Tag Archives: paddy ashdown

LibLink: Paddy Ashdown: Britain’s best defence to the terror threat is international action

In today’s Observer, Paddy Ashdown cautions against knee-jerk reactions to the prospect of radicalised Jihadists returning to Britain and wreaking havoc on our streets:

He says, basically, that we’ve dealt with this before, in more difficult circumstances and we know how to do it:

On Friday, the government announced that the imminent danger of jihadi attack meant Britain’s threat level should be raised to “severe”. Then, from the prime minister downwards, Tory ministers took to every available airwave to tell us how frightened we should be and why this required a range of new powers for them to exercise. For the record, the threat level in Northern Ireland has been “severe” for the past four years – as it was in all Britain for many years in the 1980s and 1990s, when the IRA threat was at its greatest.

I say this not to deny the threat from returning jihadis – though as the former head of counter-terrorism for MI6, Richard Barrett said on Saturday, this should not be overestimated. But rather to make the point that this is not a new threat. It is one we have faced before and one we know how to deal with – effectively, without panic and without a whole new range of executive powers that could endanger our liberties. Indeed, when it comes to facing threats, it was surely far more difficult to cope with IRA terrorists slipping across the Irish Sea than it is to stop jihadis returning from Iraq?

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Gaza: Clegg demands UK suspends arms export licences to Israel, Ashdown writes to Warsi to discuss next steps

With the truce in Gaza in its second day, and indirect talks between Israeli and Palestinian representatives taking place today, Nick Clegg has stepped up the pressure for the UK government to work more actively to secure peace in the area. The BBC reports:

The Liberal Democrats are calling for the suspension of arms export licences to Israel, adding to the pressure David Cameron is facing over Gaza. … Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said the Israeli military operation in Gaza had “overstepped the mark” and called for the suspension of arms export licences to Israel. He said he

Posted in Europe / International and News | Also tagged , and | 12 Comments

Lib Dem party membership: the occasional ups and mostly downs since 1988

The Lib Dems published the party’s 2013 accounts this week. The report included the latest membership figures, which showed for the first time since 2010 an increase on the previous year’s: up 2% to 43,451. Here are the Lib Dem membership figures since the modern party’s formation as the successor to the Liberal Party and SDP in 1988:

lib dem membership figs since 1988 - as at july 2014

For interest’s sake, here’s the increase/decrease in party membership under each leader:

Posted in Party policy and internal matters | Also tagged , , , and | 16 Comments

A bit of our party’s history remembered

1988On 29th July, exactly 26 years ago, Paddy Ashdown was elected as the first leader of the newly merged Social and Liberal Democrats (which quickly settled down to being known as the Liberal Democrats).  The leadership contest was between Paddy Ashdown and Alan Beith, who had my vote. But what a leader Paddy turned out to be!

The Guardian marks the anniversary by airing an editorial of the day, part of which was a tribute to David Steel who had decided not to enter the leadership contest. David Steel had led the Liberal Party into the Alliance with the Social Democrats and acted as one of the two interim leaders of the Social and Liberal Democrats after the merger.  He had been the baby of the House when elected at the age of 26, and was one of the youngest party leaders ever when he took up that role 11 years later.

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UPDATED: Sarah Yong stands down as Lib Dem candidate for marginal seat of Somerton and Frome

20140201-202125.jpg Sarah YongIt’s six months since Sarah Yong was selected as the Lib Dem candidate for Somerton and Frome, held by David Heath since 1997. Today she’s announced her decision to stand down. Here’s the letter she’s sent to her local paper, announcing the news:

Dear Editor,

I just wanted to let you know that it is with great regret that I’ve decided to stand down from my role as Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Somerton and Frome. I have made this decision for personal reasons and as a result of changes in

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Paddy: Clegg “has had 17 buckets of s**t dumped over his head by the right-wing press”

Paddy Ashdown talks on "The global power shift" in Brussels March 1st 2012 -  Some rights reserved by PhOtOnQuAnTiQuE That’s the rather striking quote from Paddy Ashdown in an interview with Iain Dale on LBC radio. Here’s how the Herald reported it:

Speaking to LBC radio’s Iain Dale, Lord Ashdown insisted the party’s dismal poll ratings would recover as the “true Nick Clegg” was revealed to voters.

