Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Newham’

Unity in Diversity, Newham Style

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 1st April, 2015

Gandhi statueThe London borough of Newham is the most diverse community in the United Kingdom, which made the holding of most of the 2012 Olympics there particularly apt. In the streets one is likely to hear every language of the globe and a majority of the people are either brown or black. So it’s not surprising therefore that Britain’s largest single ethnic minority, those of Indian origin, are well represented. Last night the Indian High Commissioner, Ranjan Mathai, was the guest of honour at a dinner for several hundred people at East Ham town hall put on by the Indian Muslim Federation (UK), with the theme Unity in Diversity. The poor High Commissioner had to wait for two hours of preliminaries and other speeches before he was able to deliver his delicately crafted text — with inevitable and appropriate references to the Mahatma Gandhi — which struck a more harmonious note than some of the previous homilies, including one from an American pastor from Forest Gate who, in the manner of evangelicals, rhapsodised about his wife and the love of Jesus, neither of which seemed especially apt to an overwhelmingly Muslim audience.

Robin WalesHowever, for all its diversity, Newham is a one party state, and for all the kind hospitality of our IMF hosts, that could not have been more obvious. All 60 local councillors in Newham are Labour (many were present and several spoke) and the borough has a Labour mayor, Sir Robin Wales (who sent his apologies for the dinner). Among the speakers before the High Commissioner were Lyn Brown, who until this week was Labour MP for West Ham, and Stephen Timms, similarly until this week Labour MP for East Ham. Despite the fact that Parliament has been dissolved and we are now in a general election, both were introduced as being the current MPs (and neither corrected that mistake). Moreover, a couple of the IMF speakers openly urged everyone in the room to vote Labour. No representative of any other party was invited to speak, though there were some present. So in effect it was a big rally for the Labour Party. So will it apear in Ms Brown and Mr Timms’ election expenses?

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GDIF 2014 at the Cutty Sark

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 20th June, 2014

GDIF 2014GDIF MuaréThe Greenwich and Docklands International Festival (GDIF) has relatively quickly established itself as one of Britain’s premier outdoor cultural events, all the remarkable because it is FREE. Artistic Director Bradley Hemmings has a keen eye for what’s hot in Continental Europe and beyond and the Festival makes brilliant use of the diverse historic and contemporary venues on offer in the Royal Borough of Greenwich, as well as over the river in Tower Hamlets and Newham. This evening, as I made my way to the GDIF opening reception at the Cutty Sark (impressively reborn after the terrible fire of 2007 and now exposed in all its copper-bottomed glory in a fine exhibition space) I watched a company of dancers from Antwerp performing on the surrounding piazza, in front of a mirrored mobile van in which 20 privileged spectators had a keyhole view of the action from the inside. At the reception, fitting tribute was played to sponsors, including the Royal Borough of Greenwich, Arts Council England and this time the Flanders representation in London. Whilst we invitees swapped notes over canapés and wine, a select few were wired into another dynamic experience, their perception controlled by computer, which gave them the impression of walking through the streets of Brussels, including at one stage carefully stepping along a narrow balustrade in front of Belgium’s Palais de Justice. Later, the guests moved to the Greenwich Maritime Museum to watch Muaré, a psychadelic extravagance involving aerial theatre by artists from Spain and Argentina descending from giant revolving optical art mobiles. The Festival runs on until 28 June and I am particularly looking forward to events in Mile End Park, just along the road from my home, and at the Olympic Park in Newham.

Link: http://www.festival.org/festival/overview/12/2014/

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Speaking to the Ibero-American Community

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 20th May, 2014

On a couple of occasions, I’ve spoken to Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking communities in London — in Lambeth and Newham, to be precise — as part of the Liberal Democrats’ European Election campaign. Here’s what the Ibero-American community website MINKA NEWS had to say about it:

Liberal Democrats’ Jonathan Fryer: For the recognition of the entire Iberian American community and the Amigo Month

Minka News 1As a Liberal Democrat candidate for the European Parliament for London I recognise the great contribution that the Iberian-American community has made to both the economy and the social life of our capital, which has become not just the premier city of Europe but truly a global metropolis. The European Union officially celebrates our continent’s ethnic, cultural and linguistic diversity and we can see the glorious richness of that diversity in the streets of London. Spanish and Portuguese — both of which I speak reasonably well, though not perfectly — are of course among the official languages of the European Union, but I feel they have not yet been given sufficient attention in Britain, whether in terms of language teaching in our schools or in the provision of services to the Iberian-American community.

