Tag Archives: paddy ashdown

Is there any chance you might have noticed that there’s 100 days till the General Election?

So far today, the election themed correspondence and social media from the Liberal Democrats has involved 3 separate emails, a poster on social media, a silly but scarily compelling and satisfying game and a fabulous video.

One thing in all of that that the party has missed is that this whole 100 days to go thing is a bit novel. We’ve known the date of this election since late 2010 when fixed term parliaments were introduced. Before then it was up to the Prime Minister to pick the date, usually at the time of maximum political benefit to their party unless, like Gordon Brown, they simply ran out of time – although, to be fair, he could have nabbed another month or so in No 10. It was the one piece of useful political reform that we managed to get through.

We’ve already brought you the lovely poster that was released this morning. I’ve had emails from the Scottish Party, Malcolm Bruce on behalf of Christine Jardine and LDHQ. My favourite was the last simply because of the fantastic video tour of our Party’s Central London HQ, chatting away to the staff. They seriously only filmed it yesterday. It was great seeing people like the excellent Wassim from Member and Supporter Development, Robert the fantastic guy on reception who never fails to make me smile (ask him about the litter of puppies on Eastleigh polling day) and digital whizz Bess Mayhew. If you haven’t watched it, do so now.

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Clegg: “Liberalism youthful, optimistic philosophy”, Ashdown threatens to eat Murnaghan & Grender reminds us of Labour’s NHS deals with private sector

It’s been a marathon this morning. Nick Clegg has been on the Andrew Marr Show and Pienaar’s Politics, Paddy Ashdown has been on Murnaghan talking about the debates and the Counter Terrorism Bill and Olly Grender took part in a panel on Pienaar’s Politics.

I have done a Storify thingy of all my tweets from all the interviews here but I shall outline the key themes in this post.

This was a morning when, as we’ve seen, there have been two powerful initiatives from the party on ending illiteracy by 2025 and improving mental health crisis care so that people don’t end up in police cells. These weren’t mentioned very much in any of the interviews.

Clegg – Lib Dems in Government have been obsessed with ensuring kids get best start in life

Clegg really came into his own in the Pienaar interview where he had more opportunity to talk about Lib Dem values and priorities than on the Marr Show. He outlined how initiatives like protecting the schools budget and giving extra money to disadvantaged kids in school had started to close the attainment gap. He talked about liberalism being a “youthful, optimistic philosophy which seeks to create a society where everybody can get ahead.

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LibLink: Paddy Ashdown – We have experienced anarchy like this before. We should not over-react to it

PAddy Ashdown by Liberal DemocratsWriting in the Independent on Sunday yesterday, Paddy Ashdown compared the violence in Paris with earlier events:

You do not have to be a young Muslim living in the 21 century to be subject to radicalisation. It has always, down the ages been possible to persuade young men (and a few – a very few young women) of all faiths and none to the believe that is noble to kill innocent people in pursuit of what they have been persuaded is a great cause.

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Congratulations to Liberal Democrats in the New Year honours list

 

We’ve already mentioned Paddy Ashdown’s great honour in the New Year list:

ORDER OF THE COMPANIONS OF HONOUR (CH)
The Rt Hon Jeremy John Durham Baron Ashdown Of Norton-Sub-Hamdon, GCMG, KBE. For public and political service.

Sincere congratulations go to:

CBE – Councillor Erica Kemp. Lord Mayor of Liverpool. For public and political service. (Liverpool, Merseyside)

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+++New Years Honours 2015: Paddy Ashdown becomes a Companion of Honour

We’re having our annual look down the New Years Honours list and we didn’t get very far before we saw a name we recognised:

Screen Shot 2014-12-30 at 22.51.46

 

For political and public service.

He joins fellow former Liberal Democrat Sir Menzies Campbell who became a Companion of Honour last year.

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Five party leaders at the funeral of Jeremy Thorpe

Paddy Ashdown, Nick Clegg, David Steel, Charles Kennedy and Menzies Campbell attend the funeral of former Liberal Party party leader Jeremy Thorpe at Saint Margaret’s Church on December 17, 2014 in Westminster. The eagle-eyed will also spot Tim Farron on the right.