“The right-wing press in this country detest the coalition – detest it,” he said.

“If they want to destroy the coalition, what they do is

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5 things Nick Clegg could do next

Nick Clegg Q&A 8My last piece of advice to Nick Clegg was to stand down as Lib Dem leader. He didn’t, and it’s pretty clear now that Nick will lead us into the next general election.

Two problems remain, though, and we need to find ways of addressing them. First, morale in the party has dipped since the May elections. Secondly, support for the party has also dipped in the polls. Yes, Lib Dem MPs benefit from the incumbency effect but that only stretches so far – we also need to start winning the air war, or at the very least avoid being ignored. As it stands, what Nick says just isn’t getting a listening. However unfair, it’s a reality we need to deal with.

Here are five suggestions from me for ways in which Nick Clegg could help restore party morale and maybe get himself a hearing from the media and public…

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Book Review: The Cruel Victory: The French Resistance, D-Day and the Battle for the Vercors 1944 by Paddy Ashdown

paddy book 2It is not like me to read books about wars and battles, but after being so moved and angered by Paddy Ashdown’s excellent portrayal of the inaugural mission of the Special Boat Service, A Brilliant Little Operation, I knew that I had to buy his next book.

The Cruel Victory tells the story of the brave Resistance fighters who briefly controlled the Vercors plateau in south-east France in the Summer of 1944. The original plan was for the Vercors to be secured to help an Allied invasion from the south, but for various reasons, the support that the fighters on the ground needed was not forthcoming. If people had been smarter in their decision making, at least some of it could have been and lives could have been saved.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 7 Comments

Paddy: “A problem caused by killing Arab Muslims won’t be made better by killing more with Western weapons”

rally paddy 01I had been waiting to see what Paddy Ashdown would have to say on Iraq because he’s probably the person in British politics who best understands the international complexities of all the world’s flashpoints.

On a day when Tony Blair is urging speedy action to deal with extremism, Paddy spoke to Sky News’ Murnaghan programme about what he thinks should happen. He was asked if Blair was right to be interventionist. His reply that intervening didn’t necessarily mean blowing things and people up:

I’m firmly interventionist because I believe

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LibLink…Paddy Ashdown on the abuse against children in conflict

paddy ashdown - paul walterIn a powerful article on Huffington Post, Paddy Ashdown writes in support of UNICEF’s campaign to end sexual violence against children in conflict. He writes:

During my years in Bosnia, both during the war and afterwards I heard and saw evidence of horrific stories of mass rape and sexual violence committed during the war. Thousands of women and children suffered terrible abuse and the physical and mental scars could stay with survivors for the rest of their lives. 

Years later, sexual violence still remains entrenched in conflict zones around the world and children are often the most vulnerable. Children suffering in conflicts are growing up in a world where they face the daily threat of rape and abuse and sexual violence is considered the ‘norm’. 

Posted in LibLink | Also tagged | 2 Comments

Paddy: I know what it’s like to hide in a canoe for 5 days

paddy book 2Paddy Ashdown’s ubiquitous presence on the media these days is not entirely an accident. I suspect, though, he wanted to spend more time talking about his new book, out tomorrow, than about Liberal Democrat plots and leadership crises. The Cruel Victory: The French Resistance, D-Day and the Battle for Vercors is currently making its way to my Kindle and I’m looking forward to reading it, harrowing though it will be. Paddy knows how to tell a story with intelligence and emotional punch.

He has been talking to all sorts of media outlets, but I came across this quick interview with Arabian News which was more book related. He was asked what he got out of writing:

Oh, the joy of creation I suppose, if that’s not too pompous a word. I think you’d call me an author rather than a writer, a writer is probably a somewhat higher level

Posted in News | 4 Comments

Paddy Ashdown: This is moment we need to campaign through Summer and get good message out for the General Election

paddy ashdown - paul walterPaddy Ashdown, not surprisingly, came out strongly in Nick Clegg’s defence on the Sunday Politics this morning.

