Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Susan Kramer’

David Walter’s Thanksgiving Service

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 27th June, 2012

The breadth and depth of friendship and affection for the late broadcaster and Liberal Democrat activist David Walter was on view this afternoon when St Bride’s Church, Fleet Street, was packed by family, friends and former colleagues, remembering one of the kindest and most intelligent of men (a rare combination). So many people came that the berobed ushers spent much of the first 20 minutes on tiptoes bringing in extra chairs. The service itself was a charming balance of religious and secular, reverent and irreverent, in keeping with David’s character. Traditional hymns such as ‘Come Down, O Love Divine’ and ‘Praise, My Soul, The King of Heaven’ shared the bill with Ralph Vaughan Williams’s ‘The Turtle Dove’ and the tongue-twisting Gilbert and Sullivan ‘I Am The Very Model of a Modern Major General’. The justly renowned St Bride’s choir did us all proud; Bainton’s ‘And I saw a New Heaven’ was indeed heavenly. Patrick Worsnip gamely read, in ancient Greek, ‘The Playmaker’ from Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations, in recognition of David’s classical erudition, while David’s daughter Natalie joined fellow Royal Shakespeare Company actors Kathryn Drysdale and Mark Hadfield in a spirited extract from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. There were three addresses, the first fittingly by David’s son Pete, who spoke of the night he had spent with his father in hospital near the end, during which he had learnt many things about David he never knew. Sir Trevor Macdonald concentrated on David’s professional integrity, his modesty and the extraordinary fact within the broadcasting profession that David never had an unkind word to say about anyone. Finally, (Baroness) Susan Kramer spoke of the way that David had touched various Liberal Democrat politicians’ lives. When she choked slightly towards the end, we all choked with her. But Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy’ — the anthem of the European cause that was so dear to David’s heart — lifted our spirits and prepared us for the merry wake round the corner at the Press House Wine Bar.

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London Liberal Democrats’ Spring Conference

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)

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Mulling over Cameron’s Misguided Move

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 11th December, 2011

This Sunday is traditionally the time when Liberal Democrats in London stop writing Focus leaflets and do a bit of festive socialising as a reward for working hard all year round. And today the parties did indeed take place — I attended a lunch put on in Barnes by the local branch, then a mulled wine and mince party in Hornsey — but the conversation at both was highly political. This is not just because two elections are due to take place next Thursday: the parliamentary contest in Feltham and Heston (where I ran into Ken Livingstone and a posse of Labour MPs, including my local MP Jim Fitzpatrick, while I was out delivering yesterday) and a double local council by-election in the Coombe Vale ward of Kingston borough. Most LibDem members, including me, are furious at the way David Cameron mishandled the Brussels EU Summit, pandering to his Eurosceptics but marginalising Britain in the process. The Tory Little Emglanders will doubtless cheer him to the rafters when he addresses the House of Commons tomorrow, but I hope LibDem MPs will blow him a giant raspberry. Certainly the comments from Nick Clegg, Vince Cable, Lord (Paddy) Ashdown and others have been pretty strong, as have the criticisms from the UK LibDem MEPs, most significantly Sharon Bowles. At the Barnes event this lunchtime, Susan Kramer — until 2010 the local MP and now a highly valued member of the House of Lords (as well as being President-elect of London Liberal Democrats) — gave an excellent short summary of what happened at the summit and its possible consequences. In Hornsey, local MP and Home Office junior Minister Lynne Featherstone preferred to concentrate more on the very real ‘wins’ on equality issues which the LibDems have managed to obtain since going into government. But most of us will be going to bed tonight thinking more of the big losses to Britain’s standing in the world that our misguided Conservative Prime Minister has inflicted on us.

[Photo shows blogger Mark Pack, Lynne Featherstone MP, Enfeld and Haringey GLA candidate Dawn Barnes and JF]

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No Rest for London LibDems

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 3rd October, 2010

Rather like buses, special elections have the unfortunate habit of arriving in pairs. That situation is occuring again in London this month, with the (first ever) Tower Hamlets Mayoral election on 21 October and a Kentish Town, Camden, council by-election one week later. There was an action weekend in Bethnal Green this weekend, with a steady stream of helpers both from within the borough and from afar — including former Richmond Park MP and candidate for Party presidency, Susan Kramer, and her near neighbour, Merlene Emerson, Chair of Chinese Liberal Democrats (both pictured) — to boost the Tower Hamlets campaign. The LibDem mayoral candidate, John Griffiths (‘JohnG4Mayor’) is getting good media coverage, including on ethnic minority TV channels, and tomorrow morning will be welcoming the party’s leader on the London Assembly (GLA), Caroline Pidgeon, to Whitechapel. Meanwhile, Camden LibDems — who have far more than their fair share of council by-elections in recent years (fortunately winning most of them) — are fielding Nick Russell as their candidate in Kentish Town ward, which he represented until this May (having won it in an earlier by-election) and which the local team are fighting hard to retake. So that means London party activists have a busy few weeks ahead, to help the pary grow city-wide.


