick as Liberal Democrat candidate for next year’s London Mayoral elections the capital will be seeing a first: a replay of the 2008 match with the same three main party candidates, but under very different circumstances. Back then, Boris Johnson was the new Tory kid on the block, full of zany charm and quixotic ideas, whereas this time he has to try to defend what he has done — or not done — during his term of office. As LibDem members of the London Assembly –Dee Doocey, Caroline Pidgeon and Mike Tuffrey — have pointed out, as they have called the Mayor to account, he has not actually achieved all that much. Even the Barclays-branded bikes which he managed to have dubbed ‘Boris Bikes’ were actually a proposal put forward by former LibDem Assembly member (and now Coalition government Minister) Lynne Featherstone. As for Ken Livingstone, he is not so much yesterday’s man as the day-before-yesterday’s man. He looks tired and has said some pretty wacky things lately, apart from pissing off some of his own party members by supporting a controversial independent candidate for Mayor of Tower Hamlets last year against his own party. But the interesting transformation that will make 2012 a much more fascinating contest than 2008 is in Brian Paddick. Back then, as he himself says, he was an ex-policeman with very little experience in frontline politics and he had a steep learning curve to climb during the campaign. Three years on, he is a tranformed character, more relaxed, broader in his policy interests but also more effective in his media performances. He has come out as a voice of both experience and sanity on a number of issues, most recently the London riots and the News International phone-hacking scandal. Same faces as in 2008, yes. But absolutely not the same contest this time.

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Caroline Pidgeon Goes Thai in Brockley

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 18th January, 2011

Tonight was the not the first time LibDem London Assembly member Caroline Pidgeon has spoken to a Lewisham party dinner, though in the old days these extremely convivial evnings were known as the Blackheath Supper Club and did indeed migrate around the many good and exotic restaurants of the northern part of the borough. But this evening we were down in Brockley, for a Thai meal at which Caroline put a discreet stiletto into Mayor Boris Johnson in absentia. She is the lead person on transport, which is perhaps the most important single brief within the GLA and ceratainly the subject that gets most people agitated. The shock-horror news of this evening’s presentation was that many millions of pounds have been wasted — notably at Shepherd’s Bush tube station — introducing accessibility (i.e. lifts), to no effect, as the shafts are non-functional. Similarly, Boris made a great hoo-ha about replacing bendy buses with his new style Routemasters, but the latter will be few in number and horrendously costly. Moreover, their back open platform will only function off-peak. Boo-hiss. Caroline will be leading the LibDem team in next year’s GLA elections and a good thing too. She has proved a bit hit in London and continues to provide a service which ought to be apreciated by far more than those who actually vote for her and the party.

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LibDem Who’s Who at City Hall

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 20th May, 2010

While media attention has been focussed on the dramatic developments at Britain’s national government level, more prosaically, but importantly, changes have been happening at the seat of London government: City Hall. On the Liberal Democrat front, Caroline Pidgeon has become the new group leader in the London Assembly and she has already highlighted several issues she wants to promote:

— the vital importance of tackling crime and the fear of crime that affects every area in London;

— faster improvements to London’s public transport, including the tube upgrades

— real action to improve London’s environment, especially tackling the capital’s poor air quality

— a real increase in affordable housing.

Dee Doocey has become the new Chair of the London Assembly and will lead for the LibDems on the Metropolitan Police Authority, while remaining involved in overseeing the Olympics brief. Mike Tuffrey, who led the LibDem group ably over the past four years, now takes the lead for the group on the London Fire Authority, as well as retaining the lead on budget and performance, environment, housing and planning.

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