Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Merlene Emerson’

If All the World Could Sing

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 12th September, 2018

divrse choirUnder the dynamic leadership of Merlene Emerson from Singapore, the World Traders livery company in London has its heart set on entering the Guinness Book of Records by bringing together the most diverse (by nationality) group of singers ever for an event on 8 October. The current record is 72, but the organisers are hoping for 101, at least, to render I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing: Imagine. The venue is the Goodenough College near Russell Square http://www.goodenough.ac.uk/ and there will be a (free) reception afterwards. Singers should bring their passports, to verify their nationality. At the moment the line-up is particularly short of participants from Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa, but as every nation on earth has residents in London, they shouldn’t be so difficult to muster, surely?

Volunteers need to register via: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/world-traders-and-goodenough-college-guinness-world-record-challenge-tickets-44981245115

Stand up, sing up and be happy!

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ASEAN Diaspora Shuns Brexit

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 19th April, 2016

ASEAN UK diaspora meetingThere is mystification among many diaspora citizens of the 10 member states of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) as to why some politicians in Britain feel that the UK would be better off outside the European Union. At least that was the sentiment of a useful round table discussion held at the National Liberal Club in Westminster last night, co-hosted by Khanh Minh Ho (the Vietnamese Chair of the ASEAN UK Business Forum) and Merlene Emerson (Singaporean-born Liberal Democrat candidate for the London Assembly). Not a single person present said they were in favour of Brexit. As one Malaysian participant put it, “my clients see Britain as a useful gateway to the European Union. If the UK goes for Brexit, attention and investment are likely to shift to France or Germany.” The guest speaker at the event, Nick Hopkinson, Chair of London4Europe, succinctly outlined the benefits of Britain’s EU membership and said that the various models of a new relationship with the EU after any British withdrawal — Norwegian, Turkish or Canadian, for example — just don’t stand up in comparison. Himself of Canadian origin, Nick said that Britain was far stronger as an EU member state, not least in negotiating trade deals with other parts of the world through the EU. The nation that a 60-million nation could wield more negotiating clout than a 500-million bloc is just not credible. That is something that ASEAN itself has understood. With a similar size of population to that of the EU, ASEAN has a far stronger international presence as a group rather than as 10 separate countries. Though ASEAN’s integration has not got anywhere near as far as that of the EU — and maybe never could, given the huge diversity of both political and economic systems among its member states — it has nonetheless moved towards a free trade area and is increasingly cooperating on an ASEAN-wide basis on a wide range of issues, not least relating to the environment. Because the UK has long given a total franchise to resident citizens from Commonwealth countries, only Malaysians and Singaporeans among ASEAN nationals in the diaspora here will be able to vote in the May elections and the 23 June EU Referendum, but the message from all those present last night was: No to Brexit!

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London LibDems’ GLA Hustings

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 5th September, 2015

GLA hustings 1GLA hustings 2Last night, at Hamilton House in Camden, London Liberal Democrats held a hustings for shortlisted candidates who had put themselves forward to be selected for the “top-up” list of 11 members of the London Assembly (the other 14 being elected in geographical constituencies). As there were 16 hopefuls and all had to make short presentations as well as answer a few questions it was quite a marathon affair, but aided by the grace and good humour of the Chair, Baroness (Liz) Barker. One candidate, Duwayne Brooks, challenged the worth of asking candidates about elements of policy and walked out half way through, while another, Annabel Mullin, was legitimately absent because of a work commitment abroad, but the others battled on bravely. Housing came across as the biggest single issue of concern in London, with other oft-mentioned subjects including transport and the environment. We currently have just two GLA members (Caroline Pidgeon and Stephen Knight, both of whom are standing for re-election) but in the past we have had as many as five, so it is a realistic goal as part of the LibDem fightback to hope for a minimum of three in 2016, now the Party is not tainted by being in coalition with the Conservatives. Given London’s population profile, it is to be hoped that at least one of our successful candidates should be from an ethnic minority and certainly there was a very diverse choice on offer last night with almost half of the shortlisted candidates not being Anglo-Saxon white. All London LibDems members can vote for the order of the GLA list via a quick and easy electronic link that is already up and running. Caroline Pidgeon is also standing as the Party’s candidate for London Mayor and is unopposed for that.