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Stan Hardy’s 90th Birthday

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 21st February, 2010

Every political party has its Golden Oldies, vintage stalwarts who have not only put in many years of service to the party but continue to soldier on. But few such have as long a record and as much energy left as Stan Hardy from Dulwich, whose 90th birthday was celebrated at a joyfully noisy gathering taking up the whole second floor of Kettner’s Restaurant in Soho last night. Speeches of tribute came from Susan Kramer, MP or Richmond Park (and candidate in Dulwich and West Norwood in 1997) and Simon Hughes, MP for North Southwark and Bermondsey, as well as a response from the birthday boy hinself. Over the years of Stan’s involvement, Southwark borough has shifted from being something of a desert for Liberal Democrats (and predecessor parties) to having one LibDem MP with a majority of nearly 5,500, and second places in Dulwich and West Norwood (achieved for the first time in 2005 by Jonathan Mitchell, who is currently PPC) and in Camberwell and Peckham (Richard Porter in 2005, but now having as its PPC a popular former Mayor of Southwark, the Sierra Leonean Columba Blango).

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London Region LibDem Conference

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 14th November, 2009

City UniversityLondon Liberal Democras gathered at City University in Islington today for the last autumn regional conference before next year’s elections. Most pundits believe that the general and local polls will be held on the same day (first Thursday in May, 2010), which is something much of the rest of the country often has to cope with but is a distinct rarity in the capital. The prospect is viewed with mixed feelings, as was clear from contributions from several speakers at the conference, including councillors who may have to garner twice as many votes (on an increased turnout) this time round than they did last time, in order to to retain their seats. However, the mood was nonetheless upbeat. True, few shared Simon Hughes’s rosy forecast that the LibDems might almost double their number of London MPs — from eight to 15 — next year. But even the most theoretically vulnerable sitting MP — Susan Kramer in Richmond Park — was surprisingly confident because of positive feedback she’s been getting on the doorsteps. Ed Fordham (Hampstead and Kilburn) spoke on behalf of target seat candidates who are increasingly making their voices heard among the electorate. And both Ashley Lumsden (Lambeth) and John Macklin (Waltham Forest) were hopeful that there could be strong gains in several London borough councils as well. I am looking forward to being part of the regional support team for all this forthcming activity, having today been elected to be the next Chairman of London Region LibDems (taking office on 1 January), as well as working with colleagues to improve dramatically the party’s performance in London list elections.

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Say No to Heathrow 3!

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 17th March, 2009

jf-heathrow-1Five of London’s LibDem MPs and most of us on the party’s list of Euro-candidates for the capital were out in the spring sunshine in Hounslow on Sunday morning, standing right under the flight path of incoming aircraft, opposite the Green Man pub — a charming old hostelry with a nice garden, were it not for the horrendous racket of the huge aircraft roaring alarmingly close above our heads. But that was the point: to get some great photographic shots to underline the LibDem campaign against a third runway at Heathrow, which is being spearheaded by Richmond Park MP, Susan Kramer. How much worse it will be people in London if yet more flights are facilitated, adding to noise and air pollution (including from the extra cars that will be generated).

Ed Davey, MP for Kingston and Surbiton, and a member of Susan’s staff spent more than an hour on their backs on a rug, cameras in their hands, to make sure we got a good portfolio of pics. Two police cars and a fire engine turned up at one stage, but this seemed to be a matter of coincidence rather than nefarious design. Simon Hughes MP (Southwark and North Bermondsey), ever the professional campaigner, went straight over and started engaging with the men in uniform.

The European angle to the story is that the Euopean Commission has already expressed concern about air quality levels around Heathrow and could put more pressure on the Labour government on environmental grounds, to try to reverse the decision to go ahead with a third runway. My main argument on the matter has always been that short-haul flights to European cities such as London, Paris and even Amsterdam are not jut unnecessary but unjustifiable. But the fares on Eurostar and other high speed rail links need to be rejigged so that they are truly competitive, even when people have to travel at quite short notice.

