Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Sutton’

Tope’s Hopes

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 22nd May, 2013

Graham TopeGT A Life in PoliticsOver the past 40 years Graham Tope has served at almost every possible level within the British political system: MP (thanks to the famous by-election victory in Sutton and Cheam), local councillor, Leader of the Council, GLA member, Member of the House of Lords, member of the EU Committee of the Regions and more besides, but throughout all this he has avoided falling into pomposity. He still cooks a mean lasagne for local activists every autumn and dutifully goes out on the rubber chicken circuit — this evening as guest speaker at an Islington Liberal Democrats pizza and politics. The starting point for his very informal, extended presentation was the book that he wrote at his son Andrew’s bidding, A Life in Politics, recounting the highs and the lows of four decades at the political coalface (mainly the first part), most of it — as he confessed tonight — transmitted to his son through his Blackberry. As was the case with me, Graham was inspired to join the Liberal Party by Jo Grimond, a truly remarkable man of principle and vision. Indeed, I wondered aloud tonight whether one problem of the current political scene is that we are missing charismatic figures such as Grimond or indeed Jeremy Thorpe, who was truly magnetic in his heyday. That is not to criticise Nick Clegg, but it is true that there is a certain similarity between David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband; none pops and fizzes in the way that, alas, Nigel Farage or Boris Johnson does. Graham is himself not a showman, but rather a solid man, someone you can count on and someone who continues to give a great deal to the Party and to Sutton. He will not be standing again for the Council in 2014 — after so long he can be excused handing on to others. But in the Lords and on the Liberal Democrat social circuit he will doubtless continue to make his contribution and, as tonight, offer hope for the future — that basically Liberal values are as important today as they ever were. Next May will not just be about winning seats, at London borough council and European Parliament level (important though that is) but also inspiring people with Liberal vision.

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When Nick Clegg Came to Worcester Park

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 27th January, 2012

As Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg has more than enough to fill his diary, but it is good that he continues to meet with LibDem members from time to time, to hear their concerns and field their questions. He seems to relish the latter, not only at party conferences, but also at gatherings such as the one organised at short notice in a school hall in Worcester Park in Sutton this afternoon. The event was cleverly timed so that those activists with a free hour or so afterwards could join Roger Roberts and  his campaign team in the forthcoming Worcester Park council by-election. Flanked by the borough’s two LibDem MPs, Paul Burstow and Tom Brake, as well as London Mayoral candidate Brian Paddick, Nick was bowled a series of difficult balls, including queries about a possible war with Iran, the replacement (or not) of Trident and the future of the euro (what an internationalist party we are!). Actually, on that last issue, the questioner asked whether Nick could ever envisage Britain joining the euro, to which he rightly replied (here I paraphrase) that one should never say never but it was hardly a likely scenario in his political lifetime. In the meantime, he stressed, it is important that Britain is not isolated from the EU. I can imagine he must have some free and frank discussions with the PM on this, but I hope in the run-up to the Euro-elections he will champion the benefits of Britain’s membership, as well as the need for some reforms. Otherwise, given the Eurosceptic drift in the Tory Party, the nature of the popular Press and Labour’s weak stance on European issues, the matter will go by default, with serious longterm consequences for Britain (as well as for the Liberal Democrats).

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London Liberal Democrats’ Autumn Conference

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 22nd October, 2011

From 1979 onwards, Britain endured 31 years of centralising government, but since May 2010 a new doctrine has been in place, as yet little referenced by the political commentariat, bedazzled as they are by distractions such as the putative EU referendum. With Eric Pickles, no less, the Minister in charge, the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition government has espoused the philosophy of Localism: bringing decision-making down to an appropriately lower level (something the EU’s principle of subsidiarity also promotes). This was the key theme of today’s London Liberal Democrats’ Autumn Conference, held at the University of West London in Brentford. Former local councillor Andrew Dakers reminded those of us who were present of some of the ideology and analysis behind Gordon Lishman and Tony Greaves’s mantra for Community Politics a generation ago. And a session moderated by Terry Stacy, Leader of the Opposition on Islington Borough Council, provided us with some examples of best practice from places such as Sutton (Ruth Dombey) and Liverpool (Richard Kemp). Dr Mark Pack also added his weight and experience to the subject. Listening to speeches about both localism and the London Mayoral and Assembly elections brought to my mind Chairman Mao’s dictum about walking on two legs — in this case one local, one regional. Team London, the concept that London Liberal Democrats successfully launched last year and is now integral to regional activity, understands the wisdom of that two-legged strategy — and also manages to keep one eye firmly focussed on May 2012 and the other on the borough council elections in 2014.

