Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Paul Burstow’

London Liberal Democrats’ Autumn Conference

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 25th October, 2013

Team LondonStephen KnightCreating jobs was the central theme of London Liberal Democrats’ autumn conference held in Camden last night, with inputs from the borough council, national and European levels. Both Sutton MPs, Tom Brake and Paul Burstow, were on hand to champion the work they and their colleagues are doing in the Party’s flagship London borough, with some interesting new information about how they are relating to some of Sutton’s “hidden gems”, such as the Royal Marsden and related centres for excellence looking at cancer. Housing was also high on the conference agenda, with Stephen Knight, one of the two LibDem members of the London Assembly, presenting his report on how the capital’s critical housing shortage can be tackled by building more homes, which would also bring many thousands of the currently unemployed qualified construction workers back into the labour force. Anood al-Samerai, Leader of the Opposition on Southwark Council, highlighted the need for more genuinely affordable homes and accused the Council’s current Labour ruling group of failing to ensure these are being provided by developers. Sarah Ludford MEP — whose trip to the US had been cancelled, meaning she was present after all, gave a brief summary of what she has been achieving at the European Parliament level, notable in her chosen field of Justice and Home Affairs. As many speakers emphasized, including Robin Meltzer, PPC for Richmond Park, in his closing speech to the conference, with all-out London borough elections taking place on the same day as the European elections in London next year (22 May), there must be an integrated campaign and it is a matter for celebration that the Liberal Democrats really will be fighting the European election next year on European issues — as the party of IN. It was heartening to not only see the numbers who turned out for the conference on a Thursday evening but also to feel the real buzz in the hall, which bodes well for the energy of the campaign next year.


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Norman Lamb Goes to Church

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 23rd October, 2013

Norman LambSt Stephen's NW3So much vitriol is thrown at Liberal Democrats in government by the opposition Labour Party that it was appropriate and helpful to have the LibDem Social Care Minister in the Department of Health, Norman Lamb, as guest speaker at Camden Liberal Democrats’ fundraising reception this evening at the magnificently restored (deconsecrated) St Stephen’s Church in Hampstead, to remind us that the LibDems are the caring side to the Coalition. The Norfolk MP is so transparently decent and honest — in contrast to the caricature of MPs in the tabloid Press — and he has picked up Paul Burstow’s mantel and worn it effectively, homing in particularly on care for the elderly — a hugely growing issue in Britain as elsewhere in the “developed” world — and mental health, the Cinderella of the NHS. Norman batted away the suggestion from one questioner that the NHS is under threat (by privatisation, if one believes Labour propaganda), despite the fact that Tony Blair’s government instigated many of the current reforms;  the Coalition government wants to see the NHS function well. In a short warm-up speech, I noted that tomorrow, 23 October, is a significant date for LibDem activists in Camden and across London, as seven months hence will be the day when  it is too late to say “I may lose”, in local or European elections, as the polling booths will have closed at 10pm the previous evening. It is essential that in the interim LibDems campaign not only to hold what they have got (in London boroughs and the European Parliament) but also to champion the European ideal. The electorate in the UK knows that the Liberal Democrats are the only major party in Britain that “gets” Europe; it’s our USP, and we should not try to hide that European light under a bushel. Mercifully, Nick Clegg is the first party leader who has dared to proclaim the European love that dare not speak its name: i.e., the EU is good for Britain, and Britain is good for the EU. To leave would be, in Nick’s words, a disaster. Of course, the EU needs reform, but you reform from inside, not from throwing stones from outside — UKIP and Tory Euro-sceptics please note.


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Team London in Worcester Park

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 15th February, 2012

Mayoral candidate Brian Paddick, GLA list candidate Shas Sheehan and I joined Paul Burstow MP, leading Sutton councillors and of course the Worcester Park by-election candidate Roger Roberts this evening for a final eve-of-poll push in that pleasant part of suburban South West London. The Liberal Democrats seem to have been running Sutton for ever, winning many ‘green’ accolades in the process, but nothing can be taken for granted at the moment, even in a fight that is essentially against the Tories. The Conservatives have been strugggling for years to try to wrest back control of Sutton, yet despite the ongoing gentrification of many of the streets in the borough they’ve so far failed to make the breakthrough. Indeed, in the 2010 local elections — held on the same day as the General Election — they not only failed to snatch either, let alone both, of the parliamentary constituencies in Sutton but also proved unable to dent the majority of the Liberal Democrat council. This only goes to show that the electorate appreciates local campaigners who work hard on their behalf. Labour, of course, are the ‘also rans’ in this part of London, and it will be interesting to see if UKIP manages to push them into fourth place. I’ve never really understood why UKIP fights local elections, frankly, but I suppose it is to prove that they are a grown-up political party. It’s a pity some of their elected representatives in the European Parliament demonstrate the contrary. Anyway, tomorrow is polling day in Worcester Park, with the weather promised to be considerably milder than it has been of late, so London Liberal Democrats’ Team London will once again be out in force, getting out the vote. And it would be great to see Roger Roberts back on the Council.


