British writer, lecturer, broadcaster and Liberal Democrat politician
Manchester-born Jonathan Fryer jumped into the deep-end of journalism in 1969 while still a teenager when he took himself off to Vietnam for the Manchester Evening News and Geographical Magazine, to report on how the war was affecting ordinary people’s lives. He travelled back to England overland across Asia and Europe, developing a passion for the Middle East and Islamic civilizations en route. At St Edmund Hall, Oxford, he read Oriental Studies, graduating with a BA Hons (later MA) in Chinese and Japanese.
Straight after university he joined Reuters news agency, which sent him to Brussels, but being tied to one employer did not suit his restless personality, so he resigned after one year, persuaded that he could live off freelance writing by the offer of his first book contract, for The Great Wall of China (1975), which was a book club choice in the UK, US and the Netherlands. He stayed on in Brussels for seven years, mainly writing theatre reviews for the English-language magazine The Bulletin, but he became increasingly fascinated by European integration and Europe’s relations with the developing world. Journalism commissions from the World Council of Churches, amongst others, enabled him to travel widely in Africa and the Caribbean at this stage.
In 1979 he fought his first European election, as Liberal candidate for South East London, while still based in Brussels, but in 1981 he moved to London to get more directly involved in UK politics, fighting the Chelsea parliamentary constituency in 1983 and the 1984 European elections (again for London South East). He was elected a London borough councillor in Bromley in 1986, fought the Orpington parliamentary seat in 1987, Leyton in 1992, and the European elections again in 1994, 1999, 2004 and 2009. In the last two of these – by this time under a PR system for the whole of London – Jonathan was number 2 on the Liberal Democrat list and failed to be elected by a margin of under one per cent. He has remained active within the Party, serving at various times on its federal policy committee and international relations committee, and becoming Chairman of London Liberal Democrats in 2010.
Career-wise, he worked mainly for the BBC (Radio 4 and the World Service), always as a freelance, during the 1980s and 1990s, but has since diversified his outlets into newspaper and magazine journalism, writing for the Guardian, Diplomat, Oldie and others. He continues to write books – 14 to date – the last two being a history of Kuwait Oil Company and a coffee-table book on (Iraqi) Kurdistan. He is based in London but travels obsessively, having reported from 162 countries up till now.
Jonathan Fryer’s blog: www.jonathanfryer.wordpress.com