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 to take that clarion call onto every door step;

– put it in every leaflet and every tweet;

– repeat it at every meeting and on every broadcast

– because it is only when we are bored with it,

that the public will begin to hear it.

But here’s something else we have to do.

We have to become louder and prouder

Prouder about what we have done.

I love this Party

– fighting with you for the great causes we believe in has been, quite simply, the best thing of my life.

But I do have one complaint.

You’re far too bloody nice!

We’re far too often the quiet, decent, polite, herbivores of British politics.

Well – not me – obviously!

In this party there are far too many TLICK people when you need to be like the TLOCK people.

And if you don’t get that joke – then you need to go to Glee Club more often

We lack something the other Parties have in abundance.

Proper 14 carat gold shits!

Well apart from Chief Whip Don Foster – obviously.

It has to change!

For we have a very great deal to be loud and proud about.

After a hundred years in opposition, we had the courage to take up the burdens of Government at a time when our country faced the greatest existential economic crisis of our time.

Did you REALLY think it would be easy

Of course not.

And it hasn’t been.

But, whatever happens at the next election – we were right to do it.

Be proud of that.

Allow no-one to forget.

Labour walked away from that challenge.

I know.

I was involved.

I asked them.

They weren’t interested in clearing up the mess they had created.

So don’t let Labour blame us for the cuts in public services or the pains of the poor.

It was Labour who left Britain with a burden of debt as big as Greece.


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  • Eddie Sammon 5th Oct '14 - 7:10pm

    Paddy’s words make me want to get my head out of my backside and help the party win. He is right about the stronger economy and the fairer society line, he is right that Lib Dems have been too polite too.

    I sometimes go too far the other way, but he understands that if you are polite about injustice then it makes it sound like it is acceptable.

    For me, it is the policies that matter most, but if the Lib Dems match strong rhetoric with strong policies then you will have a powerful combination.

  • John Roffey 5th Oct '14 - 7:32pm

    Well, doing my best to fulfill PA’s wishes – help remove NC as leader – because he is the greatest obstruction to achieving what he wants.

  • I’ve not listened to the conference speeches but I did watch Clegg on the Marr show.

    I thought he regarded his party as having a God given right to always hold the balance of power. Then he was coy in a sickening way about whether he would work in coalition with labour or with the Tories. He seemed to assume that the voters deliberately voted in a way that guaranteed having him as deputy PM, busy implementing all the policies they wanted all along but didn’t actually vote for.

    I found it quite nauseating. If the party proceeds on this tack it is likely come about 10th in the election behind all the loonies and cranks. Voters will ensure that Clegg is never again going to hold the balance of power.

  • John Roffey 5th Oct '14 - 8:06pm

    Make it absolutely clear that Party will seek a referendum on our membership of the EU – during which it will campaign for leaving – if the EU continues its attempts sign up to TTIP.

    Make it clear that the Party supports using all means available, with immediate effect, to extract more corporation tax [or equivalent] from the multinationals – so that the harshest consequences of the austerity measures can be alleviated.

  • Conor McGovern 5th Oct '14 - 8:43pm

    @John – Completely agree about the EU. What’s liberal about an organisation that centralises power for unelected commissioners, pushes austerity down the throats of Greece and Spain at any cost, ignores national referenda (e.g. the Netherlands in 2005) and creates the TTIP agreement with the US so corporations can sue governments for pursuing ‘anti-business’ policies? This isn’t about xenophobia, unlike in Ukip where half of the members blame everything on ‘foreigners’. This is about realising that the EU isn’t in the interests of the people of Europe, including the UK.

  • If there was a Paddy Ashdown Fan Club, I would be a member. Every time he speaks he reminds us of the inadequacies of Clegg . Ashdown is worth ten thousand Cleggs.
    But Ashdown is sometimes wrong. For example in this speech he says—
    “You’re far too bloody nice! ”
    Nobody in politics has ever accused me of being “too bloody nice,”, least of all Paddy Ashdown !!!

  • paul barker 5th Oct '14 - 10:04pm

    Paddy is right, we the great majority of members have been far too nice with the “Clegg must go brigade”. If you really wont shut up then just go . Go & hang out on a Labour site & we would all be much happier.

  • “… we the great majority of members …”

    Have become a grandmother?

