Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Theresa May’

Dump Trump

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 27th May, 2017

G7 SummitThe body-language at the G7 Summit in Taormina this weekend has been absolutely fascinating. Emmanuel Macron made a beeline for Angela Merkel, and rightly so. This is now Europe’s political power couple and their joint determination to reform the European Union is something we should all warmly welcome. This makes it doubly tragic that Britain is walking away from the EU, seemingly as ungraciously as possible, with Theresa May at the helm. To think that the UK was due to take on the six-month rotating presidency of the EU on 1 July and that the British Prime Minister could then have been part of a triumvirate of leaders helping promote positive change. Instead, Mrs May has thrown away any chance of being taken seriously by her continental and Irish counterparts and hovers on the fringes of EU meetings like a sad aunt whom nobody loves.

Trump May Even at the G7 Summit she was at one moment pictured looking down in the dumps seated next to Donald Trump, who was pointedly ignoring her. So much for the special relationship! That relationship has anyway been soured as the British intelligence services have unilaterally stopped sharing sensitive information with the Americans as Trump’s White House is as leaky as a colander, as well as apparently having an open hotline to the Kremlin. So while Donald Trump stared into the distance, presumably already bored with the whole thing and tetchy because people were not fawning around him, Angela Merkel turned her cheek to be kissed by Canada’s Justin Trudeau (well, who wouldn’t?). It became ever more noticeable that there are two wallflowers in the G7 now: Trump and May, and Mrs May probably now rues the day she allowed the orange-hued POTUS to grab her hand so forcefully in the White House. Trump is in especially bad odour with everybody else in the G7 because he may well scupper the Paris climate agreement. Teasingly, he said he’d let the others know next week. This is the future of the planet he’s casually playing with! So, dear Americans, the ball is in your court. Most of Europe is saying to you imploringly: Dump Trump! Certainly don’t re-elect him in 2020. But if you can get rid of him through impeachment or whatever in the meantime, please do so. He’s not just a national embarrassment for you. He is globally toxic.

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The Liberal Democrats’ Manifesto Launch

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 17th May, 2017

Tim Farron manifesto launchDespite the dismal rain outside, the atmosphere in the Oval Space in Bethnal Green was electric this evening for the Liberal Democrats’ manifesto launch — reminiscent of the very best LibDem autumn conference events, packed with activists and complete with a well-stocked bar. After a warm-up act (and fundraising pitch) by St. Albans candidate Daisy Cooper, Tim Farron hit the stage to give a barnstorming speech which can have left no-one –including those watching via the numerous TV channels filming — where the party’s heart lies. Right at the fore of the manifesto and in Tim’s speech was the restated belief that Britain is better off inside the EU. No ifs, no buts. And, not surprisingly, Theresa May got a roasting for adopting not only UKIP’s language but their policies too. Similarly, Jeremy Corbyn was criticised for instructing his MPs and peers to embrace Brexit and vote for Article50 to be invoked.

Tim Farron’s line could not have been clearer: although the party that accepts that a (narrow) majority voted to leave the European Union in last June’s EU referendum, the vote indicated a departure but not a direction. Did all those who voted Leave really endorse leaving the European single market with all the likely economic shock that that will deliver? Palpably not. So, say the LibDems, when Mrs May has a deal hammered out with our current 27 EU partners that ought to be put to the people in a referendum, not just to politicians in Parliament. And, yes, one option in that fresh vote would be to stay in the EU is voters thought that was preferable. Many people are a bit punch-drunk from votes at the moment, but will that be the case in 12 or 18 months time, when the effects of looming Brexit really bite? Already inflation has increased ninefold, largely as a result in the sharp fall in the value of the pound sterling, and the economy has stopped growing. Let;s see. But certainly among the hundreds of LibDem candidates and supporters at the manifesto launch this evening, Tim Farron’s clear message could not have been sweeter.

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So What Will Happen after Brexit?

