Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Tower Hamlets Liberal Democrats’

Ludford Calls for Strong LibDem Euro-message

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 3rd December, 2012

Sarah LudfordIn her first local party engagement since being re-elected to the top of London Liberal Democrats’ Euro-list, Baroness Sarah Ludford MEP told the Tower Hamlets Liberal Democrats’ AGM in Bethnal Green this evening that the Party must be quite clear in its pro-EU stance¬†in the 2014 Euro-elections and she pointed out that we are likely to be the only party that is. That doesn’t mean saying that everything coming out of Brussels is rosy; there are things that need reforming. But the electorate knows where the LibDems stand on Europe and it would be madness to obfuscate. Local member David Hall-Matthews — a prominent figure in the Social Liberal Forum — argued from the floor that if, as expected, the Euros coincide with¬†the London borough elections (and in Tower Hamlets’ case a mayoral election as well) then it is essential that the Euro-campaign is indeed about Europe and not about British domestic issues, as has sometimes been the case in the past. I added the comment that we will need a strong regional and national campaign on Europe London-wide to complement the more targetted campaigning for the local elections, and¬†highlighted the fact¬†that among many Tory voters in Tower Hamlets and beyond there are those who realise that elements of the¬†capital’s prosperity — and in some cases their jobs — depend on Britain’s being a full member of the EU. There are just 18 months left for Sarah, myself and the other six members of the London Euro-candidate team to get our messages across. And those must indeed be strong and¬†simple and persuasively argue the benefits of being part of Europe.


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To Be Or Not To Be? A Directly Elected Mayor.

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 25th December, 2009

The East London Advertiser is runing an online poll, asking Tower Hamlets residents whether they favour moving to a system of local government in which there is a powerful, directly-elected Mayor (as is the case in neighbouring Hackney and Newham). Next spring, local voters will be able to take part in a real referendum about whether they support that option or prefer a model in which there is a stronger leader at the head of the Council cabinet. Neither system is ideal, in my opinion; it was far more democratic when individual councillors had more power. And in the case of Tower Hamlets, even more so when there were devolved neighbourhood committees, under the old Liberal administration. Respect (which favours the Mayor option) has prompted the referendum through a petition. Among local Liberal Democrats, opinions are divided, which is why they have organised a public debate on the issue, to be chaired by national party President, Baroness (Ros) Scott, provisionally scheduled for 26 January. Watch this space. One thing is true, namely that the Mayor system can throw up some surprises (which is maybe what Respect is hoping). And the LibDems have notched up notable succeses in mayoral contests in Watford and Bedford.

Links: and

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Taking on Poplar and Limehouse

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 26th November, 2009

This evening, at a packed AGM of Tower Hamlets Liberal Democrats at Oxford House in Bethnal Green, I was adopted as the LibDem PPC for my home constituency of Poplar and Limehouse (new boundaries, having lost all the bits in Newham). It’s an extraodinary seat, illustrating both the huge diversity of London and also the yawning gap between rich and poor. It also looks like being a right royal battleground at the forthcoming general election, not only because the sitting Labour MP, Farming and Food Minister Jim Fitzpatrick, annoyed the large local Muslim community a while back by walking out of a Muslim wedding because he couldn’t sit next to his wife, but also because ‘Gorgeous’ George Galloway (Respect) is trying to move over from his current perch in neighbouring Bethnal Green and Bow. So we can expect some vigorous campaigning and lots of media attention. Having first moved into the area in 1985, I have seen huge changes — some good, some bad —¬†and whatever the result at the end of it, I am determined to enjoy the next six months or so and to be part of a LibDem renaissance in Tower Hamlets.


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What Next for the Palestinians?

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 28th February, 2009

Anyone who feared that current economic difficulties might have diverted people’s attention away from international questions would have been disabused by the healthy turnout at¬†Thursday night’s Pizza and Politics at La Forchetta in Bethnal Green, hosted by Tower Hamlets LibDems, when the Bethnal Green and Bow PPC Ajmal Masroor and I spoke on prospects for peace in the Middle East. Things have not gone well for the Palestinians in 2009, what with the Israeli onslaught on Gaza and the subsequent swing to the right in the Israeli elections, though maybe the picture is not entirely negative. The election of Barack Obama injects at least a modicum of hope that Washington might be less of an uncriticial benefactor for Tel Aviv and that the new President will create a completely new atmosphere in US relations with the region. I also pointed out in my remarks that although the idea of Bibi Netanyahu as Israeli Prime Minister is depressing, past evidence has sometimes shown that hawks are more effective at making peace concessions than doves. But the main thrust of my contribution was that the EU must assert its soft power in the Middle East in a more united and effective way than it has done so far, using both carrot and stick. All parties to the conflict have to be made to recognise that only a lasting, negotiated settlement that respects the human rights and security of all the region’s peoples can bring an end to decades of suffering.


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Tower Hamlets’ Eid Aspirations

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 19th October, 2008

Just as Christmas has become an elastic feast, stretching well beyond¬†the traditional¬†twelve days, so the Muslim festival of Eid tends to extend¬†further than¬†the three-day holiday at the end of Ramadan. Accordingly, many young Bengalis in Tower Hamlets are still out and about in their new Eid clothes and restaurants¬†in and around Brick Lane are full — particularly this evening, when the¬†annual Curry Awatds took place.

In the Clifton Restaurant in Osborn Street, however, a different type of celebration was underway, as the rejuvenated borough Liberal Democrats, along with party President Simon Hughes MP,¬†gathered members and supporters to¬†highlight their¬†aspirations¬†in local, national and European politics.¬†For the next few weeks, the focus of the activity will be the by-election taking place in¬†Mile End East ward (where I happen to live). It is¬†due on 20 November and¬†a respected former LibDem Councillor, Jainal Choudhury, is the candidate. LibDem Councillors on Tower Hamlets are down from a high point of 30 in 1990 to just four now, but with the implosion of Respect,¬†the unpopularity of Labour and a solution to some of the local party’s difficulties, the by-election can be interesting spur to growth through the European elections next June to the full Council elections and (probably) General Election in 2010. In 2010,¬†the LibDems will be aiming to become the official opposition on the Council again and with the well-known Bengali broadcaster and imam Ajmal Masroor as PPC, making a strong challenge for the parliamentary seat of Bethnal Green and Bow being vacated by Respect’s idiosyncratic George Galloway.¬†


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Iftar in Brick Lane

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 28th September, 2008

 Last night I joined Simon Hughes and the new Liberal Democrat PPC for Bethnal Green and Bow, Ajmal Masroor, to break the Ramadan fast with an iftar meal with Tower Hamlets local party stalwarts and some leading members of the Banglatown community in one of the biggest restaurants in Brick Lane. The place was heaving, and as ever during Ramadan there was a joyful atmosphere of friendship and community, as well as the physical relief for devout Muslims present of eating and drinking after a day of abstinence.

Ajmal is unusual in several ways, in being both an imam — though you wouldn’t know by looking at him! — and a presenter on the popular Bengali language TV station, Channel S. He’s young, articulate and full of energy — just what Bethnal Green and Bow LibDems need to revitalise the party locally and put it back where it used to be as the only credible alternative to Labour.

The constituency will be closely watched by the national media when the general election comes round, as it is currently held by ‘Gorgeous’ George Galloway of Respect, but since 2005, Respect has split in two and George is leaving Bethnal Green and Bow and is going to try for the adjoining seat of Poplar and Limehouse, where I live. The only thing I welcome about Galloway bringing his inflated ego to my home patch is the opportunity it will give me and my neighbours to blow a giant raspberry at him through the ballot box.


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