Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Waltham Forest’

Hackney Stunelled

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 18th January, 2012

Though Europe is often cited as the most contentious issue between the Conservative and Liberal Democrat Coalition Government partners, another important area of divergence is multiculturalism. David Cameron famously used a speech in Germany to suggest that multiculturalism in Britain has failed, by stressing people’s differences rather than what unites them. But that prompted Nick Clegg to speak up for multiculturalism while on a visit to Luton. One thing the two governing parties are agreed on, however, is that the previous Labour administration’s ‘Prevent’ programme was deeply flawed. I said as much when it was introduced; not just because the name was itself was so negative, but also because it risked stigmatising the entire Muslim community in Britain by false association, i.e. the most likely sources of terrorism in Britain are those communities with the highest proportions of Muslim population. Andrew Stunell, junior Minister within the Department of Local Government and Communities, with special responsiblity for race relations and community cohesion, helpfully defined his own views on the matter at a Pizza and Politics event put on by Hackney Liberal Democrats in Shoreditch this evening. He acknowledged that his own home area of Stockport in Greater Manchester — one of the least racially diverse areas of the North West — had received a grant under Prevent, but the money was usefully spent on an adventure playground. Far more diverse Bradford, over the Pennines, interestingly refused to have anything to do with the programme. Anyway, under the new government, matters have been finessed and it was very helpful to have additional insights from local Hackney Councillor Dawood Akhoon (a Muslim who represents his LibDem ward alongside two Orthodox Jews), Akeela Ahmed, who has been involved with a helpline for young Muslims having diffiulties dealing with personal issues within their own community, and Jamie Bartlett from Demos. The danger was acknowledged of blithely referring to ‘Islamic terrorism’ (as so often is the case in the media), but a valid point was also made by Councillor Farooq Qureshi from Waltham Forest that it is wrong to denounce all Wahabis as extremists. I know that peronally, having encountered all types of Wahabis, from the most conservative in Saudi Arabia to distinctly open-minded in Qatar. The evening’s discussion was rich, including far more than can be encompassed in a short blog post. So I was really pleased to see that the whole event was being live-streamed by video so that people who were not physically present could actually follow the discussion — an example which could usefully be followed by other LibDem Pizza and Politics evenings and their equivalents.


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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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Labour Haemorrhaging in Waltham Forest

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 27th July, 2009

Milton MartinLabour woes in the London borough of Waltham Forest continue unabated. Not long ago, Harry Cohen, MP for Leyton and Wanstead (against whom I stood in the 1992 general election) bowed to pressure and declared he was standing down at the forthcoming general election, having been the centre of unfavourable media attention about his claims for a second home outside London. The last Borough Council leader, Clyde Loakes, meanwhile, had relinquished his post in order to fight a parliamentary seat in the Midlands; how he must now wish he had stayed in situ! But to cap it all, Labour Councillor Milton Martin (Catthall ward, photo right) recently defected from Labour to the LibDems, bringing the LibDem group up to 21 members and in with a serious chance of becoming the largest party, if not taking control, in Waltham Forest next year. Two other Labour councillors, Shameen Highfield (also Cathall) and Faiz Yunis (Forest, where the other two sitting councillors are LibDems) have reportedly also informed the Council’s Chief Executive that they wish to leave the Labour group, though it is not yet certain what their future affiliation will be. I remember a time when the Liberals won their first council seat in Waltham Forest and they have certainly come a long way since then. This makes Waltham Forest a borough to watch next year, along with Haringey.

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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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Red and Green Woes in Euro-poll

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 10th May, 2009

Euro-election posterThe first opinion poll relating to the European elections since nominations closed appeared in today’s Sunday Times. It makes interesting reading, though depressing for Labour and the Greens. In response to the question ‘How will you vote in the June 4 European elections?’, 37% said Conservative, 22% Labour, 19% Liberal Democrat and 7% UKIP. All the other parties registered 5% or less. If such a pattern were reflected in London, Labour would lose one of their three MEPs, the Greens’ Jean Lambert would be out, and I would come in as a second LibDem MEP. Intriguingly, this mirrors almost exactly the predictive poll calculated by Marsh and Hix a few weeks ago. The proof of the pudding will be in the eating, however — though this poll should encourage LibDem activists to go out and campaign. Today I was out and about with local teams in Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest and the mood was certainly upbeat.

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Can Waltham Forest Maintain Its Winning Streak?

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 20th October, 2008

The leader of the LibDem group on the London borough of Waltham Forest Council, John Macklin, was the guest speaker at the AGM of Leyton and Wanstead constituency party this evening, with an upbeat message as the borough faces three more council by-elections. The LibDems won both of the by-elections held earlier this year — gaining one seat from Labour and holding another — and they are throwing everything into the forthcoming by-election in Valley Ward in supposedly true-blue Chingford. The last time there was a by-election in that ward, the LibDem candidate Henry Boyle came within a hundred votes of winning it. So Henry and his team will be hoping to top that this time. It is a pity that John Beanse, who finally got elected to the Council for another part of Chingford in 2006 after many years of trying, died recently, so won’t be around to join the campaign with his customary dedication.

The LibDem group on Waltham Forest grew to 20 this year, for the first time ever, putting them within spitting distance of Labour, with whom they are currently in a joint administration. At this rate they will soon be the largest party, at least, in 2010 if not before.

Interestingly, a new generation of top constituency officers was elected at the meeting this evening, though fitting tribute was played to outgoing Chair Jeniffer Sullivan and Secretary John Howard for their sterling service over the years. With the three constituency parties covering Leyton, Leytonstone, Walthamstow and Chingford now working together more than ever before, this all makes Waltham Forest a borough to watch.


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Linda Chung, Hampstead Town and Ethnic Diversity

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 31st August, 2008

 The council by-election campaign in Hampstead Town, Camden, is in full swing. Yesterday several of us were out making good use of the one day of real summer this month, manning a survey stall in the High Street, canvassing voters and delivering leaflets. The choice of candidate is often key to winning such contests and the LibDems are fortunate in this case in having Linda Chung to fly the flag, which she is doing with characteristic panache. She is a true live wire, who has lived in Hampstead for the past 30 years and founded Hampstead NW3, the local organisation for traders and busineses. Linda also has been one of the lead figures in the new Chinese Liberal Democrats group, which aims not just to bring together ethnic Chinese LibDems, but also to encourage more people within Britain’s Chinese community to get involved in the political process.

In recent years there has been a lot of (necessary) navel-gazing within the party about the low level of ethnic minority representation, especially in our cosmopolitan capital city. But it is gratifying that over the past year there have been several important local by-election wins with ethnic minority candidates, with origins as varied as Zimbabwe and Pakistan — and that a majority of them have been women. After my stint in Hampstead Town yesterday, I went to the thank-you party for the Forest ward by-election in Waltham Forest, to help celebrate Samina Safdar’s win there with an excellent lamb biryani. In London boroughs such as Waltham Forest, Camden, Brent and Haringey, our council groups increasingly reflect the diverse communities they represent, as they should. The next challenge is to make sure that local parties’ representatives to party conferences do as well.

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