Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Sunday Telegraph’

1989 The Berlin Wall: My Part in Its Downfall

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 11th September, 2009

Peter Millar book coverAs the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall approaches, the bookshops are filling up with commemorative and interpretative volumes. One of the most welcome is Peter Millar’s 1989 The Berlin Wall: My Part in Its Downfall (Arcadia Books, £11.99), which will be launched at the Frontline Club in London on 1 October. Peter followed me from Oxford into Reuters at the news agency’s old Fleet Street offices and then as the baby in the set-up in the International Press Centre in Brussels, though he lasted longer than I did. I resigned while still in Brussels when I received my first book contract  (for The Great Wall of China), whereas he went on to work for Reuters in East Berlin and then Moscow, before moving over to the Sunday Telegraph and then the Sunday Times.

We didn’t meet up in East Berlin when he was posted there, though I was going in and out of the place frequently at the time, visiting Quakers and other people involved in what became the Swords into Ploughshares movement which was the forerunner of civil unrest that would eventually see the edifice of DDR authority collapse like a house of cards. By the time 1989 came round, I was at Bush House as a sort of ‘rest of the world’ commentator for the BBC World Service and at times rather envied those who could concentrate on the disintegration of European communism. I did go to Berlin again shortly after the Wall came down, however. Rather than  bringing back a chunk of that graffiti-daubed monument, I bought a very fetching Soviet sailor´s cap for US$1 from a tipsy Russian instead.

Peter Millar’s book — whose title is a deliberate nod of homage to the late, great Spike Milligan — is full of telling anecdote and seamlessly blends autobiography with historical reportage. There are a few go0od laughs, but much of the tale is suitably serious. There was indeed euphoria on the night of 9 November 1989, as the Wall was breached — I shed a tear of joy myself, watching the scenes on TV at home in London — but there was anguish too. Peter was able to smile wrily at some details he later discovered in his Stasi files. But for many of my friends and colleagues, what they then found out about the system they had been forced to live under for so many years was in many cases even more traumatising than what they had imagined.



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Thank you, Sunday Telegraph…

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 8th February, 2009

… for confirming in your ICM poll in today’s newspaper what I’ve been picking up on doorsteps in London and from the local election results nationwide in recent weeks: the Liberal Democrats, far from being a busted flush, are enjoying a surge in support, as New Labour loses credibility — locally, nationally and above all internationally. The great British public has rumbled to the fact that Gordon ‘Prudence’ Brown is a plonker, and that David Cameron, for all his superficial charm, cannot garner the support of a majority of the British electorate. So there we have it, according to the ICM poll: a very fluid political solution, with the LibDems on 22%, just six per cent behind Labour, and everything to play for. One poll does not signal a vast political shift (just as one swallow does not signal the arrival of spring), but this Sunday Telegraph poll reflects the reality on the ground. Which makes things all very interesting for the Euro-elections in June and in the county council elections, for those who have them.

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