Latino LondonThe current European elections are to my mind the most important ones since direct elections to the European Parliament began in 1979. UKIP and some elements of the Conservative-leaning Press have demonised immigrants — and in particular, EU migrant workers from central and eastern Europe — echoing some of the deplorable xenophobic rhetoric we encounter in some other EU member states. Liberal Democrats categorically reject this scapegoating of immigrants; we enthusiastically acknowledge the positive contribution that immigrants have made to economic growth in London and the wider UK, and we resolutely defend the principle of labour mobility for citizens of the EU as an inalienable part of the European Single Market. Moreover, if I am elected to the European Parliament on 22 May, I shall work hard to promote EU-wide legislation to counter xenophobia and hate crimes, and to strengthen human rights so that everyone across the EU can live in dignity and security.

In past years I have backed calls for the regularisation of the situation of undocumented immigrants from outside the EU, which includes many people from the Americas and lusophone Africa. Individuals, families and communities can never be fully integrated into our diverse London society until they enjoy full rights and access to services.

Many of the specific questions I have been asked are about matters that are dealt with at a borough council, Great London Authority or British national parliament level, rather than being a European competence, but I happily pledge to work with my Liberal Democrat colleagues at those different levels of government to further the interests of the Ibero-American community. My personal opinion on specific points raised are as follows:

— yes, Portuguese should be an additional language option available for purchasing London Underground tickets, given the large number of residents and visitors from Portugal, Brazil, Angola and other lusophone countries;

— yes, it seems self-evident to me that ethnic monitoring forms should in future have a category for Ibero-Americans with which they can comfortably identify;

— I would be prepared to lobby the relevant authorities regarding the erection of statues, commemorative plaques and the like for truly worthy Iberian-Americans or British subjects with an Iberian-American connection, on a case-by-case basis;

— I hope that the Amigo month becomes an annual fixture in London’s cultural calendar and would be happy to help promote it and encourage cooperation between different cultural institutes and embassies from relevant countries, as well as seeing it recognised in our schools and other educational and cultural institutions;

— I would be delighted to take part in events during this year’s Amigo Month, as far as is possible given other constraints on my time or absence in Brussels or elsewhere;

— I am very enthusiastic about the idea of a latino corridor in Southwark and Lambeth and will be happy to work with my Liberal Democrat colleagues on those two borough councils, as well as on the GLA, to try to further the project.

Lastly, may I stress how important it is that everyone in London’s Ibero-American community who is registered to vote here does vote here on 22 May. We need to show the world that UKIP and the Euro-sceptic wing of the Conservative Party are not the true voice of London — and the clearest way of doing that is to vote for the one political party that has stood up forcefully against UKIP and has defended the worth and rights of EU migrants and immigrants from other parts of the world: the Liberal Democrats.

Jonathan Fryer

No. 2, Liberal-Democrat European List for London

(JONATHAN FRYER WAS SPEAKING IN FLUENT SPANISH AND PORTUGUESE TO HUNDREDS OF IBERIAN-AMERICAN LEADERS IN WEST NORWOOD LAST WEEK. ON SUNDAY, HE ALSO SPOKE TO HUNDREDS OF LATINOS IN A CHURCH IN CANNING TOWN)
 

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Road to 2012: Facing East

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 10th August, 2012

photos by Joe Bullock and Lucas Seidenfaden

Many of us who live in London’s East End viewed the hosting of this summer’s Olympics and Paralympics with a certain trepidation. And it is true that the Central Line — the quickest way for me to get into the centre of town from my home in Mile End — is hecticly busy at the moment all through the day. The only consolation of having to stand in sweltering conditions in the train is the extraordinary array of often quite beautiful people from all over to world to look at, for every taste. Anyway, though the Games are not quite over yet I think it’s fair to say that they have been a triumph. Moreover, as someone who has little interest in sport, for me the associated Cultural Olympiad, now culminating in the London 2012 Festival, has been spectacular. I have only managed to get to a few events, but they have been varied and stimulating. This morning I went to Four Corners in the Roman Road in Bethnal Green, a centre for film and photography that is currently hosting an exhbition of photos ‘Road to 2012: Facing East’. The work on display is by students in Fine Art and Photography at the University of East London and focuses on how the Games have impacted on the area, particularly Newham. There is an interesting variety of approaches, from Joe Bullock’s take on some of the characters who usually frequent the Lee Valley to Johanna Lees’ portraits of residents of one Stratford Street — all caught looking grave, or at least ambivalent. Contributors to the exhibition come from countries as varied as Cyprus, Germany, Estonia and the United States, with a range of styles and moods which means at least one will really appeal to any viewer. The exibition at Four Corners runs until 9 September and is a London 2012 Festival Project in partnership with the National Potrait Gallery and BT.Link: www.fourcornersfilm.co.uk