The full list of candidates is: Adrian Hyyrylainen-Trett, Annabel Mullin, Ben Mathis, Caroline Pidgeon, Dawn Barnes, Duwayne Brooks, Emily Davey, Marisha Ray, Mark Platt, Merlene Emerson, Pauline Pearce, Rob Blackie, Stephen Knight, Teena Lashmore, Zack Polanski.

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Digital Comms Is Only Part of the Answer

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 1st September, 2015

Rob Blackie LibDems in CommsThere was a very convivial meeting of Liberal Democrats in Communications this evening, hosted by Rob Blackie in the basement of a welcoming upmarket pub in Pimlico. Apart from networking the idea was to hear from two speakers: Richard Morris, a successful advertising executive and author of the popular A View from Ham Common blog, and the journalist and broadcaster Miranda Green (both LibDems themselves). The participants were overwhelmingly young, maybe partly because “taster” publicity for the evening suggested that it might help those who sought a career in Communications or the Media. But even an old hack like me found it interesting. Richard spoke particularly about how he views the applications of people who want to work for his agency; in a nutshell, they have to captivate with their introductory lines so that those hiring think “that person sounds interesting; I’d like to talk to them”. He told the cautionary tale of some poor sod who had the bright idea of writing their CV on the icing of a delicious cake sent to the interviewing penal. Unfortunately, they ate the cake before realising that there was no other copy of the CV or way of knowing who the person was.

Miranda GreenRichard MorrisMiranda — who served in Paddy Ashdown’s office in the days when the LibDem leader was up at 5am and wondering why everyone else was not already busy at work. focused more on the May election campaign , or debacle, as some of us now fondly refer to it. It is not enough to keep pushing dozens of leaflets through people’s doors any more, and while television is still extremely important (especially for older voters) digital media can have a big impact, as Obama’s campaigns in the United States have shown. It was unfortunate, to put it mildly, that having promoted the slogan “stronger economy, fairer society” for four and a half years of the Coalition government the LibDems suddenly switched to “neither left nor right”, leaving many activists, let alone the electors, wondering “Huh?” Obviously a very high digital media presence can have a big effect, especially in motivating younger people, but there is no use smothering Facebook or twitter with posts if there are no clear messages within. LDHQ please note. As Rob Blackie is running a very high profile digital media campaign in his effort to be selected with a chance of winning a seat on the London Assembly it was good of him to devote an evening to this worthwhile venture. One was also pleased to see fellow GLA contenders Merlene Emerson and Mark Platt present.

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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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London Liberal Democrats’ Spring Conference

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 1st April, 2012

With just over a month to go to the London Mayoral and GLA elections, London Liberal Democrats had their minds firmly focussed on campaigning when we gathered in the East Wintergarden at Canary Wharf yesterday, chaired by (Baroness) Susan Kramer. The mayoral candidate Brian Paddick alongside Caroline Pidgeon, head of the GLA list, presented a summary of their manifesto, which had largely been drawn up my outgoing GLA member Mike Tuffrey, who also gave a presentation on housing. There were several innovations at the conference, including a speech on Extremism by Maajid Nawaz of the Quilliam Foundation and some stunning unaccompanied singing by Pauline Pearce, the “heroine of Hackney” who is the Party’s candidate in the Hackney Central council by-election that will take place on the same day as the main London poll, 3 May. There was also a “trialogue” question time which I chaired with a panel comprising London MEP (Baroness) Sarah Ludford, (Baroness) Sally Hamwee and Caroline Pidgeon. Ed Davey, the Secretary of State of Energy and Climate Change, spoke about his role in government and MPs Tom Brake and Simon Hughes shared their views on the current state of play. A central message was that Liberal Democrats should be proud of what we have achieved as the junior partner in Government but we will be campaigning in these elections on a purely Liberal Democrat platform, even if that sometimes diverges from Coalition policy. At the drinks reception at the end of the busy day several participants said it was the best London Liberal Democrat ever, for which thanks must go to Conference Committee Chair Jill Fraser and her team, including Pete Dollimore, who facilitated the training sessions going on in parallel with the plenary.

