Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Zac Goldsmith’

London LibDems’ Autumn Conference

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 5th November, 2016

tim-farron-4The shadow of Brexit hung over the London Liberal Democrats’ autumn conference in Hammersmith today, though the mood was far from downcast. Buoyed by a string of local by-election wins across the UK, as well as a very strong performance in the Witney parliamentary by-election last month, London LibDems are gung-ho for the contest now on in Richmond Park and North Kingston, for which polling day is 1 December. Although the Tory MP Zac Goldsmith brought about this contest as a protest against Heathrow Airport expansion, it is Brexit that most constituents want to talk about. About 70% of local residents voted Remain in the EU Referendum in June, but Zac — who is standing in the by-election as an “Independent”, though the Conservatives are not putting up a candidate against him — is an arch-Brexiteer. If Sarah Olney wins, she will add a much needed female face to the Party’s depleted MP line-up.

catherine-bearder-2As Catherine Bearder MEP, who was one of the speakers at the conference today, stressed, Prime Minister Theresa May’s policy on Brexit is little more than “I want this, or I leave!”, which has gone down like a lead balloon with our continental partners. Already the negative impact of a potential Brexit is being felt, with the fall in the pound and warnings of rising inflation and future labour shortages in key sectors such as the NHS. Both Catherine and party leader Tim Farron, who was the keynote speaker at the conference, referred to the landmark decision by the High Court this week, which ruled that Parliament must have its say before Article 50 is triggered — also condemning the vitriolic abuse leveled at the three judges by some Brexiteers and the rabid right-wing media. Tim has carved out a distinctive position for the LibDems, calling not only for parliamentary scrutiny of the Government’s Brexit plan (when it has one), but also for the proposed deal to be put before the British electorate in a referendum. That is certainly a line supported by most party members in London, including a majority of “newbies”, who have swelled our numbers by nearly a half. During his speech, Tim also made reference to the disgraceful post-EU Referendum attack on the Polish Centra in which today’s conference was held, as well as other xenophobic incidents. The political atmosphere in the UK has soured badly since 23 June, but the LibDems must stand up for decency and the rule of law, as well as holding true to our European credentials. Fortified by that message (and a splendid buffet lunch) most conference attendees then headed off to Richmond Park to campaign, or else did clerical work for the by-election on the spot.

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Richmond Park up and Running

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 27th October, 2016

richmond-park-byelectionYesterday afternoon I went to the Richmond Park and North Kingston LibDem HQ in Mortlake to collect a couple of delivery rounds and was pleased later to learn that a hundred other people passed through the doors during the course of the day. With polling announced for 1 December, this is likely to be the fiercest-fought by-election since Brent East in 2003, at which the LibDems’ Sarah Teather snatched the seat from Labour. On that occasion, the LibDems benefited from the fact that the campaign was long drawn out, enabling the party to gain momentum. That is unlikely to be the case in Richmond Park, yet this new by-election does offer a potentially perfect storm. The Conservative government has announced plans to build a third runway at Heathrow Airport, in the face of strong local opposition, and although Zac Goldsmith has resigned as MP to fight as an Independent anti-Heathrow candidate the Conservative Party is not going to field a candidate against him, underlining the fact that he is a Conservative and therefore cannot escape blame for what the government is doing. Interestingly, UKIP is not going to oppose him either, which highlights the fact that Goldsmith is an arch-Brexiteer — unlike three quarters of the constituency’s electorate. This inevitably means that Brexit and the Conservative government’s incompetent handling of the whole sad business is going to be central to the by-election campaign. As this is a seat that the LibDems held until 2010, we can expect the windows and gardens of Richmond Park and North Kingston to become a sea of LibDem yellow over the next few weeks — and battalions of party activists pounding he streets and knocking on doors. This is most definitely one to watch.

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Barack Obama Is Right on EU

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 22nd April, 2016

Obama EUThe US President, Barack Obama, has taken the opportunity of his short visit to Britain to underline why he believes it is in Britain’s interest — as well as that of the rest of the world — for the UK to remain in the European Union. He argues cogently that Britain is stronger IN and has more global influence. Most of British business, as well as international institutions such as the IMF, agree, but that has not stopped the advocates for Brexit attacking Barack Obama with all guns blazing. UKIP’s Nigel Farage, disgracefully but predictably, has called Obama the most anti-British President ever, but much more shameful have been the comments of the outgoing Mayor of London, Boris Johnson. Not content with accusing the Americans of hypcosrisy in wanting Britain to be part of the EU, on a very dodgy use of analogy, BoJo has now declared that maybe the fact that Obama’s father originated from Kenya means he has an axe to grind with post-colonial Britain. This is barely concealed racism, as well as an unsavoury use of innuendo. Perhaps we should be not surprised, given the way that his putative successor, the Tory candidate Zac Goldsmith, has been been resorting to barely disguised Islamophobia in his attacks on Labour opponent Sadiq Khan. Boris Johnson seems to be inspired by the tousle-haired populist on the other side of the Atlantic, Donald Trump, and is throwing his principles to the wind. Maybe he thinks that will give him a better chance of becoming Tory leader after Cameron retires, but he deserves to be proved wrong. Barack Obama is an infinitely greater politician  than BoJo and it is his voice the British public should listen to, not the self-serving porkies and insults of second-rate Trump Johnson.