  • A quick question how many MPs do you think the LibDem party would have to lose before the parliamentary party should accept that the country has no appetite for them to form a coalition with anyone? I ask because I also saw Clegg on the Marr show today and found his blind sense of entitlement quite frightening – that and Danny Alexander’s revisionist view of what he and the majority of his fellow MPs have visited on the electorate during their time in power.

  • Eddie Sammon 6th Oct '14 - 1:30am

    Talking about getting elected in 2015 – we should do a pact with both the Conservatives and Labour. Don’t put candidates up against people like Sarah Wollaston and Chuka Umunna – what’s the point? Let in UKIP by dividing the liberal vote? It looks pathetic if we fight over small differences and let a big enemy in.

    Just a thought.

  • @paul barker

    What an extraordinary way to talk about your fellow party members.
    Is it any wonder so many feel so aggrieved that they have left to join other parties like the greens or Labour.

    Each person has an “equal right” to voice their opinions on the directions of the party and whether or not they support the current leader.

    Your attitude seems to border on a dictatorship, support us fully and shut the hell up or else.

  • Paul Barker, why do you think critics of the leader, the leadership and policy direction would go to Labour. A lot of us have supported the coalition, its economic policies and in a straight choice between Labour and Conservative would go to the latter!. BUT we have had enough too, There seems to be no lasting future for a party that is trying to get 30MPs and hold the balance of power again, that presumably is the Ashdown approach as well. What happens to those 30 when incumbency is over through retirement or otherwise, the parliamentary party in the Commons ceases to exist. Do we really want to emulate the Free Democrats in Germany or the Euro performance earlier this year? With the very greatest respect Paul please maintain objectivity and balance.

  • Bill Le Breton 6th Oct '14 - 10:35am

    Why does he think critics of the current leadership and its strategy should go to Labour? Because he is a former Labour member who joined the Greens, who then left them and joined the Liberal Democrats and is for all we know just passing through on his way somewhere else.

    His statement does not convince me that he has a libxxeral bone in his body. If he had any he would not have made such an out and out illi beralcomment.

  • I think Paul Barker shows up the true colours of the Nick brigade. Take over the top of the party. Take it in a direction few want it to go. Then drive out traditional Lib Dems through despair and dismay at your failure to support its values and by ignoring members who disagree with you. Lose members, councillors activists and voters and blame those who disagree with you. Finally when the true failure of your experiment becomes apparent, refuse to take responsibility for your failure, aided by a bunch of MPs who sadly have got the backbone of a jellyfish. Finally demand those who stand for the party’s true values to leave.

    A once proud party is on the road to oblivion, and it is clear who is willfully driving it there.

  • paul barker 6th Oct '14 - 10:55am

    Yes, my comments were extraordinary but they were in response to constant personal denigration of Nick Clegg (he is a member too) & the continuation of a campaign which has been clearly shown to have little support. Those who attack Clegg have nothing new to say but they keep saying it & the effect is demoralising.
    Just look at this comments thread, its the same names again & again, saying the same things, mostly negative. So far its all men & thats no accident.

  • Not that it would be better coming from anyone else in the party, but does anyone know who Paul Barker is?

    He seems to have created a rather high profile for himself here on LDV, always reliable to give his expert analysis on what the polls do and do not say, condemning those who do not tow the party line.

    Is Paul Barker a local council candidate for the party?
    An activist?
    Or hold any other position within his local or regional parties?

    I find his insults directed at other party members who have been active within the party for years extraordinary

  • Bill Le Breton 6th Oct '14 - 11:27am

    This is how Liberals are. We challenge authority especially where it shows signs of either incompetence or disconnection with those who they represent.

    We like evidence. Here is some from YouGov in the Sunday Times which showed of our diminished band of supporters now standing at just 7%, only 46% of these trust Nick Clegg on a basket of key issues, and of the 2010 supporters who we have lost the trust level on key issues is woeful.

    Here is how Kellner explains the situation,

    “Clegg’s problems are even more severe. With just 7% supporting his party, one might think the Lib Dems were down to its committed party loyalists. Not so. Most of this tiny group harbour real doubts about their party’s leader. On the vital matter of the economy, as many of them trust Cameron as trust Clegg: they both score 32%.

    “The figures are even worse when we look not at current Lib Dem supporters but at the far larger number who voted for Clegg’s party in 2010. The leaders they trust most are Cameron on the economy, defence and law and order, Miliband on health, education and welfare benefits, and Farage on immigration. Clegg leads only on Europe and the environment – and then with only 23% and 25% respectively.