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 16th May, 2017

Theresa May 9Theresa May’s UKIPTory government is ploughing on with Brexit, giving every impression that she expects to walk away after two years of talks with our current 27 EU partners without a deal. The one realistic part of her scenario is that Britain won’t get a worthwhile deal if the Prime Minister and her unsavoury trio of Brexit Ministers insist that they want to have their cake and eat it, i.e. leave the European single market and end freedom of movement and yet somehow still enjoy all the benefits of EU membership. Impossible, as any rational human being must realise. You are either a member of a Club or not, paying your subs and obeying the rules, or the best you can hope for otherwise is some sort of reciprocal arrangement that won’t be anything like as good as the real thing. During the EU referendum, the Brexiteers attacked the Remainers for what they called “Project Fear”, in other words the projections that experts (much derided by those on the Leave side who prefer emotions to facts) that the British economy would take a massive hit if we do have a hard Brexit. We are still in the EU at the moment and are therefore still benefiting from our open trading relationship within the biggest trading bloc in the world. Yet already the shocks are being felt just because the government is pressing ahead with Brexit, shamefully cheered on by the supposed Leader of the Opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, who has declared that “Brexit is settled”. No it isn’t! And because there are still more than 18 months left before Britain goes over the cliff edge there is still time to soften the blows or, if the British electorate wants it, even to stop Brexit in its tracks.

UK inflationIn the meantime, inflation has shot up from 0.3% to 2.7%, almost entirely because of the fall in the value of the pound sterling and the associated increase in import costs. That is hitting people on low incomes, even those in employment whose modest wages are not now keeping up with inflation. Moreover, leading financial services firms and other companies have started expanding their premises in cities such as Dublin, Paris and Frankfurt as they prepare to move thousands of their employees out of London once their ability to operate freely in the EU from London is curtailed. And it’s not just people on generous City salaries who will leave or lose their positions. Jobs will soon go in various sectors of manufacturing industry as well as the hospitality industry and services. I accept that a slim majority of those who voted in last June’s EU Referendum indicated that they would prefer Britain to leave the EU. But did all of them really realise what the sort of hard Brexit Mrs May and her colleagues are pursuing would mean? I don’t believe so. And I can’t help feeling that the reason the Prime Minister called this snap election is not so much because she think Labour is on the ropes, but rather because she wants to get the election out of the way before the Brexit shit really hits the fan.

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Yes, Animals Have a Place in Elections

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 12th May, 2017

cowsTheresa May’s snap general election is already being described by the political pundits as unlike any other. That’s partly because she has called it for one (official) reason: to get a mandate to be tough in Britain’s Brexit negotiations with our 27 EU partners. Unofficially, it’s clear the Conservatives believe that Labour under Jeremy Corbyn is in such disarray that they are can be easily vanquished at the polls. But even if some aspects of this election campaign are unusual in other ways it is very familiar. Already, for example, candidates are being bombarded with emails (in the old days, they used to be letters) from constituents lobbying them on issues from A to Z. It’s all part of the democratic process and I always make the effort to respond to them all. That was quite a task when I stood for the European Parliament and the whole of London was my electorate. Anyway, one of the first organised lobbying groups off the mark in Dagenham & Rainham in this election are people concerned with the treatment of animals, whether relating to farming techniques, so-called blood sports, vivisection or cruelty to domestic animals. Some commentators may feel that elections should be 100% about people, but I share the view that it is right that animal welfare is on the agenda. If we can’t treat other creatures properly then it is a poor reflection on our humanity. The major concern of the voters who have been in touch is that animal welfare in this country is covered by over 40 EU laws and they fear that once Britain leaves the European Union some of those laws may be watered down or abolished. They’re right to raise that anxiety, and the next Parliament should ensure such weakening of animal protection does not happen. In the meantime, however, Mrs May’s Conservative government has floated the idea — not for the first time — of lifting the ban on fox hunting. That pitch may be popular among traditionalists in the Tory shires, but it would go down in the cities like the proverbial lead balloon.