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Paul Burstow Champions Coalition Wins

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 4th February, 2012

When Nick Clegg planned a Liberal Democrat parliamentary away-day in Eastbourne this week he could hardly have known that the media hordes would descend on that seaside town, not to quiz MPs and Ministers about policy but rather about the fate of Chris Huhne. But if Plan A was to carry on as normal had the CPS decided not to prosecute Chris, Plan B quickly snapped into action when the opposite happened. Ed Davey, as widely rumoured, took over Chris’s Cabinet role as Energy Secretary, while Norman Lamb moved into Ed’s former position in the Department of Business, Industry and Skills. Norman’s slot has been filled by a goverment newcomer, Jenny Willott, MP for Cardiff Central — a welcome new female face on the front bench. Chris meanwhile left Eastbourne early to prepare his defence if that proved to be necessary. It should be stressed that he denies any wrongdoing and in keeping with the most basic principle of Britsh law, he should be presumed innocent unless proved otherwise. The Minister for Social Care, Paul Burstow, for his part, on Friday evening had a post-Eastbourne engagement to speak at Putney LibDems’ annual dinner, which he duly did after a warm-up introduction by the Merton and Wandsworth GLA constituency candidate Lisa Smart. For once Paul didn’t go into the minutiae of NHS Reforms (though this remains a hot topic), but rather stressed the messages that the Party needs to get out about LibDem wins inside the Coalition government’s programme, notably raising the tax threshold, rolling out the pupil premium and boosting apprenticeships. And of course he gave a big plug for people to go and help in the Worcester Park local council by-election in his own constituency of Sutton and Cheam; polling day 16 February. Being in government in coalition at such a difficult economic time is not easy, but I am impressed how chipper Ministers like Paul remain. As junior partners we do not get everything we would like, but it is remarkable how much has been achieved.

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When Nick Clegg Came to Worcester Park

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 27th January, 2012

As Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg has more than enough to fill his diary, but it is good that he continues to meet with LibDem members from time to time, to hear their concerns and field their questions. He seems to relish the latter, not only at party conferences, but also at gatherings such as the one organised at short notice in a school hall in Worcester Park in Sutton this afternoon. The event was cleverly timed so that those activists with a free hour or so afterwards could join Roger Roberts and  his campaign team in the forthcoming Worcester Park council by-election. Flanked by the borough’s two LibDem MPs, Paul Burstow and Tom Brake, as well as London Mayoral candidate Brian Paddick, Nick was bowled a series of difficult balls, including queries about a possible war with Iran, the replacement (or not) of Trident and the future of the euro (what an internationalist party we are!). Actually, on that last issue, the questioner asked whether Nick could ever envisage Britain joining the euro, to which he rightly replied (here I paraphrase) that one should never say never but it was hardly a likely scenario in his political lifetime. In the meantime, he stressed, it is important that Britain is not isolated from the EU. I can imagine he must have some free and frank discussions with the PM on this, but I hope in the run-up to the Euro-elections he will champion the benefits of Britain’s membership, as well as the need for some reforms. Otherwise, given the Eurosceptic drift in the Tory Party, the nature of the popular Press and Labour’s weak stance on European issues, the matter will go by default, with serious longterm consequences for Britain (as well as for the Liberal Democrats).

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A Jolly Look at NHS Reform

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 26th January, 2012

Andrew Lansley’s proposed reforms of Britain’s health service came as a shock to many Liberal Democrats, as they were not part of the Coalition agreement; in fact, there had been an assumption that there would be no major top-down reorganisation. So it’s not surprising that the ensuing debate has been both extensive and contentious. Paul Burstow, as junior Minister, has done a great deal to ensure that the Bill stumbling its way through parliament has a significant emphasis on social care. But a lot of the most dogged attempts to make the proposed changes more palatable have occurred in the House of Lords, so it was good to have the opportunity last night to hear from Baroness (Judith) Jolly — at a Pizza and Politcs put on by Islington Liberal Democrats — her take on where we are at in the process. One element she stressed was the way that competition based on price (as originally proposed by Lansley) has been succesfully replaced by the concept of a an agreed price for which providers would then compete on the basis of quality of delivery. There is also now much more emphasis on the patient, though more progress still needs to be made. Judith had good experience working with health trusts before being elevated to the peerage last year and is therefore up to speed on much of the detail. But as I pointed out in the discussion following her presentation, it is very difficult to get a persuasive case based on detail across on the doorstep. In the London Mayoral and GLA elections this May, the Labour Party is bound to attack the Liberal Democrats on the issue of NHS Reform, even though health is not a competence of the Mayor or Assembly. Judith’s points were subtle and nuanced, but London politics is neither. I suspect the Labour approach will be like a twin-bored shotgun, with the two pithy criticisms: that the Coalition is destroying the NHS, and that it is privatising the NHS. Neither accusation in its blunt form is true. Health care will still be free at the point of delivery. And the opening up of parts of the service to private elements was in fact initiated by Labour. But we Liberal Democrats need equally pithy messages to refute Labour’s distorted charges. And we need them quickly.

