Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Merton Liberal Democrats’

Ed Davey, the EU and Climate Change

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 16th June, 2013

Ed Daveyclimate changeThe European Union has been leading the way in the global fight against climate change, not least thanks to the efforts of Liberal Democrat Ministers in the UK’s Coalition government, Chris Huhne and now Ed Davey. The latter was guest speaker at Merton Liberal Democrats’ summer garden party in Wimbledon this afternoon and restated his determination that the Paris summit in 2015 must seal a meaningful new treaty, to build on achievements so far. There are some member states that are dragging their feet — notably Poland, which still relies heavily on coal for its energy needs. But the UK is part of a group of 10 EU member states — dubbed the Green Growth Group — which are on the side of the angels in the related debate. Moreover, Ed has been buoyed by the appointment of John Kerry as Barack Obama’s Secretary of State in his second term, as Kerry was ahead of Al Gore in recognising the problems of global warming. Even China is sending out some reassuring signals. The problems of air and water pollution in China are immense, as a result of the country’s rapid industrialisation and relatively lax environmental supervisory standards. But public opinion in China has become increasingly vociferous about the health consequences for children — all the more acute give China’s ongoing (though modified) one child policy. Accordingly, the Chinese Communist Party has started to take note of ecological protests, instead of just suppressing them, as it realises that its survival in government may be at stake. Back home in the UK, it is the Liberal Democrats who have been keeping the Coalition government on track on climate change issues, despite the scepticism of certain Tory right-wingers. In next year’s European elections (which in London will coincide with all-out borough council elections) the LibDems must champion this success. Furthermore, Ed argued, we should not hold back in attacking UKIP, which is not only the home of many climate change deniers but also tries through its lies and distortions to undermine European cooperation with all its beneficial aspects for our common future.

http://www.edwarddavey.co.uk and http://www.mertonlibdems.org.uk

Advertisements

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Caroline Pidgeon’s Transport Overview

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 14th September, 2012

photo by Anuja Prashar

As someone who has lived in London for more than 30 years I know how important public transport is to most people’s lives in the city, so it was hardly surprising that Caroline Pidgeon, Liberal Democrat member of the Greater London Assembly (GLA) and Chair of the Assembly’s Transport Committee, attracted a good audience and a barrage of questions when she spoke to Merton Liberal Democrats last night. She paid tribute to the way that many Londoners shifted their working patterns during the recent Olympics and Paralympics, which meant that the underground system and Docklands Light Railway managed to cope despite the millions of extra journeys by visitors. With ongoing advances in communications technology, there is good reason to assume that some London companies and their employees will build more home-working, video-conferencing etc into their lives, reducing the need for daily commutes. Yet there is every reason to suppose that the pressure on the public transport network will increase. The underground system — the oldest in the world — still needs massive new investment to be fit for purpose, though Crossrail — now progressing after several decades of inexcusable dithering and delay — should ease the east-west congestion. Caroline was a great supporter of the proposed cross-river tram, which would have eased north-south congestion too, but the project was alas abandoned. Indeed, Mayor Boris Johnson does not seem to be aware of the true potential of trams, Caroline said. She also argued that much more use could be made of the River Thames as a transport highway, and she spoke up strongly for more, better and safer cycling provisions. I raised the issue of aviation, as the Liberal Democrats need to have more of a coherent policy than merely opposing a third runway at Heathrow. That will be the subject of a debate at the up-coming party conference in Brighton. In the meantime, what is clear is that both the Conservatives and Labour are deeply divided on whether there should be increased air capacity in London and the South East, and if so, where.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Pre-empting Rabbie Burns

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 22nd January, 2012

Burns Night has become an even more quintessentially Scottish celebration than Hogmanay (New Year’s Eve). It is normally celebrated on the 25th of January up and down the country with haggis, tatties (potatos) and neeps (swede), usually washed down with great quantities of alcohol, not least the whisky used in toasts. Apart from the wonderfully theatrical address to the haggis and its belabouring with a dagger, the toasts to the lassies (girls) and the lads (boys) are a great opportunity for a fine mixture of gallantry and sexist jokes. Burns himself was, of course, a great ladies’ man, a seducer with his poetic words as well as with his looks, though as fickle as a bumble bee flitting from one ripe blossom to the next. Given the migration of Scots worldwide over the centuries, it is not surprising that Burns Night is celebrated almost everywhere, from Buenos Aires to Dubai, but what is maybe astonishing is the relish with which Sassenachs (English) have taken the ceremony and the celebration to their hearts. It is not only in the grand London Clubs, such  the Caledonian (predictably) and the National Liberal Club, that Burns Night features in the annual calendar with due pomp. Even local Liberal Democrat parties have got in on the act. Merton LibDems’ Burns Night is famous for its authentic food and traditions and they usually get a Scottish MP to make one of the speeches. Haringey LibDems are also starting to make a reputation for themselves in similar vein. But Lewisham LibDems’ Burns Night, which I joined (for at least the third time) last evening, is unique. Apart from the fact that it occurs on a convenient Saturday, rather than on the day itself, it is a totally English (or at least, Scots-free) affair, albeit with the requisite food and drink. Local activists and visitors (me included) act out the toasts and readings of poems by the Master in accents that would make any true Scotsman weep, but a great time is had by all. And if by any chance Alex Salmond does hoodwink the Scots into opting for independence, I trust the English Burns Nights will continue to flourish.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