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UK decision to stop migrant rescue operations attacked by Teather (“unethical”) and Ashdown (“inhuman”), defended by Clegg (“Italian decision”)

Conservative home office minister James Brokenshire defended the Government’s decision to withdraw support – along with all other EU member states – for future search-and-rescue operations for migrants in the Mediterranean. The BBC reports:

James Brokenshire told MPs the change would “save lives rather than putting them in peril.” About 3,000 migrants have drowned in the Mediterranean so far this year. That is out of an estimated total of 150,000 to have made the trip by boat across to Europe. Mr Brokenshire said operations to rescue migrants encouraged more people to make the “perilous journey” across the Mediterranean in the hope of being granted asylum. He said the “despicable work” of human traffickers had made the problem much worse, and must be tackled. On the new approach, he added it was “inconceivable to suggest that if a boat were in peril, that support would not be provided”.

Italian officials have made clear they intend to scale down their government’s current operation, known as Mare Nostrum, as the EU introduces a new operation known as Triton. Triton will focus more on border control – tasks such as vetting asylum seekers once they are ashore, and coastal patrols – rather than search and rescue in international waters. Mr Brokenshire said that 28 EU member states had “unanimously agreed” to the new proposals, and criticised those attacking the policy for seeking to “politicise” the issue.

Lib Dem MP Sarah Teather was not impressed by the minister’s defence:

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LibLink: Paddy Ashdown: Afghanistan war is textbook for how to lose this kind of conflict

rally paddy 01Paddy has been writing in the Mirror about the Afghanistan war? Was it all worth it and could we, should we, have done things differently? What can we learn for the future?

First of all, Paddy writes, we did some good:

So has it all been for nothing?

No. There are children – and especially girls – going to school in Afghanistan who wouldn’t be there if British troops had not risked their lives to give them the chance. Democracy, though frail, has taken root.

There is growing prosperity in some areas, markets in previous ghost towns, new roads that never existed and, perhaps most important of all, a knowledge of how things can be better, planted in people’s minds.

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Paddy Ashdown on Bosnia and Herzegovina: “These are dangerous times; they are very dangerous times indeed”

Paddy Ashdown talks on "The global power shift" in Brussels March 1st 2012 -  Some rights reserved by PhOtOnQuAnTiQuE Lord (Paddy) Ashdown, former international High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina from 2002 to 2006, led this week’s House of Lords debate on the situation in the country following its recent election. Here’s what he had to say…

Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon (LD): My Lords, a few months before the last election in the last months of 2009, my right honourable friend William Hague and I—well, at least he was not my right honourable friend then, but he is today; he was then the shadow Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs—wrote a joint article for the British and foreign press on Bosnia and Herzegovina. We complained bitterly that Bosnia was stuck, that the progress that we had made during the previous 10 years had gone backwards, that the tone of nationalistic rhetoric had risen, that this was dangerous and that Bosnia remained stuck in a mire of dysfunctionality and corruption.

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LibLink: Paddy Ashdown: Learning six languages changed my life

rally paddy 01The Guardian is hosting an exhibition called “The Languages that changed my life” at its office in London. This interests me as I was both good at and fascinated by languages at school and I now have a teenager who almost obsessively studies language, learning Swahili, French and a bit of Mandarin Chinese for fun.

Paddy Ashdown has written a piece for the Guardian’s exhibition  about how his language learning has enhanced his life. There are a couple of quite funny anecdotes. Just be thankful he didn’t make one of them at a diplomatic reception or there might have been an international incident:

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Conference Speeches: Paddy Ashdown “You were never this nice when I was leader”

ipaddy 2014 glasgow rallyHere is Paddy’s speech from the rally last night.

OK – now it begins.

What comes next is the fight of our lives.

And it’s going to be tough.

But I am up for it and I know you are too.

As a liberal I am used to fighting against the odds – tell you what, I relish it

And taking a small band of trained and dedicated insurgents onto enemy territory against the odds – its what I was trained for – what I am used to

-its what we have had to do before

-and I am immensely proud, this time, to be doing it with you.

We all know what we have to do.

You’re the best street campaigners in British politics

– now you are going to have to prove it – again.

Now, we have a message – A STRONG ECONOMY, A FAIR SOCIETY; OPPORTUNITY FOR EVERYONE.

Posted in News | 30 Comments

Nick Clegg’s conference rally speech: “We may be the underdogs but we have the values, beliefs and resilience to win”

“This is the fight of our lives” – that was the message from Nick Clegg at last night’s conference rally. You can watch it here:

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The big difference between what Olly Grender said and what the Mirror said she said

The Mirror ran a big splash yesterday saying that Liberal Democrat peer Olly Grender was complaining that her House of Lords allowance is insufficient. “We struggle to get by on £300 per day tax free allowance” screams the headline.

