Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘New Labour’

We Don’t Need US-style Smears in Britain

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 22nd April, 2010

When Tony Blair was Prime Minister and Alastair Campbell his media advisor, British politics became familiar with US-style ‘spin’: presenting a story in such a way that made it favourable to the government. The climate of New Labour spin led to government advisor Jo Moore’s notorious email after the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington declaring that ‘this would be a good day to bury bad news’. The then Conservative Party Chairman, David Davis, rightly protested at the tastelessness of that and called for an official investigation. So it is depressing that some Conservative Party advisors have borrowed another distasteful American political tactic in order to try to win the current British general election: the use of smear against opponents. We saw how the Republican party and its tame media in the US smeared Barack Obama, questioning whether he was really US-born, likening him to both Nazis and Communists, questioning his Christian faith etc. And alas we are now witnessing parts of the Conservative Press in Britain, notably the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph (which ought to know better) adopting similar methods in their smear campaign against Nick Clegg. Be in no doubt: this was a contingency plan, not a knee-jerk reaction, and some Tory party advisors have similar ‘bombshells’ up their sleeve for use during the campaign. When David Cameron appears on the second leaders’ debate tonight, he should disassociate himself from all this. We don’t want US-style smearing in Britsh politics and the media. It isn’t British and it will deeply damage the Conservative Party if the Tories are seen to be tolerating or even encouraging it.

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4289 Ways to Be a Criminal

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 22nd January, 2010

The Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesman, Chris Huhne MP, has highlighted the astounding fact that since coming to power in Britain in 1997, New Labour has created 4,289 new criminal offences. As Chris comments tartly, ‘This legislative diarrhoea is not about making us safer, it is merely Ministers posturing on penalties. Many of these offences are worthless, as they duplicate offences which could perfectly well have been used instead.’

It’s a nightmare for the police and lawyers, let alone the public, to keep up with the legislation. As Chris says, ‘The legacy of Labour is hyperactive law-making that has spread confusion among police officers, judges and every other official who has to deal with this cascade of nonsense.’  The Liberal Democrats are suggesting that a new legal ‘stop unit’ should be set up within the Cabinet Office, to which every government department would have to make the case for the need of bringing in a new offence. Too many laws risk making the society paranoid, as well as clogging up the criminal justice system.

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Jon Cruddas is Labour’s Greek Chorus

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 6th September, 2009

Jon CruddasAccording to The Observer, Dagenham MP Jon Cruddas will give a blistering speech to the Labour pressure group Compass on Tuesday, castigating the Labour leadership for failing to capitalise on the Conservatives’ difficulties over the summer. Remember Daniel Hannan MEP’s rubbishing of the NHS? And the Tories’ leaving the biggest grouping in the European Parliament, the EPP, to start a new entity with the flotsam and jetsam of central and eastern European fringe politics? And just how many Tory MPs had their snouts in the troughs/moats/duck islands in the expenses scandal? This all gave the perfect opportunity for Gordon Brown to strike back, Cruddas argues. But did he? Oh no.

‘Presented with this golden opportunity to galvanise ourselves and unite behind a clear anti-Tory message we seem paralysed; afraid of using our Labour principles as the basis to lay bare the shallowness of Cameron’s project,’ he is reported to be going to say. ‘We seem to be meekly accepting defeat, unable to show what we believe in.’

Jon Cruddas did very well in the last Labout deputy leadership election; had I been a Labour Party member (a difficult hypothesis to sustain, I agree), I would have voted for him. He had fire and principles. But the Labour Party at the moment appears to be a lost cause. So it is now up to the Liberal Democrats to expose the shallowness of the Cameron project and the bankruptcy of New Labour.

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Shami Chakrabarti and Toffs in Wigs

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 18th June, 2009

Shami Chakrabati‘Unelected toffs in wigs, be they in the Courts or in the House of Lords, have been the defenders of civil liberties in many cases, during the current government,’ according to the Director of Liberty, Shami Chakrabarti, who was the guest speaker at a lunch given today by the UK Section of the Association of European Journalists at the London office of the European Parliament. Because of the so-called War on Terror,  disturbing new powers have been granted to both the government and the police. For example, Section 44 of the Terrorism Act relating to stop and search requires no necessary grounds for suspicion at all. Tony Blair famously said that he would give the police whatever powers they needed. Shami opined that an ‘authoritarain arms race’ began in Britain when Michael Howard and Tony Blair became responsible for the Home Affairs brief in their respective parties — well before 9/11.