    “These figures suggest that the Lib Dems will struggle to recover much ground nationally, unless they can revert to their status as an insurgent anti-establishment party, rather than as a party of insiders that fail to keep their promises. If they seek to remain a party of (coalition) government, their best hope of continuing national relevance is for their MPs to retain a personal following locally that shields them from the winds that are blowing away their support in the rest of Britain.”

    The MPs decided in June not to call for a change of leader, but it is obvious that we do need a change in strategy in the widest sense, in the sense of how we campaign, how we communicate, who communicates for us, who speaks for us in Parliament and who has which responsibilities there.

  • Stephen Hesketh 6th Oct '14 - 11:36am

    @matt6th Oct ’14 – 10:59am

    Matt, I have asked a similar question in the past due to my concerns that ‘pal barker’ was really a Nick Clegg nom de plume. However Paul’s accounts regarding his own and neighbouring constituency meetings when many of us were calling for Clegg to go quickly following the most recent election debacle were credible.

    It is Paul’s enduring belief that everything will be alright in time for the GE that is actually incredible!

    Nick Clegg is almost certainly a very decent man. Unfortunately for our movement however, he has failed to be even a half decent leader. His attempts to ‘anchor us firmly to the centre’ have been an absolute disaster for our party. I sincerely hope Paul Barker is right and everyone else is wrong but I fear the worst is yet to come.

  • Eddie Sammon 6th Oct '14 - 11:48am

    Two problems here, in this passionate mini debate:

    1. Paul Barker and others putting people off through ultra loyalism.
    2. Anti-Clegg plotters who were praying for bad results in May and appear to be waiting for another chance to pounce.

    If Paul wants to gain more influence he should be more constructive. However, the worst offenders of the anti-Clegg plots have even resorted to actively undermining the party and a quick and efficient way to deal with them is to start cancelling memberships for the worst offenders only.

    By the way, to answer Stephen Hesketh’s concerns about centrism I just want to say that centrism done properly is not about moderation, but balance and proportion. Sometimes radical action is required, but other times it is not. It is getting this balance right that is the real skill. It is like doing a load of work before a course-work deadline. Sometimes moderation is not the right thing.


  • John Roffey 6th Oct '14 - 12:01pm

    Paul – if there is a strapline for what has been announced so far – and clearly will be continually reinforced throughout the Conference – it is:

    Vote for us and be will protect you from the despicable politicians of the other parties.

    This may have been a decent strategy – given the circumstances – however, NC is a despised politician who is simply not trusted – so it is a core pitch that cannot work with NC as leader.

    He may be the most polished performer the Party has – but, given his reputation, someone who is far less accomplished, but is seen as morally superior, would have a far better chance of success. More importantly – should the very likely disaster in May take place – it would give the Party some hope of being rebuilt if it has gone down in a dignified, stoic and honest manner.

  • John Roffey 6th Oct '14 - 12:06pm

    That should have course read:

    Vote for us and we will protect you from the despicable politicians of the other parties.

  • @Eddie Sammon

    I agree with your first point
    and even somewhat with your 2nd point, however, I do not think it is at all fair to call them “plotters” The only person who could be accused of plotting was Lord Oakshot. As for all other party members, Councillors etc. calling for Nicks resignation, I do think these people have a right to express their opinions, after Liberal Democrat party is supposed to be a broad church that is owned by the membership not the leadership and to call them plotters is deeply unfair in my opinion.

    “However, the worst offenders of the anti-Clegg plots have even resorted to actively undermining the party and a quick and efficient way to deal with them is to start cancelling memberships for the worst offenders only.”
    What kind of message does that say to the voting public? People like Lord Rennard can escape being thrown out of the party when there was broadly credible evidence against him, however, normal party members can be expelled from the party if they do not tow the party line and dare to argue. That sounds like a sure fire way to reduce Libdems support from 6% to about 2%

  • Eddie Sammon 6th Oct '14 - 2:59pm

    Hi Matt, the way I look at it is when people are very unhappy with the party direction and want to make a strong point it is the time for the honourable resignation, otherwise it looks a bit self-serving to be “rocking the boat” so much.

    I would have dealt with the Rennard case differently, it’s a different issue, which was handled badly for everyone.