(photo by Merlene Emerson)

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The Sound of London Liberal Democrats

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 8th February, 2012

The Ministry of Sound is used to revving people up at its base in London’s Elephant and Castle, but this evening the throbbing crowd was somewhat different than usual in that it was made up of Liberal Democrat activists, in party mode. The event was the launch of the LibDems’ London2012 election campaign, compered by local MP and Deputy Leader, Simon Hughes. Party President Tim Farron gave an upbeat speech, underlining how seriously the Federal Party is taking the London elections this time, in contrast to previous occasions. Both the mayoral candidate, Brian Paddick, and the leader of the GLA team, Caroline Pidgeon, gave sterling performances, against the backdrop line-up of the impressive and diverse phalanx of GLA list and constituency candidates. The point was made — as it will be repeatedly to the electorate over the next 12 weeks — that last time the LibDems were just pipped at the post for the final seat on the proportional represnetation list by the BNP. This time, we will be fighting hard to get that fourth seat back, and who better to achieve that than Shas Sheehan, a Muslim woman who has already proved her worth as a former Richmond Councillor and parliamentary candidate for Wimbledon at the 2010 General Election. In 2000, we got five London Assembly members, which must be a target we can aim for this year. If successful that would also see Merlene Emerson, Chair of Chinese Liberal Democrats, catapulted into City Hall. When I took over as Chairman of London Liberal Democrats in January 2010, I was determined to up our game, to help make the organisation more professional and to build the sense of London-wide identity for local parties and activists. This evening’s event at the Ministry of Sound (courtesy of James Paulmbo) was yet another step upwards in that journey. And I am happy that in Brian Paddick we have a mayoral candidate who is an impressive figurehead, with particular expertise on policing matters, moreover one who is determined — as he said tonight — to lead a ‘radical and risky’ Liberal Democrat campaign — in the best sense of both those adjectives!

Link: http://libdems4london.org.uk  and www.brianpaddick.com    Video: http://youtu.be/ZSmgrczJNCU

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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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Cruising the Thames with Brian Paddick

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 10th December, 2011

London Liberal Democrats scored a ‘first’ last night when about a hundred of us were entertained on a Thames river cruise aboard the M.V. Eltham. We were blessed with a clear night, which meant that the illuminated buildings on either shore looked truly magnificent. The new vista of Tower Bridge with the half-completed Shard of Glass rearing up not that far away was particularly striking. The event was a fundraiser for the London 2012 Mayoral and GLA campaigns, with mayoral candidate Brian Paddick and most of the GLA candidates on board — indeed one of them, Merlene Emerson, was the prime organiser of the event. After a supper of lasagne and salad, we were given a performance of African music and dance by a group from the university where I teach, SOAS, and the evening was compered with Yuletide panache by LibDem activist Ben Mathis, whose jokes were as corny and seasonal as those inside Christmas crackers. I was roped in to be Santa Claus — my fault for growing a white beard, I suppose — and doled out the raffle prizes from a scarlet sack. The whole evening was a great success, as well as being fun; the London campaign is more advanced and already better funded than in 2008, and Brian Paddick is positively fizzing and popping with energy for the fight ahead.

Link: http://libdems4london.org.uk

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British Chinese Say Yes to AV!

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 4th February, 2011

Yesterday afternoon (Thursday), on the upper floor of a restaurant in London’s Chinatown, London’s Chinese-language media and political activists gathered to attend a Chinese New Year launch of the Fairer Votes campaign, complete with little red envelopes (usually employed to dispense gifts of money) to mark the beginning of the Year of the Rabbit and short speeches by Yes2AV (and Green Party) activist Jonathan Bartley, Merlene Emerson (Chair of Chinese Liberal Democrats), Neil Lawson (a Labour Party representative standing in for Ben Bradshaw MP), Simon Woolley of Operation Black Vote and myself, as Chairman of London Liberal Democrats and a sort of honorary Chinese given my academic background; I dusted off my Mandarin to deliver the first two paragraphs of my speech. No Tory, alas, was present, though not for want of trying. The slogan ‘Yes2AV’ does not translate easily into Chinese (not least because there is no real word for ‘yes’), but the message was clear: that Britain’s electoral system is broke and needs to be replaced. Hence the enthusiasm with which many of us will campaign for a Yes vote in the forthcoming referendum on moving from First Past the Post to an Alternative Vote System. It is essential that all the diverse communities within British society, not least in multicultural London, get involved in and are reached by the campaign. There will be Fair Votes activities at the big New Year festival in London’s Chinatown on Sunday. But the campaign starts now!

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