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Protect Our EU Citizenship Rights

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 11th May, 2017

Retaining European CitizenshipThis morning I was contacted by a lady living in France who is registered to vote in the UK constituency of Dagenham & Rainham where I am standing as the Liberal Democrat candidate in next month’s general election. I suspect she will be the first of many, as hundreds of thousands of British expats on the Continent are concerned about what the future holds for them once Brexit happens. One of my sisters and her husband are among that number, having retired to Spain some years ago but now left wondering if their rights (including access to health care) that have been guaranteed under our common EU citizenship will continue. Similarly, a significant proportion of the teachers I work with at London University’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) are nationals of other EU member states and they are understandably worried about their future status. It is unforgivable of Theresa May’s Conservative government to present these people on both sides of the Channel as bargaining chips in the Brexit negotiations. Key negotiators on the EU27 side, such as Guy Verhofstadt on behalf of the European Parliament, have indicated their willingness to find a formula that would allow those Brits who wished to to preserve elements of EU citizenship and certainly they are keen that the position of EU citizens in the UK and British citizens on the Continent is clarified quickly. The constituent in France who contacted me asked for a pledge of support for two specific things, which I was delighted to be able to give, namely:

  1. the lifetime continuation of UK and EU citizens’ rights, as proposed in the EU negotiating directive*; and
  2. the ring-fencing of the agreement on these rights from the rest of the negotiations

These demands strike me as not only reasonable but essentially humane. The result of last year’s EU Referendum has been unsettling in many ways, from the fall in the value of the pound sterling to the recent slowing of UK industrial growth. But the most critical thing to get settled first is to put the minds at rest of those people who are British citizens living in other EU member states and of EU citizens based here. Mrs May and your three Brexit Minsters: can you demonstrate that you actually care?

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Weak and Unstable: Britain’s Brexit Government

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 7th May, 2017

Theresa May 8Theresa May and her camp followers have adopted with gusto the rather tiresome mantra “Strong and Stable”. I wonder if they realise that it was Adolf Hitler who brought that phrase to prominence, in Mein Kampf. Now, I am not suggesting Mrs May is a neo-Nazi, like Marine Le Pen. But apart from the fact that she scores nuls points for originality in political slogans, the Prime Minister’s “strong and stable” catchphrase repeated ad nauseam is an egregious example of alternative facts, an Orwellian distortion of words that chimes with the era of Donald Trump and Brexit. And, of course, in this case it is all about Brexit. What the Conservative government is doing, having co-opted UKIP’s agenda, is trying to hoodwink the British public into agreeing that it is providing decisive leadership in Britain’s best interests — whereas the reality is that it is doing precisely the opposite. The cack-handedness of their whole approach since the EU Referendum last June has illustrated their incompetence. They hadn’t planned for a Leave vote, and once it happened they floundered around, with chief ditherer and fantasist Boris Johnson despatched to the Foreign Office to try to explain things to the rest of the world. The rest of the world, with the possible exception of Putin’s Russia and other enemies of liberal democracy plus Donald Trump, is aghast. And instead of dealing sensibly with our 27 EU partners in the prolonged negotiations that are about to start, Mrs May has indicated that she intends to try to brow-beat them, cheered on by rabid Brexit media such as the Daily Mail and the Daily Express. No-wonder several of her key Downing Street advisors have resigned, as even true blue apparatchiks know that you do not succeed in negotiations if you insult the other side to their face. The sad truth is that the whole Brexit thing is going to go horribly wrong, with serious damage to the British economy and not least to the poorer parts of the British population — and Mrs May is going to blame it all on Brussels, as she wraps herself Boudica-like in the Union Jack. But she should remember that Boudica lost, as she will lose. “Strong and stable” May is a myth. She is weak and unstable, but the only way to stop her is to vote her out of office.

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Ciao, UKIP?

