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. This will have to be a priority for my team over the coming four months

Tower Hamlets LibDems has decided to do some petitioning this morning in Brick Lane on Gaza, a subject that most passers-by are keen to express their opinions on, even though the Israelis’ unilateral ceasefire announcement has meant a last-minute change of leaflet wording. I can’t stay long as I have to join DELGA members at their annual conference at Butler’s Wharf on the Thames to take part in a presentation on the specially-targeted London LGBT Euro-campaign. This year’s elections will for the first time see carefully crafted LibDem materials addressing the specific concerns of precise groups, other examples being students and resident EU nationals such as Poles.

To the House of Commons for a meeting with the Governors of the three provinces of Iraqi Kurdistan, who are in Britain being briefed on UK political practices. Not that our system is perfect. It is a good opportunity to hear at first hand how things are going in the most stable region of Iraq, which I hope to visit later this year.

Dinner at St Anne’s Church, Soho, with the vicar, executive members of the Soho Society and various community activists. Though I spend much of my time politically and professionally focussing on European and international issues, getting out and about among different groups in the capital for a lively exchange of views about more local matters is an essential part of my role as a London Euro-candidate.

Back at the House of Commons again today for the Executive Board of the Council for the Advancement of Arab British Understanding (CAABU), to which I was elected last year. CAABU does great work sending parliamentary fact-finding missions to Israel/Palestine (London MPs Ed Davey and Sarah Teather are recent visitors to the region) but I am keen that CAABU should also do much more in relation to North Africa, given the effective stalling of the Barcelona Process between the EU and the southern and eastern Mediterranean and the great mass of unemployed young people in the Maghreb. Britain should not allow French President Nicolas Sarkozy to make all the running on this!

The Executive of my local party (Leyton and Wanstead) is nearly over by the time I get there, but we do get a date fixed for a Campaigns group briefing on the European elections, which is what I wanted.

Reinventing the State was the Social Liberals’ riposte to The Orange Book, or at least that is how many people saw it at the time. This evening sees the first in a series of discussion meetings organised by James Graham and other LibDems active in the Westminster village, looking at various issues raised in the book. Paul Holmes, MP for Chesterfield, gives a pithy critique of education policy and in particular secondary schools. This is not something the EU has much direct role in, but there are related issues that are among my hobby-horses, such as the quality (or lack) of citizenship education and language teaching in British classrooms.

Catherine Bearder of the ‘In It to Win It’ group of leading Euro-candidates has assembled a stellar cast of party apparatchiks to brief us all at Cowley Street on aspects of the forthcoming campaign. Press work is going to be of vital importance and I’m glad to make contact with the relatively new press supreme, Jamie Hamill, who reminds everyone to keep writing to local newspapers like mad. Media coverage should be helped during the campaign itself by Nick Clegg’s promised presence in every region. We need to get our thinking caps on now about how best we can use him during his two days on the stump in London. I have to leave today’s briefing early, to help out in the polling day operation in the East Wickham (Bexley) by-election.

Three of the core members of my overwhelmingly young and enthusiastic campaign team come over to the house for a strategy session in the morning, a key theme of today’s discussions being how to liaise with local parties, stimulate street campaigning and get involved in events in universities and colleges across London. Meanwhile, my Campaign PA, James Lillis, has already cranked me up several gears technology-wise. My weekly newsletter is now being launched, people who sign up to the Facebook Group ‘Jonathan Fryer 4 Europe’ can receive regular updates and James has even got me Twittering.

To Stansted airport in the late afternoon for a Ryanair flight to Baden-Baden – the cheapest way of getting to Strasbourg, where the Liberal International (of which I am a Vice-President) is holding its Executive this weekend. Strasbourg is a city I love, both for its architecture and its food, but that won’t stop me continuing to fight to try to get all of the European Parliament’s plenary sessions held in Brussels instead, to end the criminal waste of resources caused by bi-location.

Jonathan Fryer is a writer, lecturer and broadcaster, and is second on the party’s list for the European Elections in London in 2009.  His blog has featured on Lib Dem Voice’s Golden Dozen lists over a dozen times.

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