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The London Mayoral TV Debate

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 6th April, 2016

London Mayoral debateITV and LBC are to be congratulated for staging an hour-long live debate this evening (Tuesday) between the five principle candidates in next month’s London Mayoral election: Sian Berry (Green), Zac Goldsmith (Conservative), Sadiq Khan (Labour), Caroline Pidgeon (Liberal Democrat) and Peter Whittle (UKIP). The show’s two hosts were robust enough in their questioning to hold people’s attention and there was some opportunity for audience members to participate. Peter Whittle soon proved to be a one-trick pony, ‘curbing immigration’ being his answer to virtually everything. But the other four were better prepared and better matched. The main topics for discussion were security/counter-terrorism, housing and public transport. Sadiq Khan stood up firmly against claims of having some dodgy Islamist associates but was unable to persuade people that freezing London Underground fares was economically feasible. Zac Goldsmith was very suave and had the advantage of being able to boast of having the ear of the Conservative government between now and 2020, though earlier in the day he had been embarrassed by showing a rather sketchy knowledge of the London Underground system. However, Zac’s Achilles heel is that he is favour of Brexit, which is a rather loopy position for a prospective London Mayor to adopt (yes, I know, Boris Johnson QED). Sian Berry was cool and collected, and were it not for the fact that the Greens’ policies would put London’s vibrant economy into reverse gear, in many ways persuasive. Caroline Pidgeon, physically well-placed at the centre of the quintet on stage, had obviously rehearsed the points she wanted to get across, including a one hour bus ticket, half-price tube fares before 7.30am and a continuation of the Olumpics precept, but hypothecated for council house building — all good, clear campaigning issues. She rightly avoided endorsing any other candidate for LibDem voters’ second preference. Her task, as London Liberal Democrats have always been clear, is to get as high a LibDem city-wide vote as possible to ensure that she is not the only LibDem London Assembly member elected in May.

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Susan Kramer’s Devotion to Duty

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 16th October, 2008

  There is no greater sacrifice that a politician can make than to speak at a lunch, yet not have time to eat even a mouthful herself. OK, I exaggerate. But that is exactly what Susan Kramer, LibDem MP for Richmond Park, had to do today when she came to talk to the Kettner Lunch at the National Liberal Club. The Chairman, Peter Whyte, had told her that she could talk about anything she liked, so given her background and current events, she homed in on the financial situation. Although her neighbouring MP (for Twickenham), Vince Cable, tends to get all the limelight on such matters (and has been performing brilliantly in it), Susan was herself a banker before she went into politics. As she joked at lunch, she had never thought politics would prove to be the more secure profession!

Of course, her parliamentary seat is not that secure, as it is high on the list of Tory targets and the Conservative candidate, Zac Goldsmith, and his backers have been pouring tens of thousands of pounds into the constituency in order to try to unseat Susan at the next general election. That would be a great shame, to put it mildly, as she works phenomenally hard. The reason she had to leave the NLC without even a taste of the food this lunchtime was because she had to go to Ham in her constituency to open a children’s centre.

Moreover, she demonstrated a far greater understanding of the current economic situation than the Tories’ putative Shadow Chancellor, George Osborne, who looks more than ever like a frightened rabbit, with not the foggiest clue about what is going on. I almost feel sorry for him. But I am angry at David Cameron for showing such contempt for the British electorate that he should hand the most significant political portfolio to a young chum who is probably charming but unqualified.

Susan highlighted a number of vital issues as well as giving her own, experienced take on things. She echoed Vince Cable’s remarks (which I reported on recently) that the Bank of England needs to revise its inflation target. Interestingly, she called for a sharp decrease in interest rates, as she said what happened in Japan in the 1990s showed that a series of gradual cuts do not do the trick. She also chimed in with what Chris Huhne has been saying with regard to the cash-rich energy companies, namely that the sector should be shifting its focus towards being paid to save energy rather than being paid to sell energy. On this, as on many other points, the LibDems are ahead on the green agenda — and no amount or huffing and puffing by Zack Goldsmith will persuade me otherwise.

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