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 5th May, 2017

paul-nuttallThough the UK media are mainly focusing on Conservative gains in yesterday’s county council elections, in many ways the more remarkable story is the complete collapse of UKIP. The party lost every seat it was defending and one can’t help but wonder how long the sole UKIP candidate who gained a seat, in Burnley, in Lancashire, will last. Of course, there are still some UKIP local councillors left, but presumably not for long. UKIP’s leader Paul Nuttall was trying to put a brave face on it today, claiming that he did not really mind if UKIP voters had defected en masse to the Tories, as Theresa May is implementing the sort of Brexit that UKIP wants (though maybe not quite quickly enough). It’s true that in the process Mrs May is sounding ever more like a UKIP Prime Minister, lambasting not just Brussels but Johnny Foreigner. It will be interesting to see if her tone changes after next month’s general election, though it almost certainly will not before then, as she wants to ensure those former UKIP voters turn out for the Conservatives on 8 June. Paul Nuttall, meanwhile, is standing in the uber-Leave constituency of Boston and Skegness, but as all of Lincolnshire’s UKIP country councillors were swept out yesterday the likelihood of his winning that parliamentary seat is little better than zero. Nor is any other seat likely to go UKIP’s way. Instead, there is an interesting polarisation over Brexit between Strong and Stable Mable in the blue corner and chippy Tim Farron in the yellow. Where Labour is depends on which Labour candidate you speak to, though Jeremy Corbyn’s offer of a People’s Brexit sounds suspiciously like Mable’s red-white-and-blue Brexit. Of course, the general election is not going to be all about Brexit, nor should it be, but the Conservatives are portraying the Brexit challenge as Mrs May’s Falklands moment, in the hope that she will be able to mirror Mrs Thatcher’s jingoistic triumph at the polls in 1982-1983, with most of the mainstream Press cheering her on.

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Mrs May’s Other Galaxy

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 3rd May, 2017

May JunckerAll of us who have had a finger on the European pulse over the past 40 years have sensed that Britain’s Conservative government is on another planet when it talks about the possibility of the country having at least as good a deal with our current EU partners after Brexit as we have now as a full member of the EU. This literally defies reason. But I was dismayed by the reaction (as reported in leaks to the media) from European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, after his cosy chat over dinner at 10 Downing Street with Prime Minister, Theresa May, and Brexit Secretary, David Davis, to learn that he thinks Mrs May is actually in a different galaxy. This is all too credible, alas. The UKIP-Tory Brexit is the ultimate omni-shambles, the blind leading the blind; at least they recognsie that Boris Johnson is so bonkers and uncollegiate that he needs to be side-lined. But that is not enough. It would appear that Mrs May, ignorant and stubborn (always a dangerous combination in politics), is determined to lead the country over the precipice of a hard Brexit. With the arrogant attitude that she and the three Brexiteer Ministers have displayed there is not a cat in hell’s chance of a decent Brexit deal being reached before the two-year period from invoking Article 50 expires in March 2019. And that means a hard crash, which will hit the poor first, as well as EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens living in other EU member states. But Mrs May and her Brexit Taliban crew don’t care. They will still have their salaries and pensions and spousal or family money, while the poor bloody infantry sinks into poverty and unemployment. What is particularly infuriating is that Her Majesty’s official Opposition, Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party, is facilitating Brexit, rather than doing their job in pointing out the madness of it all (even though some Labour MPs, and indeed some Tory MPs, know that this is crazy). So it is left to the Liberal Democrats and the Greens and the nationalist forces in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, to sound the alarm. But will the population hear it, given the flood of anti-European, sometimes xenophobic, even neo-fascistic bile being poured out through the country’s popular Press? Brave souls like the philosopher A.C. Grayling keep up the good fight from outside mainstream politics, but all of us who care about not just the future of the EU but the healthy future of the United Kingdom should also stand up and shout, too. And, yes, that means you young people on social media, many of whom never quite got round to voting in last year;s EU Referendum. It’s our future, but especially your future. And Mrs May needs to be sent off into orbit in her own galaxy while we bring Britain back down to earth.