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Paul Burstow’s Mental Health and Social Care

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 3rd September, 2011

Since the tuition fees debacle, the one policy area that has been giving Liberal Democrats in the Coalition Government most grief has been the whole area of Health Service reforms. Andrew Lansley, the Conservative Secretary of State, unveiled a set of radical proposals which were not in the Coalition agreement and which sent alarm bells ringing among LibDems, not least members of the Social Liberal Forum, who led a successful revolt at the Party’s 2011 spring conference. That then strengthened the hand of LibDem MPs and even Ministers to force a significant rethink, especially of those concepts which seemed to imply a degree of competitive tendering in the free market which  opponents were able to portray as privatisation by the back door. Anyway, the Bill in its revised form is much less scary, according to the man who ought to know: the LibDem junior Health Minister, Paul Burstow, who was guest speaker at a lasagne and poilitics event at Orpington Liberal Club this evening. Paul stressed that the new policies the Government wishes to bring in will help integrate health and social services, will end the Cinderella status of mental health (which is a cause Nick Clegg has been promoting personally) and addresses the elephant in the room, i.e. how to fund future long-term care for an increasingly geriatric population. Paul accepted the point made by one party member this evening that the British Medical Association has opposed many of the proposed reforms, but he rightly countered that the BMA has a record of opposing change, including the original establishment of the NHS. LibDems have reason to be proud of what the Party has achieved in government, he said — a refrain that is increasingly being heard from LibDem Ministers, but it is worth repeating, especially when it is backed up by the evidence shown by comparing what was in the LibDem 2010 Manifesto and how much of that is now government policy.


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Paul Burstow and Health Integration

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 8th May, 2011

The mood as well as the weather was sunny in Victoria Lubbock’s garden in Hackney this afternoon. After all, that London borough produced the highest vote in favour of AV of anywhere in the country on Thursday. Moreover, in London there were no local elections, so Liberal Democrats in the capital aren’t feeling quite as wounded as in some other parts of the UK, though frustrated at the results. Besides, the Hackney local party had organised a splendid debate on the NHS reforms between Health Minister Paul Burstow and Prateek Buch of the Social Liberal Forum, the still relatiuvely new group within the Party that is pushing for a more assertive social liberal approach to the Party’s involvement in the government. In fact, at the Sheffield LibDem Spring Conference, key figures from the Social Liberal Forum were at the forefront of the debate that resulted in substantial amendments to the NHS Bill currently under consideration. The movers of that motion accepted the amendments and again today there was considerable room for agreement and negotiation between the positions set out by the two speakers. Paul particularly stressed his key concern of the integration of the NHS and social care; mental health in particular has not always received the attention it merits. I am sure there will be some quite vigorous arguments when the Social Liberal Forum holds its conference at City University in London on 18 June.


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A Sunny Sunday for Fairer Votes

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 11th April, 2011

I spent much of yesterday out in the sun campaigning for a Yes vote in the 5 May referendum, first leafleting in Brick Lane in my home borough of Tower Hamlets and later in Paul Burstow’s constituency of Sutton and Cheam. With no local elections taking place in London next month — unlike almost the whole of the rest of the country — actually getting people to turn out to vote is going to be a challenge, which makes it all the more important to sign people up for postal votes in London. The turnout of postal voters is considerably higher than the average, especially in a referendum like this. But it is dismaying that there has been such little coverage of the referendum in the national media so far, as this is one of the most significant potential constitutional changes for a generation. The ‘No’ campaign has been coming up with some pretty spurious arguments, including the insulting claim that AV is too complicated for voters in England to understand. The truth is that it is as simple as 1, 2, 3… and it should help end the phenomonenon of complacent MPs and parliamentary seats for life.


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Charles Kennedy’s Cheerful Descent on Sutton

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 11th July, 2009

Charles Kennedy 3Charles Kennedy flew down from sunny Glasgow today to be the guest speaker at Sutton LibDems’ annual garden party (held as usual in the spacious garden of Jayanta Chaterjee), accompanied by his wife Sarah and their young son Donald. The rain more or less held off and there was plenty to be cheerful about, in particular Gerry Jerome’s win in the recent Nonsuch ward by-election, which I blogged about the other day, and the swing from the Conservatives to the Liberal Democrats in the borough in last month’s Euro-elections. Charles has held his seat in Parliament for 26 years, which is only three years longer than the LibDems have been controlling Sutton Council. The borough is a prime Tory target in next year’s London local elections, as are Sutton’s two parliamentary seats, Sutton & Cheam and Carshalton & Wallington, currently held by Paul Burstow and Tom Brake. However, as Charles said, incumbency is a great asset, especially for hard-working LibDem MPs. Nonetheless, the Conservatives have reportedly been spending three times as much money as the LibDems campaigning in the borough in the hope of unseating both MPs. In this regard, it will be interesting to see how the parliamentary vote on the funding of political parties goes next week, which could lead to the barring of donations from non-domiciles, which may or may not include the Conservative party’s sugar daddy, Lord Ashcroft (up until now, he has refused to disclose his tax status, despite saying that he would move formally to England when he was granted his peerage). And then there is the Cameron factor, at first so dazzling, but now looking a bit lack-lustre. The verdict of the neighbourhood’s local peer, Graham Tope, on David Cameron: ‘a supercilious git.’


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