Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Sunday Times’

May Go? Might Go? Must Go!

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 18th June, 2017

Theresa May 11According to the Sunday Times, Conservative MPs have told Prime Minister Theresa May she has 10 days to prove herself before they ditch her. Frankly, that is 10 days too long. It’s not just that she ran the worst election campaign in living memory. Or her inability to have human contact with people, including after the terrible Grenfell Tower disaster. The sad truth is that Mrs May is a liability, not just for the Tory Party but for the country, which is far more serious. In the face of all logic she has insisted that Britain’s talks with our 27 EU partners about Brexit should start as planned tomorrow, despite the fact that the government’s position is totally unclear. On the Continent the UK has become a laughing stock, with a pig-headed woman of little political ability in No 10 and a clown for a Foreign Secretary. What makes this situation tragic rather than comic is that our EU partners really want to have a good, ongoing relationship with Britain, ideally within the EU, but if not, then at least within the European Single Market and Customs Union. But Mrs May and the hardline wing of her party are ruling that out, as are, shamefully, Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell of the Labour so-called Opposition. Philip Hammond, the Chancellor of Exchequer, is bravely trying to be a voice for reason inside the Cabinet, and there are a large number of MPs within both major parties, as well as of course the Liberal Democrats, SNP and Greens, trying to stop the lemming-like rush over the cliff edge of a Hard Brexit. The task for them now is to unite across party lines to resist the May Brexit national suicide cult. Might May go within the next 10 days? If the Conservatives have backbone they will indeed topple her. But whatever the political method used, May must go — and now!

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Britain Right to Target FIFA’s Blatter

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 31st May, 2015

imageimageThe fact that Sepp Blatter’s re-election as President of FIFA failed to get a winning two-thirds plurality on the first round goes to show that a growing number of countries’ football bodies are unhappy at the way the pugnacious Swiss has presided over years of corruption and shady dealings. Though he is not one of the senior FIFA officials currently under investigation by the US Attorney General and the FBI, he should have accepted that the buck stopped with him, meriting his resignation. Instead, his challenger, Prince Ali bin Hussein of Jordan, withdrew instead of pushing the vote to a second round. The margin was too great to overcome, as so many countries around the world that have benefitted from FIFA’s largesse (including, allegedly, bribes and kickbacks to their soccer officials) were bound to give Blatter their support, as did France, shamefully. Russian President Vladimir Putin sent a warm congratulatory message to Blatter on his getting a fifth five-year term. Two of a kind, I can’t help thinking. I was pleased to see the UK Minister for Culture, Media and Sport, John Whittingdale, come out very strongly against Blatter’s FIFA reign in the Sunday Times today, and that newspaper’s long investigation into FIFA’s dodgy side deserves applause. Blatter himself observed snidely that Britain has sour grapes because it did not win either of the two forthcoming World Cup slots, but this only goes to show how out of tune he is with universal morality. Qatar did get one of those fixtures, in a still controversial decision.

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London Shows Its European Colours

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 30th March, 2014

London in EuropeOne should never read too much into one opinion poll, but the YouGov figures researched for the Sunday Times today are a shot in the arm for pro-Europeans in London. They show that the capital’s voters are quite distinct from those in most of the other English regions, by putting UKIP in fourth place behind the Liberal Democrats and the LibDems at around twice their national opinion poll rating. The results are as follows: LAB 34%, CON 22%, LD 18%, UKIP 16%, Grn 7%, Others 2%. Though one cannot predict with absolute certainty the outcome of that under the d’Hondt system of PR used in the European elections (variables being the actual number of votes cast for each party and the total number of votes “wasted” on tiny parties that don’t win a seat), nonetheless were those percentages replicated on 22 May, instead of the current situation in London of 3 Tory MEPs, 2 Labour, 1 LibDem, 1 UKIP, 1 Green, there could be 3 Labour, 2 Tory, 2 LibDem and one UKIP (and no Green). That certainly gives the Liberal Democrats in London a reason to get their adrenalin flowing, and it would confirm what I have increasingly felt over the past couple of years that a majority of London’s population realise that it is not in Britain’s interest to leave the EU, as UKIP wants and the Conservatives appear to be engineering almost by default. Many Londoners have jobs that depend to varying degrees on British membership of the EU and of course the very substantial number of EU migrants living and working in the capital must realise that it is in their interest that Britain stays in and fully signed up to the core principle of labour mobility within the EU. All EU citizens resident in London can vote in both the local and European elections, in the latter instance providing they sign a form saying they won;t vote in their home country. I believe Nick Clegg called it absolutely correctly by making the Liberal Democrats the Party of IN. In fact, we always were, but the party centrally was nervous about saying so. Now we can be out and proud for Britain in the EU, championing the argument that it is good for British jobs and for our place in the world. But we have to motivate those who agree with us to actually vote!

