Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 9th December, 2012
Sutton is rightly hailed as London Liberal Democrats’ flagship council but of course the borough was put on the map politically some years before the (then) Liberal-SDP Alliance actually won control (on the Mayor’s casting vote). Indeed, 40 years ago the parliamentary constituency of Sutton and Cheam hit the headlines when young Graham Tope — at that time characterised by his cruel glasses and wicked sideburns — seized the seat from the Tories in a by-election on at 32.6% swing. I was in my final year at university at the time but remember the subsequent Liberal euphoria well. As was rightly recognised at a 40th anniversary buffet dinner at the Sutton Life Centre last evening, the Sutton & Cheam by-election was the first time Trevor Jones from Liverpool put into practice his concept of community politics — which meant pounding the streets to identify local issues and then trumpeting them in regular Focus leaflets — including the scary example illustrated here. Focuses are such old hat these days that it’s hard to imagine the huge impact this technique had. The Conservatives didn’t know what had hit them and Graham became not just a local celebrity but a national one too. Alas he was unable to hold the seat in the February 1974 general election, but he went on to become Leader of Sutton Council, a Member of theHouse of Lords, a London Assembly member and one of the Liberal Democrat representatives on the EU’s Committee of the Regions, at one time simultaneously. Apparently he can, like Margaret Thatcher, get by on very little sleep — though there the similarities end. Anyway, it was a splendid occasion last night, free of pomp but full of good humour and enlivened with tributes to Graham from a variety of people who have served with him in various guises, including Lynne Featherstone MP, (Baroness) Sally Hamwee, (Baroness) Sarah Ludford MEP and former Sutton Council leader Sean Brennan. There was even some audio-visual entertainment, including a replay of the 1974 election night TV coverage, which included a nice potted portrait of the man.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: Focus leaflets, Graham Tope, Liberal Democrats, Lynne Featherstone, Sally Hamwee, Sarah Ludford, Sean Brennan, Sutton and Cheam, Sutton Council, Sutton Life Centre, Trevor Jones | Leave a Comment »
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)
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: Brian Paddick, Canary Wharf, Caroline Pidgeon, East Wintergarden, Ed Davey, Jill Fraser, London Liberal Democrats, Merlene Emerson, Mike Tuffrey, Pauline Pearce, Pete Dollimore, Quilliam Foundation, Sally Hamwee, Sarah Ludford, Simon Hughes, Susan Kramer, Tom Brake | Leave a Comment »
Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 8th September, 2011
The National Liberal Club was awash with LibDems this evening, some for the Haringey local party’s annual dinner (at whose pre-dinner drinks Nick Clegg appeared and answered questions), others for the Thank You party for London Region’s longstanding Administrator, Flick Rea, who retired at the end of June — and a few, like myself, who were there for both. I hosted Flick’s ‘do’, at which former London Chair Brian Orrell (who hired her) and current regional President, (Baroness) Sally Hamwee, spoke and of course Flick herself contributed in her own inimitable way. We weren’t treated to a fair dose of her legendary Mrs Thatcher impression, but she did give us a nice taste of her irreverent but dedicated, even loving, attitude to the regional party. As I said in my own brief remarks, we are not saying farewell to her, for although she may no longer be working for the party, she is still a Councillor in Camden and will doubtless continue supporting its development, fortified with liberal helpings of her justly infamous port wine jelly.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: Brian Orrell, Camden, Flick Rea, Haringey Liberal Democrats, London Liberal Democrats, National Liberal Club, Nick Clegg, Sally Hamwee | 2 Comments »
Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 28th November, 2009
Like many Liberal Democrats, I was deeply fond of Conrad Russell (1937-2004). When his slightly shambolic figure, dressed in a grubby overcoat and carrying his papers in a plastic carrier bag, hove into view, one knew that one was in for an intellectual feast as soon as he opened his mouth. The Chamber of the House of Lords would fill up when the 5th Earl Russell rose to speak. He was an eminent historian, notably of the 17th century, but he had his feet firmly planted in the contemporary world as well. He cared deeply about injustice and poverty and social exclusion, lacing his erudition with compassion and wit. So it was fitting this evening that a goodly crowd gathered to remember him at a memorial dinner organised by his younger son, John (a LibDem Councillor in Lewisham), in the Lloyd George Room (‘Lloyd George jailed my father,’ quipped Conrad) in the National Liberal Club. The keynote speaker was the historian and TV ‘personality’ David Starkey, who gave a predictably bravura performance, basically arguing that Conrad marked the end of an age. Dr Starkey was not at all complimentary about the standard of the current membership of the Upper Chamber, despite the fact that Baroness (Sally) Hamwee was sitting by his side. I’m not sure that some of Conrad’s progeny would have welcomed David Starkey’s claim that Conrad would have been an incomprehensible phenomenon except as a noble, an aristocrat. But he deployed his arguments with such sly humour, rhetoric and trademark camp arrogance that one surrendered to the bonhommie of the occasion, the good food and wine — and pondered how much Conrad would have savoured the prospect of the LibDems’ great surge in Lewisham in 2010.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: 5th Earl Russell, Conrad Russell, Councillor John Russell, David Lloyd George, David Starkey, Lewisham Liberal Democrats, Liberal Democrats, National Libera Club, Sally Hamwee | Leave a Comment »