Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Sarah Teather’

Richmond Park up and Running

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 27th October, 2016

richmond-park-byelectionYesterday afternoon I went to the Richmond Park and North Kingston LibDem HQ in Mortlake to collect a couple of delivery rounds and was pleased later to learn that a hundred other people passed through the doors during the course of the day. With polling announced for 1 December, this is likely to be the fiercest-fought by-election since Brent East in 2003, at which the LibDems’ Sarah Teather snatched the seat from Labour. On that occasion, the LibDems benefited from the fact that the campaign was long drawn out, enabling the party to gain momentum. That is unlikely to be the case in Richmond Park, yet this new by-election does offer a potentially perfect storm. The Conservative government has announced plans to build a third runway at Heathrow Airport, in the face of strong local opposition, and although Zac Goldsmith has resigned as MP to fight as an Independent anti-Heathrow candidate the Conservative Party is not going to field a candidate against him, underlining the fact that he is a Conservative and therefore cannot escape blame for what the government is doing. Interestingly, UKIP is not going to oppose him either, which highlights the fact that Goldsmith is an arch-Brexiteer — unlike three quarters of the constituency’s electorate. This inevitably means that Brexit and the Conservative government’s incompetent handling of the whole sad business is going to be central to the by-election campaign. As this is a seat that the LibDems held until 2010, we can expect the windows and gardens of Richmond Park and North Kingston to become a sea of LibDem yellow over the next few weeks — and battalions of party activists pounding he streets and knocking on doors. This is most definitely one to watch.

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All in a Lather over Teather

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 8th September, 2013

Sarah TeatherThe UK political twittersphere has been in overdrive over the past 24 hours regarding the announced departure from the House of Commons of the Brent Central MP Sarah Teather (LibDem) at the next General Election. I waited until I had the opportunity to read and ponder upon the interview-based article that was the lead story in today’s Observer before putting fingers to keyboard here. Sarah’s frustration has been obvious for some time, not only since she was effectively sacked as a junior Minister for Education. As a devout Catholic, she has strong moral views, some of which concur with mainstream Liberal thinking (for example on immigration), some of which don’t (most notably on equal marriage). On the latter, she would have been well-advised to abstain, rather than vote against; one could understand why she could not support something which was in conflict with religious teaching she holds to be true, but to vote to prevent a significant proportion of her electorate, and even more of her fellow LibDem members, the right to sanctify or formalise (however one might wish to describe it) their union was foolish, even cruel. Some of the flak she has received over this was also cruel; this cannot have helped her feeling of well-being, nor can the comments of Tory blogger Iain Dale and others mocking her unpreparedness for government. I have known Sarah for many years, long before she set foot in Brent and won that extraordinary by-election victory in Brent East. But of course, she did not do it alone. Many hundreds of LibDem activists, including myself, piled in while Tony Blair’s Labour government floundered around. It was interesting, but also sad, that a few weeks ago, when there was a London Liberal Democrats regional action day in Brent, the turnout was much lower than at similar events across the capital. I have no doubt that Sarah’s vote on equal marriage contributed to that. And what now? She obviously needs some time to think about what she can and should do with her life after May 2015. But she mustn’t be surprised if some of the people who did flog their guts out to get her elected 10 years ago feel aggrieved, particularly given the timing of her announcement just one week before the Liberal Democrat autumn conference in Glasgow . She has served the diverse community of Brent well on most things over the past decade. And if she had renewed her commitment to be a voice for social justice within Parliament, rather than throwing in the towel and implying that the Party had lost its principles (rather than facing up to the realities of Coalition government) she would have been better regarded. In any event, I sincerely wish her well.

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David Laws Passes the Test

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 25th January, 2013

David LawsDavid Laws is so much associated in the political class’s minds with economic issues that there were eyebrows raised in some quarters when his governmental comeback from the wilderness proved to be in Sarah Teather’s old job at Education. But any doubts about his passion for his new brief were dispelled last night when he addressed a wine and canapé reception put on by Camden Liberal Democrats at Swiss Cottage School. It was hardly his fault that he arrived an hour late; he had been stuck on a train coming down from North East England where he had been visiting some turn-around schools that have benefitted from the Pupil Premium. The Pupil Premium is one of the most successful innovations of the Coalition government — and the result of Liberal Democrat pressure — with the transformational ability to help children from disadvantaged backgrounds or with other problems that might formerly have condemned them to failure. It deserves to be better known; in my home borough of Tower Hamlets it has made a huge difference. So much for the Opposition’s fatuous claim that this government only cares for the rich. It is also thanks to the LibDems, of course, that lowest earners in our society are being taken out of income tax altogether. But back to David Laws, who sometimes gets tarred with the accusation from social Liberals that he is a pseudo-Tory. It’s true that he is probably the Conservatives’ favourite LibDem Minister, but that is in recognition of his undoubted intelligence and capability. What came over clearly in Swiss Cottage last night was that he is a man of compassion and radical zeal as well.

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474 to Win!

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 19th April, 2010

About a hundred enthusiastic people from Camden and Brent gathered at the Hampstead synagogue in Dennington Park Road, West Hampstead, last night, formally to adopt Ed Fordham as the Liberal Democrat candidate for the Hampstead and Kilburn constituency. These are heady days to be a LibDem, not least in a marginal seat such as Ed’s. There have been significant boundary changes since 2005, making Hampstead and Kilburn a far more attractive prospect; indeed, the mainstream media are agreed that Ed just has a notional Labour majority of 474 votes to overturn. Many local residents were surprised that the veteran actress Glenda Jackson decided to stand again as prospective MP for the area. And the fact that the new constituency takes in a big chunk of LibDem Sarah Teather’s old seat of Brent East is not likely to help Labour. Chirpy Tory Councillor Chris Philp is bravely maintaining he can win, but what is more likely is a squeeze on the Conservative vote. Besides, the Tory party’s recent statements on immigration and their ugly partnerships in the European Parliament are unappealing to an electorate, so many of whom have found sanctuary here in London from religious or political persecution in their places of origin. Navnit (Lord) Dholakia spoke movingly at Ed’s adoption meeting of his own 55 years in the Liberals/Liberal Democrats and the event was chaired by the neighbourhood peer, Sue, Baroness Garden of Frognal. Cleverly, the local association has capitalised on the 474 figure by asking people to donate £4.74 to the campaign (or £47.40, or £474 and so on, of course!).


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Why Is the LibDem Conference Still So Hideously White?

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 20th September, 2009

Floella BenjaminLast night’s opening rally at the Liberal Democrat Conference in Bournemouth was a far slicker affair than usual and was held in the main hall for once, which meant that at last there was enough room for everyone. Introduced by party president (Baroness) Ros Scott and compered by Sarah Teather MP (who made some pretty near-the-bone jokes about her outgoing colleague Mark Oaten), the event featured not only the current leader Nick Clegg but also his predecessor-but-one Charles Kennedy plus two strong black women: the TV presenter Floella Benjamin (a LibDem supporter in Streatham) and the feisty PPC for the target seat of Birmingham Perry Bar, Karen Hamilton. So big ticks for the party giving prominence not just to women but Afro-Caribbeans as well.

bournemouth_international_centreHowever, it cannot have escaped the notice of Floella and Karen that they were talking to a great sea of (albeit appreciative) white faces, with only a tiny scattering of other ethnicities represented among delegates. To borrow the famous phrase that Greg Dyke used about the BBC, the LibDem Conference is still hideously white. If the LibDems are ever to be a credible party of government, that has got  to change.

Sarah TeatherThe leadership is well aware of the problem and there are groups such as Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats (EMLD) who are tackling it head on. In London and some of the other major cities, there have been real successes in recruiting BME members and indeed getting them to stand successfully as councillors. A whole raft of parliamentary candidates in predominantly urban areas are now Asian or black. But somehow local parties don’t seem to have managed to ensure that their delegates to conference are as diverse as the communities they come from. Perhaps some ethnic minority members feel conference somehow isn’t for them. The party cannot afford to let any such impression persist.

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Shri Swaminarayan Mandir

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 26th April, 2009

shri-swaminarayan-mandir-murtiLast night, Nick Clegg, Sarah Teather MP, Sarah Ludford MEP, a group of Brent LibDem Councillors and I were guests the Sri Swaminarayan Mandir in Neasden — according to the Guinness Book of Records, the largest Hindu temple outside India. It’s certainly an impressive place. The main prayer hall seats over 2,000 people, though it is the smaller upstairs space housing the five sacred shrines that is the most inspiring, with its intricately carved Italian marble that was worked on by craftsmen in India, then shipped over to London to be assembled like a giant jigsaw. Opposite the temple is a high-achieving faith school, which follows the British curriculum.

Sarah Teather, as MP for Brent East, has built a strong working relationship with the Bachasanawasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS), the socio-spiritual organisation associated with the temple, in which the practice of volunteering is championed. There are only eleven employed people at the temple, as everything else is done by volunteers. Today, a sponsored walk will be setting out from its grounds, to raise money for charity.

In his speech to devotees at last night’s gathering in the main prayer hall, Nick congratulated the community — many of whose elders were expelled from East Africa in the 1970s — for its contributions to British society and its upholding of family values such as respect for the elderly, some of which he felt the rest of British society could usefully learn from.

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Ed Davey and Sarah Teather Go to Gaza

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 15th February, 2009

A six-strong British parliamentary delegation led by Richard Burden MP was waiting at the Erez checkpoint in Israel this morning for permission to cross into the Gaza Strip, on a fact-finding mission to assess the humanitarian situation there. The Liberal Democrats’ Shadow Foreign Secretary, Ed Davey, is in the group, as is his London colleague Sarah Teather and the Chairman of the parliamentary Labour Party, Tony Lloyd, plus fellow MPs Andy Slaughter and Martin Linton. The group’s visit has been facilitated by the Council for the Advancement of Arab-British Understanding (CAABU) and has been welcomed by numerous charities, including Save the Children, whose Chief Executive, Jasmine Whitbread, commented, ‘the danger is that people will forget as [Gaza] goes off our TV screens. But the families are still living in very difficult circumstances.’

Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine hopes to organise a ‘report back’ meeting in London after the MPs’ return.

Links: and

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Vince Cheers Sarah Teather’s Five Years

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 19th September, 2008

The multicultural annual dinners put on in Neasden by Brent Liberal Democrats have already become legendary events and last night’s was special, as it marked the fifth anniversary of the election of Sarah Teather in the Brent East by-election. Poor Sarah — who missed all of this week’s Bournemouth conference — is very much under the weather thanks to some bug she picked up on a recent visit to Nigeria, but she did bravely put in a mute presence at the dinner. This left guest speaker Vince Cable, the new Saga Star of British politics, to whip up enthusiasm among the party faithful, while fending off numerous calls from the media on his mobile phone. The entertainment this year was provided by a West Indian steel band, and a troupe of gymnastic latino salsa dancers performing Cuban hits. One could sense Vince’s suppressed desire to get up and join them, to hone his already considerable ballroom skills. One plucky 81-year-old local LibDem member did get transported by the music and discreetly did a jig of his own on the sidelines.

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Sarah un-Teathered

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 27th July, 2008

Sarah Teather was the guest of honour at the Holborn and St Pancras LibDem summer lunch today, in the home and garden of Camden councillor David Simmons and his wife, but she didn’t have to speak, which was probably a relief for both her and the guests who were lapping up the sun and the generous hospitality. It’s important that politicians have ‘time off’, even when they are at a political event, just to chat to people and enjoy themselves. Sarah Teather works her socks off as MP for Brent East — which is why she not only held her seat after the sensational 2003 by-election but actually increased her majority in 2005.

The neighbouring boroughs of Camden and Brent — alas not coupled as a GLA constiuency, otherwise the LibDems would be in a good position to win it — have seen a great swing to the Bird of Liberty in recent years. As has been well trumpeted, that makes the new seat of Hampstead and Kilburn very interesting for LibDem candidate Ed Fordham. The Tories see it as  three-way marginal, but after boundary changes, the figures make it a close fight between Labour and the LibDems. Moreover, given Labour’s unpopularity, Frank ‘Father Christmas’ Dobson’s Holborn and St Pancras is also highly winnable — which is why the young barrister candidate Jo Shaw is working her socks off, a la Teather, too.


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Winning Hampstead and Kilburn

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 21st June, 2008

A general election may be almost two years away, but in target parliamentary seats, preparations are underway in earnest. In London nowhere is that more the case than in the new seat of Hampstead and Kilburn, which is made up of most of the current seat of Hampstead and Highgate — held by the Brownite Labour MP, Glenda Jackson — and a slice of Sarah Teather’s Brent East. In the new seat, there are notionally only 474 votes between Labour and the LibDems, but when one looks at the local election picture, it is much more stark for the government: 20 LibDem councillors, 9 Tories and a sole Labour one. This all means a fierce fight to come.

Today, the constituency LibDems held an ‘Away-day’ at the friendly and tasty food-wise William IV gastropub in Kensal Green (right opposite the cemetery where Oscar Wilde’s mother, the Irish nationalist Speranza, is buried), at which the briefings included a presentation by Mark Pack, who was Lynne Featherstone’s field commander in the successful campaign to win Horney and Wood Green in 2005. If Ed Fordham and his team fail to emulate that success in 2010 (or whenever), it won’t be through lack of trying.  

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