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Tories Still Stand for Hereditary Privilege

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 23rd January, 2010

David Cameron likes to make out that the Conservative Party has changed, thazt it is no longer the party of wealth and privilege (despite the social and educational background and financial status of so many of its MPs and key parliamentary candidates). But now the cat is out of the bag. As reported in the current issue of the Sunday Times newspaper, the Conservatives are trying to scupper government plans to phase out the 90 or so remaining hereditary members of the House of Lords — peers who have a say in shaping UK legislation for no other reason than their ancestry. It is, of course, mere coincidence that most of the remaining hereditaries are Conservatives. Dominic Grieve, the Shadow Justice Secretary, bleats that the hereditaries play ‘an important role’ in the work of the House of Lords. Some of them doubtless do, but that’s not the point. Britain is meant to be a democracy, but the continued presence of so many hereditaries — and the system by which they are replaced when they die off  — are more appropriate for the 18th rather than the 21st century.

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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.

Link: www.arcadiabooks.co.uk

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Blair Should Not Be EU President

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 19th July, 2009

Tony Blair 1It is looking increasingly likely that the Irish will vote ‘yes’ in the re-run of their referendum on the Lisbon Treaty in the autumn, which means that the Treaty could be operational before the end of the year. Among the various important implications of that is the replacement of the cumbersome six-month rotating presidency of the EU Council of Ministers (currently held by Sweden) with a so-called ‘permanent’ president — an individual who could serve a maximum of two two-and-a-half year terms. The thinking behind this is that this will give more continuity to decision-making by the Council and could attract a person of high calibre who would have significant standing on the world stage (which is why the Euro-sceptics hate the whole idea).

The good news is that Britain’s Labour government has embraced the notion of an EU President warmly. The bad news is that they are promoting the candidacy of former Prime Minister Tony Blair. One had hoped that the campaign for  ‘Blair for President of Europe’ (as the job has been inaccurately described) was dead in the water, having been mooted long ago. But Gordon Brown and his colleagues have been injecting new blood into it; ironic, when one considers that the Brown government is itself on its last legs. Once again, Labour is ignoring public opinion, just as Blair himself turned a deaf ear to public opinion when he led Britain into the Iraq War.

According to a YouGov poll in the Sunday Times, only 28% of people interviewed thought it would be good for Britain if Tony Blair got the EU presidential job, whereas 54% believed that it would be mainly good for Tony Blair, not the country. John Rentoul, writing in the Independent on Sunday, is right to note that the polling question was pretty loaded. Nonetheless, from soundings I have been taking, the message is clear: most Britons do not want to see Tony Blair in the post. It’s not just that they haven’t forgiven him for Iraq. It’s also because he seems to be collecting titles and positions and fat salaries and fees galore without achieving great results in any one field. I was always sceptical that he could deliver anything significant in the cause of Middle East peace, on behalf of the Quartet, or that he would be perceived as an impartial mediator there, but even I have been suprised just how invisible his impact has been in the region. Meanwhile, he has been raking in the millions with lecturing and publishing deals. Let him get on with that and keep him out of the EU presidency. Blair in that job would harm not just Britain’s interests, but the interests of the whole EU.

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Red and Green Woes in Euro-poll

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 10th May, 2009

Euro-election posterThe first opinion poll relating to the European elections since nominations closed appeared in today’s Sunday Times. It makes interesting reading, though depressing for Labour and the Greens. In response to the question ‘How will you vote in the June 4 European elections?’, 37% said Conservative, 22% Labour, 19% Liberal Democrat and 7% UKIP. All the other parties registered 5% or less. If such a pattern were reflected in London, Labour would lose one of their three MEPs, the Greens’ Jean Lambert would be out, and I would come in as a second LibDem MEP. Intriguingly, this mirrors almost exactly the predictive poll calculated by Marsh and Hix a few weeks ago. The proof of the pudding will be in the eating, however — though this poll should encourage LibDem activists to go out and campaign. Today I was out and about with local teams in Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest and the mood was certainly upbeat.

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