Author Archives: Jonathan Fryer

We must fight Witney hard

Invitations have gone out to approved parliamentary candidates to stand in the Witney constituency by-election, caused by David Cameron’s sudden resignation from Parliament. It’s important the selection goes ahead quickly and the very best person is appointed as this is a contest we should fight with maximum resources, energy and determination. There is no time to lose as rumour has it that the by-election may be called for 20 October.

Although the Liberal Democrat vote fell back sharply in 2015 (as in so much of the rest of the country), the party’s candidates (respectively Dawn Barnes and Liz Leffman) came second in both 2010 and 2005. Yes, a distant second, but just consider the extraordinary circumstances in which this by-election is being held. Cameron unintentionally landed Britain in its current Brexit mess and the terrible trio that Theresa May has put in charge of “delivering Brexit” haven’t a clue what it means in practice, how it will be done or when. The Conservatives like to say they are competent, but this is incompetence on a colossal scale.

As for Labour, next week Jeremy Corbyn will almost certainly be re-elected leader of the party, despite the fact that he does not enjoy the confidence of the vast majority of his MPs and Labour is riven by internecine warfare. Not exactly in a position to make a big leap forward in Witney. Indeed, if the recent Sheffield council by-election is anything to go by, quite the opposite.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 53 Comments

Europe’s Liberal family grows

aldeLiberal Democrats campaigning hard to keep the United Kingdom in the European Union can perhaps take heart from the fact that the European Liberal family, as represented by the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE Party), continues to attract new member parties, showing that European and Liberal Democrat messages still resonate on the Continent.

At the ALDE Council meeting in Vilnius, Lithuania, the other day, hosted by the city’s Liberal Mayor,Remigijus Šimašius, no fewer than four newbies were welcomed into the fold: three as full members and one as an associate member (a stepping stone to full membership).

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‘Strategic patience’ in Tbilisi

For the first time ever, Liberal International has held its Executive Committee in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, at the invitation of the Republican Party of Georgia. Regional and global security were at the top of the agenda, with a strong presentation by Georgia’s Defence Minister, Tinatin ‘Tina’ Khidasheli on the challenges facing former Soviet republics now finding themselves on the periphery of an expansionist Russia.

To drive the point home, we participants were all bussed out of the city to the ‘occupation line’, which marks the current limit of Russian encroachment into Georgian territory just south of South Ossetia (which the Russians have already effectively annexed, as they did with Ukraine’s Crimea). Just days before, the Russians had rolled a giant barbed wire fence further into Georgian territory, leaving some Georgian farmers cut off from their land and families divided. Tens of thousands of Georgians have already fled South Ossetia and have been resettled or temporarily rehoused.

Posted in Europe / International | 4 Comments

London needs a liberal narrative

Last week’s elections in England overall were rather encouraging, with a modest but heartening rise in the number of councillors and the gain of Watford Council. But one relative black spot, in which the Liberal Democrat decline of recent years continued unabated, was London, where Mayoral candidate Caroline Pidgeon polled less than five per cent in first preferences – a third of the average vote in the country.

That is no reflection on the quality of Caroline as a candidate. No-one could have worked harder and many non-LibDems said they thought she performed the best among all candidates at hustings. After eight years on the London Assembly, she really knew her stuff, and she had some attractive specific policies, such as a one-hour bus ticket and continuing the Olympics precept but channelling it towards the building of affordable homes. Nonetheless, Caroline is now the sole LibDem member of the Assembly (out of 25). Once we had five.

This is all the more disappointing when one considers that London did particularly well out of the post-May 2015 surge in members and that London Liberal Democrats fielded the most diverse and talented list of Assembly candidates ever. They really looked like our multicultural city and most of them worked their socks off. So what went wrong?

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 32 Comments

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 …

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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

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    Annabel "Nothing is more important than freedom to run your own affairs." First of all we have had freedom to run our own affairs with...
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