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A Sunny Sunday for Fairer Votes

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 11th April, 2011

I spent much of yesterday out in the sun campaigning for a Yes vote in the 5 May referendum, first leafleting in Brick Lane in my home borough of Tower Hamlets and later in Paul Burstow’s constituency of Sutton and Cheam. With no local elections taking place in London next month — unlike almost the whole of the rest of the country — actually getting people to turn out to vote is going to be a challenge, which makes it all the more important to sign people up for postal votes in London. The turnout of postal voters is considerably higher than the average, especially in a referendum like this. But it is dismaying that there has been such little coverage of the referendum in the national media so far, as this is one of the most significant potential constitutional changes for a generation. The ‘No’ campaign has been coming up with some pretty spurious arguments, including the insulting claim that AV is too complicated for voters in England to understand. The truth is that it is as simple as 1, 2, 3… and it should help end the phenomonenon of complacent MPs and parliamentary seats for life.


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Charles Kennedy’s Cheerful Descent on Sutton

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 11th July, 2009

Charles Kennedy 3Charles Kennedy flew down from sunny Glasgow today to be the guest speaker at Sutton LibDems’ annual garden party (held as usual in the spacious garden of Jayanta Chaterjee), accompanied by his wife Sarah and their young son Donald. The rain more or less held off and there was plenty to be cheerful about, in particular Gerry Jerome’s win in the recent Nonsuch ward by-election, which I blogged about the other day, and the swing from the Conservatives to the Liberal Democrats in the borough in last month’s Euro-elections. Charles has held his seat in Parliament for 26 years, which is only three years longer than the LibDems have been controlling Sutton Council. The borough is a prime Tory target in next year’s London local elections, as are Sutton’s two parliamentary seats, Sutton & Cheam and Carshalton & Wallington, currently held by Paul Burstow and Tom Brake. However, as Charles said, incumbency is a great asset, especially for hard-working LibDem MPs. Nonetheless, the Conservatives have reportedly been spending three times as much money as the LibDems campaigning in the borough in the hope of unseating both MPs. In this regard, it will be interesting to see how the parliamentary vote on the funding of political parties goes next week, which could lead to the barring of donations from non-domiciles, which may or may not include the Conservative party’s sugar daddy, Lord Ashcroft (up until now, he has refused to disclose his tax status, despite saying that he would move formally to England when he was granted his peerage). And then there is the Cameron factor, at first so dazzling, but now looking a bit lack-lustre. The verdict of the neighbourhood’s local peer, Graham Tope, on David Cameron: ‘a supercilious git.’


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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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Nick Clegg Charms Sutton

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 23rd April, 2009

nick-clegg-3Nick Clegg filled the Arena Hall at SCOLA in Sutton for one of his ‘town hall meetings’ this evening, though at times he must have felt he was in the lion’s den. One of the earliest questions was from a lady who basically asked why Vince Cable was doing so brilliantly whereas Nick was out of the limelight — to which Nick resposted fairly that he has been on virtually every TV news bulletin over the past few days, re the Budget et al. And he said he didn’t begrudge Vince his stardom one bit. Nick clearly rather enjoys being put on the spot — being obliged to indulge in a bit of cut and thrust. My favourite contribution from the floor was from a vociferous man who began, ‘I am a dyed-in-the-wool socialist, so of course I can’t vote Labour…!’ But there were murmurs of approval from the audience on several occasions, and enthusiastic applause for Nick’s stand against ID cards and his condemnation of the recently publicised abuses of MPs’ allowances. All in all, as the Evening Standard might summarise the meeting: Clegg 2, Cynics 0.

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