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Respect’s Burst Balloon

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 8th May, 2010

One of the stories of the general election that has got somewhat lost under the radar in all the speculation about post-election deals is the collapse of the Respect party. My earstwhile opponent in Poplar & Limehouse, George Galloway, was confidently predicting that Respect would come out of the elections with three MPs. But the actual result was zero. Zilch. Even the rather impressive Salma Yaqoob failed to make a breakthough in Birmingham. George himself came third and bottled out of coming to the election declaration. So much for all the pizazz and bombast of the Respect bus that blasted the street of our bprough for days on end. His counterpart in Bethnal Green & Bow (George’s old seat) also came third, behind the Liberal Democrats. Most striking of all, Respect managed to elect just one councillor in Tower Hamlets (the Council George said they were going to seize from Labour). Not one got elected in Newham (which is now a truly One Party State; every single councillor is Labour). Respect was behind the petition to get a directly-elected Mayor in Tower Hamlets, which will reportedly trigger an election in October this year. Will they put up George, or is he soiled goods? Will they put up a candidate at all, now their balloon has been burst?

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What Is Respect up to in Tower Hamlets?

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 8th December, 2009

Since the heyday of Respect, when it got George Galloway elected as MP for Bethnal Green and Bow in 2005 and became the official opposition on Tower Hamlets council one year later, the party has been in the doldrums. Mr Galloway’s reputation took a nosedive as he donned a red leotard and pretended to be a cat in the Big Brother house, and a whole raft of Respect councillors later defected to Labour and the Conservatives (sic). Indeed, rather like the rival Palestinian factions in the classic movie, ‘The Life of Brian’, the party then split into two pieces, each claiming to be the keeper of the true flame, which has left all but those at the centre of things at a loss to know what Respect really is these days and what it stands for. But now the party has a new rallying point, which it hopes will help it rise like a phoenix from the ashes: a referendum for a directly elected mayor in Tower Hamlets. There already is one in neighbouring Newham, Labour’s Sir Robin Wales, but presumably Respect is hoping that it could win a mayoral contest in our scandal-torn borough. And who would be their candidate? Everyone is assuming it would be George Galloway. ‘Gorgeous’ George is standing down from Bethnal Green and Bow at the forthcoming general election and moving over to my home seat of Poplar and Canning Town. But assuming he doesn’t win here, a mayoral contest a few months later would suit the party nicely, to have him bear its standard. So the party has been collecting signatures on a petition to move to a mayoral system. As 7,000 of the 17,000 signatures collected were reportedly inelligible, because the people did not fill in their full names or else did not live in the borough, one hopes that Respect will be a little more careful when it comes to filling in George’s nomination papers. It’s all a bit of a fiasco, but at least he adds to the gaiety of the nation.

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Respect Goes down the Plughole

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 15th May, 2009

Respect campaign busThat paradoxically named fringe party, Respect — born of a union between the Socialist Workers Party and anti-Iraq War Muslims — is entering its death-throes. Two Newham Respect Councillors, Asif Karim and Hanif Abdulmuhit, have quit the party, while in Tower Hamlets, Respect split into two separate factions some time ago. Most tellingly, Respect has now failed to field a team of candidates in the European elections on 4 June.

In 2004, the Respect Euro-list in London was headed by George Galloway, but they failed to get a single seat. Though he is currently MP for Bethnal Green and Bow — when he is not moonlighting as a media and reality TV ‘star’ — Mr Galloway will almost certainly be out of the House of Commons at the next general election, not least because he is moving over to the neighbouring constituency of  Poplar and Limehouse (where I live), and there is little appetite for him here. So, it looks as if after next year’s local and parliamentary elections, Respect will be where it belongs: as a quirky little footnote to history.

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