He said that we had a good message to proudly proclaim in the run up to the General Election.

Ditching Nick now would irreparably damage the party, he said, as it would show that we can’t hack being in Government.

He reminded us of his drubbing 25 years ago at the first European elections the party fought where we ended up as an asterisk.

He has upset some of the people who are unhappy at the moment by appearing to trivialise their concerns by suggesting that more people had signed up to Lib Dem Friends of Cake than had signed the letter. However, he later clarified on Twitter that he thought they were wrong but respected them:

You can watch the whole interview here.


–> Get Adobe Flash player–>

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Lib Dem MP on post-22 May leadership speculation: “Ashdown would cut my balls off if I criticised Clegg”

Paddy Ashdown talks on "The global power shift" in Brussels March 1st 2012 -  Some rights reserved by PhOtOnQuAnTiQuE Lib Dems are braced for a tricky week. This Thursday will see the first UK-wide election since 2010, with voters choosing who represents them in the European Parliament. Many voters across England will also get to decide who runs their local council.

Votes for the local elections will be counted on that night and throughout Friday. If this year follows the pattern of the previous three years, the Lib Dems could …

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LibLink: Paddy Ashdown: Alex Salmond should apologise for his poor call over Vladimir Putin

paddy ashdown - paul walter“Lib Dem Statesman Paddy Ashdown”. That’s how the headline in Paddy’s Sunday Mail article describes him.

Paddy is writing in response to Alex Salmond’s comments on Vladimir Putin . As a reminder, this is what Salmond said:

Obviously, I don’t approve of a range of Russian actions, but I think Putin’s more effective than the press he gets, I would have thought, and you can see why he carries support in Russia.

“He’s restored a substantial part of Russian pride and that must be a good thing. There are aspects of Russian constitutionality and the intermesh with business and politics that are obviously difficult to admire. Russians are fantastic people, incidentally; they are lovely people.

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LibLink: Paddy Ashdown in Bangladesh: Stoves that save children’s lives

Photo UNICEF BangladeshPaddy Ashdown has been writing over at UNICEF’s blog about his recent visit to Bangladesh. There, he saw the benefits of an initiative, supported by Marks and Spencer, to provide better ventilated, safer, fuel efficient stoves to 40,000 homes.

First of all, he outlines how dangerous simply cooking dinner could be:

I have just returned from a visit to the country and even in the tiny village of Daccope, children are exposed to potentially deadly air pollution in their own home every day. This dangerous mix of chemicals, including carbon monoxide,

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Paddy: We’re one mistake away from war in Ukraine

Paddy AshdownWhenever there’s a horrible international situation, I always want to hear what Paddy Ashdown has to say. He’s very wise on all the intricate web of international relations, agendas and history. I don’t always agree with him, but he’s worth listening to because he’ll tell it exactly like he sees it. He makes it all so much more real.

He’s just been on Murnaghan talking about the situation in Ukraine. Unfortunately, he confirmed my feeling that the world is a very much more scary place this weekend.

He was very clear that one foolish mistake could tip a volatile situation into war. That, he said, could be one “trigger-happy” Russian soldier opening fire, a Ukrainian misjudgement of a situation. Something that could very easily happen in the heat of a tense moment.

He said that it wasn’t clear what the Russians were up to. He said it was possible, but unlikely, that their ambitions were limited to securing their international treaty defined rights of access to the port of Sevastopol rather than wider territorial gain. He likened Putin’s stance to Hitler’s over Sudetenland as opposed to the modern Western view that the fate of nations is subject to the view of its people.

Posted in Europe / International and News | Also tagged , , and | 51 Comments

Paddy and Jane Ashdown shaken by fatal car accident

Paddy AshdownThe Telegraph reports that Paddy and Jane Ashdown were involved in a road accident  yesterday afternoon on the A356 near Crewkerne.  A Vauxhall Corsa clipped their car, and the driver of the Corsa, Mark Hurford, sadly died at the scene.

