Author Archives: Jonathan Fryer

We must take Oldham seriously

The Obelisk on Alderman's HillBy-elections caused by the death of the incumbent are always an occasion for sadness, so our first reaction to the passing of Michael Meacher, Labour MP for Oldham West and Royton, must be a sincere expression of sympathy to his family and friends. However, politics is politics, as Michael would have said himself, and therefore we have to face the fact that there will be a by-election before too long. Even if we should not campaign until after the funeral, that does not mean we should avoid thinking about the challenge ahead.

During the Coalition government the Liberal Democrat powers that be took what I believed to be a misguided decision to virtually ignore northern parliamentary by-elections, with predictably disastrous results. In a couple of cases there was, however, a tremendous surge towards UKIP, almost causing shock Labour defeats. We lost our deposits spectacularly, despite the hard efforts of by-election candidates and mainly local party support. The impression given to the wider public, however, was that in the North of England the LibDems are rubbish, even irrelevant. We must not allow that to happen again.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 54 Comments

Opinion: Syria – We still have a responsibility to protect

Several speakers inThursday’s House of Commons debate on possible intervention in Syria referred to the developing concept within International Law of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P). Basically that means that when a government is unable or unwilling to protect its own people from humanitarian disaster then the international community has an obligation to intervene. Since R2P’s endorsement at the UN in 2005, it has generally been assumed that any such international intervention should have the backing of a UN Security Council resolution, which in Syria’s case would have been impossible, given that Russia and maybe also China would have vetoed …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 54 Comments

Opinion: Changing Gear in London

fireworksThe fireworks over the Thames that signalled the New Year in London symbolically coincided with a handover of the chairmanship of London Liberal Democrats, as I ended my three years at the helm and Mike Tuffrey – until last May a leading Member of the London Assembly – took over.

My time in office was quite a roller-coaster, from the inflated national euphoria of Cleggmania just before the 2010 general election – when in the event we managed to hold on to seven parliamentary seats, but alas lost Richmond Park – to the frankly dire city-wide vote we received in the London Mayoral and GLA elections last May. At least we managed to return Caroline Pidgeon (rightly recognised in the New Year honours) and Stephen Knight to the Assembly.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 9 Comments

Greece – a victory for all Europe?

Hardly had the first exit polls in Greece’s latest general election appeared last night than the euro rose on currency markets and shares in Asia rallied. As far as financiers around the world were concerned, Greek voters had got it right. The conservative New Democracy party had come out in front, albeit by a narrow margin. And the threat of a Greek exit from the eurozone, with possibly dire consequences for the world economy, had been averted, at least for the time being.

Posted in News | Tagged | 20 Comments

Life after Kim Jong-Il

The sudden demise of North Korea’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong-Il at the weekend removed one of the world’s most bizarre and reclusive rulers. Though there were televised scenes of schoolchildren, soldiers and workers crying in the streets of the capital, Pyongyang, when the news was announced on Monday, the mourning was considerably less hysterical than when his father Kim Il-Sung expired in 1994. Kim Il-Sung remains the sun in the sky as far as North Korean ideologues are concerned. Kim Jong-Il was merely the son here on earth. He had moreover taken the precaution two years ago of naming one …

Posted in Europe / International | Tagged | 3 Comments

Opinion: What Cameron should be doing in Brussels

When David Cameron arrived in Brussels last night for the pre-Summit dinner of EU leaders, he may have sensed a certain frisson in the room. He missed out on the earlier gathering of most EU Heads of Government, who are members of the EPP (Christian Democrat) Euro-parliamentary group and held their own important caucus. Until Cameron became Tory Leader, the British Conservatives were members of the EPP, but in a blatant ploy to get backing from Euro-sceptics among Tory backbenchers, he pledged that he would withdraw from the group, which he duly did, marginalising not just his party but Britain …

Posted in Op-eds | 59 Comments

Team London: selections open

Applications are now invited from potential LibDem Mayoral and Assembly (GLA) list candidates for London, which will hold its next round of city-wide elections in 2012. Interested individuals can request an application pack from the Returning Office, Patrick Mitchell, at [email protected] or 6 Palfrey Place, London SW8 1PA. Completed applications must be received by 24 September.

