A few days before June’s EU Referendum invited to Riga to give a lecture on Brexit at the University of Latvia. The mood among the audience (and other speakers) was one of total mystification: why would Britain want to leave the EU after more than 40 years, when other countries are knocking on the door to get in? Three months later, the attitude of the Baltic States to the Brexit vote is one of sorrow and dismay, partly because they believe Britain’s departure (if it happens) will weaken the EU but also because they feel it will affect them. The possible return home of Latvian, Lithuanian and Estonia migrants currently working in the UK is one outcome, but as the Lithuanian Ambassador to the Court of St James’s, Asta Skaisgiryte, said at a Political and Economic Circle Forum at the National Liberal Club this evening, a major concern is about security, in particular the way that the EU will or will not continue to stand up to Russia. All the Baltic states are nervous about Vladimir Putin, following the Russian encroachment into Georgia and Ukraine, not to mention the dreadful decades of Soviet occupation, human rights abuses and deportations. But the Ambassador also highlighted a specific potential threat from the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, arguing where would its growing naval and military might be focused if not westwards to Europe? Baroness Judith Jolly, a LibDem spokesperson on defence in the House of Lords. also concentrated on security matters in her comments from this evening’s panel. Although Britain will remain a member of NATO, pulling out of EU cooperation could weaken the North Atlantic Alliance. Moreover, Brexit could be a prelude to other political events that would have been unthinkable only months ago, such as a possible Donald Trump victory in the US presidential election in November or the triumph of the Front National’s Marine Le Pen in next year’s French elections. It was interesting that an unusually large turnout had registered for the seminar, which also heard from Tom Brake MP, LibDem Foreign Affairs spokesman in the Commons, Vytis Jurkonis from the Freedom Association office in Vilnius, and the Chairman, Lord Chidgey.
Posts Tagged ‘Tom Brake’
Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 26th September, 2016
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: Asta Skaisgiryte, Brexit, David Chidgey, Donald Trump, Estonia, EU Referendum, Judith Jolly, Kaliningrad, Latvia, Lithuania, Marine Le Pen, NATO, Russia, Tom Brake, Vladimir Putin, Vytis Jurkonis | Leave a Comment »
Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 22nd January, 2016
Thirty-five years ago, Labour’s “Gang of Four” — Roy Jenkins, Shirley Williams, David Owen and Bill Rogers — met at Dr Owen’s home in Narrow Street, Limehouse, where they signed the Limehouse Declaration, which would soon lead to the formation of the Social Democrat Party, the SDP. Last night, just a few doors down the road from Dr Owen’s House, Liberal Democrats gathered to celebrate that anniversary and to give the City and London East GLA campaign a hefty boost. Though none of the three surviving Gang of Four was present, there was a stellar line-up of speakers, starting with Vince Cable, who had started his political life as a Labour councillor in Glasgow before joining the SDP and eventually getting elected as Liberal Democrat MP for Twickenham. He noted the parallels between the situation in the Labour Party in 1981 and that today under the respective leaderships of Michael Foot and Jeremy Corbyn, and said that many moderate Labour MPs now are running round like headless chickens, alarmed by the way things have developed within the party but unable to decide what to do about it. Moreover, in 2016 the dissidents lack figures of the gravitas of the Gang of Four who could be capable of organising a break-away. The fate of the SDP under Britain’s first-past-the-post electoral system was also a dire warning. As Lord (Dick) Newby reminded us in his speech last night, although the SDP-Liberal Alliance polled 25.4% of the vote, compared with Labour’s 27.6%, the Alliance only bagged 23 parliamentary seats as opposed to Labour’s 209. Only five of the SDP MPs who had defected from Labour hung on to their seats and the party’s only gain was Charles Kennedy.