If you actually look at the substance of the story, there is absolutely nothing to substantiate  that total misrepresentation of what she was saying. They even run a little poll asking if you could get by on £300 tax free.

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LibLink: Paddy Ashdown: We must embrace Putin to beat Islamic State

Paddy Ashdown has been writing in the Times about the need to get Russia onside in the fight against Islamic State.

Russia has so far been excluded from our coalition that is fighting Islamic State (Isis). Why? It has a dog in this fight, too — arguably a much bigger one than we have. Sunni jihadism is roaring away in the Russian Islamic republics of Dagestan and Chechnya, almost as much as in Iraq and Syria. We in Europe may be concerned about jihadis returning from the battlefield. But Russia is one of the battlefields.

Washington friends tell me that the reason for this reluctance to draw in Russia is the personal animus between presidents Putin and Obama. If so, get over it. A wider coalition that includes the Russians, actively or passively, could open the way to a UN security council resolution, provide the best means of limiting the spread of the crisis and vastly enhance our horsepower in resolving it.

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Do you support British involvement in air strikes against Islamic State?

It looks as though Parliament will be recalled this Friday to discuss British involvement in air strikes against Islamic State. I thought it might be a good idea to see what you, our readers, thought about this.

I don’t often approve of military action, but I might be open to the possibility on humanitarian grounds alone. I certainly was ok with the airstrikes on Libya in 2011. On IS, we cannot have these people being allowed to chase whole communities up mountains and leave them to starve. We can’t have people being summarily executed for refusing to convert to a particular religion. Standing by and doing nothing while that is going on is not an option. However, we can’t just go wading in there. Air strikes alone will do little more than contain IS. We need a long term solution.

Legality is important and international law professor  Philippe Sands has said that strikes on Syria may not comply with international law. It’s less problematic in Iraq because their government are likely to formally request our help.

Of course any military action is likely to lead to more murders of hostages. We don’t know how many British hostages they have, although Newsweek reports that they have potentially thousands of hostages from across the region including 186 Kurdish schoolgirls taken around the same time as the Boko Haram kidnappings of 20o girls in Nigeria.

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Paddy Ashdown warns of national civil revolt as gap between Westminster elite and people grows

Nick Clegg used strong language earlier. However, that sounded like sweet nothings compared to Paddy Ashdown’s comments on the Murnaghan programme earlier. You can read the whole transcript here, but here are some of the highlights:

PM and Miliband should play Join the Dots in a darkened room

An interesting turn of phrase here as Paddy tells the two “old party” leaders to take a reality check:

Mr Miliband and Mr Cameron are already running away from the promises they made.  Mr Cameron didn’t seem to realise that when he made that promise he may not be able to carry his MPs with him and is now amending it so that it is somehow tied to English parliaments and English votes – we’ll come on to that in a minute.  Mr Miliband by the way, Labour didn’t even want to have devo max, they didn’t want it, they didn’t want it, they didn’t want it and then at the very end in a panic they accepted it without accepting it’s implications and now they are running away from it too.  Look, I suggest these two old leaders go away into a quiet room, these two leaders of the old parties, go away into a quiet room this afternoon and play a game of join the dots because if they don’t realise that there is something very close to a national citizens revolt against Westminster – it may be that the Scottish revolt, near revolution, may go away but I rather doubt it listening to Mr Salmond earlier on and his, in my view, entirely justifiable anger.  Now join that dot with the other dot, Farage and UKIP running a campaign against Westminster and the Westminster elite and you’ve got to realise that this is a profoundly dangerous moment, a moment by the way that I’ve been warning was coming for ten years now as the gap between government and governed grew.  To renege on a solemn promise like that will destroy Westminster’s legitimacy and reputation in Scotland and will do the same in England too and the consequences of that are very great.

I’m slightly more sceptical of Salmond than Paddy. The First Minister accused Cameron of breaking a promise that hadn’t been made on Friday, stoking the fires of frustration amongst independence supporters. It seems that what Paddy and Nick are trying to do is to insert some backbone into Cameron and Miliband but there is no real sign at the moment that they are not going to deliver on the powers for Scotland. I think Paddy is right to call on them to reiterate that that will happen and that the process is completely separate from the English  issue. He’s just trying to block of any potential escape routes, but I think he needs to be careful not to over-egg the pudding. It’s perfectly fair, though, to eviscerate Cameron for his political ambush of Miliband.

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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

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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:

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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.

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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’. 

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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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