London has benefited from a big influx of new members over recent months – by far the biggest growth of any UK region. Moreover, London Liberal Democrats have moved campaigning and capacity up several notches with the launch of Team London, a new approach to …

Posted in London and Selection news | 15 Comments

Tweeting for STV

Like many former Liberals of a certain vintage, I was wooed to the cause of electoral reform by the diminutive but formidable figure of Enid Lakeman, who even at an advanced age could spear opponents with her logic and conviction. I wish she were around today to add her appraisal of whether Gordon Brown’s referendum on AV is a step forwards or a step backwards in the long march to Fair Votes.

As virtually everyone seems to be talking about ‘fairness’ these days, surely it is time that LibDems seized the moment and trumpeted our belief in STV? Moreover, we should …

Posted in Online politics | Tagged , , , and | 5 Comments

Jonathan Fryer’s Diary of a Euro-candidate

The Liberal Democrat Friends of Poland is launched this afternoon at the Polish Centre in Hammersmith, chaired by Islington’s LibDem Mayor, Stefan Kasprzyk. A good turnout from the Polish-language media. In my speech about why Poles in London should vote Liberal Democrat, I joke (truthfully) about how during the Communist period, I’d been unable to find accommodation in a snow-bound Krakow, so spent the night in a Carmelite convent. Straight after the speeches, I have to do an interview in Spanish for a London-based Latin American channel. The capital’s ethnic diversity certainly keeps one on one’s toes. Later this …

Posted in News | Tagged , , , , , and | Leave a comment

Jonathan Fryer’s Diary of a Euro-candidate

Most of the day is spent at the Keynes Forum Policy Conference at LSE, at which one of the sessions is specifically about the European elections, or at least the interlinked campaign themes of the economy and the environment. Both Sharon Bowles (South East) and Fiona Hall (North East) are MEPs who know their briefs intimately, which is reassuring and underlines the value of electing people willing to specialise in specific fields. But through conversations during coffee breaks it becomes clear to me that local activists are really thirsting for simply-worded, bite-sized Euro-items they can just slot into their Focuses. …

Posted in News | Tagged , , , , , , , , , and | Leave a comment

Opinion: We mustn’t forget Burma

With the world’s attention focussed (rightly) on Gaza, the ongoing tragedy of Burma/Myanmar remains almost unseen. Just as the Israelis are keeping foreign journalists out of Gaza, so the Burmese junta stops reporters getting in there to see what is happening. Moreover, now that last year’s cyclone has been forgotten by the outside world and the monks’ protests have been quashed, Burma just isn’t ‘news’ as far as the global media is concerned, with a few noble exceptions such as the BBC World Service.

Nonetheless, the bloody repression there continues, including the torture of political prisoners. On 30 December, nine members of the National League for Democracy (NLD) were arrested in Rangoon (Yangon) for demonstrating in favour of the release from house arrest of their leader, Aung San Suu Kyi. Suu Kyi (who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991) has spent more than 12 of the past 18 years in detention, her ‘crime’ being that her party won Burma’s last democratic election in 1990 – a result which the junta simply refused to accept.

Posted in Europe / International and Op-eds | Tagged | 2 Comments

Yes, we have no (straight) bananas!

Has the European Commission being telling porkies about Euro-myths? The small percentage of LibDem Voice readers who avidly devour the Daily Mail and saw the recent piece by Edward Heathcoat-Amory dramatically headlined ‘Here’s proof Brussels has been sprouting lies about wonky vegetables for years!’ are not the only people who may think so. And truth to tell, what should have been a good news story from the EU has turned into something of a public relations disaster.