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

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Michael Crockart’s Love Story

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 26th January, 2011

Edinburgh West’s MP Michael Crockart gave an unusual spin to his Toast to the Immortal Memory at the 20th annual Burns Night Supper hosted by Merton Liberal Democrats in South West London last night when he drew on images from love poems of Robert Burns to illustrate what had happened last May following the General Election. It was not so much My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose but rather My Love is Like a Green, Green Tree, Mike declared, as the slightly reduced band of LibDem MPs were ‘love-bombed’ by the Tories. It was whirlwind romance, but the proposition was one that could not be turned down. However, as within all relationships, there has to be give and take — but also there are limits to one’s tolerance. The line that could not be crossed came as early as last month for Mike Crickart, when he felt he had to vote against the raising of university tuition fees, and therefore to resign from his government position as PPS to the Scottish Secretary, Michael Moore. He was, of course, not alone; amongst his fellow rebels was Jenny Willott, MP for Cardiff Central, whose mother, Alison — who had come up from Cardiff specially for last night’s occasion — gave the reply from the Lassies (to Councillor Iain Dysart’s Toast) at the Merton dinner, reprising a script she used at the very first dinner 20 years ago — still as fresh and witty now as then.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Elspeth Attwooll’s Merton Burns Night

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 27th January, 2010

Merton Liberal Democrats’ Burns Night suppers have become something of an institution; odd, really, when one considers that the Willott family that has for so long been heavily involved in the organisation of the event has far stronger roots in Wales. But year after year, local party volunteers put on a splendid three course haggis supper, with copious wine (and of course whisky), a piper and this year, as an innovation, an excellent musical rendition of some Burns songs, arranged for piano and tenor. The star of the evening last night was former LibDem MEP for Scotland, Elspeth Attwooll, who proposed the toast to the immortal memory of Robert Burns with erudition and wit; she could not only pronounce the dialect of some of the quotes but clearly understood it all as well! She even had a saucy anecdote about a canvasser campaigning for the late George Mackie and his encounter with a pipe-smoking old woman way up north — a useful reminder that puritanism does not have a monopoly among Scottish Highland souls. I suppose the reason so many Brits — by no means only the Scots — love Burns is because he was a raffish rebel, a bit of a cad in some ways, but essentially a romantic and a free thinker (though his Whig friends in Edinburgh liked to think he was one of them). Of course, dying so young only embellished his reputation. In the 19th century, that was what poets were meant to do.

Link: www.mertonlibdems.org.uk

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Getting the Message across and the Money in

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 5th April, 2009

This evening, there was a highly successful and enjoyable fundraising buffet dinner at the home of Wimbledon Liberal Democrat PPC, Shas Sheehan, to ensure that Merton borough will be able to play its full part in the Euro-election campaign ahead — though as I said in my speech, the campaign is actually already upon us: two months tonight, on Sunday 7 June, we will know the result. It needs just a tiny swing to the LibDems to pick up a second seat in London this time and one by one, the local parties have been coming on board, buying into the centrally-prepared London Euro-literature and in many cases producing their own on top — often with considerable ingenuity and local relevance.

This morning, I was at a seminar addressed by the Party’s outgoing Director of Innovation, Mark Pack, in Swiss Cottage, for key activists in the Hampstead and Kilburn parliamentary seat, on how to make the European elections work for them: in other words, not just getting me elected as the second MEP (with all that that implies), but also using the campaign to push key local messages, which will help get Ed Fordham elected as the new MP for the redrawn parlimentary constituency and enable the Liberal Democrats to strengthen their (already dominant) position on Camden Council.

Links: www.mertonlibdems.org.ukwww.camdenlibdems.org.uk and www.jonathanfryer4europe.com

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »