Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Southwark’

What Next, Sir Simon?

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 13th June, 2015

Simon Hughes 2In general I don’t really favour titles and honours, but I can’t help but feel pleased by the award of a knighthood to Simon Hughes. It’s a tribute to the way he served the people of Bermondsey and the surrounding area for 32 years. I well remember an evening meeting of the old Liberal Party’s Europe committee, held at the National Liberal Club, a few years before his first election, when Simon announced that he was leaving the committee to go south of the river, at the urging of our mutual friend and mentor David Rebak, to try to convert the corrupt Labour borough of Southwark to Liberalism. Indeed, off he went and in he dug, and when the controversial parliamentary by-election came up in 1983, he won it with a huge majority — and then held the seat (despite various boundary and name changes) for over three decades. He was the ultimate constituency MP, tireless in his handling of case-work. Canvassing for him in various elections was a pleasure because local people clearly loved him and were grateful for what he had done for them. Alas, he was swept away in last month’s electoral tsunami, helped partly by the rapid turnover of population in that gentrifying part of London. Simon previously stood unsuccessfully for the leadership of the Liberal Democrats and as London’s Mayor; I supported him strongly in both instances, and I hope he won’t take those failures (or his recent parliamentary defeat) as a sign that he should give up. He still has a great deal to offer the Party, London and the country. So when he has had time over the summer to recover and relax and start making decisions and his future, I hope we will find him bouncing back in the quest of some new role.

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Matthew Oakeshott Keeps the Faith

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 14th July, 2013

Matthew OakeshottSince standing down as Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman in the House of Lords in 2011 after describing the Coalition Government’s Project Merlin as “pitiful”, Matthew Oakeshott has made full use of his political freedom. Journalists and broadcasters often turn to him for a meaty quote and he has starred on BBC1’s Question Time. Having worked closely with the late Roy Jenkins he is a keen European and he had early working experience in Kenya. Despite being an investment manager he is often identified as being on the left, or at least Social Democratic, wing of the Party. He also does his fair share of the rubber chicken circuit, though certainly that would be an unjust description of the splendid Dulwich and West Norwood LibDems’ garden party this afternoon, all of whose funds raised were dedicated to the Evelina Children’s Hospital Appeal. In his short speech, as guest of honour, Matthew urged activists present to Keep the Faith in next year’s combined European and London borough elections. Being in coalition with the Conservatives was never going to be easy, but it was the right thing to do and there have been several major Liberal Democrat wins — for example the raised tax threshold — which would never have happened if a purely Conservative government were in office. Matthew lives in Lambeth and there is of course close cooperation between LibDems in Southwark and Lambeth (which together form a GLA constituency). Moreover, it was clear from conversation with councillors present this afternoon that the current Labour administrations in both boroughs deserve criticism. Mainstream political parties in general have been haemorrhaging  members over the past few years, but with just 10 months to go till polling day it is vital LibDems get out on the doorstep and sell what we have been doing and what we have to offer.

Link: http://southwark-libdems.org.uk

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Boris the Boricua

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 6th December, 2011

London Mayor Boris Johnson this evening had his fifth meeting with the capital’s Ibero-American community, i.e. the Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking populace, who are thought to number about 700,000 in the city, and over one million in Britain as a whole. As a warm-up act, those of us (including several Ambassadors) who had gathered in one of the large meeting halls of Senate House, University of London, were entertained with an interesting power-point presentation which highlighted those areas where the community is strongest, including Southwark and Lambeth (mainly Hispanic Americans and Portuguese), Brent (Brazilians) and Tottenham (a bit of everything). Isaac Bigio, the indefatigible Peruvian journalist and Ibero-American community activist who has been one of the prime movers in getting this section of London’s diverse population politically motivated, gave an amusing stream-of-conscious style introduction to Boris, claiming that because the Mayor had been born in a Puerto Rican trust hospital in New York (true), his parents had called him Boris, as a nod to boricua (which is what PR natives call themselves). That got a big laugh and a round of applause, but Boris himself — who is not so much a Mayor as a performance — provided an alternative and rather moving explanation, which was that he was called Boris after a man who had known his parents when they were living in Mexico and who had stumped up the airfare to New York so the pregnant Charlotte Johnson (a painter whom I knew in Brussels, along with her husband Stanley) could give birth in the comparative safety of the United States. Boris — who is the spitting image of his father, even down to his voice and intonation — was his usual charming bafoon self, mixing overtly political points with wild gestures, sighs and outrageous exclamations. One of his more challenging over-the-top statements was that we Londoners are now ‘going through a neo-Victorian period of investment in our city,’ which offers great prospects for progress and infrastructure. If he uses that line much in the run-up to next May’s elections, I’m sure his opponents will be quick to point out that whereas the Victorian age was wonderful for capitalists and professionals, life for much of the urban poor was pretty dire.

Link: www.aibam.org

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London’s European Election Results

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 9th June, 2009

London City HallNow that the dust has settled, one can take a rational view of the outcome of the European elections in London. The most striking thing for me is the way that Labour’s vote in the capital proved remarkably resilient, compared with the party’s performance in most of the rest of the country. Though they did lose one seat (almost inevitable with the reduction in the number of London seats from nine to eight), Labour retained a very strong second place. Moreover, they held on to a local council seat in a concurrent by-election in Prince’s ward, Lambeth, despite a swing there to the Liberal Democrats.

European flagsThe Conservatives proved once again that they are good at getting their vote out. They were obviously well organised, not only in strongholds such as Barnet and Bromley, but also in target boroughs such as Tower Hamlets. The Tories may not have much time for the European Union, but they certainly took these election seriously, treating them as a dry-run for the forthcoming general election and building up in areas in which they hope to make gains in the London local council elections next year.

In principle, the Liberal Democrats were doing the same. And indeed, this strategy worked well in held and target seats, which got plenty of literature and had concerted campaigns, including telephone knocking-up of postal voters and on polling day. The LibDems therefore performed strongly in the south-western ‘golden triangle’ of Richmond, Kingston and Sutton, excellently in Haringey, well in Camden, Lambeth (Streatham), Brent, Southwark, Islington etc, though apparently haemorrhaging some votes to the Greens. Up-and-coming boroughs like Waltham Forest did well in parts. But the black holes — mainly in the east and south east — fared poorly. An unavoidable challenge for the party in dealing with future London-wide PR election will be to build support and accurate data in boroughs such as Barking and Dagenham, Havering and Bexley. Interestingly, the BNP did best in those three boroughs, though overall the BNP vote was slightly down on its GLA percentage last year and the party came nowhere near winning a seat.

European parliament logoUKIP sank to fifth place, behind the Greens, though still hanging on to one MP. The Greens were justifiably pleased with their performance, though they still only got a little over 10 per cent, well below what some of the opinion polls were suggesting. London voters were spoilt for choice when it came to parties and independents to whom they could allocate a protest vote. Amongst the ragbag of little parties and independents, the one that stands out most is the Tamil independent, Jan Jananayagam, who garnered over 50,000 votes in a ballot-box extension of the Parliament Square demonstrations. It is interesting (though futile!) to speculate how the results might have been different in places with large Tamil communities, such as Sutton and Brent, had she not stood.

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