Tom Brake — London’s sole-surviving Liberal Democrat MP — warned that we must not assume that the Party will just bounce back in 2020 and that it is vital that we consolidate our hold on the eight seats we still have, as well as building in the targets. The compere for the evening, Dr Mark Pack, gave his own thoughtful commentary on the rise and fall of the SDP as well as providing some colourful memorabilia, which did indeed bring back memories among those of us old enough to remember the heady days of 1982, when the Alliance was leading in the opinion polls, only to have our hopes dashed on the rocks of the Falklands War, which saved Mrs Thatcher’s political skin. Interestingly, many of the guests at the Limehouse Declaration anniversary dinner were too young to have such memories, including the GLA constituency candidate Elaine Bagshaw who rounded off the evening and highlighted the remarkable rise in membership and activities in the local parties of Tower Hamlets, Newham and Barking & Dagenham.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: Bill Rodgers, City and London East, David Owen, Dick Newby, Elaine Bagshaw, Jeremy Corvyn, Liberal Democrats, Limehouse Declaration, Margaret Thatcher, Mark Pack, Michael Foot, Roy Jenkins, SDP, Shirley Williams, Tom Brake, Vince Cable | Leave a Comment »
Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 25th October, 2013
Creating jobs was the central theme of London Liberal Democrats’ autumn conference held in Camden last night, with inputs from the borough council, national and European levels. Both Sutton MPs, Tom Brake and Paul Burstow, were on hand to champion the work they and their colleagues are doing in the Party’s flagship London borough, with some interesting new information about how they are relating to some of Sutton’s “hidden gems”, such as the Royal Marsden and related centres for excellence looking at cancer. Housing was also high on the conference agenda, with Stephen Knight, one of the two LibDem members of the London Assembly, presenting his report on how the capital’s critical housing shortage can be tackled by building more homes, which would also bring many thousands of the currently unemployed qualified construction workers back into the labour force. Anood al-Samerai, Leader of the Opposition on Southwark Council, highlighted the need for more genuinely affordable homes and accused the Council’s current Labour ruling group of failing to ensure these are being provided by developers. Sarah Ludford MEP — whose trip to the US had been cancelled, meaning she was present after all, gave a brief summary of what she has been achieving at the European Parliament level, notable in her chosen field of Justice and Home Affairs. As many speakers emphasized, including Robin Meltzer, PPC for Richmond Park, in his closing speech to the conference, with all-out London borough elections taking place on the same day as the European elections in London next year (22 May), there must be an integrated campaign and it is a matter for celebration that the Liberal Democrats really will be fighting the European election next year on European issues — as the party of IN. It was heartening to not only see the numbers who turned out for the conference on a Thursday evening but also to feel the real buzz in the hall, which bodes well for the energy of the campaign next year.
Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 20th October, 2012
London Liberal Democrats descended on Croydon today for our autumn conference, which also featured a Question and Answer session with nine of the ten shortlisted London Euro-candidates. The full hustings will be at Friends House, Euston Road, on Sunday 4 November. But the star turn of the day today was guest speaker Elif Shafak, the Turkish novelist who writes in both Turkish and English, including penning articles for The Guardian from time to time. She read an extract from her latest novel and also spoke on the theme of identity and belonging, especially in the context of a migratory life. While no model of multiculturalism is perfect, she feels London is an amazing place to be, and rather regrets that Kemalist Turkey modeled itself on France, laicité and all. Today was also special as it provided a platform to launch the by-election campaign for the newly-selected Croydon North Liberal Democrat candidate Marisha Ray. By a coincidence that Dame Edna Everage would undoubtedly have termed ‘spooky’ we had chosen Croydon as the venue for this year’s autumn conference long before there was any inkling that the poor Labour MP for Croydon North — the much-respected Malcolm Wicks — would pass away, leaving a vacancy. In the extended lunch-break, accordingly, most of us set off to the constituency to do some delivery and surveying, and a very friendly reception we got too. In the afternoon, Tom Brake MP, newly appointed Deputy Leader of the House of Commons, explained entertaingly what that job entails. Brian Paddick made an excellent power-point presentation on leadership and then the man who will succeed me as regional Chair when I step down at the end of the year, Mike Tuffrey, gave a speech which proved why he is a very sound choice.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: Brian Paddick, Croydon, Croydon North by-election, Dame Edna Everage, Elif Shafak, London Liberal Democrats, Malcolm Wicks, Marisha Ray, Mike Tuffrey, Tom Brake | 1 Comment »
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)
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: Brian Paddick, Canary Wharf, Caroline Pidgeon, East Wintergarden, Ed Davey, Jill Fraser, London Liberal Democrats, Merlene Emerson, Mike Tuffrey, Pauline Pearce, Pete Dollimore, Quilliam Foundation, Sally Hamwee, Sarah Ludford, Simon Hughes, Susan Kramer, Tom Brake | Leave a Comment »
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).
Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 14th May, 2010
About a hundred Liberal Democrats from across South East London gathered at the St John’s Church Hall in Downham (Lewisham) this evening, to hear and ask questions about the agreement the party has made to enter into government with the Conservatives. Originally, Simon Hughes was scheduled to speak, but he was reportedly asked onto the BBC’s Any Questions programme at short notice, so his fellow MP Tom Brake ably took his place. I was expecting some unhappy voices among party members and activists, but actually the tone of the discussion was very positive and Tom’s argument that a full deal with the Conservatives was really the only viable option, particularly given Labour’s lack of genuine interest in a deal, was persuasive. One questioner expressed dismay at the appointment of Theresa May as Home Secretary, given her record on equality issues, but I was able to share today’s news that LibDem Lynne Featherstone has been appointed Minister of State at the Home Office, with special responsiblity for Equalities, which is a much more reassuring prospect. The big question, really, is how William Hague will behave as Foreign Secretary, but even on Europe, it looks as though the Tories have been tamed somewhat by the LibDems. There are issues (such as Trident replacement) on which there was no agreement between the two sides, so LibDem MPs will have to abstain on any related vote, but Tom Brake assured us that that won’t stop us arguing the case against, both in parliament and in the country.
Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 4th March, 2010
London Liberal Democrats rallied for success in the forthcoming general and local elections at our Spring Conference this evening. As I stated in my Chair’s remarks from the platform, we would hope to move into double figures for the number of London MPs we will have after the election, as well as gaining control of several new councils. The fight will be on two fronts, in a context in which neither of the larger parties is on a great roll, whatever David Cameron and his colleagues may claim. As Chris Huhne MP said in his opening address, the three-way TV debates are going to be crucial in determining the outcome of the parliamentary elections. Tom Brake MP emphasized how sitting LibDem MPs in London should benefit from the fact that (a) they came out smelling of roses in the MPs’ expenses affair (as testified by the Daily Telegraph, and (b) they work harder than most other London MPs (as testified by the Evening Standard). Party President (Baroness) Ros Scott said that she had found the party in good heart during her tours around the country. And in London we can celebrate having the fastest rising LibDem memership of any English region. But the star of the evening was undoubtedly Floella Benjamin, whose keynote speech revved up the delegates to go forth and win.
Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 11th July, 2009
Charles 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.’
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: Carshalton and Wallington, Charles Kennedy, David Cameron, Gerry Jerome, Graham Tope, Jayanta Chaterjee, Lord Ashcroft, Nonsuch ward, Paul Burstow, Sutton, Sutton Liberal Democrats, Suuton and Cheam, Tom Brake | 1 Comment »
Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 10th July, 2009
Tom Brake, Liberal Democrat MP for Carshalton and Wallington, was dismayed this morning to discover that his Facebook account has been disabled and that he has been removed as administrator of a number of Facebook campaign groups, without any explanation or warning. This move is perverse and should be reversed. Tom has been a model among London MPs in employing Facebook to engage with his constituents through electronic media and to reach out successfully to younger voters who tend to by-pass more traditional ways of campaigning. An excellent example of the effective use Tom and his team have made of the site was last night’s rally in Wallington to save the N213 night bus. As Tom rightly commented this morning, ‘Much of my casework comes through Facebook. The bizarre and heavy-handed decision to disable my account only hours after a protest organised through the socil networking site severrely disadvantages my constituents, who rely on the net to contact me.’
Tom had over 3,000 Friends on Facebook. I hope many of them will complain to the site managers at Facebook about this totally arbitrary decision, but so should other people who value Tom’s work and who also appreciate Facebook’s genuine contribution to social networking in its widest sense. A full explanation is needed. Did the exclusion come about after some sort of dirty tricks complaint from political opposition? Or because Tom acquired too many Friends too quickly (which is reportedly why the publisher Gary Pulsifer was kicked out of Facebook some time ago)? Whatever the reason, Tom should be informed and Facebook should acknowledge that they have made a mistake and immediately reinistate him.
[Postscript on Saturday: Facebook has now reinstated Tom, thanks. Apparently they were concerned that as he was sending regular messages to so many people in his network he must be a spammer. There’s a differece between political campaigning and spamming, guys, just as there is a difference between a Focus newsletter and a pizza flyer! Anyway, it’s good that the problem has been resolved.]