Liberty ID card bookletLiberty is currently celebrating 75 years of existence, having previously been known as the National Council of Civil Liberties (NCCL), in which, interestingly, several now prominent New Labour figures were previously involved. It’s always a spectacle to see them squirm when they try to defend the proposed introduction of ID cards in Britain, about which Liberty has been running a campaign. Shami Chakrabarti — who was a barister before working for six years for the Home Office — has no such ambitions to be sucked into politics with all its compromises. ‘I’d sooner be a rock-star before I’d be Home Secretary,’ she declared. She paid tribute to the work that Liberal Democrats have done in defending human rights (though she opposes the European arrest warrant, which the party has championed) and she sharply criticised Conservative plans to scrap the Human Rights Act, suspecting that their main objection to this important buttress to civil liberties is its essentially European origin.

Link: http://www.liberty-human-rights.org.uk and http://www.aej-uk.org

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Long Live Instability!

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 12th February, 2009

chinese-liberal-democrats     Rather like Christmas, Chinese New Year tends to go on for several weeks, but the Chinese Liberal Democrats’ (CLD) banquet to celebrate the Year of the Ox in the Top of the Town restaurant in London’s Chinatown this evening certainly crowned the festive period.  CLD, in partnership with Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats (EMLD), took the entire top floor of the venue and filled it. The food was superb and the proceedings were envigorated by a political debate, featuring speakers from Liberal Youth, in favour and against the motion that the Year of the Ox will see stability. I was pleased to see the motion heavily defeated, as I myself spoke from the floor arguing that the old Chinese curse ‘May you live in interesting times!’ should be turned on its head. Historically, China sought stability and harmony (that was the Communist regime’s excuse for crushing the Tiananmen democracy movement), but stability in Britain today would mean yet more years of hard New Labour, with all its illiberal policies and instincts. Instead, particularly in the run-up to June’s European elections, we need constructive instability in the UK: a challenge to the old Labour-Tory see-saw and a recognition and resurgence of liberal values, as enshrined in the LibDems.

Link: www.ethnicminority-libdems.org.uk

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An Evening with Peter Mandelson

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 3rd December, 2008

‘Are you happy, Peter?’ Gordon Brown asked Lord Mandelson the other day. ‘If you are happy, then I am happy,’ the Prince of Darkness replied. Rather an odd exchange, one might think. But even odder was the fact that Peter Mandelson began his Hugo Young Lecture at Chatham House this evening with this anecdote. Some politicians effectively do self-deprecation. But Peter Mandelson flirts with an audience. Some of the ladies present, their heads perhaps lightened by a quickly-downed glass of wine at the pre-lecture reception, purred appreciatively. Several of the gentlemen scowled.

Mandelson’s subject was ‘Globalisation and the Crunch: What Lessons for Politics in Europe?’, a title that reflected not only the financial concerns of the day, but also the fact that the speaker was still European Commissioner for Trade when he was invited. One might have imagined that he would give a speech worthy of a European Commisioner, but not a bit of it. It was New Labour this and New Labour that; the Spin-meister is back with a vengeance. New Labour is not in favour of big government or small government (unlike the wicked Tories), the gist of what he said went. Instead, it is promoting ‘smart government’. He obviously cherishes this term — indeed, he may well have invented it himself — as he repeated it several times. ‘Smart government means using our existing resources better,’ he intoned.

Things perked up at question time. He was asked if EU Commission President José Manuel Barroso was correct when he declared the other day that several senior people in the British government were starting to think about euro membership once again. Out came the pat response that the government is still in favour of joining the euro at some stage, ‘but it’s not on the radar screen, and the radar screen is very crowded at present’. When my old Brussels colleague John Palmer pressed him on whether he thought that Gordon Brown’s famous five tests for Britain’s joining the euro had been met, Mandelson flatly refused to reply. Typical New Labour, unwilling to nail its Euro-colours to the mast.

Peter Preston, who was chairing, was obliged to gush the meeting’s thanks, and he said that Hugo Young would have savoured the presentation. I doubt it. It was so partisan that frankly, it stank.

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