First the facts. Earlier this month, the EU relaxed its regulations governing 26 types of fruit and veg, lifting a ban on the …

Posted in Europe / International and Op-eds | 3 Comments

Jonathan Fryer’s Diary of a Euro-candidate

Each autumn, I’m invited by Public Affairs International to give a briefing in London to foreign civil servants about relations between British political parties, the public and the media. A majority of the participants this afternoon are from Qatar and the UAE, which is an interesting reflection of current global realities. As their government ministers are almost all members of the ruling family, the Westminster system must seem very strange. I am left pondering what things would be like if Prince Andrew were our Minister of Defence. In the evening, I am the guest speaker at the AGM of Ealing …

Posted in Europe / International and Op-eds | Tagged | Leave a comment

Opinion: Fighting the Euro-elections on European Issues

Logically, the European elections – due to take place on 4 June next year – should be about European issues. But in Britain, at least, they never have been. Shamefully, even the Liberal Democrats, as the only consistently pro-European party in this country, has accepted the received wisdom that Europe is the love that dare not speak its name.

The nadir came in 1999 when (in London, at least) Euro-candidates were not allowed to have any input into the literature – indeed, we did not see it until it was printed. When I received it, I felt physically sick, as it …

Posted in News | Tagged | 20 Comments

Jonathan Fryer’s Diary of a Euro-candidate


On the tube over to West London, I wonder how Ukraine and Slovakia have managed to have their national celebrations on the same day, and both at lunchtime. Fortunately the two embassies are close to each other, and predictably there is a lot of toing-and-froing between. I decide to do Ukraine first, having recently been in the country itself and I am not surprised to find the mood somewhat sombre. After the Russian intervention in Georgia, there are rumblings in the Crimea again and the government in Kiev is falling apart. I have earnest discussions with the diplomats there, …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 1 Comment

Jonathan Fryer’s Diary of a Euro-candidate


The sun shines on London Pride, as fellow London Euro-candidates Dinti Batstone, Christopher Le Breton, John Pindar and I march with members of the LibDem LGBT campaigning group, DELGA. They have arranged a stall right in front of the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square. While Nick Clegg addresses the rally there, our Euro-team hands out special focuses, highlighting Sarah Ludford MEP’s call for the US to end its entry ban on people living with HIV/AIDS. I’ve vowed I won’t set foot in the States again until that iniquitous prohibition is lifted. By the end of the afternoon, the boys and girls miling around are in the mood for some serious partying, but I am sensible and head off to Eltham for the Greenwich LibDems’ summer barbeque. Keeping in touch with local parties and reminding them about Europe is a high priority.

Posted in News | Tagged and | 1 Comment

Recent Comments

  • User Avatarexpats 27th Nov - 11:05pm
    Eddie Sammon 27th Nov '15 - 7:28pm....Hi expats, I just want Daesh defeated and the civil war over with. If the experts are saying Assad...
  • User AvatarDavid Raw 27th Nov - 10:44pm
    @ johnmc "Are there other groups imagined to have higher HIV infection rates than the general population, and if so, is there a blanket ban...
  • User AvatarDenis Mollison 27th Nov - 10:18pm
    @Mick Taylor - absolutely! There's plenty of good analysis of the tangled wars of the region if you look for it, e.g. It might...
  • User AvatarJayne Mansfield 27th Nov - 10:18pm
    @ Social Liberal, Thank you for taking so much effort in your response. You sound like a soldier. That is not a criticism, it is...
  • User AvatarRichard Marbrow 27th Nov - 9:51pm
    So I live at ground zero for parliamentary by-elections? The Royton wards of Oldham West are ten minutes walk from my house as well...
  • User AvatarRoland 27th Nov - 9:28pm
    > "The scrapping of the wind energy subsidy..." If you had read the source documents, you would know that the fundamental issue was the levy...