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Kew Question Time

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 13th March, 2009

Richmond Park constituency has one of the most highly educated electorates in England, as well as an unusually strong concentration of media types. But even so, the local Liberal Democrats did well to assemble a Question Time panel at St Luke’s in Kew this evening that included Lord (Richard) Harries, former Bishop of Oxford (who by coincidence had done Thought for the Day on Radio 4 this morning), my old BBC World Service colleague Jackie Ashley (who now has a regular column in the Guardian), and Richmond Park MP Susan Kramer (who had been on the real, televised Question Time only last night). I made up the quartet of panelists. Just as on the TV programme, the questions were topical: would we have sacked Sharon Shoesmith, the Haringey Social Services Director; have recent killings in Northern Ireland shattered the peace accord there; can we do anything about Israel/Palestine… and so on? Though neither Lord Harries nor Jackie Ashley is a Liberal Democrat, it was interesting to see what a degree of consensus there was along ‘liberal’ lines. We were hardly a group of Sun or Daily Mail readers, of course. When one questioner cheekily asked whether we thought that Vince Cable was a genius, Jackie replied deftly, ‘No, he’s a saint!’, at which the Lord Bishop commented that by Catholic rules, at least, someone had to have performed two attested miracles before being granted sainthood, adding that the Liberal Democrats’ winning the general election would probably count as one.


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Nick Clegg, the Economy and the Environment

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 8th January, 2009

Nick Clegg, Susan Kramer (MP for Richmond Park) and the environmental campaigner Tony Juniper attracted a full house at the Duke Street Baptist Church in Richmond (Surrey) this evening, for a Question Time on the economy and the environment, chaired with characteristic panache by ‘University Challenge’s’ Bamber Gascoigne. This was a variation on the town hall meetings that Nick has been doing up and down the country, reaching out to many thousands of electors. Richmond being Richmond, it was all very well behaved (apart from the slight irritation of the three young women helpers of Richmond Conservative candidate Zak Goldsmith sitting immediately behind me, who chattered throughout the whole event).

Opp0sition to the third runway at Heathrow (in which Susan Kramer has been hyper-active) not surprisjngly surfaced as an issue almost immediately, but soon the evening settled down to a serious discussion of how we can marry economic and social justice with environmental responsibility at this time of financial retrenchment. Tony Juniper was particularly eloquent in expressing how proper environmental management (including house insulation) and changing one’s lifestyle can actually improve one’s quality of life, even when economic conditions are tight. Nick rightly endorsed Tony’s comment that we need to show China and India how to develop more environmentally by example, rather than by finger-pointing.

One questioner asked why the three main political parties don’t work together on vital issues such as climate change, to which Nick responded that the LibDems had in fact encouraged this as a strategy, but it failed. The only agreements possible were on the lowest common denominator, whereas the LibDems, as the most environmentally-friendly of the mainstream parties, wish to set higher standards. Altogether, the evening was a worthwhile exercise, which may well be repeated elsewhere in Britain, not necessarily with the same subjects (though they are two of the core themes of the forthcoming European election campaign).

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Susan Kramer’s Devotion to Duty

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 16th October, 2008

  There is no greater sacrifice that a politician can make than to speak at a lunch, yet not have time to eat even a mouthful herself. OK, I exaggerate. But that is exactly what Susan Kramer, LibDem MP for Richmond Park, had to do today when she came to talk to the Kettner Lunch at the National Liberal Club. The Chairman, Peter Whyte, had told her that she could talk about anything she liked, so given her background and current events, she homed in on the financial situation. Although her neighbouring MP (for Twickenham), Vince Cable, tends to get all the limelight on such matters (and has been performing brilliantly in it), Susan was herself a banker before she went into politics. As she joked at lunch, she had never thought politics would prove to be the more secure profession!

Of course, her parliamentary seat is not that secure, as it is high on the list of Tory targets and the Conservative candidate, Zac Goldsmith, and his backers have been pouring tens of thousands of pounds into the constituency in order to try to unseat Susan at the next general election. That would be a great shame, to put it mildly, as she works phenomenally hard. The reason she had to leave the NLC without even a taste of the food this lunchtime was because she had to go to Ham in her constituency to open a children’s centre.

Moreover, she demonstrated a far greater understanding of the current economic situation than the Tories’ putative Shadow Chancellor, George Osborne, who looks more than ever like a frightened rabbit, with not the foggiest clue about what is going on. I almost feel sorry for him. But I am angry at David Cameron for showing such contempt for the British electorate that he should hand the most significant political portfolio to a young chum who is probably charming but unqualified.

Susan highlighted a number of vital issues as well as giving her own, experienced take on things. She echoed Vince Cable’s remarks (which I reported on recently) that the Bank of England needs to revise its inflation target. Interestingly, she called for a sharp decrease in interest rates, as she said what happened in Japan in the 1990s showed that a series of gradual cuts do not do the trick. She also chimed in with what Chris Huhne has been saying with regard to the cash-rich energy companies, namely that the sector should be shifting its focus towards being paid to save energy rather than being paid to sell energy. On this, as on many other points, the LibDems are ahead on the green agenda — and no amount or huffing and puffing by Zack Goldsmith will persuade me otherwise.

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