    Nobody likes disciplining people, well, not many anyway, it is just something that has to be done in order to keep order. It should never be done too much and the priority needs to be freedom.


  • Peter Watson 6th Oct '14 - 3:45pm

    @paul barker “we the great majority of members have been far too nice with the “Clegg must go brigade”.”
    Elsewhere on Lib Dem Voice ( Stephen Tall reports that 41% of members are dissatisfied (or very dissatisfied) with Clegg’s performance, and another 10% are neutral. His fan club is certainly not “the great majority of members”.

  • @Eddie Sammon

    “when people are very unhappy with the party direction and want to make a strong point it is the time for the honourable resignation, otherwise it looks a bit self-serving to be “rocking the boat” so much.”

    How very odd, does not sound very democratic at all. I would have thought they way a proper functional party works is that you work within the party, you make your arguments and the case for the direction that you believe the party should take. After all the party belongs to it’s collective members not its founders and leaders.

    What your suggesting sounds very much like an authoritarian right wing, bordering on dictatorship army. Who are told what to say, what to think and what to do, or else.

  • Eddie Sammon 6th Oct '14 - 4:48pm

    Hi Matt, I really wish I had more time to speak to you about this, I learn stuff too, but I am going for a long sleep! Not slept since Saturday night and I didn’t even get a proper sleep then. My brain has been very active with politics and work stuff. In a good way.

    All I can say for now is that I don’t use authoritarian actions for the sake of it, it is only as a last resort when I don’t know how else to calm a situation down. Restoring order can be seen as a bad thing, but a poor economy harms the NHS and suddenly it becomes clear that even small disputes can become life and death matters if they get out of hand.

    We won’t agree for now, but disagreement is fine. You are onto something though: my most important belief is not democracy, but what I would call liberalism (and others would call liberal-authoritarianism). 🙂

  • Paul in Wokingham 6th Oct '14 - 4:58pm

    Meanwhile back in the real world Lord Ashcroft has released a poll for Heywood on a sample of 1000.

    The headline figure is LD 5% (-18%) versus Green on 4%. But the raw data shows Green on 21 (out of 1000) and LD on 20. Further, the LD voters indicate the highest propensity to switch to another party (35% versus about 10% for the major parties).

    That’s the reality of our current position. I make no apologies if some people don’t want to hear it.

  • Stephen Campbell 6th Oct '14 - 5:00pm

    @Paul Barker: “Paddy is right, we the great majority of members have been far too nice with the “Clegg must go brigade”. If you really wont shut up then just go . Go & hang out on a Labour site & we would all be much happier.”

    The problem with this is that the largest grouping of the “Clegg must go brigade” is actually not your fellow Liberal Democrats, but the British electorate. More specifically, the large section of the British electorate who used to vote Liberal Democrat but no longer will for various reasons, two of which tend to be 1) Clegg is not trusted 2) The Liberal Democrats are seen, fairly or unfairly, to have abandoned their long-held principles and moved from the centre-left to the economic right.

    You can tell party members and voters to go elsewhere all you like. You can rally the dwindling number of troops around Clegg, but that’s just navel gazing and will not win you more votes. Your party is no longer trusted by most of the electorate and you will not even begin to recover until he’s gone. Telling people who WANT to vote Lib Dem but cannot while he is leader is just losing you more votes. I’m sure Clegg is a good, nice man and a wonderful father. But as a leader of a political party? Not so much.

  • Paul Barker
    Will you be condemning Danny Alexander, Tim Farron and Jeremy Brown as members of the anti-Clegg Brigade who should in your opinion – ” shut up then just go . .” ???? If not, why not???

    …the following which comes from the blog column listed on the right of this page — under the title —‘Four thoughts from conference’
    4. Nick’s successors are warming up –
    Danny, Tim & Jeremy have all – in their own way – been charming party members. Notably Danny Alexander has been spending a lot of time in the Conference Bar, while Tim & Jeremy have been touring the Fringe circuit.

  • stuart moran 6th Oct '14 - 5:55pm

    Danny Alexander – thinks himself a potential leader?

    I would just give up now if anyone really thinks that….Laws could be a leader if he hadn’t been a bit absent-minded with the old expenses – probably Farron could be a possibility but I find him grating

    Not sure who could do it….perhaps Willie Rennie (I used to know him and I actually think he is a good guy)!

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