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May Day Blues

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 1st May, 2017

Mayday 2012 Clerkenwell LondonI was having lunch at the Café Rouge in Kingsway, Camden, watching the rain outside when a May Day parade of trade unionists and socialists went past. I’ve always had a soft spot for trade union banners, some of which are truly beautiful, though my eyes nearly popped out when one particularly well-crafted banner went past with a large picture of Stalin on it. I’ve always considered Stalin to be just as bad as Hitler — two sides of the same coin — both guilty of presiding over the deaths of millions of their own people (not that Hitler considered Jews, Roma, gays etc as truly German). There are obviously still some Communists about in London, as the flurry of red flags, proudly bearing the hammer and sickle, went past on Kingsway, along with some banners proclaiming “Smash Capitalism!” Those made me feel almost nostalgic for the student revolutionary politics of the late 1960s and early 1970s, though such revolutionary romantic feelings evaporated when a large contingent of Venezuela’s government went past, seemingly unconcerned that years of socialism in that oil-rich country have brought the economy to its knees, while supermarket shelves are empty and those fortunate enough to live near enough to the border with Colombia go shopping there. As I saw for myself in Nicaragua in the mid-1980s and Cuba a decade later, leftist policies just don’t work. And whereas slogans such as Workers of the World Unite sound lovely and fraternal, the class hatred engendered by Marxism-Leninism and some of its later offshoots promises not nirvana but mayhem. Doubtless many of those marching on the parade today are all fired up because there is an election on and they have a new hate figure in Conservative Prime Minister, Theresa May. Well, I dislike her too, mainly because of the way she has embraced Brexit, but I don’t buy into the discourse of smashing things in the name of the people. Besides, after the thousandth red banner went past, I felt quite bilious. Ah well, to all of those who were stirred by today’s May Day festivities:  enjoy its closing hours and reflect on the fact that Britain’s early May bank holiday won’t actually fall on May Day again for several more years.

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Proud to be a Saboteur

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 25th April, 2017

JFIn the weeks since Theresa May invoked Article 50 and Britain started heading down the slippery slope to exit from the European Union, whole swaths of the Tory Brexit Press has gone into hysterical overdrive in its futile attempt to try to silence those of us who believe passionately that we are better off inside the EU. On social media, too, the Brexiteers have been ridiculing “Remoaners”, accusing us of being against democracy, whereas we Liberal Democrats, in particular, are the champions of democracy by insisting that not only Parliament but the British electorate should have the chance of saying yes or no to whatever deal with the EU27 Theresa May and her team come up with in 2019. But it’s the intolerant nature of much of the right-wing media comment that is disturbing, at times verging on the fascistic. The High Court judges who gave a ruling that displeased the Brexiteers were denounced as traitors and enemies of the people, whereas in reality the independent judiciary is an essential safeguard of our democratic society. Gina Miller, who has courageously used the courts to challenge blind Brexit, has been vilified and threatened. The latest epithet coined by the Brexit Press to describe Remainers is “saboteurs”, as the Daily Mail, Express and others parrot the line that we are trying to thwart the will of the British people. I am not convinced that a majority of the electorate actually wants the sort of hard Brexit that Mrs May is pursuing — which entails leaving the European single market and customs union, as well as many European agencies. But just as early members of the Religious Society of Friends proudly accepted their detractors’ insult, “Quakers”, and made it their own, so I and many others are proud to adopt the term “Saboteur”. because to sabotage the government’s plan for national suicide is a noble cause. So I stand shoulder-to-shoulder with highlighted Saboteurs such as Ken Clarke (Conservative), Peter Mandelson (Labour), Caroline Lucas (Green) as well as, of course, Tim Farron and virtually the entire Liberal Democrat Party.

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