25th February 2020, the Pinsker Centre and UCL Conservatives opened their doors to Mr. Lance Forman, Brexit and Conservative party MEP and voice for local industry in London. From his humble origins, to his time in the European Parliament, Mr. Forman offered an intimate insight into the career of a Brexiteer and Conservative.
“I went from oily fish into politics… There isn’t much difference between the two!”
Mr. Forman parted from the family business, H. Forman & Son (a high-end salmon smokery), to pursue a career as a special advisor on Poland in the wake of the collapse of the Communist Bloc. While his colleagues had jumped on the opportunity to jet-off to sunnier lands, he recounted, he chose to remain in Poland and advise John Major’s government on Polish affairs.
Eventually returning to North-East London to engage in the family business, Lance told of the challenges of running a small business. His professional journey was not an easy one. Lance spoke of his three ‘catastrophes’ at H. Forman & Son: Fire, flood, and most importantly, the Olympics.
Mr. Forman rose to prominence on the back of the UK government’s aggressive compulsory purchase and mismanagement after London’s successful Olympic bid. Lance lamented that, during the construction of Heathrow’s terminal 5, it took six years to hear out complaints from residents and local business. For the Olympic stadium and village: Complaints were dismissed in just six weeks. Lance became the voice for more than 350 local businesses threatened by the London Olympics. In the process, he uncovered the extent of the government’s shady practices and negligence.
“The U.K government had no plan for winning the bid…
In government they went: ‘Oh ****!'”
During the planning for the Olympics, aggressive undervaluation of land was branded as redevelopment and favourable deals were chalked up for certain investors. Lance would go on to pen the book: “Forman’s games: The Dark Underside of the London Olympics.”
On the subject of the Brexit party, Lance described his entry into European politics as being based around a chance encounter near the Leave Campaign offices, leading to a lunch with Nigel Farage. Mr. Farage had stressed the importance, as he saw it, of integrating business voices into the Brexit campaign. Several months later, Lance would be elected as MEP for London. “Another lifelong ambition… not!” he added slyly.
Lance told us of the burdening bureaucracy of ‘European Democracy’ : MEPs returning to a previously empty session chamber to vote en masse, and most importantly, to be able collect their daily allowance, before shuffling away for the rest of the day. Lance complained about the EU’s “One-size-fits-all currency” and the presence of “more extremism on both the left and right” than anywhere else.
In December of 2019, Lance’s concern over a possible division of the Brexit vote led him to resign as whip and come over to the Conservative’s ERG group to support Boris’ Brexit strategy. On Boris’ deal, he regarded it as: “Expensive, but good enough.” Lance’s European career would come to an end with the UK’s withdrawal from the EU on January 31st 2020: “My journey, nine months long (it should have been six!), was over.”
Lance Forman was well received by all in attendance and kindly allowed for a more open discussion with the audience. The Pinsker Centre, specialised in Middle-Eastern affairs, was eager to ask about Lance’s own Jewish origins. On the Zionist question, Lance noted that the political right hadn’t successfully got its message out: “The narrative has radically changed.” To reduce antisemitism in Europe, Lance believes in educating on the Israel question. This education, being based around the 1920 San Remo legal precedent. Lance had to cut himself short: “I could go on for hours about the San Remo conference…”
The Pinsker Centre would like to thank Mr. Forman for his time. The Pinsker Centre is a think-tank based upon the values of debate, discussion, and dialogue; opening up the conversation on Geopolitical issues facing the Middle East and the State of Israel.
Written by Dylan Carter