Paddy Ashdown said:

We were coming back from the station and my wife was driving me home. We were about a mile outside Crewkerne and a car came around the corner.

Posted in News | 1 Comment

LDVideo: Paddy Ashdown gets BBC’s Norman Smith’s name wrong

On Tuesday, Paddy Ashdown was sent to do the rounds of the media outlets as a robust voice of reason. He was on a bit of a mission to tackle the idea that the Liberal Democrats were showing themselves up as not fit for government. Of course, those commentators in the media making that point didn’t balance it up with any credit for being 20% of the government but contributing so many decent policies. I mean, whatever you feel about the efficacy of raising the tax threshold as a means of tackling poverty, it’s a promise kept. As is the Pupil Premium, investing money to give disadvantaged kids the best chance in life. Then there’s the total sense on mental health. That’s an area that’s suffered from chronic underinvestment for a long time. Things won’t be sorted overnight, but it’s good to have a Deputy PM and a Health Minister who get it, who understand the effects of being dropped from all the support at the age of 18. When you live in a place like Scotland, where the Health Minister really doesn’t get it and vulnerable kids are having to wait a year to even see a psychiatrist, you really appreciate the changes happening south of the border.

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How can we do politics better?

There’s been a spate of articles and comments by Liberal Democrat politicians which, at a guess, isn’t co-ordinated, but they all address the same themes – the problems with the way that we do politics and lack of trust in politicians and institutions.

Paddy Ashdown told the Times (£), reported also for free in the Guardian that public faith in British institutions was “crumbling into dust” with some very harsh words for the BBC and NHS:

The BBC is revealed as an organisation which can’t manage its own affairs, misspends public money and seems to have been complicit in aggrandising

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Paddy Ashdown warned Thatcher about CIA’s activities

Paddy AshdownEach New Year brings the unveiling of Government files from 30 years ago. This year’s revelations include some highly topical references to CIA approaches to British citizens.

In 1984 Margaret Thatcher ruled. Paddy Ashdown was one of 23  SDP/Liberal Alliance MPs – he did not become Leader of the Liberal Democrats until the merger of the Social Democrat and the Liberal parties in 1988. Before he entered Parliament he had been an MI6 officer, so he was well placed to observe the CIA’s activities.

According to today’s Guardian, this is what …

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Kirsty Williams interview: “Scary” Paddy, women in the Cabinet and the reality of a Labour government

Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Kirsty Williams has given a lively and often funny interview to Total Politics magazine in which she talks about everything from her success in persuading the minority  Labour government in Wales to implement the Pupil Premium.

What happened to the last person who said no to Paddy?

Anyone who knows Kirsty will know how down to earth she is and that comes across very much in the interview. She’s asked about whether she would move to Westminster and said that Paddy Ashdown has already asked that question:

Paddy says I should think about going to London,” Williams reveals. “He’s

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FREE: Extract of Paddy

Aurum Press, the publishers of Paddy Ashdown’s bestselling autobiography A Fortunate Life, have released a chapter of the book for free download.

It’s called 1983 – The Winning of Yeovil, and as I wrote in 2009:

MP also stands for Military Precision, so it’s no surprise that Paddy Ashdown’s campaign to become MP for Yeovil was long on discipline and short on creature comforts.

If you haven’t packed a book for the train to Conference yet, 1983 – The Winning of Yeovil is vital reading for all Liberal Democrat campaigners. And as is typical of the Chair of the Party’s …

Posted in Books and News | Also tagged | 2 Comments

LibLink…Paddy Ashdown: After the Syria vote, Britain must not sleepwalk into isolationism

Paddy Ashdown has been writing about the implications of the Syria vote for the Guardian’s Comment is Free site. First, he pretty much repeats what he said on Friday:

There are strange paradoxes here. It is possible to be both proud of a parliament that said no to the executive on a matter like military action. But sad; even – dare I say it – a little ashamed at the decision it took.

Of course there are reasons for this. The leftover poisons of the Iraq war; the toxic effect of public distrust in our politics. Mishandling by the government. President Obama’s

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Clegg, Ashdown, Williams & Hughes set out case for action in Syria

Writing in tonight’s London Evening Standard, Nick Clegg, Simon Hughes, Paddy Ashdown and Shirley Williams set out the case for international action in Syria.

After describing the horrors of  chemical weapons, they declare:

We four believe a strong response from the international community is now necessary.

Posted in LibLink and News | Also tagged , , and | 18 Comments

Syria: what do Liberal Democrats want?

Last night we brought you Nick Clegg’s view on Syria, which can be summarised as follows:

  • if we stand idly by we set a very dangerous precedent
  • the use of chemical weapons is a repugnant crime
  • we will not stand idly by when chemical weapons are used in complete breach of international law
  •  Government “is not going to act outside the remit of international law”
  • we want to stand up for the standards and norms in the civilised world

In the last couple of days Paddy Ashdown and Sir Menzies Campbell, two of the most respected voices this country has on foreign affairs, have been …

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LibLink (Down Memory Lane Edition) | Paddy Ashdown – ‘After the conflict, a bright dawn for the Democrats’

Paddy Ashdown campaigning25 years ago, Paddy Ashdown became leader of the party then known officially as the Social and Liberal Democrats. Here’s an excerpt from what he wrote for The Guardian on his first morning as leader:

Hope, said Francis Bacon, is a good breakfast, but a poor supper. On my first morning as the new leader of a new party, standing at seven per cent in the opinion polls, I know what he meant! But at the end of a bruising and often damaging period in the fortunes of the Social

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What has my marriage got to do with the Liberal Democrats?

More than you would think, I guess. My long-suffering husband at least went into our union with his eyes open. If there wasn’t actually a large bird of liberty in the room at the registry office, he knew that the party would play a large part in our lives together. And even then, I think it’s played an even bigger part than he anticipated and he’s dealt with it with patience, fortitude and humour. Most of the time, anyway.

Why is this even relevant? Well, it’s a Summer of 25th anniversaries. Next month, we will have been married for 25 years. Yesterday, it was 25 years since Paddy Ashdown was elected as leader and this video was released by the Party to celebrate.

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Will Ed Miliband “do a John Smith” and push for an early EU in/out referendum? There are advantages, y’know…

John Major and David CameronCould Labour be about to “do a John Smith” to the Tories over the timing of an in/out referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union?

In the 1990s, Labour wrought havoc on the fourth-term Tory government by (cynically) teaming up with the right-wing ‘Maastricht rebels’ to inflict damaging Commons defeats on their common enemy, John Major.

Could Ed Miliband try and do the same to David Cameron? That’s the hint in today’s Guardian:

Labour is considering backing an in-out referendum on Europe as early as

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Paddy Ashdown: Arming Syrian rebels could make things worse

Paddy Ashdown went on Murnaghan to say in no uncertain terms that now was not the time to be even talking about arming Syrian rebels and cautioned against any actions which could sound like a “Desist or we send our arms” message to Assad. The problem with that approach, he said, is that if you make a threat, you have to carry it out or nobody will ever believe what you say again.

I’ve been busy on Storify this morning.  My tweets summarising his comments are here. Here’s a selection:

Posted in News | Also tagged | 7 Comments

Ashdown says package offered to Afghan interpreter doesn’t “fulfill our debt of honour”

A couple of weeks ago, we reported that the Government had changed its mind and would allow Afghan intepreters to settle in this country. This is something that Paddy Ashdown and Nick Clegg had argued for vociferously.

However, as details of the scheme have emerged, they have been dismissed as insufficient by various people, including Paddy Ashdown as the Times (£) reports:

Senior politicians have accused the Government of mistaken priorities in their handling of safeguards for British Army interpreters when UK forces leave Afghanistan.

Only those interpreters who were still in British service on December 19, 2012, will be offered 

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